Ubisoft came under fire this weekend with the release of their latest update of Tom Clancy’s Elite Squad, due to its use of the Black Lives Matter raised fist logo in a cinematic that suggests nationwide civil rights protests are the puppets of foreign agitators who wish to destabilise the country.
Anyone with even a passing knowledge of current events will know this very conspiracy is a major talking point of right-wing crackpots, particularly the deranged QAnon movement that has infected the brains of middle-aged aunts and uncles on Facebook. A major entertainment publisher bandying around such narratives are incredibly irresponsible and downright dangerous during a period in history where the right is already valorising teenage boys for murdering protestors.
After some backlash, Ubisoft has responded by promising to remove the fists from their next update, due this Tuesday.
While it is good that the response is relatively swift, the fact remains that this should have never happened in the first place.
Ubisoft is home to the Tom Clancy brand, an author famous for his strong right-wing talking points and outright conspiracy theories. Yet Ubisoft insists their works are not political, the lead creative director for The Division 2 impressed the notion that their game, about government-sanctioned death squads keeping law and order in a city overrun by looting, was “not making any political statements.”
Ubisoft is removing the fist but not the core concept that protestors are puppets for foreign agitators trying to create discord in the country for sinister ends. The idea that the only way people could be angry and unhappy with their country is down to manipulation from some enemy shadow agency is preposterous. It’s pure right-wing fantasy. They think their country is doing just fine because it has treated them well, and anyone who doesn’t agree is trying to destroy their way of life; the narrative being boosted by Ubisoft here take that idea to the extreme.
Just because you own the Tom Clancy brand doesn’t mean everything needs to be insane right-wing conspiracies, this crap is right-wing enough. Every game is about military might, foreign enemies being responsible for all the west’s ills, and the blessings of the second amendment. The last thing these games need to do is pander to the extremists, especially not right now, and especially not about this subject. People are dying on the streets, it is not the time to be cavalier about the messages you put out there.
Now, let’s just say Ubisoft made a mistake and no malice at all was involved. Why was this decision approved? The answer is clearly in a lack of diversity at the decision-making level. Ubisoft frequently bang the drum that their games are developed by a diverse team, it became a recurring motif at the start of their Assassins Creed games, yet the decision making is unquestionably dominantly White. Only people divorced from these real concerns would think ideas like this are harmless flights of fantasy, there’s no way a person of colour would see this imagery and hear this concept and think it was socially responsible.
Pretending you are not political is not a defence anymore. It did not fly when The Division was released and it does not fly now. Everything is political, especially games that revolve around government agents putting down social uprisings. There need to be better checks and balances in place during the creative process. I cannot imagine a situation where no people involved in this game raised concerns, but those concerns either did not reach the higher-ups or they were simply dismissed. Enough is enough. A major publisher like Ubisoft has a social responsibility to do better and backtracking is not the way to do it; stop things like this from happening in the first place.
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