Anyone who is even remotely in touch with the gaming industry will be aware of the fact that controversies, specifically political, are a common occurrence within the community. Evident from several such cases, many games which take a political stance are usually met with heavy criticism. In a GamesIndustry.biz interview conducted during the Sweden Game Conference 2018, The Division developer Alf Condelius discussed why he avoids mixing politics and video games.
“It’s a balance because we cannot be openly political in our games,” Condelius says. “So for example in The Division, it’s a dystopian future and there’s a lot of interpretations that it’s something that we see the current society moving towards, but it’s not – it’s a fantasy.“
When it was showcased earlier this year at E3, The Division 2 was stormed with political arguments. Set in Washington DC, the game’s screenshots and gameplay videos showed the symbolic city in ruins. From this, many believed that The Division 2 is taking on a political stance. Attempting to diffuse the rising controversy, creative director Terry Spier said, “It’s not a political statement. No, we are absolutely here to explore a new city.“
With that in mind, its obvious why Condelius doesn’t want to “take a stance in current politics.” By leaving things open to interpretations, developers and publishers do not have to deal with unwarranted criticism.
“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, and it’s an ongoing discussion we have with our users, of course, because people want to put an interpretation into the universe that we create and they want to see their own reality in the fantasies that we give them, and the stories that the games are” he adds.
By now, Ubisoft is no stranger to tackling political controversies, especially after cases such as Far Cry 5’s political fiasco. At the end of the day, controversies are obstacles which many video game developers have to deal with. Whether they are of political nature, such as the ‘school shooting’ FPS Standoff, or generally disturbing like Agony’s extreme graphic content, controversies will arise and must be dealt with in order to move on.