So Extra Credits did a video jumping in on the whole “The Division is problematic”thing. I talked about this seeming trend before in a Sick, Sad and Just Dumb News. You know what though it seems like I need to talk about this again. To go deeper and to hopefully beat this horse till its good and dead.
I think it’s best I address the key problems I have with the Extra Credits video and in fact this present trend in criticism being seen regularly.
Let’s begin, The Division is a game set in New York after a biological terror attack. The game itself was made by a Swedish studio and co-developed by a British studio that are part of French Publisher. Why does that mean anything? Well does it really make sense that somehow this is some kind of political commentary piece on American politics, accidental or otherwise? Even ignoring any claims from the developer that it’s not a political piece then you have to ask does it really make sense to claim it is some commentary on US politics?
You see that’s where the big problem is with people determined to make everything political and so into politics as some super serious mature grown uppy thing. People start to see politics everywhere and make some comparisons. This isn’t so much talking about the game and it’s elements and using the game to talk about “the right” politics and by “the right” I don’t mean Donald Trump I mean as in making an objective statement about how some politics is inherently wrong.
The seemingly rather insane belief is that somehow in almost an apocalyptic scenario that people would somehow come together in unity and peace etc and that somehow The Division is scary ideology. In terms of being some kind of enforcer for a dictatorship there’s something very much to be said about the quality of dictatorship in The Division
You see compared to most apocalyptic vision of the future The Division is fairly tame and as much as people may want to believe humanity will come together and live in harmony in the event of a disaster that lasts multiple months removing all standard systems of government…….. Well you only need to look at the rise of warlords etc in de-stabilised regions of the world to know that people will take advantage of a perceived power vacuum. Jospeh Kony anyone?
To talk about for example the riots that gripped the US and suggest that The Division is problematic because of them actually seemingly ignores a huge aspect of video gaming, and one Extra Credits normally seemingly prides itself on presenting itself as a knowledgeable about, the development. The Division started development early 2013, in fact it was first shown at E3 2013. The fact the game isn’t sensitive to politics that started in August 2014 in the US shouldn’t come as some huge shock. It’s especially worthy of commenting on this when the game was originally slated for an early 2015 release date. So just over 5 months after the Ferguson riots happend. The game then slipped and slipped until it ended up with a 2016 release date.
Now while in the US since Ferguson and other riots the hoodie has taken on some new greater meaning and a show of societal prejudice and classims. Well as Ubisoft Reflections did character design it seems very important to introduce people to a somewhat regular part of British life.
Meet the chavs, for those who don’t know in the UK the hoodie is very much associated with anti-social behaviour and in fact the UK had its own riots which were claimed to be due to police racism but also seemed very much like an excuse by people to go out and loot shops. A sort of war of the disaffected youth against authority turned excuse for people to try and profit with no noble air of some great class war. I say this as some-one who owns multiple hoodies, the hoodie is very much associated in the UK with the idea of gang culture and people who lets just say aren’t the most savoury or loving of authority. With that in mind and not looking at The Division from a purely American perspective it should become apparent that the choice of the hoodie on most of the enemies in the Division makes far more sense and actually likely works on a far more international level. Infact looking up Swedish hooligans brings up something farily similar suggesting it’s a far more international look.
So to claim The Division is a commentary on US Society as it is when the game is released, well it’s rather silly. It’s almost as silly as someone suggesting Battlefield Hardline should have been some political takedown of the overmilitarisation of the US police form due to the rioting still going on round the US and the police’s somewhat overt display of military style force back. No-one would be so silly right?
So while Extra Credits might like to say “They can’t just then say ‘hey it’s just a movie stop over thinking it.'” Well they can and should along with the line We’re not from the USA so no we don’t ascribe to your socio-politics and actually have a very different socio political basis to work from.
In terms of Extra Credits talking about the terrifying idea of it being portrayed as heroic to kill citizens without due process of law. Did someone forget to mention that there’s been a comic book about such a person that’s run for quite some time and managed two films?
Is it somehow dishonouring Law enforcement officials that Judge Dredd exists?
The idea of it being a horrific stain on humanities history ignores the idea of extreme times requiring extreme measures. The idea of the Division attempting to hold the line between order and chaos. Between parts of New York being carved up by warring gangs and between trying to give people something resembling order. No it’s very much not pretty to see but it’s very much a response that could be reality as is often shown in unstable regions of the world as Warloards clash with government forces.
What Extra Credits perfectly demonstrated here is what happens when you shoot the author. What happens when you entirely ignore them choosing instead to tackle something from your own political perspective. All of this at the expense of trying to examine the environment and politics that would be known to the authors and creators.
It’s disturbing to see people essentially blaming the author for what they themselves read into and took away from art especially when the creators have said it wasn’t meant as some super deep commentary on present politics. This isn’t quite Killscreen demaning that the public hold the developers responsible and take action for what they read into it, but it’s still pretty bad.
With this Extra Credits video claiming how it comes off as tone deaf the way The Division is, well the episode itself comes off and short sighted and tone deaf to the rest of the world itself. Seemingly looking at The Division and claiming it’s problematic merely due to only looking through an American centric lens at the expense of a more international look at what is an internationally released game. To present your cultural take away from the game as something the developers are to blame for or weren’t sensitive enough to is pretty poor form really and almost asking for the developers to have to try to be hypersensitive to different cultures rather than present the product as depicting cultural influences from the culture of it’s developers.
The Extra Credits video comes off more as using video games as an excuse to talk politics than talking about the politics present in video games.
Finally in The Division it isn’t merely a single short run terror attack but one that is still in effect weeks or months after the initial triggering of said attack. This isn’t what would be considered a “standard” terrorist attack.
Now to address what I anticipate to be the two most common replies to save me having to deal with them multiple times.
” But what about Extra Credits episode on The Cartel why didn’t you / havent you gone after them for that?”
Well it’s pretty simple. Call of Juarez The Cartel is based on the actual drug war actually going on in Mexico and not on some fictitious terrorist attack, therefore being based on actual events it’s far more misleading or dishonest to make some of the mistakes made in said game. Not to mention the fact The Cartel came out n 2011 with the Mexican Drug war starting in 2006 with escalations in 2008. So there the game was about an ongoing political thing hwoever it had been on going for a number of years prior to release. Which is rather different than suggesting a game is problematic for not representing politics that occured only 5 months before it was due to release.
Ok now for the next reply
“But you did this with Infamous Second Son you Hypocrite”
To which I say, well no I didn’t as Infamous Second Son was a game released in 2014 which could be seen a a commentary on real world events and approaches to an international issue still ongoing today in the form of terrorism. At no point did I try to lay blame at the feet of the developer for it being in any way problematic or suggest that the commentary (one interpretation of which could be seen to be arguing for more auhoritarian control and suggesting an actual serious need for it in the face of some vast threat) is one that shouldn’t be presented.
So I pose to you one simple question to leave off with, if the choice were The Division or The Mad Max post apocalyse, which society would you really want to be trying to survive in?