Especially in the wake of recent beta tests, there’s plenty of hype surrounding Ubisoft’s sprawling online RPG The Division. The game takes place in a hugely detailed recreation of New York City — a fact that might prove poignant in the light of recent terrorist threats, something which apparently wasn’t considered during development.
At a recent press event held in New York, Michelle Ehrhardt of Kill Screen was particularly struck by the way The Division seemed to evoke memories of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. However, when she broached this with associate creative director Julian Gerighty, he was quick to downplay any connection.
“I don’t think even the parallel between this game scenario and 9/11 exists,” said Gerighty. He went on to note that he hadn’t been asked about the attack’s influence on the game before, and it hadn’t come up in any meetings during the development process. The crux of his response to Ehrhardt was this:
“At the end of the day, it’s a videogame, it’s an entertainment product… There’s no particularly political message with it.”
This might disappoint some fans who were anticipating a compelling backstory to underpin the attacks that kick off The Division. The game begins with a smallpox pandemic that causes the United States to descend into chaos, but based on Gerighty’s comments, it seems that this is simply a set-up for its open-world gameplay.
Ubisoft has clearly gone all-out to deliver a true-to-life version of New York for players to explore. However, it’s a shame that graphical fidelity is considered such a priority, whereas the potentially interesting questions that could be asked by a game like this are considered too complicated for the medium.
The Division wants to offer a sense of moral ambiguity in its ‘dark zone’ gameplay, but in a way that’s largely concerned with the loot a player walks home with. The terrorist attack that underpins the game world seems to be little more than an excuse for the gunplay that follows.
It’s fine for a studio to develop a video game that’s intended more as an entertainment product than a statement on terrorism and the current political climate. However, it seems crass to explicitly use those themes as little more than set dressing for a transparent attempt to offer a big-budget alternative to Bungie’s Destiny.
The Division is set to release for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on March 8, 2016.
Source: Kill Screen