According to Ubisoft, the best way to address political views in games like The Division 2 and other Tom Clancy titles is to show “a 360-degree view of life” and leave the player on their own to formulate their views.
In an internal Q&A style blog post made on Ubisoft New’s website, vice president of editorial at Ubisoft, Tommy Francois said that the company wants to “present all points of view and perspectives” in all future games. The whole post is quite interesting and is definitely worth the read. But right now, we’re only discussing the important bits.
In this day and age of political agendas and social justice culture, many games can be wrongfully accused of presenting one viewpoint or being biased. When asked whether if there are any boundaries Ubisoft isn’t supposed to cross when it comes to presenting certain political views, Francois answered by saying:
We believe that ultimately, in the future, players should be able to go in the game world, have as many different experiences as they want, experience as many different political views as they want, as many religions as they want … as many different fantasies as they want.
Francois talked more about Ubisoft games not being political at all by saying that Ubisoft aims to:
[…] Give players all the information we [Ubisoft] can, and then let them choose which sides of our game worlds they want to explore. We want them to decide what they like, what they don’t like, and if and how to change their minds or the way they play based on that information. It’s about more freedom for the players.
Later on in the Q&A, Francois spoke more about how difficult achieving this can be:
We make simulations that are fueled by systems. Those systems can range from physics, fauna, and flora, to others created by humans, such as companies, politics, and religion.
Videogames are designed to give players the ability to make their own choices. They are essentially a sandbox where the player can control a character and interact with the environment. Of course, oftentimes games can add consequences to these actions.
According to Francois, a player in a game is more of an actor with these systems at their disposal. The strategy videogame designers use is to offer the player “a 360-degree view of life.” So essentially, giving the player a complete view of a situation. This helps the player to form their own opinion instead of merely accepting the one Ubisoft provides. Showing both sides of the story is the only way to comprehend the story.
If my game was set during the Vietnam conflict, for example, we would want the Viet Minh, the Viet Cong … basically everyone’s point of view. And that relates back to people making up their own opinions and our ability to create more mature games that are nuanced, versus being black or white.
Ubisoft claims to avoid overt political messages in its games by focusing on both sides of the story, touching on every aspect and exploring the concept as deeply as possible.
Francois states, “We don’t want them to be apolitical. We want them to include multiple political themes so players can experience multiple points of view, learn from them, educate, and share.”
This is something that we may get to see in the upcoming Watch Dogs Legion which reportedly will allow players to take control of any NPC in London, enabling them to see from all aspects of life in the city. All of this sounds very interesting on paper but implementing this strategy of exploring whole viewpoints in real life is a very challenging task from a game design perspective. Let’s see what happens in future Ubisoft games.