Are Ubisoft’s games political? The answer isn’t as clear as you might think. Titles like Far Cry 5 and Watch Dogs 2 flirt with political themes in pretty obvious ways, but they usually stop short of making any sort of strong, definitive statement, and Ubisoft themselves insist their games aren’t political.
Another Ubisoft game that straddles this line is The Division – the game take place in a dystopian version of New York that was plunged into chaos by the “Dollar Flu,” a weaponized version of smallpox planted on money. The upcoming The Division 2 takes place in Washington D.C., and its promotional art is full of images of Capitol Hill landmarks burning. Sure seems like The Division developer Ubisoft Massive is trying to say something, but according to the studio COO Alf Condelius, it’s all just an elaborate fantasy…
"The Division [takes place in a] dystopian future and there are a lot of interpretations that it's something that we see the current society moving towards, but it's not - it's a fantasy. It's a universe and a world that we created for people to explore how to be a good person in a slowly decaying world. But people like to put politics into that, and we back away from those interpretations as much as we can because we don't want to take a stance in current politics. It's also bad for business, unfortunately, if you want the honest truth....but it is interesting and it is a discussion that we have.”
Of course, some would argue all things are inherently political, and Ubisoft not taking a stance is itself a stance. I don’t know that I necessarily agree with that, but it does feel like Ubisoft is trying to have their cake and eat it, too. Presenting politically-charged imagery, but then insisting they don’t have an opinion.
Interestingly, Massive is also working on a game based on James Cameron’s Avatar, which packs an unabashed pro-environmental message. So, how will Ubisoft/Massive handle politics in that game?
"James Cameron's vision with the [Avatar] movie is that we need to do something as humans because we're going to destroy the world if we continue the way we are [going]. That is political, but we're not going out and saying you should vote for that person, or you should not do this. It's a political statement of course, and we think that it's important, but we're not writing it on somebody's nose."
What do you think? Are Ubisoft games like The Division really as apolitical as they insist? Or are they just covering their butts? Personally, I think I’m just going to go play some Rayman.