Art is always going to express a certain point of view because ultimately, whatever form it comes in, art is made by human beings. It’s a responsibility that can sometimes feel weird in big-budget games that don’t double down on the questions they present and treat real life-inspired issues like theme park attractions.
One of The Division 2’s creative directors recently told Kotaku that there wasn’t any intentional political commentary to be read into when playing as a government agent in an under-siege Washington D.C. And Ubisoft’s Yves Guillemot told The Guardian: “Our goal is to give all the tools to the player in order for them to think about the subjects, to be able to see things from far enough away.”
But one player’s “far away” is another player’s home, or even their heritage.
I sat down with Kotaku’s Heather Alexandra and Cecilia D’Anastasio to talk about why, despite certain developers’ attempts at getting things factually accurate or presenting interesting questions, sometimes it feels like they might not be exploring their amazing worlds to their full potentials.
Check out the video above or read an excerpt here:
Heather: I don’t need games to adhere to my politics. I don’t want that. I want games that challenge me and I want games that I disagree with. I want games that have messages that I don’t necessarily agree with in my day-to-day. But what I do want is for creators to acknowledge that their game exist in political times, that their games have political content. So when someone working on The Division says, “Hey our game’s set in Washington D.C. where you’re playing as somebody who works for the government who has extra judicial power to shoot whoever in order to preserve the continuity of government and revive all of these old structures”... it doesn’t mean you have to be like “Here’s our 90-page thesis on government,” but I do want creators that say “Yeah, there’s politics in our game. You don’t have to agree with it or not.”
Cecilia: … to me it’s sort of like a bait and switch. It’s almost like they’re skinning their games with topics that have real life effects on people— that people vote on, that people are truly impacted by—and draining it of any meaning or relevance to those same people.
Heather: We’re gonna talk about information states if it’s Watchdogs or whatever. We’re just going to use Ubisoft examples constantly.
Paul: I mean they do it all the time though. Like one of the main reasons why I didn’t— or I tried to—play Ghost Recon: Wildlands is because even if I don’t necessarily see it firsthand, I myself am a living representation of the CIA going into South America and tinkering with the way that continent has been fucked with for 500 years. So when, like you said, you use it as a skin or a theme and it’s done, in my opinion, in a little bit of a… in a lotta bit of a disrespectful way, it turns me off of the game completely.
Watch the full episode to hear more. Be sure to check out Viewpoints every Tuesday and if you want to watch it out on YouTube, here’s a playlist.