Deus Ex and The Treachery of Labels

By Shamus
on Aug 30, 2016
Filed under:

This column needs a couple of ablative disclaimer paragraphs before I start making my point. I know brevity is the soul of wit, but it’s also a good way to end up misunderstood and dragged into a pointless flamewar.

First off, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is really good. I enthusiastically endorse it. I’m going to criticize it here, but I want to stress that most of these criticisms are pretty academic. The story is fine, and I’m not offended by anything they’re doing here. It’s just that I think developer Eidos Montreal missed an opportunity to tell a smarter, more cohesive story.

Secondly, the no politics rule is still in effect. I’m going to be dropping some politically-charged buzzwords in here. SJW. Black Lives Matter. Right-wing talk radio. But note that we’re not actually talking about these groups. Or the people who belong to them. Or the people who oppose them. I’m just acknowledging that these groups exist in the real world without discussing, advocating, or critiquing their positions. I encourage you to do the same. In fact, I insist. Wouldn’t you rather talk about videogames than argue about politics?

With that out of the way, I want to back up a couple of weeks and talk about the pre-release controversy. This is not because I love controversy and can’t get enough of it. It’s actually the opposite. I hate controversy, and I’m hoping that we’ll be able to have a calm discussion now that the game is out and tempers have cooled.

The controversy was over this image:



A protest where someone is holding a sign saying “AUGS LiVE MATTERS”, or possibly, “AUGS LiVEs MATTERS”.

Which is of course a reference to Black Lives Matter, which is an ongoing controversy / movement / news story we have going on in the United States. The ad managed to annoy people on both sides of the debate, both pro-BLM and anti-BLM. The first because they didn’t like seeing the slogan of their important movement appropriated for a videogame that very likely wasn’t going to give the topic a serious treatment, and the other because they didn’t want a game to spend its runtime sanctimoniously shoving someone else’s opinion in their face. And I agree with both groups: I’ve been on both sides of this problem. I’ve had works of fiction annoy me in exactly these ways.

Social Issues In Fiction

Controversies like this usually lead to a wrong-headed protest, followed by an equally wrong-headed rebuttal:

Ann: Hey! Keep your [social issue] out of my works of science fiction!

Bob: Pfft. Hey, science fiction has tackled stuff like this in the past, like this episode of Original Star Trek:

See, he`s black on the left and I`m white on the left and that`s why we`re fighting. GET IT? HUH? SYMBOLISM! METAPHOR!

See, he`s black on the left and I`m white on the left and that`s why we`re fighting. GET IT? HUH? SYMBOLISM! METAPHOR!

Bob is right that fiction CAN be used to talk about Important Issues, but he’s overlooking the fact that this was an absolutely terrible episode of Trek. This ham-fisted episode is to political discussion what the Gorn Fight is to physical combat: Clumsy, cringe-worthy, and unintentionally hilarious.

But Ann is also wrong, because science fiction is a great place for talking about Important Social Issues And Stuff. It’s just that we usually only notice it when it’s really bad. I’ve been describing the whole thing as “too on-the-nose”. I get the impression the idiom isn’t nearly as clear as I thought, so let me explain what I mean when I accuse something of being excessively on-the-nose:

Let’s say you’re writing a sci-fi story and you’ve got some race of Blue People. Let’s call them the Smarms. And you’ve decided that the Smarms are going to be the victims of racism in your universe, and that part of the story will feature their struggle against oppression. So far, I approve. It will give your setting a dash of verisimilitude and oppression makes for good drama.

But let’s also say you’re a complete hack writer, so you create a leader character for the Smarm named Marvin Luther Kang, who shouts “I HAVE A DREAM!” as a catchphrase. That is the kind of thing I’m talking about when I say “too on-the-nose”. The problem isn’t that you’ve put a Social Issue into your story. The problem is that you’re an appallingly bad writer and your story is going to drive people crazy. The Smarm and their struggle are no longer a bit of worldbuilding flavor and a chance to explore the forces that create and sustain hatred between disparate groups. Instead, they’re going to be viewed as an explicit allegory for the Civil Rights movement in the middle of the last century.

Explicitly labeling your issues and characters like this shows an insulting lack of faith in the intelligence of the audience. You’re basically saying, “I think you’re too stupid to get this so I had to spell it out for you.” It ignores the fact that analyzing stories and searching for meaning is a big part of why we consume stories in the first place. Instead of allowing the audience to think for themselves, you’re telling them what you want them to think. That’s like telling the audience they should like a character and find them interesting instead of making the character interesting and likable. You’re refusing to perform your central duty as an author.

The Treachery of Labels

A Penny Arcade satire of the political cartoon form. Written by Jerry Holkins and illustrated by Mike Krahulik.

A Penny Arcade satire of the political cartoon form. Written by Jerry Holkins and illustrated by Mike Krahulik.

It’s like one of those political cartoons that clumsily slaps names on everything. Some people on your exact political wavelength will enjoy having their own opinions patronizingly reflected back at them, and everyone else is going to react with either boredom or resentment because you haven’t said anything to challenge them. Simply shouting “My opinion is true!” isn’t a persuasive argument.

It also constrains you as an author. Say you decide you want to add some character foibles to make Marvin Luther Kang more interesting. Maybe you decide he’s got an out-of-control sweet tooth and he loves shitty puns. But then some people will think you’re taking a swipe at the historical Martin Luther King Jr. If the struggle of the Smarms doesn’t map 1:1 to the struggle of black Americans during the civil rights movement, then people of all political stripes are going to take offense. They’ll assume your work is either revisionist, libelous, or ignorant. You can’t slap labels on everything and then ask people to ignore the labels when it’s convenient.

Furthermore, using current events can greatly reduce the expiration date of your story. If you make up your own movements and factions, they can outlive the real-world groups on which they’re based. If I have a story set ten years in the future and there’s a protest group called “Youth Rise!” then that sounds vaguely plausible. But if I call them Occupy Wall Street, then the reference will seem dated the moment OWS stops being a big deal.

But worst of all, when you engage in explicit allegory you’re giving up the most liberating tool an author has at their disposal, which is the ability to allow people to see other perspectives by tearing the labels off of things. If everything isn’t explicitly mapped out in terms of political teams, then people entering your world won’t automatically identify with “their side”. To wit: A member of Greenpeace will probably be more open to a story where environmentalists are the bad guys if you don’t stupidly name the bad guys Greenpeace.

I didn`t see this myself. Someone shared it on Twitter. Click for source.

I didn`t see this myself. Someone shared it on Twitter. Click for source.

Without labels, people will have to build their own interpretation based on the events in your story. Maybe Smarms represent American Colonists. Or Native Americans. Or Picts. Or Germanic Tribes in the time of the Roman Empire. Bedouins. American Frontiersmen. Aborigines. Aleutians. European immigrants to America in the early 20th century. It could be any of these. The reader doesn’t know and you don’t have to impose a specific interpretation onto them. This means the reader will need to think about your story. They might even comfortably identify with a group that is ideologically different from their own. It might not change their opinion, but it will give them a sense of empathy and understanding that they didn’t have before.

“But Shamus, what if the reader doesn’t get the lesson I’m trying to teach them?”

Yeah. I don’t think you’re actually interested in writing fiction. If you’re just using aliens and zap guns as a sugar-coating on a bunch of heavy-handed moralizing, then you’re not going to change anyone’s mind. You’re just going to make shitty fiction.

Tossing in a sign that says “AUGS LIVE MATTERS” is – aside from being a grammatical train-wreck – a promise that some people will expect you to keep.

Subtle as a Sledgehammer

Doctor CHRISTIANSEN is ranting about SJW`s on TV. The game is here to save you from the ravages of thinking for yourself.

Doctor CHRISTIANSEN is ranting about SJW`s on TV. The game is here to save you from the ravages of thinking for yourself.

And no, this isn’t a problem limited just to the marketing campaign. In fact, within the gameworld there’s an even worse instance of ham-fisted labeling. If you stop to watch television in the game, you might run into a news interview where some angry blowhard says something to the effect of, “Only SJW’s support aug rights.” This clumsily maps current-day politics to the world of augments. Instead of letting you think for yourself, the writer is telling you what you’d think based on your current politics. This takes a topic of fascinating complexity and nuance and reduces it to an argument you’ve probably read a thousand times before.

Distilling the “aug debate” of this game down to “SJW’s” is a gross disservice to the entire topic. You could justify people from all walks of life and all political backgrounds ending up on either side of the issue:

  1. Maybe second amendment people would be furiously pro-aug, since they might see having weaponized limbs a natural extension of their right to bear arms. Or maybe they would be anti-aug, because – unlike a firearm – you can’t democratize power by handing someone an augmented limb; they have to chop off part of themselves to use it.
  2. Maybe environmentalists would tend towards anti-aug, since the carbon footprint of an augmented person would be massive compared to a natural human. The infrastructure to care for that much technology would be tremendous. Or maybe they would be attracted to the idea of making people run (at least partly) on electricity that could come from renewable sources.
  3. Maybe there would be a huge class dimension to the whole debate. Imagine a healthy rich person that throws away their good limbs for chrome-plated ones. Some people would see this as a disgusting waste of a healthy body and an ostentatious display of wealth. Or maybe employers would only want to hire augmented workers for low-skill jobs, thus forcing the poor to “mutilate” themselves with unsightly, unwanted augs just so they could hold a steady job.
  4. Maybe people into body traditional mods (tattoos, piercings, etc) would embrace augments as a new form of bodily expression. (Check out my day-glow pink leg with tiger stripes!) Or maybe they would see it as crass and impersonal, like taking down an oil painting to hang a mass-produced junk-pop poster from Wal-Mart.
  5. Maybe criminals would be attracted to having augmented limbs that can’t leave behind fingerprints or forensic evidence at a crime scene. Maybe this would give augments a seedy vibe. Or maybe the high price of augments would make them seem like a status symbol similar to sports cars.
  6. Maybe augmented people would speak out against movies that “glamorize and fetishize” augmented body parts. They’re tired of reminding people that – despite what you might see in the movies – having a robo-arm does not transform your entire body into a tireless machine. They’re tired of being regarded as human forklifts, and they’re always having to explain that most augmented limbs are actually just human-equivalent prosthetics and not car-smashing pistons filled with firearms and buzzsaws. Or maybe augmented people would complain that they’re under-represented in media.

But no. “Only SJW’s support aug rights.”

In the Original Deus Ex…

The NSF gets a little shout-out here in Mankind Divided. Note that they are an entirely fictional group BASED off of existing groups. That`s different than  just calling them (say) the TEA PARTY, which is the kind of thing the Mankind Divided writer would do.

The NSF gets a little shout-out here in Mankind Divided. Note that they are an entirely fictional group BASED off of existing groups. That`s different than just calling them (say) the TEA PARTY, which is the kind of thing the Mankind Divided writer would do.

We can compare this to how the original Deus Ex did it. For starters, Deus Ex: Original Flavor had a far more over-the-top tone. It had literal black stealth helicopters, Area 51 aliens, spooky nameless government Men in Black, a government-controlled plague, and Chinese gangs fighting over a high-tech laser sword. It was bonkers. It wasn’t demanding that we take it too seriously, and it certainly wasn’t tapping into the mainstream debates of the day. Instead, it was working on the fringe.

In the late 90’s you’d sometimes get conspiracy theorists who would call in to the conservative talk radio shows, talking about how President Clinton was hatching a plan to declare martial law through some loophole in FEMA and take control of the government rather than leave office in 2000. Deus Ex didn’t co-opt an existing right-wing group to feature in their game. They took the FEMA angle, changed it up, and then created a new group – the NSF – to represent these ideas. And then they made the NSF (plot twist!) the good guys and had you ally with them! Because the game wasn’t trying to moralize, it was trying to spin wild conspiracy theories into an unpredictable cyberpunk thriller.

But despite the outlandish tone, the game took some time to explore some ideas and sneak a few clever bits into the margins. Leo Gold – the terrorist leader at the end of the first mission – has a bunch of thoughts on how government has changed in the last century, and it turns out to be a more persuasive pitch for conspiracy theories than the stuff actual conspiracy theorists usually come up with. The Morpheus AI has some pretty fun things to say about how the supposed purpose of God would be fulfilled by a machine capable of omnipresent surveillance. At the end of the game Deus Ex asked you a question about how humanity itself ought to be governed, and it did so without slapping Democrat / Republican / Anarchist / Socialist / Whateverist labels on everything. It didn’t ask you what group you identify with, it asked you what you thought. And then it let you act on that choice without judgement.

Welcome to Prague, where the police openly use anti-aug slurs and the Czech people write their graffiti in English.

Welcome to Prague, where the police openly use anti-aug slurs and the Czech people write their graffiti in English.

Mankind Divided does exactly the opposite. It has a self-serious, grounded tone that demands to be taken seriously. Then it brings up all of this heavy-handed and ill-fitting racism imagery. I could maybe accept this brute-force labeling of sides if the game was at least willing to say something about either transhumanism, racism, government power, or any of the other half-dozen ideas it’s half-assing. But after drawing explicit and ill-fitting parallels between augs and race, the game doesn’t follow up and discuss any of them the way Leo Gold and Morpheus did.

Within the world of Mankind Divided, augmented people are objectively more powerful than a normal person in the physical sense. Two years ago – at the climax of the last game – all augmented people went crazy and attacked innocent people at randomAnd somehow, not each other. It’s the old question of “Why don’t supposedly mindless zombies try to eat each other?”. This explains why people in Mankind Divided hate and fear augs, but it does so by ruining all of the racism imagery they’re using here. Being afraid of powerful people who killed thousands or possibly millions worldwide for reasons that aren’t fully understood is fundamentally different than hating someone because they’re a different color from you. This would be fine if the story was willing to portray or talk about this difference, but it isn’t. People hate augs for The Incident, but people who hate augs are portrayed as mindless brutish bigots.

The police are soulless stormtroopers who are just looking for an excuse to mow down augsActually, there is ONE non-“aug-hater” cop in the city that you can meet in a sidequest. And she HAS to be that way for the quest to work. That’s not nuance, that’s convenience.. None of the augs seem conflicted about their robo-parts. I never saw any normies hanging signs in support of augs, making it seem like hatred of augs was universal. Most augs you meet are downtrodden minorities living in ghettos.

It labels the sides, but the labels don’t really fit or make sense. And then the game doesn’t bother to ask you what you think, because it’s too busy telling you what to think.

Deus Ex was a game that pretended to be stupid, but occasionally said clever things. Mankind Divided pretends to be clever, but in the end it has basically nothing to say.

Transhumanism is a better cyberpunk topic than racism

This shot is from the walking intro cutscene following the tutorial mission.
Like I said about Papers, Please back in 2013, I have a profound and visceral hatred for the dehumanizing process of checking papers and inspecting people. I literally had to quit Papers, Please because it was too upsetting. And yet I felt nothing going through the checkpoints in Mankind Divided. I'm still trying to figure out why.

Even ignoring all the clumsy labels, I think the racism angle is a bad fit for this world. Aside from the obvious problem that “augmented” is not a race, and the Aug Incident muddles any possible racial discussion, the topic is much too black-and-white for a game supposedly about conspiracy theories and paranoia. It’s not like the game is going to pull a second act plot twist and reveal the hateful thuggish bigots were right all along. It’s hard to have uncertainty when the moral compass of the game is a giant flashing arrow pointing to a neon sign that says “RACISM IS BAD, YO”.

A much better topic would be to play around with the tensions and fears of the industrial and agricultural revolutions of the past couple of centuries, because these dovetail so nicely with the possibilities of transhumanism, which seems to have replaced “conspiracy theories” as the dominant flavor of the franchise. During the industrial revolution, many people saw their jobs and even their entire line of work going extinct. We suddenly didn’t need a blacksmith in every village, or someone to light the lanterns around town, or people to shovel horse shit out of the streets, or people to shovel coal into steam engines. We didn’t need nine out of every ten people to be farmers. Eight of those farmers needed to go bust, sell the farm, and move to the city so they could learn to do something else. People were watching themselves become obsolete, along with their knowledge, their family business, and their entire way of life.

It was a frustrating time. It was a scary time. We ended up better for it in the long run, but in the day it was a dark, miserable slog of uncertainty and poverty. Those people didn’t know their hardship would lead to a fantastic world of comfort, safety, and leisure. All they knew was that they were suddenly poor and useless.

Imagine Deus Ex as a story set in that kind of transition. That entire concept has almost unlimited potential to be re-worked and re-imagined in a world where augmented people are objectively more useful than organic free-range humans.

Mankind Divided is Still a Good Game

The movie posters in this game are smarter, more interesting, and more subtle than the world around them. I love these things. The world is overflowing with details like this.

The movie posters in this game are smarter, more interesting, and more subtle than the world around them. I love these things. The world is overflowing with details like this.

Like I said earlier, Mankind Divided is still a fantastic game and nothing I’ve said about should be taken as a condemnation of it. But it could have been a little less patronizing and a lot smarter if it just trusted in the player to be able to think for themselves. “AUGS LIVE MATTERS” was good for creating cheap temporary controversyYes I realize this column is part of that problem. but it comes at the expense of those little moments of brilliance that made the original Deus Ex so memorable and worth talking about 16 years later.

One final disclaimer: I’m serious about not arguing about politics here. I know I may have pushed some of your buttons somewhere in the previous 3,000 words of rambling. Maybe you’re really into (or opposed to) one of the various groups I mentioned in passing. I tried to be gentle and fair. Sorry if I angered you, but I hope you’ll let it slide and not feel the need to jump down to the comments and anger a bunch of OTHER people. Just play it cool.

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[1] And somehow, not each other. It’s the old question of “Why don’t supposedly mindless zombies try to eat each other?”

[2] Actually, there is ONE non-“aug-hater” cop in the city that you can meet in a sidequest. And she HAS to be that way for the quest to work. That’s not nuance, that’s convenience.

[3] Yes I realize this column is part of that problem.

A Hundred!A Hundred!A Hundred!202015355 comments. But who's counting?

From the Archives:

  1. Galad says:

    Heh, I’m so far removed from issues like SJW or BLM that the column almost seemed boring until the 1 to 6. list, where we finally got the real life, more or less obvious, political explanations and disclaimers out of the way. Still, my takeaway from all this is that Mankind Divided’s story will bore or annoy me, at least sometimes, and that tells me I’m not too likely to spend even 20 euros on it.

    • MichaelGC says:

      Well, one person’s ‘obvious’ can be another person’s ‘vile calumny’. I’d say only the very start of the article touches on those issues, and it sounds like the game doesn’t actually talk about them at all. Not to say you should change your views on either, as that’d be daft, but when I’m not interested in something I tend to think that’s info best kept to myself. After all, why would others be interested? And then I write this, which isn’t interesting. Notinterestedception!

    • Da Mage says:

      And what I find really strange is that while I’ve heard of those groups, being someone from outside of America, it means nothing to me. I guess it falls into the whole labels thing Shamus was talking about, not only do real world labels fail over time, but they also fail as soon as you go international….where as themes do not.

      • Gilfareth says:

        It’s not even exclusive to the US as a whole, the discussion seems mostly to stem from academic circles and people working at or attending colleges, which ends with people like me staying away from academia not actually seeing the discussion very much at all. It gets pretty surprising to see controversy raging around, supposedly all around you but completely invisible because you just don’t talk to the people who notice or care.

        • MichaelGC says:

          The article insists we not talk about the labels & groups & people who belong to them. Or don’t belong to them, which comes to the same thing, just in negative.

          Right off the bat we failed to do what Shamus asked of us.

          • Syal says:

            Just like that one political group failed to –redacted–

          • Pete_Volmen says:

            Eh, I think this might be okay. The point here isn’t to talk about a specific group, but of the reach of themes and ideas over labels, no? For example, I have no idea what group Gilfareth is talking about being central to academics.

            ‘Course, I may be wrong and then this thread will get zapped.

            • MichaelGC says:

              Well, it depends what we mean by ‘OK’, really. Shamus has a vast band of tolerance between: “I asked them not to talk about this,” and: “I can’t leave this up and must zap it.” For some, OK will fall just before ‘zappable’ on that spectrum; for others – obviously e.g. me! – OK isn’t on that spectrum at all.

              By my admittedly severe criteria, your third sentence counts as ‘not-OK’. Not because it is offensive or anything daft like that! – but simply because it belongs to a broad area or type of discussion which we were asked not to have here.

  2. Rodyle says:

    I think this is more or less the default state of the last Deus Ex as well. It tried to be clever about its ideas of transhumanism, but instead of actually discussing those ideas, it would rather just tell you what others think about them.

    In fact, I still think some of the earlier teaser trailers were best about it: they showed how Sarif Industries would advertise their limbs, for example. Hell, even the earlier parts of the Mankind Divided trailer were really good.

    Furthermore, this may be an American thing, but as a Dutchie, the focus on the “you’re playing God!” argument is really jarring.

    • Paul Spooner says:

      I agree with the oddity of the “You’re playing god!” argument, especially since it seems to be assumed (when proffered) that this is obviously a bad thing. In what way is it a bad thing? No, don’t answer that, forget I asked. Point being, it’s not a universally accepted premise across the pond either.

      • Felblood says:

        Yeah, a lot of American Sci-Fi is fixated on the idea of “Things Man was not Meant to Know.”

        When it’s done well, you get Lovecraft’s Herbert West–Reanimator, The Other Gods and The King in Yellow .

        When it’s done badly, you get The Man Who Knew Too Much and The Ghost of Frankenstein.

        • Ninety-Three says:

          When it’s done badly you get Caveman Science Fiction.

        • ehlijen says:

          And when it’s done poorly but with great direction and effects, you get Jurassic Park?

          The idea of ‘secrets man was not meant to know’ has been ingrained in scifi ever since the genre began with Frankenstein (even accounting for the fact that later adaptations fixated more on that point than the original). Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde didn’t do the idea of beneficent science any favours either.

          Throw in lovecraftian horror becoming its own genre (and gaining a resurgence in popularity eventually) as well as real life having several cases where inventions were later considered mistakes by many, including some of the creators (e.g. Nobel’s dynamite, nukes), and you’ve got fertile ground for such stories.

          There’s plenty of opposing viewpoints in scifi, though, such as Asimov’s robot series and Star Trek just to name the most famous.

          I don’t think either view is going to disappear from fiction anytime soon (nor should they), and that’s why DE:MD not exploring the conflict between the two after suggesting it would is a bit of a disappointment.

          • Lachlan the Mad says:

            So I’m literally doing a “science in popular fiction” course at university this semester, and you want to know what’s really weird? People actually see Jurassic Park as a pro-science text. I mean, you’re right, I personally hate Jurassic Park because it really is a badly-told retread of Frankenstein‘s “don’t play god” moral, and yet those movies have led to an enormous surge of interest and funding for palaeontology. It makes no damn sense to me. Apparently most people who watch those movies just think that the moral is “dinosaurs are cool”.

            • Silvarin says:

              The dinosaurs and how they were visualised were the big reason people watched the movie. It was the first time you could see them that way, and not as a bone collection in a museum. The great direction did help, but the don’t-play-god plot was mainly there to drive the story forward. So, yes, it does make sense dino’s grew in popularity.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              Apparently most people who watch those movies just think that the moral is “dinosaurs are cool”.

              Well yeah.Thats why the last one was so much laughed at for its “dinosaurs are boring now” thing.

              But when you say “badly told retread of frankenstein”,what exactly do you mean?Whats so bad about it?That the guy in charge didnt count on corporate espionage?That the science is wonky?Because frakenstein is not the hardest of settings.That Jeff Goldblum is too preachy? Because even the heroes of the movie think that he is a prick.

              And yeah,the original jurassic park is pro science.They may have messed up some stuff about cloning,but their research about dinosaurs and how they should move and act was pretty thorough and consistent with the knowledge of that time.

              • Paul says:

                While the original Jurassic park may have had pretty solid science unscreen, the overall plot is that of a man reaching beyond his grasp.

                There’s no indication that anything of value was learned or produced, except for dinosaurs, which was an abject failure, from a marketing/economic perspective; the dinosaurs were not cloned to see if we could – a very pro-science move – they were cloned to open a theme park and make money. The “experiment” was a failure, even though it did manage to clone dinosaurs.

                I disagree that JP had a pro-science message at its heart. If it was about a scientist who cloned dinosaurs as an experiment, but then the evil businessmen took that procedure and created a theme park around it, you could argue a pro-science message. But there’s no indication of any such subplot in the movie as it appears on the screen.

                • Daemian Lucifer says:

                  So what if he wanted to do it in order to make a theme park?Thats neither inherently evil nor anti scientific.Rarely is science done for no other reason other to see what would happen,especially if its expensive science.Is rocketry somehow less scientific than theoretical math because it was rushed only to beat the other team?Or because it had major contributions from the war?Is the development of computers somehow tainted because of how much development went into them during the war?Or because of the constant push for shinnier graphics to sell?

                  And thats all without going into the issue of money.Because monetary gain from the park was not hammonds primary concern.He already had money,he couldve invested it into plenty of safer,more profitable stuff if money was his goal.You can decide to make a theme park because you want to entertain people,or show off your new thing,or educate joe average,….

                  A movie is not pro/anti science just based on the motivations of its characters.Otherwise,the fly would be one of the most pro science movies.

                  • Harold says:

                    I think most of it comes from the fact that Michael Crichton was very anti-science, and even wrote a book that directly claims that climate change isn’t happening, and the main villains are an ecoterrorist organization called the ELF* that creates seemingly natural disasters to convince the public that it’s real. Said book also seems to fall in the trap of labeling things, as discussed here.

                    *Environmental Liberation Front instead of Earth Liberation Front, because they’re totally not the same thing.

                • Falcon02 says:

                  I do feel focusing on the Theme Park vs. Pure Science motivation does kinda miss the point. I still do disagree the story is heavily “Pro-Science.” A heavy theme, especially from Goldblum’s character, is that “you were so focused on if you could that you didn’t stop to think about if you should” [parapharsed from memory]. That coupled with the concern the scientists show when they realize they cloned Velociraptors and other elements sends a message that they were wrong to try to clone dinosaurs in the first place. And by the end of the movie, all the characters, including Hammond to a degree, seems to agree the whole thing was a tragic mistake and he never should have attempted to clone dinosaurs in the first place.

                  Now, it still had an effect in promoting interest in Paleontology and Dinosaurs in general. Though I’m not sure it’s had much of an effect on the acceptance of cloning (particular of extinct species), which is more central to the “Playing God” theme. Though I do think I’ve seen people bring up the movie when people try to talk about cloning Mammoths and the like… But I don’t think there’s a strong affect.

        • Rodyle says:

          But Lovecraft isn’t SciFi, but horror. Furthermore, there’s a large difference between “things we weren’t meant to know” and “you’re playing god!”.

          • ehlijen says:

            The first is true, but to the second I say the ideas are related. Both ideas assume that there exist knowledge and resulting abilities that humans shouldn’t seek out for fear of the consequences. It even goes back to Genesis, with the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge, and even earlier as has already been pointed out with Prometheus and Pandora’s box.
            Whether the consequences are divine wrath, unforseen dangers, mind damage or karmic justice, the core is always the idea that extreme curiosity is bad.

            Knowledge being directly damaging by itself and actions enabled by knowledge being hubric (hubrisic? hubrisy?) are different at face value, but in the realm of science and more commonly science fiction they often conflate: The knowledge of a thing almost always results in the ability to do that thing soon after. Lovecraftian horror just often skips a step.

            • MichaelGC says:

              It’s ‘hubristic’, although I think I prefer ‘hubric’. If we use that enough it’ll become correct! :D

            • Rodyle says:

              I don’t know. Yes, there is a common theme of ‘knowledge is dangerous’, but in Lovecraft’s stories, it isn’t exactely hubris-based, but rather that the knowledge itself is dangerous to have. On the other hand in the ‘playing God’ tales, it’s the hubris of man and how in seeking further knowledge, they destroy themselves. I think that’s a huge difference.

              • ehlijen says:

                I guess we disagree.

                Both use the idea that a human is trying to become more like a god (an elder thing with arcane knowledge in lovecraft’s case, or simply an omnipotent being in most scifi stories). The quest itself is what damns, regardless of whether the knowledge itself does the damage or the unwise application of it: by trying to gain the knowledge in the first place, you’ve doomed yourself.

                Both ideas advocate a view that you just shouldn’t try to learn some things.

      • Fists says:

        “Don’t play god” definitely isn’t a sentiment exclusive to American/English speaking culture, although it probably survives there more than it does in more secular countries. The story of Prometheus is probably the most convenient example plus being humble is quite important in Japanese and Buddhist cultures, you’d have to translate the ‘God’ concept but there are definitely themes that revolve around humans having too much power, like Godzilla.

        I guess it just underlines Shamus’ point on labeling things, “You’re playing God” is shorthand from a specific movement in American/English culture, where as “We’ve gone too far” or “When will we stop” would be better themes to play on to keep it adaptable.

        • Rodyle says:

          Oh, I wasn’t necessarily talking about this article, but the game in general. You can’t open a trailer without the sentence being thrown at your head 2 times a second.

          > The story of Prometheus is probably the most convenient example

          Not really, to be honest. The idea behind “playing God” is that you’ll be destroyed by your own hubris, while Prometheus was killed off by a bunch of pissed of gods. Hell, Prometheus was seen as one of the largest benefactors of mankind by the Greeks.

          • galacticplumber says:

            Similarly the Frankenstein story doesn’t work for that theme anymore either. The principle Door We Should Not Open was bringing things that have died but were in good enough condition back to life with electricity. We do that every day, albeit with less damaged recently dead people. The device is called a defibrillator. Do we call the people who use them monsters playing god? No. We call them HEROES saving lives!

            • Rodyle says:

              To be fair: the original Frankenstein story wasn’t about the hubris of man, either, but rather about judging things by their appearance. Adam in Shelley’s original story was a rather gentle and clever creature, only pushed to revenge and violence after being rejected by society.

          • Droid says:

            A lot of Greek mythology is viewed differently nowadays. If you tell someone the story of Oedipus nowadays, it’s gonna be interpreted as a self-fulfilling prophesy: Had Oedipus never heard the prophesy, he would never have unknowingly killed his father and married his mother, so the people telling the prophesy are to blame for everything that happened. The Greek take on it was: what was foretold in the prophesy would have happened either way, you cannot flee from your fate, whatever is weaved into it will find you and force you into the course of events it tells.

            Similarly, I think Prometheus’s story was also meant as a story of rebellion against the gods, and how you will suffer from it because in the end, the gods will always win. That is not so different from the original idea of hubris, like Ulysses’ overconfidence after the sack of Troy.

            • Rodyle says:

              > Similarly, I think Prometheus’s story was also meant as a story of rebellion against the gods, and how you will suffer from it because in the end, the gods will always win. That

              I wouldn’t be too sure. There isn’t a real one-sided way the ancient Greeks viewed Prometheus. There are various different versions of the myth, with some portraying Prometheus as a friend of humankind, while in others he’s definitely suffering from hubris. I wasn’t actually aware of that interpretation untill I looked it up, to be honest, so my OP doesn’t really make sense any more from that perspective.

              • Droid says:

                Well, he is both of these things, he definitely loved his creations enough to give them gifts (like fire) that the gods never wanted them to get, and Prometheus is no fool: He knows he cannot win against the gods, not against all of them, on his own. Still, he steals the fire because he thinks it’s worth it.
                On the other hand, the theme of Prometheus defying the gods (by stealing the fire) is definitely there in all the accounts I’ve seen of it, even though it is sometimes viewed favourably, it is always stated as a source of conflict. After all, this conflict, and the following creation and opening of Pandora’s box is what the Greek mythology thought to be the starting point of all plagues and … uhm, all bad things in general. And hubris is not necessarily thinking too highly of yourself or your deeds, it’s putting yourself above the gods, whether that be by sacrilege or by breaking their holy laws or their explicit commands.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              I always thought it was about blue aliens and dumb “scientists”.

  3. Ester says:

    Actually, European people do write graffiti in English, even in countries where it’s not the first language. Everybody watches American movies, everybody plays American video games, and English is just plain cool. There is certainly also graffiti in the local native languages, but I shouldn’t be surprised to find English graffiti in Prague. (Never been there. But at least in Sweden, France and Germany, it appears.)

  4. Shouldn’t it have been “Aug lives matter?” If one is an Aug, then the sign is misusing the plural form, isn’t it?

    I think I’ve found the real question Mankind Divided needs to answer.

    • Mokap says:

      Yeah, I think it should either be Aug’s Lives Matter (as in, The Lives Of Augs Matter) or Aug Lives Matter (as in… Well, Aug Lives Matter.)

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Weve been over this.Its augD lives matter,or better augED lives matter.Its an adjective,not a noun.

        • Phill says:

          It’s English, where you can verb nouns and noun adjectives until the cows home, and a fair amount of breaking of grammatical rules can be tolerated for effect.

          If it is reasonable to describe an augumented person as an ‘aug’ in a slang or informal way, then it is fine to write “augs’ lives matter” in the same way that a fox hunting protestor might write “foxes’ lives matter”. It’s a different linguistic construction to Black Lives Matter.

          See also “women’s lives matter” versus “female lives matter”. Both are fine in English, but are grammatically slightly different.

        • Philadelphus says:

          I think it’s meant to be a noun phrase, where “aug” is a noun modifying “lives” rather than an adjective. It’d be like having “Cow lives matter” (noun) vs “Bovine lives matter” (adjective). Both are grammatically correct.

      • Demo says:

        Well, “Augs’ Lives Matter,” given that “Augs” is presumably the plural.

    • Dev Null says:

      A protest where someone is holding a sign saying “AUGS LiVE MATTERS”, or possibly, “AUGS LiVEs MATTERS”.

      Or possibly “AUG LiVER MATTERS”. We may never know.

    • King Marth says:

      The augmented citizens in question are confused as to why everyone got it wrong when their grammar was perfectly clear. Augs live matter; that is, augmented people live because of matter. Everyone uses the same atoms, just in different configurations.

      There’s a sub-group that argue for their interpretation that, by incorporating more inanimate material into their bodies than the average consumer, augs provide life to matter; their signs read “Augs liven matter”. This, of course, is silly; the amount of food an average person consumes over a year (thus converting inanimate material into living material, albeit temporarily) makes most augmentations a drop in the bucket by comparison, especially considering the reduced metabolic cost over time of having artificial parts. Still, it doesn’t stop these people whose limbs, livelihoods, or lives are supported by advanced science from believing in vitalism (that life cannot be purely explained by physical and chemical phenomena) while simultaneously believing they and by extension their parts are ‘alive’ in the non-measurable sense.

    • MrGuy says:

      No no no. You all completely missed the point.

      There’s a free augmented-musicians-only concert in the park next week they’re trying to promote. It’s going to be THE musical event of the summer.

      If you’re going to see one show this year, it should be Augs Live.

      It matters.

  5. Tom says:

    The themes of transhumanism in Deus Ex: Vacuum Bot Hate Mob were intrinsically tied to the political themes. By dropping the political angles new Deus Ex has always left itself at something of a loose end.

    The entire title of the series is supposed to evoke a sort of “There’s not going to be a convenient way out of this” vibe. The questions it asks are “If we had the tech to completely change our government to these other forms, should we do so?”

    I’d argue that conspiracies aren’t really a major theme of the original game, they’re more or a motif meant to underline the issues with current governmental systems in the information age. (As well as a great way to drive the plot). Essentially: “Something has to change because conspiracies, what sort of change do you believe in?”

    I really love the “Government as machine” concept that runs through the whole original game. JC himself is a body governed entirely by machines. The Aquinas protocol and Daedalus’s status as basically being the entire internet etc reinforce it. There’s a guy in a bar in China who will talk about the topic all day. Morpheus will do so, reporters do it. Naturally Helios is all over it. Deus Ex wants you to believe that government has always been an imperfect machine, and then it asks you to perfect it with new tech (and simply by giving you a meaningful choice of which machine is perfect it shatters the concept of a perfect governmental machine). It’s a real masterpiece.

    New Deus Ex is terrified of talking about how people are governed, so instead the central theme becomes:

    “? as machine”

    We’ve tried a few things so far with different levels of success. The main trend is shying away from the macro towards more personal issues of identity.

    -Class identity as machine was ok in Human Revolution. Kinda, it tried a few other things but nothing came through all that strongly.

    -Medicine as machine is touched upon and definitely the most fertile ground that I’ve seen them touch upon for me. “Healthcare systems are a machine.” has some legs and we did get some questions regarding “Should clinics server everyone, should you pay for your limb” etc. This ties into the class identity stuff and I can only assume that healthcare was deemed internally as too close to politics.

    -Race as machine is unbelievably silly in any kind of even vaguely hard sci fi setting.

    I feel very sorry for the writers of Deus Ex: Multiple Directories. I imagine the writers were given a big document full of things they need to talk about because they’re currently “trending” and then had anything with the slightest bit of real life applicability sanded off by PR.

    Really, Deus Ex: Managing Director was always a bit doomed.

    • Geebs says:

      Human Revolution’s stuff about corporate body invasion was also pretty on the nose, but at least it made some sort of sense. I’m not really sure I’m that interested in the transhumanism angle (not least because the term was coined by a loony who re-named himself FM-2030), but the grey area of augs being imposed on people is thought provoking and nicely queasy..

      Prosthetics as race metaphor doesn’t make sense so hard it makes my brain hurt. It’s fractally stupid.

  6. Daemian Lucifer says:

    The ad managed to annoy people on both sides of the debate, both pro-BLM and anti-BLM.
    And I agree with both groups: I’ve been on both sides of this problem. I’ve had works of fiction annoy me in exactly these ways.

    And I vehemently disagree with both,because referencing THING is not the same as addressing THING.Are there works of fiction that mock real world stuff?Yes.Are there works of fiction that try to shove their stance about real world stuff down your throat?Yes.But that does not mean that ALL fiction that ever mentions something from real world must automatically mean its suddenly a central theme.

    Best example are nazis.There are many,many,uncountably many works that use nazis in plethora of ways.Yet only a handful of them actually address the specifics.How many wolfensteins did we have before just one of them had anything to say about the actual horrors of concentration camps,and that only briefly?And how many other world war shooters dont care about the war at all other than using it as a convenient backdrop?Heck,out of all the shooters set in various wars,how many actually talk about wars in a meaningful way?

    The only reason that this became a controversy is because its a recent movement and everyone is already jumping at everyones throats at any reference to the movement,regardless of context.

    • John says:

      I absolutely agree with you that referencing a thing is not the same as addressing that thing. And Shamus knows it too. That’s one of the points of this post, for Pete’s sake! And of yesterday’s Diecast! But there’s a difference between, say, making a minor background reference to a real person, place, incident, and what Mankind Divided appears to do. Mankind Divided references a whole bunch of contemporary issues and controversies and puts those references right in the foreground, going out of its way to draw the player’s attention to them. This creates a reasonable expectation in the player that the game will address the things it is referencing.

      From the sound of it, Mankind Divided is like a juggler who spends a lot of time at the beginning of his act showing the audience his chainsaws and then spends the rest of the show working exclusively with bowling pins. However good the juggler may be with bowling pins, he is a poor showman, because if he wasn’t going to do anything with the chainsaws then he shouldn’t have brought them out in the first in place. He’s inevitably going to leave his audience confused and disappointed.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        That’s one of the points of this post, for Pete’s sake! And of yesterday’s Diecast!

        Neither of which was referred to by my comment.I was specifically talking about the hubbub that arose before the game was launched.

        • John says:

          Okay . . .

          So then what is your point? That people shouldn’t get upset when the promotional materials for a game deliberately reference an upsetting thing? A thing that was almost certainly only included because it was upsetting, no less?

          You’ve lost me here.

        • Shamus says:

          I’m guessing that one of the other problems here is the source. Imagine if AUGS LiVE MATTERS was uploaded to somebody’s DeviantArt account in 2015 and the author claimed they’d never heard of BLM. That would be an amazing coincidence, but it’s certainly possible.

          But this came from someone speaking for a company. We’re pretty used to rolling our eyes at lies from marketing at this point, so it’s easy to assume this is just more of the same. Maybe this is less about BLM and more about the general distrust people have for corporate messaging.

          • Benjamin Hilton says:

            Lets say we give them the benefit of the doubt and believe that they did have this slogan in an art file for years and years. I don’t think that necessarily helps their case. Once it became a real thing with real world meaning someone should have said “Yeah this seems insensitive now, we need to change it.”

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              Again,why?Just because its like a real thing does not mean its automatically insensitive.Especially if they believe that they are saying something meaningful with their story.

              • Christopher says:

                Because it’s a recent movement and everyone is already jumping at everyone’s throats at any reference to the movement, regardless of context, for one thing. But it’s not true that it’s ONLY that, because lots of people thought the “Mechanical Apartheid” was insensitive or stupid too. The whole race metaphor is insensitive or stupid, depending on your point of view. And then this reference is the hottest, most current, most trending racial tension reference I can think of. You know why you change it? To not make tons of people angry, sad, roll your eyes at you or wonder if you’re lying to them. And they didn’t, and here we are. A quick mention about how great the game it is at the beginning and end of the article, and then a whole long article talking about these issues instead.

                • Daemian Lucifer says:

                  The whole race metaphor is insensitive or stupid, depending on your point of view

                  That bolded part is the key.Because they did not think its either insensitive or stupid.

                  But you know what is also insensitive?Saying that someone who comes up with “mechanical apartheid” must be white.Because why would a a non white person hold a different opinion?

                  • Christopher says:

                    What are you even talking about anymore? I don’t ever remember saying someone white made up “mechanical apartheid”, so are you just telling me someone else said something you think is insensitive? You asked why they should change it, and I said it was in order to not offend people who think that it’s insensitive, to avoid this entire controversy. It’s not a good retort to say that they didn’t think it was insensitive themselves. No shit, clearly they didn’t! But that’s not what you wanted to know.

                    • Daemian Lucifer says:

                      You said how people hated it,and Im saying how a bunch of those people hated it because “someone white made it up”.Basically,why should they do something to not unintentionally offend someone whose first reaction is to intentionally offend someone?

              • Brandon says:

                Except the whole “Augs Liver Matter” thing is so much background in the story. The story really doesn’t speak to either the modern situation, or really much to the situation created in the story. The company was tone-deaf at best, and repeatedly, constantly so. Sometimes it doesn’t matter that it wasn’t your intent to offend. If it’s clear enough you are, and that what you are offending in the name of is largely background and not centrally dealt with in your story, then the wise choice is to rethink your strategy. Instead, they just tightened the blinders further, put their heads down, and rammed forward. “It’s art so it’s fine!” only works when you’re not making something that costs millions of dollars to make and is expected to return millions more in profit.

              • Henson says:

                I would personally argue that, whether or not it’s seen insensitive, the phrase ‘Augs Lives Matters’ now has a clear parallel that everyone knows about, and keeping the phrase in the promotional art keeps that association in people’s minds. The question then becomes, does this comparison work for our story, or is it a distraction? As a storyteller, I think you do have to consider the environment that your audience is coming from; it’s not fair to Eidos, but if the comparison to BLM is not what they want, then as soon as BLM became a ‘thing’, it would behoove them to remove it. It’s like all those people who had to remove twin towers imagery after 9/11; it sucks, it’s not fair, but if you don’t want to invoke the spectre of the attack, you’ve gotta make the change.

    • Jabrwock says:

      Tropes are a tool, it’s only when they are abused that a story breaks apart.

      The problem is when you try to get the tropes to tell the story for you. Fine, character A is a stereotypical Nazi, so we can make a lot of assumptions about his behaviour, motivations, and goals, but NOW WHAT?

    • Squirly says:

      You’re pretty much ‘on the nose’ with the reason for the controversy. The funny thing is, shouldn’t it be an endorsement of a sorts, seeing your own movement as reaching far into the future?

      I see it as the same way the suffix -gate always gets added to some current controversies. It’s originally from the Watergate scandal and it has stuck as being a sign of corruption, controversy, scandal etc.

      In my eyes, if we take today’s world and hurl it into the future the way Deus Ex does, then wouldn’t it make sense that a movement that focuses on the rights of individuals who are discriminated against, would use “X lives matter” as a rallying call? It does to me.

      • Echo Tango says:

        If Deus Ex were happening in the real world, then yes, it would probably make sense for a protest group to reference something from the past (our real-world present day). However, Deus Ex isn’t happening in real life far in the future, so it’s not referencing something far-reaching from the past, it’s referencing something that’s happening in the present day, which makes it seem shallow, cheap, and lazy.

      • Syal says:

        seeing your own movement as reaching far into the future?

        It’s not your movement, it’s the writer’s movement with your name on it. That’s the whole problem; the writer is putting words in people’s mouths on both sides of the issue, and either they have a horse in the race and are going to make one side more sympathetic, or they aren’t involved and have no authority to speak for either group.

        • mechaninja says:

          I think it is likely protest movements of the future will utilize slogans from their past, in an effort to lend their movement artificial legitimacy, and in a further attempt to link the two things in people’s minds. Racism is a hot topic in the USA, and saying “you’re treating augs like they treated black people in the 20th/21st” might resonate strongly with some portion of the audience they seek to influence. I make no comment about the legitimacy of either the real movement or the fictional one – only that people will utilize what has gone before to “signal boost” their own movement.

          (I think people who are unwilling to accept that people will always try to piggy back the THING that has gone before [and often without understanding the true nature, the beating heart of the THING and whether their THING is actually relevant to the previous THING] don’t really understand human nature very well. I also wish that a greater understanding of human nature would lead to people not giving a shit what the advertising department of a company does, but I have it on good authority [by which I mean a little more than 40 years of anecdotal observation] that this is a wish never to be fulfilled.)

          In a vacuum, I would like that whoever made this poster did so – because I believe that is something human nature would lead to happening – except that we don’t live in a vacuum and Shamus makes it pretty clear that the controversial THING wasn’t well addressed in the story.

          It seems impossible that they borrowed the slogan for any reason other than to generate controversy, and that is completely standard for the advertising department of many companies.

          • Syal says:

            I will accept the idea that they are borrowing past slogans if the game has an Aug Panthers faction, or a… well, I don’t know the names of any other groups. But if they’re only using modern day slogans I maintain it’s a cheap tactic designed to chaff up the review process with political controversy.

            If a fictional future faction takes the name of a current real group, that carries the implication the future will look back on the real group with whatever emotion the fictional faction evokes. Political prophecy is both grating on people who disagree with you, and easily dated if things turn out differently. (Imagine if BLM members assassinate the President next year; that fictional protest sign is going to come off WAY different.) Avoiding that means investing a lot of time which could likely be better spent just making something up.

    • Syal says:

      People address THING in videogames so they have a fallback position if the game is bad. “Oh, you don’t like my game? It must be because you do’t like the POLITICS in it!” And everybody reading thinks “Well of course some people don’t like it, it’s got POLITICS in it,” and it’s another month before everyone realizes “oh, actually this is just plain not any fun”. It’s marketing metagaming.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        And now you did it in reverse.Yes,some do that,and its a scummy tactics.But some genuinely believe that THING is meaningful to their story,some throw it in just cuz,and some dont even realize what they did.

    • Joe Informatico says:

      It stands to reason that a recent and currently highly-active movement and its ideological allies and opponents are heavily invested in the messaging and image of that movement in the wider mass culture. If a work of fiction refers to that movement, however obliquely or clumsily or superficially, it’s going to ruffle feathers just by existing. Full stop. If any marketing person thinks their product can so bluntly refer to a current issue and not get called out on it then they suck at their job. (Unless the intent was to court controversy in order to go viral and get free publicity, which I find more probable.)

      Does that mean art should never tackle current issues? Of course not. Brave and purposeful art absolutely should and can confront current issues from whatever perspective. But that kind of art is purpose-made to foment controversy and debate, not shirk away at the first sign of dissent. I’m skeptical that a multimillion-dollar budgeted release of a corporate flagship product intended primarily to ship X number of units by Christmas to benefit the investment portfolios is the best vehicle to make that kind of confrontational art, but it’s happened before. It’s not impossible. I don’t think DX:MD did it well though.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        It stands to reason that a recent and currently highly-active movement

        If that were true,youd get riots every time us military gets depicted in a game.Battlefield hardline wouldve made a bigger impact than hatred.Saints row would be just as dragged trough the dirt as gta.Etc.

        So no,its not as simple as “If you reference a current movement,therell be ruckus”.

    • ehlijen says:

      The difference, if I understand Shamus’ article correctly, is that DE:MD includes these elements incoherently and doesn’t make interesting use of them.

      You can include contemporary elements, but there are always consequences, as with any choice. Whether it’s the right choice depends on what you want to do with the story, and also whether you are a good enough writer to pull it off (some things are just harder to write well than others).

      One of those consequences is that if you tie your work to a specific issue, your work’s relevance will be tied to that issue. If you hope to create a timeless classic, this is a good way to not allow that to happen.

      As for the comparisons to nazis: wolfenstein doesn’t really have nazis in it. It has cartoon characters dressed in nazi uniforms. Hitler never wore a mechasuit, and by all accounts wasn’t all that interested in personally fighting. We accept this discrepancy because the game openly presents itself as nonsense.
      DE:MD on the other hand tries to allude to many very specific forms of racism, but insists on a serious tone and implicitly promises a discussion of the matters that never comes. With its scattershot ‘all in the same pot’ approach to every instance of racism across history, it really needed to avoid tying itself to specifics, as that just highlighted that it’s a collage of a setting, not a coherent image. It’s fine for a game to include racism, be it as part of the message or for historical accuracy of parody. But this reference was more specific than that, and yet the game does not actually do anything with those specific references.
      Imagine an Anna Frank escort quest in Wolfenstein. Suddenly you’ve moved from power fantasy cartoon to mocking actual tragedy directly.

      I suppose it’s one of those ‘there’s a line for everyone somewhere’ situations. For many people invoking BLM and then not saying anything about it in your stealth shooter where a member of the minority in question is the world’s best superspy because of his minority, was past that line.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Wolfenstein the new order has you a level where you are in a concentration camp without any weapons.And it has plenty of awful stuff in it(like the nazis slaughtering mentally ill people).Yet it still features nazis on the moon armed with laser rifles.And it kind of all fits.So you can have a mix of the two without mocking the serious thing.

        • ehlijen says:

          Actually, from what I’ve heard, that game did make the odd thematic misstep, but yes that is a good point (as good as any talk about concentration camps gets anyway).
          It was however done far removed in time from the actual camps (both in game and out). A lot of the historic impact is lost that way.

          DEMD introduced itself by directly referencing a current day term, even though, despite its claims, that topic isn’t actually what the game is about. Wolfenstain New Order was at least about fighting nazis and had something to say on the matter. From all I see and hear, DEMD just kinda shrugs and gives up on the social tension issue at some point.

          And if nothing else, I don’t think that was worth trying to tie the game to a potentially soon forgotten term for.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Yeah,the new order was not perfect,but for the most part it did blend real world horrors with camp sci fi rather well.

            As for mankind divided,Im actually glad that at least they tried to do something mature,even though they failed.

  7. Daemian Lucifer says:

    but he’s overlooking the fact that this was an absolutely terrible episode of Trek.

    Naah.It may have been lame,but far from terrible.For one,it had no singing,like the hippie episode.

    • Jabrwock says:

      On a scale of City on the Edge of Forever to Spock’s Brain, you’re left with a wide range of values of “terrible”.

      But while the black and white episode may seem hamfisted today, at the time it was a pretty good mirror of how stupid *actual* societal divides based on race were. I thought of it as the visual equivalent to the Sneeches.

      Discworld did a similar tact about pizza sauce. Thousands of years of religious war, peace finally came when they agreed that adding a bay leaf was not an actual abomination…

  8. Daemian Lucifer says:

    It’s just that we usually only notice it when it’s really bad

    Is it really?And this time Im not disagreeing with you,I am wondering if its true.

    To use star trek again,the episode where they have to prove data is not property,its not hard to notice what real issue is being talked about.And Im not sure if that episode is mentioned less often than the hippie one.

    • MichaelGC says:

      Many people rate that one as one of the best Star Trek episodes ever, so I guess it’d make sense if we also noticed when it’s really good.

    • ehlijen says:

      The difference is that in Measure of a Man, the characters coming to the realisation that they were in fact talking about slavery and in connection racism, was the point of the plot. It’s the realisation that finally changes everyone’s minds (including Badguy McMeany).

      I’m not sure you can be too on the nose on something if directly stating it is your clear intention. The episode wasn’t a metaphor or allegory, it was just an open statement.

      I, Borg, on the other hand was a very similar story without as open a statement. You could argue if that was too on the nose or not.

  9. Jokerman says:

    You know, then going on the trains you can use the wrong train, the one for the non-augs and all you get is a few pissed off looks from the passengers and a light telling off from one of the police officers.

    I kept doing it, wondering if id get a real reaction if i pushed it… i got the opposite, they stopped even telling me not to do it. So i guess… the segregation is just hot air? Since you can ignore it all so easily.

    • Ninety-Three says:

      I have been walking Jensen through every Naturals sign in the game and I have yet to earn a single dirty look for my trouble. I’d been assuming the behaviour simply wasn’t programmed into the game, learning that it is there, just minor and rare, is even more confusing.

      What the hell game developer put in a hamfisted Jim Crow thing, then immediately walked it back as far as it could go?

      • Coming_Second says:

        This is the big problem with building a standard power fantasy adventure game around a hero that is part of an oppressed group. Dr. Deus Ex M.D. cannot reconcile Jensen being oppressed without it inconveniencing the player. It’s having your victim complex and eating it.

        • Peter H. Coffin says:

          Bing-fscking-o. The biggest problems with this revolve entirely around dynamics of power.

          The very nature of playing a game is about power, both in the sense of the player being able to manipulate things, and in the fantasy of the player as character HAVING power. That goes all the way back to Pac-man. It would be a far lesser game without the literal Power Pills that let loose the “Hah hah! Tables turned, ghosties!” moment and the hunted becoming the hunter. In order for the game to be FUN, the player has to be the one with the power or become so very quickly. (See Tomb Raider Spoiler Warning for how quick that happened for one semi-spoiled academic once she got her hands on even a shitty weapon, and how few times in video games that single enemies are even CLOSE to a threat.)

          All the augments in the game we’re looking at are improvements. Even if they’re replacements for biostuff due to tragic circumstances, the outcome is six-million-dollar-man better than what the person involved had before. Plus, all that stuff is expensive so it’s going to people that are relatively well-off in the first place. These are the elite of this society one way or another. They can afford the augments or are in the care of some organization that can. And the needs of the first point (game as power fantasy) mean that the player’s character is gonna be one of the elitist of the elite.

          Those things combine to make it basically impossible to imagine any of this “oppression” coming about. The common unaugmented person wouldn’t be able to even hang onto the idea that they were somehow superior to a dude that can squeeze open a tin of tomatoes or see another tense his muscles right through his coat to throw a punch in a blacked-out room, or could use a computer without having to find a screen and keyboard, or run for 20 miles without being sore as hell for the next week. The issues of “glamorization” movies (or heck, outright festishizing) augs are themselves recognition of the (unjustified?) envy people feel sharing a world with those they feel are better than they are. Those kind of things may be creepy, but they certainly aren’t “oppressive” in any sense that a member of a disadvantaged minority would recognize.

      • Jokerman says:

        Yeah, its only when you use one of the wrong terminals to pick your location for the train, its not highlighted by your quest marker, so its easy to miss.

  10. Blunderbuss09 says:

    I’d like to add another point to your 1-6 list; what do disability advocates think about augs? My friend and I are disabled and we joke that we’d become cyborgs in a second because managing the side-effects could not possibly be worse than the trouble we already deal with. Augs would be literally life-changing to so many people. But even within the disability community there’s difference on opinion about medication, ‘curing’, support systems, representation in media, etc.

    Do any of the Deus Ex games cover this issue? Because if not I am going to be seriously annoyed.

    Anyhoo, I think you really hit the nail on the head when you mentioned how people would have a legitimate fear of augs because it shows the make-or-break flaw in most of these stories; many fantasy and sci-fi stories try to apply our real-world racism to a totally different fictional world that just doesn’t support it. Kind of like how the X-Men series tries to make allegories to gay rights or racism but totally drops the ball because it’s 100% logical to be afraid of people who can control the weather.

    They’re approaching the issue from the wrong direction. Good world building is adding a new element to a society and show the ripple effect through the different parts of that society. Bad world building is wanting to do a story on racism but slap in mutants or aliens with a few word tweaks. That’s when it becomes insulting.

    Secondly, if you use the ground-up model of building this world then you’ll find the rarest gem in a politics heavy story; differing levels of bigotry. Yes there’s always going to be extremists who want to blow up buildings but they’re always the bad guys. What about someone who would spit on an aug in the street but would call the cops if one of them was being assaulted? Or someone who doesn’t hate them personally but wants them to live Somewhere Else away from them? Or someone who doesn’t care because they’ve got kids to feed? Or even augs who hate Those Other Augs because they need their prosthetic and those Others are ruining it for them? Or people who are fine with augs that have sleek and human-like prosthetic but are scared of those with crude mechanical ones?

    I absolutely adore this level of nuance but it’s so rare or only occasionally mentioned in some random NPC dialogue. It may be because the writers are scared of showing even bigots can still be good people or have a point, but if you’re too scared to do that then you’re not cut out to write a story on the subject.

    • Tom says:

      The original game didn’t really focus on individual identity to the degree that the new ones do.

      I mentioned in my earlier comment that it’s actually really disappointing that they haven’t tackled medical issues more keenly because like you said- it’s a perfect fit for the setting. Human Revolution does it a little bit and its some of its strongest thematic content.

    • Naota says:

      Not to derail the topic too much, but X-Men has always annoyed me in two other ways as well:

      – Mutants receive the same degree of praise/backlash from both sides, regardless of their mutant-ness. The guy who talks to fish is not comparable to the guy with scales for skin, who is not comparable to the guy that sneezes nuclear explosions, regardless of what your faction is. Nobody should (rationally) fear fish guy; everybody should fear nuke guy.

      – Mutants are actually an immediate and devastating sociological problem. Sexual preference isn’t. Nobody has good answers of their own, but everybody hates the other side’s.
      Without identifying powers and keeping tabs on a governmental level, how does Magneto’s society of entirely mutants stop criminal mutants from robbing banks, or unstable ones from losing control and killing innocent people? If not a facility like the one they put Magneto in, how can you expect to keep dangerous mutants in prison for their crimes? When an angry person can destroy a city, can you really afford not to pay attention to him? Can you afford not to know until he does?

      • Blunderbuss09 says:

        Yeah, I use my dad as a sounding board for general nerdy stuff because he likes it but mostly as an outsider, and he brought up the same issues. And one of the first things was ‘I can see why they’re afraid of the woman who can control storms but what’s wrong with the lizard-tongue kid?’ There’s literally mutants who can change the colour of flowers or can eat anything. They’re no threat to anyone but they’re still slandered with the same brush as said nuke guy. Sure, not a lot of bigotry makes sense but it still has basic priorities.

        It gets even worse when mutants get messiah-like powers. There’s mutants who can heal nearly all injuries or are so smart that they can develop the cure for cancer. Who in their right mind would target these people even if they hate all other mutants?

        I remember the House of M storyline where 99% of mutants lost their powers. There was one woman whose mutation was to have a super-long prehensile neck. Her neck snapped when she lost her powers and apparently people hated her so much that her corpse laid in the street for hours before someone came by to get the body. It was supposed to show how Poor Mutants Are Hated but who the hell would hate that lady that much? She’s just weird. Meanwhile all the mutants lost their powers because one woman had a mental breakdown and re-wrote reality.

        • Peter H. Coffin says:

          I remember the House of M storyline where 99% of mutants lost their powers. There was one woman whose mutation was to have a super-long prehensile neck. Her neck snapped when she lost her powers and apparently people hated her so much that her corpse laid in the street for hours before someone came by to get the body. It was supposed to show how Poor Mutants Are Hated but who the hell would hate that lady that much?

          Like…. why didn’t they kill her before? Is there are severe enough case of “wooblies due to neck-stretchy” to debilitate a frightened mob? Then, when she was normal again, why are they still mad at her now that she CAN’T do the thing anymore? Collective embarrassment that they didn’t kill her before due to wooblies?

        • Fists says:

          I’ve been iterating on this this thread in my head for a bit and realised the problem is they’re using absolutely the wrong form discrimination/stereotyping in x-men and Deus Ex. They’re trying to draw from real world marginalised and powerless communities to characterise their super powerful elite humans. Supermen shouldn’t be subject to bigotry, they’re subject to tall poppy syndrome, themes should be coming from the witch hunts and Frankenstein’s monster, playing on the current distrust of the medical and scientific community. I guess they touch on those too but mixing the concepts just adds to the dissonance.

          I’m playing with fire here re: political topics but I think the gravitation towards American or Nazi ghettos to create a set-piece for oppression and powerlessness highlights how little we observe the privilege of living in these countries. There are much more powerful ways to examine oppression and class warfare, to a farmer in West Papua or Somalia the power that citizens of the first world have over their lives is probably akin to us looking at a community of X-Men. District 9 is probably a good example of a piece of fiction that really looked at the worst cultural divides on earth not just the one Hollywood knows best.

    • Tektotherriggen says:

      > Or even augs who hate Those Other Augs because they need their prosthetic and those Others are ruining it for them?

      I’ve seen this debated regarding gluten-free food. Genuine Coeliac sufferers don’t know whether to be glad about gluten-free fad diets (because they greatly increase the range of g-f food available), or annoyed that the trend means they can’t be taken seriously as having a real disease.

      I can barely imagine the arguments if this was extended to much more severe disabilities.

    • Thank you so much for sharing this! It’s has briefly come up when I’ve been discussing the DX series with a friend (who hasn’t played any of them), but not in such depth because I lack personal experience. But it’s a whole angle that really is begging to be explored. How would people disabled from birth feel compared with people disabled in accidents? How would different disabled groups feel about someone who voluntarily maimed themselves in the name of Progress? Who would be responsible for the installation and upkeep of medically necessary augmentations? Does it differ from country to country (cf. US vs. UK health systems)? So much missed opportunity!

    • SL128 says:

      I’ll address the use of augmentations in the original, both to answer your question for it, and to contextualize the clumsy use of them in the new games:

      Augmentations in the original Deus Ex weren’t for common people; they were rare, being accessible only for the super-rich, and for top-secret agents from alphabet agencies+the military (whose roles were to support the super-rich). Augmentations were used to literalize the power-differential between regular citizens, and the politically-powerful. Similarly, conspiracies in the original Deus Ex served to personify the growth and consolidation of power among governments and corporations which (according to the game, at least) result from globalization, capitalism, fear of terrorism, class stratification etc.

      The new games don’t understand Deus Ex, but they also don’t use the inherited world to do anything meaningful. Conspiracies now exist solely to be plot devices/antagonists, and augmentations are just slapped on to everyone and every issue (but with no attempted depth provided for any of them except for racism, somehow). To the new games, anything which wasn’t gameplay is merely vestigial, but their creators feel the obligation to use the original’s conceits and surface-level conventions anyhow, resulting in frantic and mindless attempts to do anything which they might force to stick.

      • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

        I would be more solicitous to DX:HR. At the time of that game, augments were still primarily military, government, and super rich, too (though we have to allow that some of the super rich were criminals using obsolete equipment, like the Triads). One of the goals of David Serif was to create augmentations for normal people, too -what’s-her-name mentions it in the opening walking intro.

        The Incident setting that back makes perfect sense, and you could imagine how it would go underground until the time of the original DX.

        What has been described here for DX:MD makes no sense, and I can’t even think of a historical parallel to this other that doesn’t involve a communist revolution -things like dekulakinization or the Cultural Revolution -but even there it wasn’t the poor who were singled out for something they had, so the idea of a bunch of augmented roiling masses makes little sense.

        I suppose if the previous game had shown a large number of normal people with augmentations -as opposed to the handful of criminal gangs -then we could imagine people who had augmentations prior to the Incident getting cast out afterwards. In which case I guess we could make parallels to DeStalinization or maybe the end of Reconstruction -though that still seems a stretch.

    • ngthagg says:

      I don’t think this is fair to the various X-Men movies. The question of whether non-mutants should be bigoted towards mutants was never the main focus. The question instead was “how should mutants respond to bigotry?” with the two primary viewpoints expressed by Professor X and Magneto.

      That being said, I would love to see a story that DID try to answer the question of how non-mutants should behave towards mutants. I can see it being something like The Sum of All Fears.

  11. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Even ignoring all the clumsy labels, I think the racism angle is a bad fit for this world.

    Not necessarily.For example,they couldve gone the gattaca route,and showing bigotry as the backdrop for the story about infiltration and solving a mystery.I can kind of see the outlines of such a story in nudeus ex universe,though it would take a lot more thought and skill for something concrete to emerge.

    • Peter H. Coffin says:

      Note here that Gattaca had a completely different direction of oppression — The “augmented” in this case were the superior and “normal” while the normal were the oppressed, and there’s no victory at the end, no acceptance, no reform, just “you don’t pass, but I’m gonna let you do this thing anyway because I am powerful and think I can get away with it.”

  12. MichaelGC says:

    Great article – I loved the list of possible angles for & against. Although I fundamentally disagree, with footnote three.

    PS Second pic caption has ‘while’ instead of ‘white’. Later on there’s talk of a ‘backsmith in every village’. Perhaps a little anachronistic! XD

  13. Daemian Lucifer says:

    By the way,I want to jump in defense of the studio that everyone was so quick to lynch.Why is it so hard to believe that they did come up with a slogan independently from the movement?

    First of all,the movement is from the usa,the developers are from canada,and it took time for the movement to spread from one country to the next.I know people joke how canada is basically the usa,only cleaner,but the two still are culturally different.
    Second,the game was announced the same year the movement got its name,which means that the writers had ideas about it(probably even written drafts)long before that.
    Third,its not that unique of a statement that someone couldnt have come up with it on their own.

    Yeah,its unlikely,but its not really so laughable to be dismissed outright.I mean,imagine if deus ex originally came out in november 2001.Instead of being talked about as prophetic for their new york skyline thing,people would be calling them insensitive assholes.Sometimes coincidences happen,and sometimes they happen at awkward times.That still does not make them not coincidental.

    • Isaac says:

      Black Lives Matter is in Canada. They have a Toronto chapter that was established in 2014:

      Also, BLM has been in the news cycle since 2013. Canada, much like America, does have news that focuses on its neighbors. No way these devs (who most likely all live in Montreal, one of Canada’s biggest cities) haven’t heard of it before writing this game.

      Combine that with the usage of the word “apartheid” and that convo with the Black doctor about police militarization and community policing (two talking points that have surrounded BLM since its inception) and yeaahhhhh this ain’t a coincidence. Like, at all.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        They have a Toronto chapter that was established in 2014

        You are just proving my point.Even if it took just a single month for the group to spread from one country to the next,its still a month more for the idea to come into writing,if it wasnt there already.

        No way these devs (who most likely all live in Montreal, one of Canada’s biggest cities) haven’t heard of it before writing this game.

        And you know this for certain how?You have been tight with the writing team,so you know that they not only wrote,but thought of such slogans after the game was announced?

        • Isaac says:

          Because its reasonable to assume that these are grown-ups who watch the news?

          Using Shamus’ example about Smarms, if there was a character named Marvin Luther Kang in a narrative about racism against Smarms are you really gonna believe the (most likely) Western author who tells you that its just a coincidence?

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            If the story was announced in 63,then Id at least give them the benefit of the doubt.Though the marvin luther things is a bit too much,but if it were just the “I have a dream part” it couldve been a coincidence.

            • Echo Tango says:

              For “I have a dream” to be a coincidence after 1963-08-28, you’d have had to be living under a rock. Possibly literally. That was a huge news item of the day, and everybody would have been talking about it. Keep in mind that the USA back then had only about 2/3 the population of today, and far fewer sources of media (robably a quarter or less number of TV stations). So you’ve got less (groups of) people to keep track of, and less places to check, to keep up with the news. Plus, we’ve now got the internet, which provides more news to keep track of, and more distractions than any TV or radio station ever could.

              Referencing BLM in a game today and claiming “coincidence” seems far-fetched; Doing the same with “I have a Dream” would be completely flabbergasting.

              • Daemian Lucifer says:

                For “I have a dream” to be a coincidence after 1963-08-28, you’d have had to be living under a rock.

                Or to have started writing before that.Which is precisely what Im talking about here.

                • Jabrwock says:

                  It depends on how integrated to the story the character is I suppose. Does your story have a central community leader who organizes a large protest movement? Nuanced character story that reflects the environment that MLK took advantage of to push for change?

                  Or is there an out-of-place character who seems to be tacked on at the last minute and isn’t well defined beyond the trope. “Hey look, this is a reference to a thing.”

                • Echo Tango says:

                  For that argument to be valid, you have to assume not only that every word written is set in stone, but that the entire story is decided before it’s begun to be writ.

                  • Daemian Lucifer says:

                    Or that the line itself was being written,and that the author simply didnt want to change it for whatever reason.

                    • Echo Tango says:

                      So, best case scenario, the writer is lazy, and doesn’t care if their work is viewed as a shallow reference to a serious real-life social movement?

                    • Silfir says:

                      That would make him a pretty crappy author.

                    • Daemian Lucifer says:

                      So an author that doesnt care about current issues is automatically a crappy author and/or lazy?Gotcha.

                    • Silfir says:

                      I’m afraid you kind of rolled a 1 on your Rhetorical Question In Lieu Of Rebuttal check there.

                    • Syal says:

                      A writer who doesn’t care about current issues shouldn’t be writing about current issues.

                    • Daemian Lucifer says:

                      Racism has existed for a very long time.You dont need to know the state of it today in order to make a science fiction story about it.

                    • Silfir says:

                      So you say, but no matter how I look at it, literally the exact opposite is true. I mean, even if you’re writing a 19th century period piece that deals with racism, you as the author will still be judged by the standards we apply today, not the ones that were applied in the 19th century. (Uncle Tom’s Cabin, if it was released today, would get a *very* different reception.) That’s not any less true in science fiction, especially when, in the case of Deus Ex, it’s set in an alternate version of the Earth’s future, which means that our current present is part of what makes up the setting.

                    • MichaelGC says:

                      How one is judged is a separate matter from what one was attempting.

            • Syal says:

              I’ll say the name Marvin Luther would be more believably a coincidence than “I Have a Dream”; Martin Luther was basically the father of Protestantism, so a fictional character could be named after the 1500’s figure, but nobody says they have a dream; they either had a dream, or they have a recurring dream, or something like that. The phrase “I Have a Dream” is so awkward in a vacuum it can only be a reference.

              Either way, if you release it as an ad in ’64 you’re responsible for all misunderstandings the public has.

        • Isaac says:

          And again, BLM was established in July 2013. They dominated the news cycle for the rest of that summer and there were definitely extensive news reports about the group in the Canadian news cycle considering that we’re, y’know, neighbors?

        • Isaac says:

          And according to this vg24/7 report, this game’s development started around October 2013, a good 3 months after BLM started:

          Yeah, this isn’t a coincidence.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            No,thats when the game was announced,not when the development,and more importantly talks about it,started.

            • Echo Tango says:

              That still leaves ample time for them to clumsily put references to the real-world politics into the game. If they’d had a good story that was well integrated with the world they built, and “X Lives Matter” was the only thing that happened to line up with real life, then in that case, they could reasonably argue that it was a coincidence. However, that in itself is a fantasy, because if they were taking the care to make a good story, and do world-building, they’d also have put in the effort to rename anything that looked too much like a cheap reference to real-life politics.

    • Duoae says:

      To be fair to Daemian Lucifer, it’s not out of the bounds of possibility. Coming from the EU, I am aware of BLM but not in any major way. It didn’t spring to mind when I saw the image until a news outlet linked them.

      Maybe it’s a bit different in Canada but, not all ‘adults’ read or watch the crappy news we’re given. Certainly, most of the newspapers and TV outlets are so biased as to be useless and their coverage is limited to whatever they think will generate the most views or purchases…

      Not a good time to be saying something like “I get all my news from [insert publication here]. Even publications like New Scientist or Ars Technica can be pretty poor when reporting on certain issues… or the relative frequency and importance of coverage of specific topics.

      • Jabrwock says:

        Canadians follow a lot of US issues just because we’re so close and things that affect the US very quickly have an impact here. I imagine EU citizens know a lot more about Russian goings on than Canadians would.

        If you were living in North America a few years ago, writing a story about racial divide and were feeling particularly lazy that day, BLM is a great “trope” to try to reference to help define your in-game societal conflict. “Hey, if I reference that thing that was just on the news, people will instantly understand the central conflict of the game!” Lazy writers don’t care if it instantly dates the game, they’ll be writing DE3 and there will be a whole new set of dated references to make…

    • Raygereio says:

      but its not really so laughable to be dismissed outright.

      Yeah, it kind of is though.

      I will grant you that it is possible that they came up with the phrase “[noun] lives matter” on their own. In fact Andre Vu – the Deus Ex brand director – said exactly that. It’s highly probably that mister Vu was full of shit, but alright let’s asume for a moment he’s not.
      The problem is that the picture was released. Not before BLM became a thing. Not around at the same time. But years after Black Lives Matter had become an established movement. And not in a “Art of DX:MD” book under concept art, but as part of a marketing campaign.

      Let’s move away from the game’s devs for a moment and focus on the real bad guys in this story: Marketing. Even if you want to think that devs came up with the phrase in a vaccuum. And that in fact the devs have been living & working in a cave somewhere in the Hindu Kush with no access to news, no Internet, no communication with the outside world whatsoever since early 2013.
      Well, none of that is important because the devs didn’t release that picture. Square Enix/Eidos’ marketing department did. And anyone working in marketing has to be aware of the existance of movements like BLM. Marketing people after all have to keep up with news cycles, what stories and topics are circulating, etc, in order to do their jobs.

      So given the context with which the picture was released, it is infinitely more likely that what actually happened is that someone from Marketing simply had that phrase put into that picture. With the sole purpose of stirring up controversy under the mindset of “there’s no such thing as bad publicity”.

      • Jabrwock says:

        I think you’re absolutely right here. Marketers don’t live in a vacuum, they live for this stuff. Every ad is an attempt to get people to remember your product. Either by informing them of why they need your product, why your product is “better” (either actually or in a metaphorical sense) than the competition, or to just get people to advertise for you.

        The problem I suppose is that if they just show generic protests, you don’t know what they’re protesting. Are they protesting augs? The government regulation of augs? Injustice when it comes to treatment of augs? Classism among aug markets?

        It would be hard for an ad to convey the central “theme” of the in-game conflict without either coming up with something as deceptively simple as BLM, because BLM is already taken.

        It would be like trying to re-write an MLK character archetype. What possible catch phrase could you come up with that was as memorable?

        • Echo Tango says:

          Maybe “You’re people, and WE ARE TOO!” for the BLM-replacement slogan, and “I have a burning desire to change this world!” for the MLK-replacement? Not quite as snappy, but I’m also not a professional writer/marketer/whatever-other-skill person. :)

    • Bruce Marshall says:

      From a quick check, the lack of the two towers might have initially been a constraint of the engine that they then made an in universe reason for. I would agree that if the game had been released a few short years later it would have been a horrific nightmare for all involved. However, that was a sudden, largely unexpected event that few in the general public could have really predicted.

      BLM, on the other hand, has been running fairly steady for 3 years now, which as explained in other comments is about as long as the game was announced. surely the game was in pre-development and the like BEFORE that, but that leaves a soooolid 3 years in which the company could know these things. While hypothetically possible that an entire studio could go that long without tapping into a single iota of this fairly important and news-covered organization, I find it highly unlikely. the developers heard about this movement, and of the most basic level of things like motto’s and motivations.

      Now, also keep in mind that as Shamus described above, the whole “augs lives matter” angle really doesn’t make sense to begin with, and doesn’t really sound good. For this to be a coincidence, the developers would have had to come up with a fairly poor idea to begin with. Like, just, kinda dumb and pointless. Then they hear about BLM, which fits exactly into the same conceptual and aesthetic space that ALM (augs lives matter) inhabits. This must have been a pretty trippy moment for them, to find they had once again accidentally predicted the future, except in an even harder way by predicting the aesthetic and ideals of a group maybe years before it emerged (whereas “predicting” 9/11 at least wasn’t impossible: the twin towers had suffered a bombing in 1993 to try and make the same effect after all).

      So, given this seemingly impossible coincidence, assuming we give them the benefit of the doubt that this was all lucky coincidence, and 3 years to consider, what did they decide? After all, it’s not like they couldn’t just change ALM to something else, given the time they had. This means either they made the awful mistake of assuming nobody would mind, or they thought it was going to benefit them.

      So, as I see it, assuming it WAS a coincidence, it became a conscious choice as soon as the developers at large found out about BLM. They looked at their (at that point likely fairly limited) amount of development that used ALM, and then at the real life BLM, compared them, and then proceeded to continue using ALM. They don’t get to claim that it was a coincidence and that they’re hands were tied or something else of the same. Giving them basically every benefit I think is reasonable, they still dug their own grave and they still gotta sit in it.

      Does assuming they made ALM before BLM make them more sympathetic? yes, it does. But it doesn’t mean they didn’t still decide to use ALM in spite of this, and are now trying to wheedle their way out of controversy. They made a mistake somewhere in their decision making process, no matter how innocent we assume them to be, and now they are paying for it. I’m sure there PR team has an endless amount of vitriol to spew upon the developers proper for it.

  14. Lame Duck says:

    It’s very reminiscent of how ham-fisted and weird Fallout 3 was with regards to ghouls; a lot of thuddingly obvious racism analogies completely undercut by the fact that one of the most common enemies in the game was mindless, always-hostile ghouls, further compounded by the terrible resolution to the Tenpenny Tower quest in which it seems like you’ve managed to persuade a group of humans and ghouls to live together peacefully and then the ghouls murder all of the humans for no real reason. Not really sure what the message there was supposed to be.

    • Blunderbuss09 says:

      Because it is kinda bullshit how everyone treats ghouls as a threat because some might go feral. There’s ghouls who are 200+ years old without going feral and there’s no research on how the feralling process works so there’s nothing but pure conjecture.

      It gets even worse in a post-apocalypse setting. You fear someone because they might be a threat to you someday? Like, y’know, everyone else?

      As for Tenpenny Tower it actually demonstrated a group of oppressed people who use their resentment as a justification for revenge on their oppressors, whether those particular people ever hurt them or not. It wasn’t a well written quest but I did like that they played that angle.

      • ehlijen says:

        That no data argument goes both ways, though. Some ghouls do randomly turn feral and no one knows why. That does mean every ghoul is a potential feral. The game here tries to handwave fact that there are feral and non-feral ghouls, but in doing so makes a mess. The player never sees a ghoul become feral. But by saying ‘it happens occasionally, no one knows why’, the game destroys any hope of an anti-racism message in regards to ghouls.

        But that’s not even the worst part: The game rewards the player with good karma for setting up a shared community of sentient ghouls and humans, overcoming the human’s racism. The ghouls, without going feral, then murder all the humans as soon as you turn your head. And Three-dog blames you over the radio! And you get bad karma if you try to kill the murderous ghouls after (in a game where killing random raiders you know nothing about gives you good karma).

        Intended or not, FO3s message in regards to ghouls is ‘intolerant is the right thing to be’.

        To work, two things needed to have changed:
        -One, get rid of the ghouls becoming feral for no reason line. Explain it (‘years in the wilderness do it, just like to dogs or some humans’, or ‘severe head trauma does it’ or ‘chem addiction does it’). Or just not have it (‘some ghouls just woke up that way after the bombs, poor schmucks’). Just remove the ‘you can’t tell if they’re a ticking time bomb or not’ angle.
        -Two, either foreshadow the betrayel at Tenpenny tower sufficiently or make sure the player isn’t blamed in game/gets a chance to clear their name if they want to. Also, don’t make punishing the ghoul murderers officially evil. In fact, don’t give any karma for that quest if gritty grey morality is what you want to show.

        • Dotec says:

          In regards to forewarning, I’ve actually been going through a replay of FO3 recently. While there’s never anything like a big warning sign saying “BAD NEWS” over Roy’s head, he does plainly speak about his murderous intentions. I’m pretty sure one or both of his companions comment that Roy is planning to visit some violence on Tenpenny Tower if he doesn’t get his way.

          I’m pretty sure on the first time playing this that I just assumed “Oh, but then I’ll make peace and this will be water under the bridge, right? Because video games.” It turns out that murderous hotheads – even if victims of bigotry – are unlikely to change their ways.

          Looking back on it, I think the quest content itself is quite alright and did a neat job of subverting my expectations. It’s a shame that the dumb Karma system surrounding it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

          • ehlijen says:

            I’m fine with the murderous ass murdering and me not seeing it coming. But the game:
            -didn’t give me an option to call him out on it first, or oust him and give his second in command a shot to be more peaceful
            -basically assumed that I’d let the guy live after he did the murdering (as you essentially have to go on a bad karma civilian killing spree to enact any revenge)
            -sells this as the ‘good option’ by throwing good karma at me for this path AND NO OTHER ONE
            -tells me that this murderous asshole is a still a good guy by giving me bad karma for killing for his crimes
            -has three dog broadcasting everywhere that I helped kill the people with no way to correct him
            -good twist or not still ends up sound like it endorses bigotry as ‘a good thing’ based on how this quest turns out.

            If a ‘you can’t make everyone live together peacefully’ was the theme here, fine. But then they should have not added the racial bigotry angle in a game that’s otherwise super paladin vs moustache twirlers.

          • WJS says:

            “He’ll do something violent if he doesn’t get his way”, while reprehensible, is still not nearly so bad as “He’ll brutally murder a dozen innocent people even after he does get his way”. The one does not suggest the other.

  15. byter says:

    Even Human Revolution is a more positive example than mankind divided with its themes, sure the main story wasn’t much to write home about but the world building and undercurrent of the game felt more in tune.

    Whilst the game also had a silly obsession with robo limbs, cranial enhancements gave clear advantages for white-collar jobs. Only the middle class and the rich could cobble enough together to remain relevant in the highly paid workforce. On the opposite side of the spectrum, most poor people can’t afford augs and only the gangs can cobble enough together to get cheap robo limbs to make their thugs more physically intimidating…

    These factors clearly set up a class divide, where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer; and the game ran with it showing both ends of the spectrum where the poor were understandably bitter about being out-competed by augs and the rich where things were cushy but many employees where struggling to stay afloat.

    The class divide, along with corps and conspiracy theories were all ideas that fit in the last game (even if they weren’t executed well).. but racism doesn’t seem to click as well in the new game…

    There is a way racism could play a part… if augs (like at the end of the last game) were constantly being used to do terror attacks… it would make sense that people would want to restrict and be cynical towards people with robo limbs (Adam Jenson himself is a walking example of this, a super lethal cyborg ninja (even the bosses in the last game were formidable foes)).

    I don’t want to get too political but I could see some parallels being made between this and Islam today… a large portion of terror attacks are being commited for/by islamists.. it makes some sense that people would want to restrict and be cynical towards muslims in general…

    Though to bring this back to the article.. the point; in such a game (where augs were used to commit terror attacks); would be to set up its own scenario and to disassociate itself from current labels and buzzwords. So instead of religious motivations we could go with corporate sabotage (kinda like the 1st game or shadowrun) and we would look into how the world tries to handle that.

    • Michael says:

      The real irony is, there’s actually a place for the kind of discrimination against augs in the Deus Ex setting that we see in MD. It’s after the original game and before Invisible War. NanoAugs are rapidly rendering Mechanically Augmented people irrelevant, it’s a technological advancement that leaves them completely obsolete, and starts to push them to the fringes.

      But, with NanoAugs not even existing yet, and with most of the augs in HR being from the upper social strata (or part of organized crime), I’ve got a really hard time seeing how they’d get the shaft as severely as they did going into MD.

  16. Joshua says:

    Off the cuff:

    Favorite Science Fiction Story:
    Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind -What if science could change your memories by deleting unwanted ones? Would that change who you fundamentally are?

    Favorite Fantasy Story:
    Planescape: Torment -What if magic could allow you to live many different lives, effectively allowing you to live forever through reincarnation? Which one is the real you, are you moral or immoral, and what allows you to change as a person? Can you ever truly be redeemed?

    I’d rather use Sci-Fi/Fantasy to explore new topics that cause us to think, not just go over the same damn topics being rehashed over and over again in current political discussions.

  17. Infinitron says:

    Deus Ex didn’t co-opt an existing right-wing group to feature in their game. They took the FEMA angle, changed it up, and then created a new group – the NSF – to represent these ideas. And then they made the NSF (plot twist!) the good guys and had you ally with them!

    But despite the outlandish tone, the game took some time to explore some ideas and sneak a few clever bits into the margins. Leo Gold – the terrorist leader at the end of the first mission – has a bunch of thoughts on how government has changed in the last century, and it turns out to be a more persuasive pitch for conspiracy theories than the stuff actual conspiracy theorists usually come up with.

    Saying they changed it up is an understatement. The conversation with Leo Gold was anti-capitalist rhetoric that wouldn’t be out of place in a 90s left-wing anti-globalization protest. Deus Ex predicted a convergence between the right-wing and left-wing anti-establishments. Some would say it was prophetic.

    • somebodys_kid says:

      Okay, NOW I want to go and play Deus Ex (with that fancy Revision mod or whatever) on steam.

      • Michael says:

        Deus Ex is a really smart game. It doesn’t beat you over the head saying, “look how clever I am,” and the dialog isn’t as good as the Eidos Montreal titles, but there’s a lot of stuff in that game that was downright prescient, if you can look past the X-Files meets the Matrix conspiracy theorists paradise, aesthetic

  18. Mr Compassionate says:

    A youtuber’s analysis I saw recently summed it up well by saying the racism angle was explored much more subtly and effectively in, I’m not kidding, Legend of Zelda Majora’s Mask.

    In LoZMM you start the game by being turned into a Deku Shrub, a sort of short, ugly and fairly useless plant creature. Once you reach town you realise that most things are either forbidden to a Deku Shrub or simply physically impossible because the town is designed for human use. Since there are plenty of wild Deku Shrubs that are quite agressive in the LoZ setting many of the villagers are either dismissive or aggressive towards you. Dogs attack you on the streets and nobody seems to bat an eye. The only people who seem to accommodate you are other Deku Shrubs. Deku Shrubs aren’t even allowed to leave town because only armed citizen’s are allowed outside the walls and a Deku Shrub is physically incapable of holding a sword. You feel trapped and unwanted.

    Obviously once you return to human form everything is open to you, suddenly people are more polite, you are allowed to carry a weapon and thus leave town and you have a sense of true freedom and privilege but obviously the Deku Shrubs no longer see you as one of their own. You can easily play through the whole Shrub section without consciously noticing the racism allegory and indeed I don’t know whether the designer even intended it as a direct reference to racism but what’s important is that the designers conveyed the feeling of being oppressed without drawing any attention to it. Now that’s good writing!

    • Syal says:

      I think it works better for not being a recurring theme of the game, or expected in any way. There’s no sign it’s coming beforehand, there’s no quest you do to change anybody’s mind about Deku Scrubs, it’s just a thing you deal with.

    • Cinebeast says:

      Yeah, Shamus shared that video in yesterday’s post. I actually kind of wish Bunnyhop had delved into the comparison a little more — all he did was make a one-second joke about it.

      Still a great video, though.

    • Abnaxis says:

      Ehhh….I don’t know about calling the deku sequence an allegory for racism. Yes, Deku Link is oppressed, but he’s more oppressed in the same way someone with disability is oppressed rather than the way a race or class is oppressed. The Deku are incapable of engaging in human society on an equal level with mature, healthy human adults so they are dismissed and left incapable of engaging in activities that aren’t catered to them. Link being unable to leave the city because he does not have a sword has a much greater parallel to someone in a wheelchair who cannot access a building without a ramp than it has to someone denied services because of their race.

      Race is a purely societal construct–it is important because we have formed tribes along racial lines and built Institutions that function differently according to racial profiles, not because different races are categorically more or less capable. While the measurable negative consequences of racial segregation are very similar to the negative consequences of not taking care of the disabled, I think there’s still a distinctive line between the two.

  19. Grudgeal says:

    Reading this post reminded me of Shadowrun, where there is a lot of augmentation/anti-augmentation (or cyberware, as it’s called in that ‘verse) friction that touches upon your 6 points pretty much exactly. Cyberware in that universe is used heavily by the military and security forces and by Shadowrunners (the protagonists) who have to catch up, but who has access to what ‘ware depends a lot on socio-economic status and that causes its own friction. On top of it the setting has a lot of racial discrimination between species that, as in your post, mostly doesn’t spell it outright but is very obviously borrowing from anti-black and anti-latino rethoric in the US.

    I say ‘mostly’ because it begins to get pretty transparent with the orks having a gangsta rap movement.

  20. Darren says:

    One thing that’s odd about this game is #3 on your list of different ways they could go. In Human Revolution, augments really were mostly for the very wealthy, but economic necessity was forcing people lower in the economy to go heavily into debt–often being subsidized by their employers, who in turn effectively owned the employee–to buy them. It doesn’t really make logical sense that a movement that has largely benefited the global elite would get wholly subjugated by demagogic bigotry.

    • Grudgeal says:

      It’s not impossible. If the elites were using emotional appeals to make the underclasses go along with it, it’s possible the emotions would eventually run so high that said elites would lose control of the whole thing, and the reason they started appealing to it (to gain from it economically) is drowned out almost entirely. I could think of some examples in real life where this has happened.

      That said, I can’t think of any way that this would work in regards to augs. Generally you don’t want to foster hatred towards augmentations when you’re depending on augmentations as your economic base — I mean, it worked with chattel slavery, but the problem is that you can’t make your workers augment themselves if you at the same time pronounce that augs are less than human. The thing with slaves is they were born/taken as slaves, they weren’t pressured into becoming slaves to be more competive on the jobs market.

    • Blunderbuss09 says:

      There’s actually a pretty cool youtube video called The Ultimate Conspiracy Debunker that more-or-less sums this up; does it affect rich and powerful people?

      Because it’s an obvious ‘yes’ then those same rich/powerful people would push against anti-aug rhetoric or at least spin it so they are exempt. Like, say, pumping out propaganda that only low quality augs were responsible for The Incident or whatever.

  21. Ninety-Three says:

    So Shamus wrote a lengthy bit on the “Only SJWs support aug rights” thing, but that seems to be written under the assumption that the angry blowhard who said it is considered by the game to be correct. The game does have fallible characters, there’s the “Wake up sheeple” conspiracy guy on the radio and I don’t think anyone is under the impression that he is meant to be speaking entirely accurate truths straight from the author. Maybe the “Only SJWs” guy is just an angry blowhard saying angry blowhard things and the writer isn’t adopting the cartoonishly simplistic position he espouses.

    I think I can see why Shamus assumed the game agreed with Blowhard though. The game refuses to actually talk about the issue at every turn, so Mr. Angry Blowhard is one of the only times the game addresses aug rights. The game pretends it wants to talk about the subject, then when it gets around to it the marginal amount of talking is coming from a… less than thoughtful character. The writer’s not exactly putting their best foot forward.

    • IFS says:

      Considering that SJW is most often just brought up as a way to dismiss an argument about some issue (to the extent where I find it hard to take people seriously when they use the phrase unironically) I’d say the blowhard on the TV is pretty much a perfect characterization of that. Jim Sterling actually talked about such on his most recent podcast and I find myself agreeing with him.

      Of course the game could do a much better job of talking about the issues it brings up, though I do think its good that a AAA game is at least trying to bring the issues up and hope that it can improve on talking about them in the future. The game has its moments where it handles things really well, like the conversation about how a police force reflects the society its a part of in the Harvester quest, so I think there are definitely some writers on the team who know what they’re doing with regards to these issues.

      • Phill says:

        I think your SJW comment is skirting closer to the forbidden topics than this site is normally comfortable with. Probably best to steer away from talking about the motivations of why people use real-world labels.

    • Coming_Second says:

      It’s the slogan itself which is the problem. Privileged individuals have dismissed human rights advocates of many different stripes as unrealistic and over-sensitive for centuries, there’s nothing wrong with demonstrating that. By using the phrase “SJW” though, you’re wrapping the albatross of a particular time and trend around that sentiment’s neck. In the present, players’ view of this scene will be colored by their own prejudices when they hear it, rather than thinking about what’s being presented neutrally. In ten years, it’s going to make the game look incredibly dated and naff in a way the original Deus Ex never will.

      It’s a shame because Eidos have demonstrated they’re perfectly capable of inventing good slogans and names for things – “Hanzer” being an example.

    • Christopher says:

      I don’t think the blowhard being presented as correct(which I personally certainly wouldn’t say he was) was Shamus’ problem in that paragraph. It’s about boiling down complex arguments to the most basic, hamfisted stuff. That’s literally what he writes.

      • Ninety-Three says:

        But if the boiling down is diegetic, the result of a character with a personal tendency to oversimplify, then I don’t see why the boiling down is a problem. Shamus tears into it for being a flawed viewpoint, but flawed characters should be allowed to have flawed viewpoints, and I don’t think the game acts like it’s taking the blowhard any more seriously than it’s taking the conspiracy radio guy.

        It is perhaps a bigger probem that the game is so tightlipped about augs that the blowhard is one of the only viewpoints it puts forth. But that’s a problem the writing of the blowhard only highlights, rather than causes.

        • Shamus says:

          Put it this way: In our world, nobody is going to get on TV and complain that “Only SJWs care about the right to bear arms!” or “Only SJWs care about the free market!” That would be really strange. The guy may be dumb and wrong, but we have to assume that if he’s on TV, he’s in tune with the (possibly wrong) opinions of a large number of people. In which case this line has effectively made the aug debate smaller and less interesting.

          • IFS says:

            Maybe worth noting that he appears on Picus news which is in-universe a biased news source with an agenda, ‘shrinking the debate’ as it were could be their intent to keep the discourse aimed in the direction of their choice. That could also be giving the game/writing too much credit of course.

          • Michael says:

            The right to “bear arms?” But, they’re delicious. :p

          • Artur CalDazar says:

            ” In our world, nobody is going to get on TV and complain that “Only skeletons care about the right to bear arms!” or “Only skeletons care about the free market!” ”
            Where I live there are two nationally very popular pundits who would do that, one of whom has just with longer phrasing.

            • Syal says:

              What does ‘skeleton’ mean here? My immediate reaction is ‘dead people’, or possibly ‘really old people’.

              • Jsor says:

                There’s a relatively popular Chrome extension that replaces any occurrence of the words “SJW” with “skeleton”.

                • Artur CalDazar says:

                  I copy and pasted rather than type out the quote, entirely forgetting I had it.
                  Oops. Apologies for anybody else confused by this.

                  Issues like this aside it is a good extension, adding a little mirth into a conversation that is usually very lacking. Such is the case with “millennials” to “snake people”.

          • EBA says:

            Except you can. Because there isn’t an SJW movement.

            BLM exists.

            Feminists exist.

            Socialists exist.

            Marxists exist.

            But you would agree that the goals of all these groups are different yes? They don’t necessarily overlap yes? You can be a feminist, but not necessarily a socialist? You can support BLM but not reappropriation of welth based on class lines?

            All these movements and a million more are called SJW. From moderate to extreme positions, it is called SJW.

            SJW is an insult, not a movement, not an ideology. An SJW could very well be someone who thinks you should have the right to bare arms.

            • Shamus says:

              Wading into my comments angry is a horrible way to introduce yourself, so I’d encorage you to calm down.

              You good now?

              Okay. Here we go:

              Yes, SJW is an insult. It’s an insult used by the RIGHT. And it’s coming out of the mouth of a guy named CHRISTIENSEN. They have a guy who is coded strongly right-wing arguing AGAINST augs.

              You see the problem? I have NEVER seen a right wing person called an SJW, and I’ve never seen a left-wing person use the term when discussing opponents. I’m sure somewhere in this planet of billions it’s happened, but that’s not how it’s used 99% of the time. The person who wrote this was CLEARLY mapping our left / right dynamic to the aug debate.

              • Ninety-Three says:

                You seem to be extrapolating the blowhard’s position across his entire half of the political spectrum, and you’re further trusting his insult as an accurate characterization of the other half.

                If you could only talk to one cop in the entirety of DXMD, and that cop was anti-aug, surely you wouldn’t use that to say “all the cops in this world hate augs”, especially if that cop were depicted as slightly unhinged. The character we’re discussing isn’t just coded as right wing, he’s coded as, well, an angry blowhard, the sort who might hold positions and use hyperbole more extreme than the average of the party he represents.

                Diegetically, the character is attempting to shrink the debate, but his existence in the work of fiction doesn’t actually shrink the debate. If I saw that news clip and then later ran into a right wing character who was pro aug because they believed in the right to bear (cyber) arms, I wouldn’t find the apparent disagreement of these two positions confusing, humans disagree all the time.

                • Syal says:

                  What were the reasons presented for being anti-aug? Are pro-aug people the only ones portrayed as having actual motivations? Are any pro-aug people portrayed as being blowhards?

                  If you could only talk to one cop in the entirety of DXMD, and that cop was anti-aug, surely you wouldn’t use that to say “all the cops in this world hate augs”, especially if that cop were depicted as slightly unhinged.

                  If 100% of examples are that cops are anti-aug, you extrapolate that cops are anti-aug. It’s not good enough to say “this guy might not be right,” you have to provide a character that counterbalances it.

                  Presumably augs have different body shapes; there could have been a legitimate need to give them another entrance in the early days, in the manner of a handicap ramp, which just carries over through inertia when the augs got less bulky. The 1 or 2 or X+1 cops who call you “clank” can just be jealous dead-end job losers. “Augs Lives Matter” could refer to a factory demanding 60-hour workweeks, the whole thing could be a labor dispute. If you’re going to reject the writer’s premises when they give no counterexamples you end up with something formless.

                  • Ninety-Three says:

                    In DXHR, there’s only one cop who has anything to say about augmentations (or if there’s more than one, the others are out of the way and I missed them in my playthrough). It’s the guy who Jensen has to persuade to let him into the police station. According to your logic, all police think augs are nigh-bulletproof supermen who should be apprehended with maximum deadly force. He may express guilt over the shooting, but he can’t be talked out of his “augs are dangerous” premise. This character’s existence is making the police into a faction of cartoon fascists who shoot first and ask questions later, and “it’s not good enough to say this guy might not be right”.

                    I rejected none of the writer’s premises, but if you’re going to extrapolate from each lone data point, you end up with nonsense.

                    • Shamus says:

                      While it’s true that you shouldn’t extrapolate from a single data point when studying cold indifferent nature, this is a story and not a scientific study. This was created by a human being who was ostensibly trying to communicate with us. They introduce a situation (brutal, hate-fueled mechanical apartheid enforced by brutish cops) that creates curiosity. We naturally hate seeing this problem and we want to fix it. Which means we want to understand the problem. And then the author only gives us one data-point. It’s bad enough to leave the debate blank, but the ONE data-point they give us is charged with 2016 political coding. (Arguably TWO. BLM and SJW both code for left wing being pro-aug.)

                      We can argue that they shouldn’t have put in that 2016 coding, or that they shouldn’t have made the apartheid so heavy-handed, or they should have added more nuance to round out the debate, but one way or another, it’s still a misstep. They introduced a problem, gave us a bit of coding, and then refused to talk about it in more depth or explain anyone’s positions. If they didn’t want us to over-extrapolate they shouldn’t have under-explained the central conflict.

                    • Syal says:

                      According to your logic, all police think augs are nigh-bulletproof supermen who should be apprehended with maximum deadly force.

                      Well, in fiction you expect the characters with dialogue to be unique and above-average, so the cops in general wouldn’t think he’s Kill-On-Sight Superman, but if you only meet that one cop you’ll get the impression the average policeman sees Jensen as a loaded gun. Unless you’re told that guy’s the door guard because the other cops don’t like him.

                      I’m workiing off a hazy memory of the Spoiler Warning season of HR here, but I got the impression you met a lot of cops in that game, and that the aug companies were largely responsible for their presence. The silent acceptance of that by the majority would be the pro-aug counterbalance in that case.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              Except sjw is used as an insult for someone with left leaning.Using it for someone who has a right stance is the equivalent of calling a democrat “a republitard”.

            • ehlijen says:

              I have bare arms right now and they’re awesome. The connect me to my hands which in turn let me do things. They do get a bit cold in the evening though, so I don’t want bare arms all the time. They are also bear arms, at least in Scandinavia.

              Back on topic: SJW is a term used by real people. Therefore the term exists and therefore it has a meaning. It may be a fuzzy meaning, like ‘thing’ as opposed to ‘microscope’, but it does have a meaning. This meaning is specific enough to give most people who have heard it a reasonably common idea of what it means.
              DEMD uses it contrary to what most people who use it think it means, and that makes it sound off on top of being a charged real world term being crudely added to a fictional world where, as far as we can tell, most issues that bring out the term SJW in our world aren’t issues.
              What is the status of LGBTQ in that world? How are refugees viewed? What are the opinions on gun control, public healthcare and gender politics?
              The game doesn’t really tell us as far as I know, because it’s not related to the story. That’s fine. Leave it out, odds are, a good chunk of the players wanted to escape that anyway.

              Except, by adding the term ‘SJW’ you shove it all back in. Suddenly, DEMD is a world where the term exists, and that must mean all those issues exist for the term to have come out of. And now you have players looking for more clues to find out what the game’s stance on them is even if it didn’t meant to have one. Instead of an allegory to simplify it, you are muddling it with clutter. At least, that’s how I view this.

    • Tektotherriggen says:

      Haven’t played the game, but Shamus’s comment sounded like the game was condemning/mocking Mr TV Blowhard. I.e., that the game is saying, “Hey, look at this idiot who thinks that only a tiny minority of people care about Aug rights. You and I both know that’s wrong, don’t we? And we’re making him use the phrase “SJW” so that you immediately think of people like him on the internet, and know that we hate those guys too!” [Do they really use that term? That’s going to sound so dated in a few years’ time].

    • Naota says:

      It’s simpler than that: the comparison being drawn is wrong and tone-deaf. This game wants augments to be a racism analogy so badly that it can’t afford subtlety or nuance, but this comment is framed in such a way that it mimics an opinion on issues like gender identity instead – a very different kettle of fish.

      Who in 2016 would honestly say “only SJW’s support race rights”?

      • Scampi says:

        Just a thought on this matter: Might it not also be a mix of the BLM (only borrowing the name for recognition) and LGBT (especially Trans), trying to refer to people who try to be something else/more/special due to using augments, causing the majority of people who are for any reason (poor, can’t afford the treatment, become envious/like their natural body, don’t want any implants since it’s “unnatural”/are afraid of becoming obsolete, hate their own weakness etc.) against augmentation to protest that issue instead of social inequalities which actually may CAUSE their problems to begin with?
        It might even be a mix of several issues which are all in line with different political leanings:
        the people afraid of becoming obsolete might be compared to people who are often called “losers of globalization/modernization” in german discourse, lots of which can be found in the anti-migrationist/refugee PEGIDA-Movement, the “naturalists” would be people who oppose LGBT-issues (the quality of their arguments notwithstanding), and the poor might be people who belong to different minority groups who are glad to be part of a movement that does not oppose THEM as long as someone else is the common enemy or really just poor people who believe support for augs might really detract from support from their own issues (let’s for the sake of argument say, MRAs, but it might be any other group who competes with any “SJW clientele group”; this is just the one most obvious I could think of right now).

        I haven’t played the games and therefore my interpretation may be entirely off and without any merit at all, but considering that both BLM and LGBT often ivoke the calling of SJW and there have actually been leftist factions discussing the merits of transhumanism (I believe I might even have read essays specifically on transhumanism in THAT context), I think it might make sense. The problem, in that case, would be a lack of clarity in the presentation due to a mixup of issues with one issue (A/BLM) being directly referred, thereby causing confusion while the actual issue (LGBT/A) discussed barely gets any attention. The blowhard might then for example be transcribed to be saying: “Only feminists care about LGBT rights”, which is a claim I have not seldom heard.

        Also: my apologies if I leaned too hard in the direction of real world politics. I hope it doesn’t derail the debate as I greatly enjoyed most comments I read before.

        • Naota says:

          In a less heavy-handed narrative this could be an interesting perspective to take on the social issues presented in the game, but I think the writer’s hand is tipped pretty unambiguously on the augs=racism side with details like this, which grab imagery from a specific social issue and period of history without considering its context. As Shamus said, the beauty of science fiction is that you can present social issues and let the audience draw what parallels and meanings they might, without the baggage of the real world wading in to distract them.

          The other part is, at least to me, that augments are a terrible allegory to racism, and don’t map particularly well to LGBT issues either (though I do applaud the trans comparison – it could work well in a setting (with androids?) where transhumanists were an unpopular minority).

          I mean, at their core, augments are:
          -Obtained by surgery long after birth.
          -Utilitarian, requiring specific behaviours (Neuropozine).
          -Taken on largely by choice, though this choice may often be pushed by a person’s financial, political, or health situation.
          -Used to save lives and undo permanent injury.
          -Used to enhance aspects of normal life.
          -Able to be removed.
          -Potentially dangerous to the user and others; able to fail catastrophically or be weaponized.

          -Decided from birth.
          -Overwhelmingly aesthetic, with no bearing on behaviour.
          -Taken on without any choice.
          -Not actually useful for anything.
          -Cannot be removed (arguably you could do surgery, but that’s besides the point).
          -Not physically dangerous to anyone!

          Augments are tools and fashion accessories. They’re not an identity, because the range of types and uses is simply too broad, and despite the game’s attempts to tell us otherwise, it’s almost impossible to justify not being able to back out of using them. Even if we assume all of the augs were living normal lives until one day they got that metal arm and now everyone hates them, well… one day they got that metal arm. Nobody chooses to become a different race one day. Nobody is forced into it! Nobody grows up knowing they’re an aug – whatever that means – and must hide it from their non-aug peers.

          • WJS says:

            “Nobody grows up knowing they’re an aug […] and must hide it from their non-aug peers”

            OK, now I’m confused; I thought you were criticising the comparison of augments to races, but that sounds like a gay thing.
            EDIT: OK, so it’s <blockquote>, not <quote>. Any chance of getting a quote tag that’s not quite so obtrusive?

  22. Endominus says:

    The knowledge that they failed so extremely to intelligently, subtly, and compellingly communicate the ideas of their game and universe is more effective a deterrent for my purchase than almost anything else, unfortunately. Of course, part of that is the realization that any morality play is ultimately a reductivist, biased skew of real life, and tend to be acquire the distastes of their writers. It’s why I tend to avoid fiction that espouses a very strong political or philosophical viewpoint. I wish I could enjoy Heinlein as much as my Objectivist friends!

    Conversely, works that honestly do attempt to cover complicated situations in fair ways strongly appeal to me. The struggle between the waning power of magic and traditionalism versus industrial progress in Arcanum; personal safety versus compassion in Papers, Please; the dignity of obliteration versus the second chance offered by reprogramming the Geth; the selfish desires of the people of Megaton to live versus the overwhelming, dire, and self-evident need of Tenpenny to wipe the city from the map. All these situations where a rational person can argue both sides.

    But you can take the issue of addressing real-world issues in the complete opposite direction than treating it more abstractly. Have you ever heard of the game 1979 Revolution? It’s premise is that you’re a photojournalist during the Iranian Revolution of 1979, with family and friends on both sides. The collectibles in the game are actual pieces of primary source videos and pictures of the Revolution (archival videon, graffiti, etc). I haven’t yet played it (it’s on my list! … with about 100 other things) but the Extra Credits folk seemed to be enthused by it.

    • WJS says:

      “[T]he selfish desires of the people of Megaton to live versus the overwhelming, dire, and self-evident need of Tenpenny to wipe the city from the map”

      OK, that was hilarious.

  23. IFS says:

    One small nitpick is that there is more than just the one non-‘racist’ police officer in the game. The police who roam the streets and occasionally check your papers will sometimes be apologetic or attempt to be polite as they go about it (though this seems to be somewhat rare compared to how many will just call you a Clank). There is also Detective Montag who you can have a very interesting conversation with about the ideal of a police force and how it reflects the society it is a part of.

  24. Kent says:

    Well, if it makes you feel any better, these ideas will now see the light of day. I just started a Shadowrun campaign and you have just outlined a great, nuanced faction for the PCs to deal with. Already introduced the Metahuman activist group so those two factions should pair nicely.

    • Michael says:

      Now you just need to start sprinkling the UB everywhere, and torment everyone involved. :p

      Or did Shadowrun Returns drag the UB out into the light to the point that your players would recognize it immediately?

  25. Retsam says:

    At this point I wonder if it’s even possible for a modern AAA game to have a subtle, nuanced take on a social issue, or if the design-by-committee and appeal to the widest demographic possible approaches to game development is fundamentally opposed to actually having something interesting to say.

    I certainly can’t think of any good examples of AAA games which have impressed me with their nuance; though granted I don’t play all that many AAA games.

    • Isaac says:

      I think Max Payne 3 did a good job when it came to depicting poverty & colorism in Brazil.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Does spec ops count?

    • Blunderbuss09 says:

      I think the Dragon Age series had made a good try at it even if they occasionally misstep. It’s done a pretty good job of showing all sides, even if one side is cruel or unfair, and has done the world-building to show why these issues exist other than ‘____ is eeevil’.

      • Christopher says:

        Dragon Age Inquisition definitely do what Mankind Divided does though, judging by the Diecast. The big conflict is big in Act 1, but is then pushed aside for the rest of the game. Mages and templars have good reasons for hating each other, tensions are high, the conflict is big, and there is also a big side plot about the religion and faith and what’s true about it or not. And then it was just some ancient, pure evil wizard’s fault all along, and everyone unites to fight him for pragmatic reasons rather than figure it out. The Reapers do the same stuff to the conflicts they are in. So Bioware fleshes out their worlds well, but almost all of their villains are either pure evil or corrupted by pure evil. I wouldn’t mind, but their villains are dullll.

        • Blunderbuss09 says:

          Oh man trust me I am 100% in agreement with you. It was bullshit on how the dreaded Mage/Templar war was instantly wrapped up when an entire game could be dedicated to it, especially since the entire plot of DA2 was the about the political powder-keg that set off the war in the first place. That game did a great job fleshing out the different sides of the conflict and the reasons they have, so you could even think Anders had a good point or was a monster the Chantry itself created, even if you disagree about his act of magical terrorism.

          In DA:I you just picked one side and that was that. There’s no political fallout, no serious consequences, characters who were involved get their actions papered over (looking at you, Cullen) and then all the Circles reform in one way or another in the endings anyway. Because Bioware sticks to the ‘any choice is valid’ plotting then any huge war is automatically neutered because there’ll be no major changes. So what’s the point?

        • ehlijen says:

          Ancient pure evil wizard? Do you mean wily coyote?

          The first time the player meets Corypheus, C drops the ball and the player steals it. The chase begins.
          The second time, C first gets his army and then himself buried under avalanches while the player escapes.
          The third time C walks into a trap and explodes, only to come back to live as a solid black scorched shape. The player escapes.
          The fourth time C roars because you took his mcguffin and flies at you with the power of fart rockets, only to smack head first into the magic tunnel painted into the wall you just ran through, escaping once more.
          The next time is the boss fight where he is soundly squashed.

          He is a literal cartoon character.

    • Michael says:

      The Witcher 3 comes to mind. Though a lot of that is inherited from the books, and the first to games were still struggling to get the material down.

      The original Deus Ex. On the surface it’s pretty goofy, but there’s some really sophisticated discussions going on in context, and it uses its conspiracy theorist trappings to demonstrate some pretty subversive concepts.

      Someone else mentioned Spec Ops: The Line. It’s actually a pretty good discussion of military intervention politics, even if the material is riffing Heart of Darkness.

      By that measure, Far Cry 2 is also a lot more nuanced than it appears. It has some serious issues, but there’s a subtly to the game that isn’t particularly apparent.

      Max Payne 3 is better on this count than I’d like to give it credit for. Someone else already said it’s a good look at Brazil.

      A couple games I deeply dislike, and will probably take flak for, are Kane & Lynch and the sequel. They’re bad, unpleasant to play, the protagonists are deeply unlikable, but they do a fantastic job of looking at violence in media and saying, “What the fuck is wrong with you for enjoying this?” To an extent that was also a deliberate theme in Far Cry 2 and Spec Ops.

      I think Watch_Dogs really tried. It didn’t work (at least, not for me), but it was really trying to talk about things. The result was a jumbled incoherent mess that felt like it was digging for shock value at every turn instead of building a consistent message.

  26. Coming_Second says:

    I suspect the decision to marry the issue of human augmentation to racism allegory was because it was deemed an easy concept to pursue. The augmented being objectively better in every field of human experience, and it opening up all sorts of terrible class divisions, certainly is an interesting topic, but it also raises all sorts of delicate issues, most notably the fact it would acknowledge Adam Jensen as being the frightening, humanity-outmoding ubermensch that he really is. The game would have to be brave enough to cast pure humanity as an inferior, increasingly ghetto-ised underclass, with the hero on the other side, rubbing shoulders with mechanised people pondering what is to be done with the great unwashed.

    Your average AAA video game player doesn’t want to be confronted with such uncomfortable thoughts. They want to be told they are the victim of a great, unjust oppression, and also totally awesome at everything at the same time. The longer Eidos keep augs under an iron boot, the longer they don’t have to think about the end game.

    • Jabrwock says:

      That was actually an interesting thread in the original DE. Your co-workers were “earlier gen” and resented the fact that they were becoming obsolete vs the new “not so obvious” and far superior nano augmentation. You were both more powerful than them, but also better able to hide the fact that you weren’t a “normie”

      • MichaelGC says:

        Denton was no doubt assisted by the fact that everyone in the original looked like Kryten from Red Dwarf.

        • Michael says:

          The only distinguishing characteristics of nano augs were the glowing channels under the skin, and I think their eyes (I honestly don’t remember if that was a feature). The early Unreal Engine’s issues with polygon budgets not withstanding.

          • MichaelGC says:

            Also cool leather coats.

            • Michael says:

              That’s more of a Denton thing. Look at Billie, and the other non-Dentons, and you can spot the difference pretty quickly. :p

              • MichaelGC says:

                I had to look up Billie. It’s weird – there’s a whole section of the Deus-Exepedia where they talk about some fake sequel just as if it were real. It’s impressive stuff – someone’s even mocked up screenshots, and so on.

                But Deus Ex has not yet had a sequel.

                I’m joking, of course – I have not played IW, so apologies to anyone who enjoyed it: I gather there are plenty of folks who did.

                • Daemian Lucifer says:

                  I’m joking, of course – I have not played IW, so apologies to anyone who enjoyed it: I gather there are plenty of folks who did.

                  There was one,but they later discovered that they are suffering from taste inversion,where shit is thought of as good,and good things are considered to be shit.After a successful ocivodul therapy they are now a normal human being who thinks that invisible war is utter trash.

                  Incidentally,they also used to like the quickening and friday.

                • Michael says:

                  It’s probably worth taking a look at. It’s not a good game by any stretch of the imagination, and probably the easiest DX game by a substantial margin. But, it does attempt to show the aftermath of the first game, which makes it interesting from a world building front, if nothing else.

                  If I’m being honest, and no offense to you or Daemian, but, I’m coming to really dislike this whole treatment of unpopular sequels as being completely apocryphal. I get it, when we’re talking about something like Fallout: Tactics or (on the subject of Deus Ex) Project: Snowblind, where the canonical status of the material is in question at best. And, I wouldn’t question someone who said Project: Snowblind wasn’t a Deus Ex game, because it didn’t have the title or wasn’t an RPG, even though it was originally developed as part of the same setting.

                  But, when we’re actually talking about a canonical part of a franchise, like DX:IW, there’s a kind of intellectual dishonesty to it that really irks me.

                  I can get behind someone saying they really hated the later Highlander films, or that they simply don’t watch past that point. But, saying that the Highlander sequels don’t exist at all? Ten to fifteen years ago, it was a joke, everyone laughed. “There’s a Highlander sequel? No, that doesn’t exist.” Now, it’s just kinda sad and a little depressing; because we’re seeing people who were introduced to these jokes as facts, without realizing they were jokes at all.

                  Hell, I had a professor in college, teaching American Film, who literally did not know that Chinatown had a sequel. Not, he disavowed it, everyone laughs, and we move on with our day. He did not know the film existed. Again, I wouldn’t blame anyone for disavowing The Two Jakes, it’s not a particularly good film. But, it does exist.

                  And, for the kick to Daemian’s teeth: DX:IW is more of a Deus Ex game, in writing, than Human Revolution or Mankind Divided. That’s not me having a taste inversion, IW is exactly the same kind of political and philosophical quagmire dusted over with a conspiracy theorist’s mescaline fueled nightmares as Deus Ex. The gameplay is much worse, but the intellectual content of the writing is so much better than Eidos Montreal’s offerings that it’s not even funny.

                  HR was a much better game, the dialog was better, but the actual meat of the writing just hasn’t been there since Warren Specter decided he didn’t want to write stories about guys in black leather with guns anymore.

                  • Daemian Lucifer says:

                    But it still is a joke now.Everyone who actually says it is saying it as a joke,because they know its not true,and most likely have watched/played the sequel.Just because we are 10 years older does not mean our jokes stopped being funny to us.Heck,my parents still tell jokes from 40 years ago when talking with their friends.It doesnt matter that the people made fun of in those jokes are all dead,the joke still exists for them,because those people and long gone events still exist in their memories.Same with us and our “doesnt exits” jokes.It doesnt matter how much time has passed,the joke is still funny to us.

                    And really,what is canon and what is not is a bit iffy and loosely defined.I mean,practically every single fallout game was developed by a different studio(though admittedly with some people remaining here and there),so which one is more of a canonical sequel?Only the ones that have the title “fallout #”?Just the isometric ones?The ones that adhere to the law about the ip?You can divide them in so many ways that its ridiculous.Saying that there is only one true canon for any series of artworks made by more than one person is objectively not true.

                    but the intellectual content of the writing is so much better than Eidos Montreal’s offerings that it’s not even funny

                    Eeeeeeehhhhhh…..Yeah,it does explore the ideas that are closer to the original than human revolution,but the presentation of those ideas was not particularly good.Not that human revolution delved especially deep in its ideas about transhumanism either.

                    However,I say that human revolution is closer to the original because the main character has a biblical name.So there,human revolution and mankind divided are more canonical than invisible war :P

                    • Michael says:

                      Yeah, it is a joke, it’s just one that’s started grating on me over the years. Possibly because it’s been played to death. You can take it as a whole, “damn kids, get off my lawn” routine if you want. It’s probably not far from the truth. It could just be it’s been run into the ground for so long, you’d think it was drilling for oil.

                      Like I said, I don’t really hold it against you or that other Michael ( :p ), but this one does bug me.

                      You’re not wrong about canon either. Well, not completely. The term used to mean that something was sanctioned as a piece of a larger body of work by an authoritative body.

                      In casual conversation, it gets used to describe something as official, but, that’s actually not completely accurate to the term. With modern media franchises, canonical status is determined by the people actually producing the material. So when it was Ion Storm, IW was part of the Deus Ex canon, and Snowblind was not. What does Montreal consider canon? Who knows.

                      Fallout’s a bit more complicated because there’s seven games, and at least two of them are probably not canon, but no one’s particularly eager to make a call on them. The first and second game were Black Isle (even though Fallout 1 doesn’t have the studio listed on the box.) Tactics was 14 Degrees East, and is semi-canon. Black Isle said no, and Bethesda sort of ignored that. Brotherhood of Steel was never supposed to be part of the mainline setting (as far as I can remember). The Bethesda games, and New Vegas are canon, because Bethesda says so. Bethesda also seems to think 1, 2, and Tactics are canon, and may not even be aware of Brotherhood of Steel’s existence.

                      What you’re describing is fan curated canons. Which are an entirely different situation, and do end up as much broader mixes of conflicting input. You’ll also get versions of this from developers sometimes, that don’t quite reflect the official stances.

                      As for Invisible War? Yeah, it fumbles pretty hard. It does try though. It’s not particularly interested in Transhumanism. Actually, that’s not entirely true, Deus Ex and Invisible War both viewed Transhumanism in the context of apotheosis, and as a potential way to finally scratch off lingering issues from the State of Nature debate. I’m not entirely sure how much Invisible War really added to the conversation that Deus Ex didn’t. In a weird way, the writing in Invisible War is almost a remedial course in what Deus Ex covered. If you played DX and didn’t quite catch what the writers were saying, IW will spell it out for you.

                      In contrast, Human Revolution takes the interactions between JC, Anna, and Gunther, and tries to turn that into the entire philosophical meat of the game. So the games go from asking questions like, “what is the role of government in society?” to saying, “I’m Batman!” while bursting through walls like the kool-aid man.

                  • MichaelGC says:

                    None taken! Obviously what Daemian said, and also whilst it might not have been very funny, I was quite careful to label my comments as jocular.

                    The Highlander one is an interesting case, as whilst the sequel clearly exists, the amount of retconning necessary to push that one out the door would I think give ammunition to someone who wanted to claim it wasn’t really a sequel, and thus that the original has no sequel. I’m not making these claims – I don’t know enough about the franchise. There were later films, of course, and maybe one of those would satisfy Connor MacStrawperson – anyway, point being that it isn’t immediately nonsense to say Highlander 2 actually wasn’t a sequel.

                    But that only fits for Highlander – and that would be my approach to this: i.e. to look at it on a case by case basis. A claim might be a joke, it might be intellectual dishonesty, it might just be ignorance. Not the bad kind, literally just the ‘not heard yet’ kind, as with your professor. I can’t see any real link between people joking about the non-existence of sequels and him not having heard of Chinatown 2, and so that’s how I’d treat all these kinds of claims: as isolated incidents, each of which needs to be assessed on the merits. Which as DL says, can be tricky these days – e.g. does the Star Wars Extended Universe exist, or not? Well obviously it does, but does it reeeeeaaallly?… etc. etc.

                    Anyway, DE:IW is certainly on my list! It’s on that portion of the list that I never quite seem to get around to, but I think your comments will give me impetus to bump it up a notch or two.

                    • Daemian Lucifer says:

                      There were later films, of course, and maybe one of those would satisfy Connor MacStrawperson

                      Maaaaaaybeee the third one.Which is more of a reboot,because its almost shot for shot the first one,only the villain is a wizard.But compared to the other sequels,its golden.

                      But you know whats the saddest thing about the whole highlander franchise?The second one,the “worst movie in the world”,is actually not the worst highlander movie.Not even the worst highlander movie that has Christopher Lambert in it.Its like someone took the “worst movie” as a challenge and decided to make even worse one.And then they took that one as the new challenge,and made an even worse one after that.Im not joking.I wish I was.

                    • Michael says:

                      If I’m honest, I think I’ve completely suppressed the memory of watching the Adrian Paul films. I know there was one with him and Lambert, I can’t remember if there was more than one.

                      Highlander 3 is terrible, but it’s a fantastic film to watch while drunk.

                      EDIT: To be fair, I actually like both the live action TV series. Still can’t remember how many films Paul was in though. :

    • Incunabulum says:

      Adam Jensen as being the frightening, humanity-outmoding ubermensch that he really is.

      One of the interesting ideas it could have explored is that what is ‘ubermensch’ is *relative*.

      Its something touched on in the first game (like Jabrwock says) and could have been explored more in depth here – especially knowing that, in canon, Jensen will eventually be superseded by Gunther Hermann and Anna Navarre who will, themselves, be superseded by JC Denton.

      • Jabrwock says:

        Does that even work in context? I don’t recall Denton having access to the kind of insane firepower Jenson had…

        I always assumed DE:HR was a re-imagining.

        • Incunabulum says:

          HR was billed as a ‘prequel’ – and that was the reason for the focus on mechanical looking augmentation.

        • IFS says:

          In Deus Ex original flavor you can make a build of Denton that runs incredibly fast and jumps incredibly high, constantly regens hp while being very resistant to bullets, and does all this while firing a grenade launcher and/or swinging a lightsaber. There are definitely some tricks Jensen has, especially in MD, that Denton never gets (Icarus dash, bullet time, and the various weapons built into him come to mind) but Jensen never quite reaches the heights of Denton’s more extreme abilities either (of course part of this is due to how the new Deus Ex have more heavily defined themselves as stealth shooters compared to the original game).

  27. KarmaTheAlligator says:

    It’s funny how you talk about the industrial revolution and its problems, since we had another one not too long ago with the digital age.
    I was one of the many who learned a (manual) trade, only to have said trade go digital while I was still studying the ‘old’ ways. It made me unable find a job with those obsolete skills, and I had to learn the new ways of doing things, spending more years than I should have just to be useful again. As you wrote, it’s unpleasant.

  28. Okay, I…no. No, I don’t get it. It doesn’t make sense. I can’t understand how they can think systemic oppression and systemic racism are the same thing. SysOpp can come from SysRace and unequivocally has, but SysRace takes time. A metric asston. Like, generations. Dat shit need to be ingrained son, to the point where you don’t even realize it’s there. It wouldn’t be front and center ‘clank’ bullshit! It’d normalized, standardized and accepted. It would be the norm. We Happy Few figured this out. Fucking HALF LIFE 2 figured this out! What are you doing DE:MK?

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Ah,but augs increase their sense of time,so they do in a couple of years what would normally take a couple of generations.

    • Retsam says:

      I actually think technology has made it a lot easier for “unthinking hatred by one group of people for another group of people” to spring up a lot more quickly, sadly. (And I believe that’s what you mean by “systemic racism” in this context)

      It’s part of the whole “meme culture” where derogatory labels like “clank” can become widespread very quickly; just look at how quickly a term like “SJW” as a derogatory label gained traction, as an example.

      • Certainly…on the internet. But if it’s being called ‘hatred’, then it’s recognized as being hateful. That’s not systemic. Okay, example:

        There was a hundred years that passed between the 13th amendment’s inclusion in the bill of rights freeing slaves and the civil rights act giving them equal rights. That’s a hundred years worth of generations who lived and died while black people were understood to be free people, but legally of less worth than a white person. That was the status quo. It was not considered abnormal or incorrect. It wouldn’t be recognized as hate to consider a black person to be of less value than a white person, because that was their legal status as sanctioned by the United States government. Generations lived and died under this scenario and remember, earlier on they’d have been raised by people for whom black people being property was the status quo. That’s what I mean when I say systemic racism. It’s ingrained in the systems of the society involved. Legally, socially, etc. it wouldn’t be ‘hate’. It’d be what is.

        MK isn’t working from this kind of timeline. What we have in this case is more akin to the refugee situation in Europe. It still wouldn’t be all that good…but it’d be better than pulling from BLM.

        • WJS says:

          That reminds me of one of my major pet peeves with writers; the majority of them seem totally unable to write characters that don’t have their 21st century, 1st world mindset. Like, if they set something in the 19th century, the women and the workers (and the black folks if it’s set in America) are pretty much all dissatisfied with their lot in life. Except they weren’t! When you’ve grown up your whole life in a society, most people perceive it as normal, and it’s only a minority who complain.

  29. Victor McKnight says:

    It’s not like the game is going to pull a second act plot twist and reveal the hateful thuggish bigots were right all along.

    This was a major problem (among others) with Deus Ex: IW and the Templars too. Why would any sane player side with them, except to see their ending (which you don’t actually have to do because the ending is a mess).

    But this got me thinking about another issue in the series – the game itself never shows augmentations to not be awesome for you, the player, and the player always starts fully augmented.

    In the service of telling a more nuanced story, it might be interesting to have a Deus Ex game where your character didn’t start off augmented. Making yourself augmented could be a big game decision with ramifications about what factions you could deal with. Augmented and non-augmented factions could make more reasonable appeals to your character in an effort to sell you on why you should either embrace their ideology or not.

    Bonus points for such a game requiring something like the skill system from the original to make a return so non-augs have ways to improve their character too.

    • Incunabulum says:

      Bonus points for such a game requiring something like the skill system from the original to make a return so non-augs have ways to improve their character too.

      But not easy. Make it slow and difficult to improve your character, make it unrespeccable (while augments can be changed out or reprogrammed on-the-fly to adapt to changing situations). And no matter how hard you specialize, you can never be as good at any one thing as an augmented character can.

      Makes an *in-game* justification for why people would still choose the augment path despite nearly worldwide hatred and fear of the augmented.

      Stay baseline and you have access to more personal wealth, more social acceptance when talking to people, backup for fights, gear, etc.

      The temptation to add just *one little augmentation* to make those fights easier, to make hacking or interrogations a little easier – but with penalties if anyone finds out.

  30. Shamus I look at this from a more roleplay perspective.

    Augs and Pro-aug protesters, (we’ll work under the roleplay that the Deus Ex Mankind Divided world is real).
    Would it be so odd for a protest group (or groups) to appropriate a slogan that was used by some other protest group in the past? (Black Lives matter would be some ways in the past per the year that Mankind Divided takes place in).

    And how many have used the “I Have a Dream” thing in their own speeches over the years in the real world?
    Things people say or write gets popular, then other agree and mimics, then as time goes on it becomes a meme.

    Take the movie “Sausage Party”, if some character shouted “Sausage Lives Matter” I’d probably laugh.
    Things like “Black Lives Matter” was created by the Twitter generation.
    You know… #awesome generation. Everything is a #meme these days.

    As to the Mankind Divided marketing campaign, it merely reflected the game.
    Could they have done the marketing differently? Maybe.

    Shamus, is the protest stuff a major thing in the game itself? If so the marketing material actually reflect the game.
    But if it’s not then the marketing material should have reflected the main thing(s) in the game instead.

    • Quoted from wikipedia “A meme is “an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture”. A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices that can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena with a mimicked theme. Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate, and respond to selective pressures.”

      • Fists says:

        The problem is, they’re not writing a story, they’re just presenting a bunch of non-sequitur memes. Imagine if Tolkien had skipped all of those chapters dedicated to building lore around dwarves, telling us their history and culture, and had just included a meme about Jewish people. That’s not writing fiction it’s just part of the circle-jerk that is ‘pop culture’.

        This ties back to a decision they made writing good robot, if the story isn’t doing anything good, then what is it doing in the game? It’s just to give them a framework for the plot to play through, so is it really reasonable for them to include references to current issues that revolve around real people dying and suffering.

    • Echo Tango says:

      Would it be so odd for a protest group (or groups) to appropriate a slogan that was used by some other protest group in the past?

      The problem is, that they’re fictionally in the future, and the writing is here and now in reality. The what-if-ness of a fictional group appropriating a slogan from the past (from their viewpoint) is overshadowed by the laziness of the writer who is ripping off big-name news events right now. :)

      • Syal says:

        Yeah, to pull that off effectively you have to spend a lot of time differentiating the fictional group from the real one it’s borrowing slogans and ideas from, in order to make it its own character. Unless it’s important to the story that these people be stuck in the past or something, that kind of work can be better spent making something unique on first impression.

      • Fred B-C says:

        Moreover, again, it’s what’s not being said. The two examples Shamus gives are of a really classless mapping of a real-world idea to their fictional world, but the game doesn’t seem to have given enough of an alternative language to justify their few real-world forays.

    • Jabrwock says:

      If the in-game lore made BLM out to be as big a cultural impact as MLK, then yes, it would make sense to borrow a “famous” rallying call.

      But I don’t think they went any further than just slapping BLM-inspired slogans on an ad.

  31. Viktor says:

    Within the world of Mankind Divided, augmented people are objectively more powerful than a normal person in the physical sense. Two years ago – at the climax of the last game – all augmented people went crazy and attacked innocent people at random[1]. This explains why people in Mankind Divided hate and fear augs, but it does so by ruining all of the racism imagery they’re using here. Being afraid of powerful people who killed thousands or possibly millions worldwide for reasons that aren’t fully understood is fundamentally different than hating someone because they’re a different color from you. This would be fine if the story was willing to portray or talk about this difference, but it isn’t. People hate augs for The Incident, but people who hate augs are portrayed as mindless brutish bigots.

    But that does have parallels to IRL racism, Shamus. Not to get too deep into the subject, but “They could be dangerous” is the justification for a lot of the islamaphobia going around right now.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      You do bring up a good point.Deus ex shouldve used the slogan “Murderaugs out!” instead.I guess its not as catchy though.

    • Merlin says:

      And it’s exactly the same for treatment of blacks and other minorities in US History. Part of the reason why 69% of American black kids have “little to no swimming ability” (compared to 42% for white kids) is because of Jim Crow laws and the mentality behind them. Pools were segregated in part because of a belief that blacks could somehow “contaminate” the water and dangerously taint whites who shared it with them. That played a role in a tremendous number of communities simply shutting down their public pools rather than integrating them. You could still swim at a country club or other private pool, if you had money and got past the application process. And naturally, a lot of country club boards required photographs of the applicant, which of course was absolutely not used for discriminatory purposes, no sir-ee.

      Or you can look at it from the opposite side of things – blacks are overrepresented in the prison population, therefore surely the ONLY explanation is that black people are scary and evil.

      Are beliefs like this totally bonkers? For sure. A significant majority of folks would probably agree. But Deus Eidos taking these belief systems and turning them into clear historical fact isn’t unrealistic so much as it’s pandering to real-world white supremacist rhetoric while apparently trying to pander to the exact opposite.

      Unrelatedly, when will games stop using names like “The Incident”? People invented a bunch of goofy nicknames for some slightly underinflated footballs, they’re not going to go super clinical on a global catastrophe.

    • DungeonHamster says:

      Islamophobia is not, and as a matter of definition cannot be, racism. Islam is a religion, not a race. Islam includes a wide variety of races: Arabs, Nigerians, Indonesians, Persians, the occasional Russian, and so on. I expect you could find a few token members of almost any given race you’d care to name among it’s members. It may or may not qualify as discrimination or oppression or fill-in-the-blank-tion; that seems like a political discussion, which this is not the forum for. But it is certainly not racism.

      Of course, religion would have made a better analog to race than gadget limbs. Folks do often have a strong tribal loyalty to their religion, similar to what they might have to an actual tribe; indeed, some religions, including some of the most prominent variants of Christianity as well as Islam, explicitly claim that sort of loyalty. Relatively few folks have anything like that sort of loyalty to fellow users of particular gadgets or of tattoos or such like.

      • WJS says:

        You’ve obviously never spoken to a Mac user. Or a Linux user. Or an xBox, Nintendo or PlayStation owner. There are even a few Windows users who like Windows way more than they should. No, people are definitely capable of irrational tribalism over technology, and none of these are devices that are actually part of you. But yes, religion is still a better analogue than race. I can’t actually think of a worse one than the “Augments <=> Race” analogy.

  32. Incunabulum says:

    Thanks for this write-up – the game’s looking more and more like a definite pass for me. Starting with the pre-order crap, then the microtransactions in an MP mode that is nothing but a crappy shooter, *then* with the microtransactions in the *SP* mode, and now the story – nominally on a subject near and dear to my heart (transhumanism) – turns out to be mostly crap.

    HR didn’t (IMO) do a very good H+ story either – very incoherent through most of it and the ‘drug dependency’ angle for augmentation always seemed to be nothing more than a gamey way to ‘balance’ augmentation – like Shadowrun uses ‘Essence’ to prevent you from cybering up to the eyeballs *and* throw fireballs everywhere.


    “It was a frustrating time. It was a scary time. We ended up better for it in the long run, but in the day it was a dark, miserable slog of uncertainty and poverty. Those people didn’t know their hardship would lead to a fantastic world of comfort, safety, and leisure. All they knew was that they were suddenly poor and useless.”

    See – OK, you need to apply for some jobs as a writer for these gaming companies.

    That idea right there, the idea of being stuck on a perpetual treadmill of upgrading to stave off obsolescence is the one most commonly used IRL to argue against elective augmentation – you think continuing education requirements in your profession are onerous . . . – is probably *the* biggest drawback to augmenting and the fact that you’re not going to be Superman no matter how cybered you are because ‘once everyone is Super, no one is’ is completely ignored *all the time* for ham-fisted racism allegories.

    IRL, baseline humans could be as bigoted as they wanted versus the augments – who’s going to care what a bunch of people on the verge of being relegated to wildlife preserves think?

    The real story is not ‘human versus aug’, its ‘aug vs newer aug and what do we do with those who step off the upgrade treadmill or refuse to even get on’?

    • Coming_Second says:

      It’s frustrating because as other posters have noted, such issues are incredibly relevant to the 21st century working man. Monkfish Delicious puts human augmentation on its head in order to entertain a completely nonsensical side show.

      It’s doubly frustrating because they fully commit to the idea, and some of the environments and concepts they produce as a result are great. The subway stations with their divided lines, for instance, are haunting and evocative. If this had been modelled upon truly relatable and well-thought-out cultural prejudice, it could have been incisive stuff.

    • Merlin says:

      the ‘drug dependency’ angle for augmentation always seemed to be nothing more than a gamey way to ‘balance’ augmentation

      I assume you mean the need to chow down on Clif bars all the time, yes? I only ask because I thought that neuropozyne – the other drug dependency angle – was actually kind of a brilliant addition to the setting for how it introduces current-day tech developments like cloud-y, software-as-a-service-y models. Unfortunate that it wasn’t explored in depth beyond The Incident!!! Though Jensen having magical no-neuro-required DNA admittedly makes for strong foreshadowing at how Mankind Divided would ultimately excuse him from dealing with its setting’s anti-aug bits.

      • Incunabulum says:

        No, I’m talking about neuropozyne – there’s no *real world* reason for such a thing to exist. We can do medical implants *now* without requiring a lifelong regime of anti-rejection drugs.

        It just seemed to be one more checkbox on the ‘evil corporations enslaving everyone with their products’ cliche list.

        • Mephane says:

          It would have been an interesting plot twist if the corporations would somehow design the implants so that you need the drug (so they can sell you the drug for the rest of your life), however such a scheme wouldn’t hold up long in the face of competition – it would take just 1 company to sell augs that don’t require drugs, basically.

          • WJS says:

            And all it would take would be an aggressive cartel willing to make sure that that didn’t happen. History (and the present) is littered with examples of that kind of thing.
            Another possibility is that a shady government FDA analogue could require augments to be made that way, as an artificial balancing measure that could be used against rogue augments. It’s less likely, sure, but Deus Ex is supposed to be a game about conspiracy theories, right?

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          We can do medical implants *now* without requiring a lifelong regime of anti-rejection drugs.

          Maybe not life long*,but with any major transplantation you do have to take a bunch of anti rejection drugs(immunity suppressants).Also,the implants we have today are not the same as the ones in the deus ex universe,that go so far to even pump fake hormones into your body.So there IS a real world reason for such a thing.But even if there wasnt,that wouldnt make a difference,because the world of deus ex is not the real world.

          *Depends on the organ though.Stopping with the anti rejection treatment after a heart transplant would pretty much end your life.

          • Mephane says:

            Immunity suppressants are used in the case of biological transplants. Technological (e.g. metal) implants typically don’t require the long-term use of any drug.

          • Merlin says:

            And even then, there’s a lot of pre-selection that goes into finding a compatible donor. Anti-rejection drugs don’t make it so that you can receive any organs, they take ~90% compatible organs and up them to ~100% compatibility.

          • Incunabulum says:

            There still isn’t.

            1. For non-living implants you *don’t* need a regime of anti-rejection drugs. For *transplants* you do – but those are basically immuno-suppressants and either you get to a point very quickly where you don’t need it or you’re dead.

            2. *most of the implants* are similar in concept to things like a knee or hip replacement. We can make implants with materials that don’t react biologically. The future will be able to do it better. There may be *some specific* implants that – for whatever reason – require a special, only one company makes it, drug to safely use. But not all of them.

            Doubly so as Jensen just so happens (for . . . reasons!) to not have the sensitivity that the rest of the human race has.

            Its a straight story cliche thrown in. And for no reason. There’s a good ‘corporate slavery’ hook just in the ‘I’m tied to my contract due to the money I owe on this expensive implant I needed to get this job’.

            If you’re saying that the author’s can handwave anything – including their previous handwaving (remember that Jensen is immune from the handwaved requirement) then you are effectively saying that Mass Effect 3 was just fine.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              eFor *transplants* you do – but those are basically immuno-suppressants and either you get to a point very quickly where you don’t need it or you’re dead.

              Not true.You can be on immunosuppressants for decades,even the rest of your life.What is achieved (somewhat) quickly (weeks or months) is the state in which your immune system has adjusted enough that it can once more fight off other foreign bodies in its weakened state.

              As for non-biological implants we use today,while immunosuppressants are not necessary for them,depending on the size and place of the implant,various types of infections can occur.This means that you need the opposite drug:antibiotics.Not to mention that major implants can also alter your organs as well,as they grow around them.

              This leads me to the implants of deus ex.None of them are just your regular implants,like tooth fillings or silicone gel.All of them are controlled by a chip in your brain,meaning that all of them are connected to your nervous system.And,like the rest of your body,your nerves are also affected if external force acts on them.So if we were to boost the current going through them,like they are doing in human revolution,it sure would affect them.It probably wouldnt mean that every single person in the world except for one would suffer from nerve problems,but some most definitely would.But thats a mere exaggeration introduced to the setting,not a huge construct based on merely gamifying it.

              then you are effectively saying that Mass Effect 3 was just fine.

              Sure is slippery that slope.

  33. Decius says:

    Borderline political here: MD is transhumanist propaganda. The authors couldn’t change the events of HR, which tried to be a story where transhumanism existed, so they pretended they didn’t happen as much as possible. The actual protranshumanist opinions aren’t represented, because then people could engage with those opinions before changing their minds.

    Instead the game subtly reveals “opposing transhumanism is the same as racism” signs to players who go “lol at this bad mapping of race to augs”.

    The transhumanists themselves are busy laughing over the bad portrayals of transhumanism. Really, what’s the benefit of carrying around a forklift arm instead of driving a forklift? Once we have solved the interface of nervous system and machine, why should amputating an arm be a requirement to getting an augmented arm? Just put a modified hard point on the front my new clavicles and I’ll keep a dozen modified neurocontrolled arms for whatever purpose I want, and keep my wetware.

    • Mephane says:

      Tthere is a fundamental difference between disagreeing with an idea, and hating people. One can very well oppose the idea of transhumanism without actually hating cyborg people.

      • Fred B-C says:

        Sure, but in the real world we’re not very good at keeping those issues compartmentalized all the time. But the game has to show that, show how reasonable concerns about transhumanism and augmentation become transmuted into bigotry, and the game doesn’t seem to want to say something deep or accurate or fair or insightful about bigotry. My problem with things like this is that they’re just shallow: they’re bumper stickers, but you have to watch an entire episode or read an entire book to get them. If you’re going to ask for more than five seconds of my time, try to explore an issue in a way that takes more than five seconds of my thought. The original Robocop did that, even within its ludicrous nonsense and over-the-top satire.

        • Mephane says:

          But then your criticism boils down to “DXMD is clumsily executed”, and not “deliberate propaganda”. If it were deliberate, the conflation of the two aspects (opposing an idea vs hating people connected to that idea) is not a sign of bad execution, it would be part of the plan.

  34. Zak McKracken says:

    Spelling: “marking campaign”

  35. OldOak says:

    To close the controversy circle here, we’d have to bring in some other parties that could also be offended by the presented picture:
    – the EIDOS Studios people from the French-Canadian city of Montreal. Honestly, I’m living in Toronto, and traveling quite often down the border, but I didn’t know about BLM (and SJW for that matter) until today.
    – the people of Moscow — obviously there’s where the controversy image hosts the events. Some of them might not like the new city layout around Kremlin and Red Square or even the fact that the protesters write their banners in non-Cyrillic characters/Russian language (as opposed to the text on the shields of the police forces).

  36. Volvagia says:

    Let That Be Your Last Battlefield? Okay, yes, I accept it as too preachy to respect, but the episode is still one of the better S3 episodes (maybe a 4 or 5 out of 10), especially due to that ending.

  37. tmtvl says:

    Dear me, Shamus, I didn’t realize things were so bad! We really gotta get you more Patreon subscribers, so you can get a system that can run DE:MD under halfway decent graphics settings, because with how ugly it looks I don’t know how you can stand it.

  38. Hector says:

    This is now way down the page, but I’ll live with that.

    I want to argue a point that Shamus raised in the article, because I don’t think it’s quite right. Or at least, the game shows the opposite. Augmentations don’t make you stronger or better for the most part. In fact, we don’t see a single augmentation in the entire game with a useful purpose. Jensen can hack things with magitech and punch people with his robot arms – because those are so darn convenient for people who aren’t superheroes with a techno-gadget theme (which he is.) His villains from the first game are also, basically, minor supervillains. One has a machinegun hand! Another can turn invisible for about ten seconds. And third guy is a naked muscle man who can climb over small walls. Apart from having an improbable high health pool, these are not useful powers. Even in the game’s own logic, combat robots are tougher and more useful than any augmented soldier, and probably cheaper on the balance. Heavily augmented soldiers aren’t even different, as far as the game’s function goes, than “normal” dudes.

    Oh – but you say there are guys with other augmentations. I mean, sure, they in no way show it, but you can get a drill instead of a hand. That’s actually a net loss of functionality of course. There might be some convenient computer-based augmentations, but none of these show up or appear to make an impact on society. Pritchard may have some, but none are shown and he doesn’t seem to interface with computers electronically. He’s still far superior to anyone you met in that area.

    There are some ways this could have been used to good effect in the game, which would be a whole different topic entirely. The net effect though, is to further undercut DE:HR’s attempt to set up a significant conflict.

    • Blunderbuss09 says:

      That’s a really good point. Even super rich people would rather get flashy-but-useless stuff like changing their eye colours or glowing tattoos than super strength. People with disabilities would get things to function properly in society, maybe with some fancy styling if they can afford it. It seems the game forgets that people would rather get augs to look cool rather than turn into weapons.

      It’s like the question of ‘what super power would you want’? Some people would pick super strength or flight but that’s mostly to have fun rather than for combat or competition. If I can goddamn fly to work who cares if there’s people better at it than me?

      You’re right when you say it undercuts the conflict. We use technology today that was either invented by or is currently used by the military, just far more advanced, but we use it for convenience, practicality or fun. It’s hard to have a widespread hatred of augs when most of them would be flashy nonsense or practical hardware for day-to-day use.

  39. JackTheStripper says:

    I disagree with the entire “Subtle as a Sledgehammer” section because using a diminishing label is exactly how “some angry blowhard” on TV would put it. If anything, the writers are showing that they know how labels are working today by using one in current use.

    A very easy way of demonizing opposition is by labeling them and attributing your disagreements to that label. Then, any time someone with an opposing view shows up and attempts to argue their position, all you have to do is attribute them the label so that their position is immediately rejected by those on your side. A straw man.

    SJW today is used the same way. Literally, it doesn’t mean much other than “someone who fights for social justice”, but in current politics it has taken a new meaning of “fighting for none issues” (this is a bit reductive, but I don’t wanna go too far off topic), and people on different sides have then give it many positive and negative connotations so that certain circles will immediately repudiate someone or hail them on the label attribution alone.

    There’s more to labels, and more to that specific label, but I want to keep on topic. The point is that the use of labels is what would happen in a real scenario, and the fact that it also doesn’t really inform you where to stand on a certain issue is also part of what happens in a real scenario. Either way you take the meaning of the term SJW, it’s essentially a straw man fallacy to simply call a person one (since saying “but that person is an SJW” is not how you argue anything), but that charged term will be easily recognized by people as having a negative connotation (at least by those in the public who have been listening to those “blowhards” who use the term in a negative connotation), conditioning them to reject whatever the other person is saying, regardless of what that might be.

    If your argument, though, is that people will conflate the use of the term to their current political ideologies outside of the game, and will therefore not be able to form their own opinion on the subject, then it seems ironic that you are calling them out for not trusting the intelligence of their audience, considering that that’s exactly what you are doing in this line of reasoning.

    • MichaelGC says:

      I think the argument of that section is ‘this is all we get’. “This takes a topic of fascinating complexity and nuance and reduces it to an argument you’ve probably read a thousand times before,” for example. An overwhelming percentage of that section is spent on possibilities why people might be for or against augmentation, but you don’t mention any of that, so I’m not seeing where the disagreement is with the entire section.

      Whether or not someone would say something similar on real life TV isn’t the point, and I don’t think: “If anything, the writers are showing that they know how labels are working today by using one in current use,” really contradicts anything Shamus says in that section. I reckon the point* is that this single rather throwaway line is all they give the player on this aspect of the topic. Is that what you’re disagreeing with?

      *Or rather the starting point – there are lots of interesting points made in the numbered list, too. I thought the list was fabulous, and I’d love to see that level of nuance and empathy demonstrated in many actual games, one day.

      • JackTheStripper says:

        You’re missing both of our points. Shamus continues to argue the bluntness of the writing a little bit into that section (maybe that’s the source of the confusion), but he then goes into one additional caveat of the game’s story in the example of the “SJW” term when he says that it “clumsily maps current-day politics to the world of augments”. This is the main point in that section.

        To that point, he gives two reasons:

        1)”Instead of letting you think for yourself, the writer is telling you what you’d think based on your current politics.”

        This is where I think Shamus is ironically arguing against his previous argument of trusting the intelligence of their audience. Either trust that they’ll be able to separate the real world from the videogame world and be able to accept the usage of the “SJW” term in that context, independently from the real world usage; or people are too stupid to understand, and the bluntness (that he was previously arguing against) is required.

        2) That because they used the term, that “you could justify people from all walks of life and all political backgrounds ending up on either side of the issue” (the subsequent 6-point list is to substantiate this second argument).

        And I disagree with this one on the basis that that’s how real life works. Straw man fallacies are a fact of life in political media, and the characteristic that they’re nonconstructive terms used to garner an emotional response and not a means for actual discourse, is why public figures (or “blowhards”) use them, hence why I think it’s appropriate to put that, and similar terms, into the game.

        • acronix says:

          So, I’m a bit of an idiot, so excuse me when I ask: Are you saying that the only two options were…

          A) Them using ”SJW” as they did on the basis that people would be smart enough to differentiate between the real-world term and the in-game term, and
          B) Them ALSO using “SJW” as they did on the basis that players would be too dull to understand the in-game positions otherwise?

          • JackTheStripper says:

            Shamus said the usage of the term SJW “clumsily maps current-day politics to the world of augments.” To that, he gives two reasons: 1) That it doesn’t let you think for yourself because “the writer is telling you what you’d think based on your current politics,” and 2) that “you could justify people from all walks of life and all political backgrounds ending up on either side of the issue” (the 6-point list has examples of the different inferences you can make on the term). These are Shamus’ arguments in that section.

            I disagree with argument (1) on the basis that I do think that people can think for themselves in spite of current politics, and that his line of reasoning in argument (1) inevitably goes against his previous petition to trust the audience’s intelligence more. I also disagree with argument (2) on the basis that the term being able to take on any side of an argument is how it was intended in the game and how it’s used in real life, because simply labeling someone an “SJW” is not a real argument, it’s just a straw man. People using straw man fallacies in politics is very common, and it makes sense that people would use them in the game world.

            • Shamus says:

              As I said elsewhere in this thread, the problem is that they have a guy coded strongly right-wing arguing against augs. And we can extrapolate that people who currently self-identify as people working for social justice would therefore be pro-aug.

              Sure, you COULD invent some extra-textual stuff to explain this away, but based on what we’re shown the author is clearly mapping the aug debate to the existing left / right divide.

              You might AGREE with that mapping. You might list many reasons why it should / would be so. But I would rather the author have left that for us to work out on our own.

              • JackTheStripper says:

                I agree that it’s blunt and cheap to use terms from current events (because you then don’t have to write what an SJW is, for example, and just let the audience interpret the term as they like), but not that it’s impeding you from forming your own opinion, that’s really a stretch. It’s very easy to compartmentalize any real-world terms into “this is what it means in this universe,” and also easy to discredit any unsubstantiated extrapolation as nothing more than conjecture.

                • Fists says:

                  I think recycling real-world slang/memes like that creates an uncanny valley type effect where you’re thrown back into contrasting the game world and reality. No, it doesn’t stop you from forming new opinions on this topic but it muddies the waters unnecessarily and highlights the dissonance between what augs actually are and the race-based tropes the game is playing off.

                • Syal says:

                  and also easy to discredit any unsubstantiated extrapolation as nothing more than conjecture.

                  In fiction, what the writer tells you is what you know. If you’re going to reject the writer’s conclusions on your own volition, you’ll end up with no story.

                  • JackTheStripper says:

                    By “unsubstantiated extrapolation” I mean those ideas that are literally not in the work at all. Like you might conjecture that Adam Jensen’s grandmother worked for the government but there’s absolutely nothing in the game to say that. Like the kinds of ideas you hear on fan forums all the time.

                    • MichaelGC says:

                      You’ve made some of your own, though. “Instead of letting you think for yourself, the writer is telling you what you’d think based on your current politics,” is only a bothersome sentence if one assumes Shamus believes the writer will be successful. As you’ve elevated this to the main point of this section, evidence to the contrary is treated as a contradiction, not as evidence to the contrary. You know Shamus better than that, don’t you? Again, there are about fifty words spent on this apparent main point – focusing on which, I might add, goes against our instructions! – and about 500 words spent on what you describe as secondary.

                      Also, because you focus on the label, you end up arguing that: “you could justify people from all walks of life and all political backgrounds ending up on either side of [the augmentation debate],” is false. Look at the list again – it’s not about “the term,” it’s about the augmentation debate itself.

              • Fred B-C says:

                Or, at the very least, if the author is going to do that mapping, justify it within the actual logic of the game world. As Shamus points out, both here and about the al Bhed in FFX, when you say that people are being racist against augs or against al Bhed, the problem is that all of the context of the real world is gone because of your own narrative. It’s politico-narrative dissonance: your politics and your narratives are at odds, and it’s leading to confusion. Tidus’ acceptance of the Al Bhed and the portrayal of Wakka’s rejection of them don’t make any sense in the context of the game: heck, it seems like Tidus should be calling the al Bhed out for what they do (while still of course caring enough about them as people to not be too bigoted, given his generally idealistic and chummy nature). Here, the better analogy based on their own world setting is the issue of terrorism and Islam: you have this group that is associated with committing these very real acts of terror (to what degree being a debate within the universe – imagine people pointing out that they got augs after the Incident and are innocent but are being lumped in), and there’s a debate about whether the group is evil or brainwashed. THAT would have been topical and interesting, to see people discussing the Incident from both sides of that perspective, especially given what you know about the situation. Someone on the more anti-Islam side of the terror issue could say that it’s not a fair analogy, but at the least you’d be doing something interesting by taking the mythology and applying it accurately.

        • MichaelGC says:

          This writer has shown time and again an almost preternatural aptitude for clarity. As you construe his argument there might be something approaching a contradiction, and I’d suggest the easiest way to resolve that would be to revisit the construal.

          So, wouldn’t a simpler explanation for the apparent irony and contradiction be that the purpose of that section was to get to the list? Why would the lion’s share of that section be given over to the secondary point whilst the main point is reduced to a linking sentence between the description of what happened in the game and the introduction of the secondary point?

    • Fred B-C says:

      Even within the blowhard aspect, though, the issue is that someone who generally likes a more FOX or Rush Limbaugh-type approach will argue that they’re not blowhards but are just reacting to real problems on the other side. A writer has to recognize that the audience only has the chance to look at their fictional world in exactly the time the writer has alloted, as MichaelGC points out. We don’t get to see someone watching the blowhard and nodding and then find out that their family member died in the Incident and that they got tired of what they felt as excuses for violence. So not only is the writer failing to humanize their real-life political opponents, but even the characters within their own world.

      G. Gordon Godfrey in all of the DC animated shows has always been more interesting than what we’re seeing here, and he’s definitely a straight-up FOX stand-in. When you watch Young Justice, you can see exactly how someone could believe Godfrey based on what is publicly known. That’s what you have to do to make these kinds of things work: it has to be organic to your narrative.

  40. Skeleton says:

    “Only SJW’s support aug rights.”

    Actually, if done in a self-aware fashion with less recent material, anachronistic future political commentary could be so dumb it’s great.

    “Johnny, a young Fiznatian musician, stood up, a theremin guitar with “This machine kills Gorblargs” written on it slung over his shoulder. “Four score and seven years ago,” He said. “our progenitors brought forth on this planet a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all Fitnatians are created equal. Kunak 5, a day that will live in infamy, will be the day that the Gorblargs tried to take that from us. But I say you can’t hug your spawn with positronic arms. I know not what the Seventh Fiznatian War will be fought with, but the Eighth will be fought with sticks and stones. In closing, I am a jelly donut. Thank you.”

  41. Giancarlo says:

    Haven’t played the game yet, but I wanted to know: has the rejection problem been solved by Sarif Industries? Is Neuropazyne still needed? I loved the idea in HR of a guy who has better stats than you, better social graces through CASIE, and needs the job more than you because he needs this expensive drug on top of normal living expenses, not to mention normal mechanical maintenance.

    • IFS says:

      Sarif industries went bankrupt and was bought up by TYM in the aftermath of HR, Versalife is the only current producer of Neuropozyne which is still needed by augs and many find it harder to come by now. Unfortunately they don’t do a whole lot with it in terms of story or themes aside from the augs in the ghetto having trouble getting as much as they need.

  42. EBA says:


    SJWs do NOT exist as anything more than a vague insult for any and all left leaning policies. The term is used so broadly that everyone from someone who got upset about a shirt to actual revolutionairy communists have been labeled by that term alternatively by different people at different times. You can’t be non political and then just accept “oh SJWs definitely exist”. The number of people who would identify as “SJW” are vanishingly small, and the term is 100 percent utilized as an insult.

    You can’t write an article with the conception that there is an identifiable SJW doctrine or ideology. There isn’t one. An SJW can, literally, be all the things you listed, because SJW is an insult used to attack left leaning politics, from moderate left to Extreme left, it’s all been derided as SJW. Buying into this conceit has made your article here inherently political, I’m sorry.

    • acronix says:

      He seems to be saying that it is a term used in the real world, with certain meanings and connotations, that is borrowed by the game. And the reason the game borrows it is because, as long as the player knows what the term is used for, or as long as they have a definition themselves, they will immediately draw a parallel with the real world and ‘understand’ the conflict. It’s a clumsy shortcut.

      So I don’t see where he is designating an actual ideology to “SJW’s”.

      • Fists says:

        SJW is a label similar to ‘racist’ or ‘bigot’, it’s not something people typically identify with or wear as a badge on their shoulder, it’s a term used by their opponents.

        It should scan similarly to “Only racists support apartheid!”, which is the problem with it being part of the lore-building, it’s a blunt tautology/circular logic. Yes that’s realistic, but we want good fiction.

      • Matt Downie says:

        “SJW. Black Lives Matter. Right-wing talk radio. But note that we’re not actually talking about these groups. Or the people who belong to them.”

        Is SJW a ‘group’ that ‘people belong to’? I can see why that would be a controversial thing to say. It’s mainly used as a label to attack people you disagree with (a bit like ‘racist’, another blanket term used to describe a wide variety of things, like slavery and segregation and thinking in stereotypes…)

        But I wouldn’t be suprised if there are people out there who willingly identify with the term SJW. (“Someone who fights for social justice, like Nelson Mandela? Yes, sign me up!”)

  43. Lachlan the Mad says:

    So this might be contrary to the whole “we should talk about fictional issues instead of real ones” idea of this post, buuuuut… in Australia, the word “aboriginies” is usually considered to be a bit racist these days. “Aboriginal” is the preferred term. I don’t blame you for using “-ies” or anything, though, it’s not something that an American is likely to have a great deal of knowledge or experience with, just something to watch out for.

  44. Tohoya says:

    I think you’re missing the larger reason for using contemporary terminology like SJW and ____ lives matter.

    It occurred to me in the run-up to the game that the themes the game touches on are significantly more topical than they were when the first reboot hit in 2011. The game’s timeline is kind of in an odd place – not exactly 20 minutes into the future, not exactly far flung enough, either. It’s supposed to be faintly recognizable while still fantastic – I think the aesthetics of the aug advertisements communicate that best, looking vaguely Apple-like with enough stylistic differences to explain the intervening decade.

    So it’s trying to look contemporary, as a plausible way that things could evolve given current conditions. That comes through a lot in the characters – here in 2016, I’m probably following that one “I prefer ‘graphics arts activism’ to ‘forgery'” girl on tumblr already. The political dividing lines and personalities are familiar. And if we start in the political climate of 2016, and extrapolate out to the events of the first game, then yeah, “aug lives matter” and aug supporters being called SJWs by their opponents make sense. It’s not about making a judgment or making you sympathize one way or another with the factions in the game. It’s about contextualizing the political disagreements in the game with reference to modern, recent developments in the political landscape that make those divisions more plausible to a modern observer.

    If anything, I think they missed a beat by not tying the whole thing into Brexit and rising nativism in the West, though that cuts against the broader timeline of the series.

    • Michael says:

      To be fair, the lead time on game development, especially for a project this size, makes topical stuff like that difficult (to impossible) to hit. The earliest you could expect a game talking about Brexit would be next Christmas.

      The whole switch to ALM was probably a last minute change when Mechanical Apartheid went over poorly, and why the latter is probably still more on point to what’s presented in MD.

    • Fred B-C says:

      I get that, but the issue is that it comes off really hokey as fake veracity. SJW as a label didn’t emerge from a vacuum, after all. In this era, it’s not hard to imagine new slang emerging rapidly. So maybe “Aug Lives Matter” would be a real slogan in a near future, appropriating BLM’s model, but why wouldn’t someone have come up with some new pejorative for aug right supporter?

      And, as I imagine Shamus would point out, it’s not just what the story did but what it didn’t do. It’s okay to have your FOX analog seem FOX-y: It’s on the nose but sometimes that can be okay. The Simpsons is clever and they can be on the nose. Both the Robocop remake and the original movie have some satire that isn’t subtle at all, but both actually build the world. The Robocop remake in particular was interesting in that it had their FOX equivalent being a shill for this company that seemed more like Apple than the Koch Brothers: they were mixing and matching their metaphors. And the new Robocop, as much as I liked it, is not particularly depthful, but it seems to be saying far more about Deus Ex’s topic areas than the new ones are.

      Papers, Please is so obviously a satire of Communism that it almost seems redundant and out of date, but then you realize what they’re doing through gameplay: you’re seeing why it can be so hard for functionaries in despotic regimes, or even democratic ones, to do the right thing when they need to survive and have finite resources and time. It helps you actually understand, through play, why we have some of the human outcomes that we do.

      What Mankind Divided seems to not be doing is justifying the on-the-nose treatment with subsequent nuance or even any emotional payoff. Even if your goal is to try to make a point, just cramming “Aug Lives Matter” into the work is not skillful or interesting. You need to viscerally show, in a way that hits home, why these issues matter. I haven’t played the game so I’m not sure if they did that (Shamus’ point about the checkpoints is illustrative that they may not have delivered an effective emotional payload), but Shamus’ point seems to be that the dumb blunt moments don’t then get complemented by smart moments the way they might in the Simpsons or Futurama.

    • WJS says:

      “the themes the game touches on are significantly more topical than they were when the first reboot hit in 2011”

      Riiiight, because racism sprung up in the last five years. What are you smoking?

  45. bubba0077 says:

    This whole post reminds me of Tolkien’s forward to LotR where he rails against claims of his story being an allegory.

  46. Fred B-C says:

    Really great analysis! Even though we politically disagree on many issues, I admire so deeply the care that you put into understanding how various folks feel on the topics. In particular, I think your analysis of the aug debate is a great starting point, and would get even more complex as more variables are added. (What would be the debate among Christian conservatives who love gun rights, for example, being torn between science mutilating and transforming bodies on the one hand and the 2nd Amendment on the other?)

    From the perspective of writing fiction, I couldn’t agree more that the whole point of writing fiction should be to say something true and honest within a particular universe that might help us think about a problem more broadly. Let’s say that I love Greenpeace wholeheartedly. A story that shows me an eco-terrorist group that isn’t sympathetic may not change my views on Greenpeace, but it may at least make me understand why the other side thinks the way they do. In subsequent interactions, I may then be able to think carefully.

    The difference, of course, is between treating people like adults and like children. Giving people the resources to make new and interesting ideas, including ones you didn’t anticipate, is far more ethical, honest and engaging than just parroting an idea that they could have found without the sci-fi spackling.

    It seems like the new Deus Ex games, as Campster reviewed previously, have decided to just map ideas one-to-one from the real world to their fictional one in the most blunt way possible rather than letting the world speak for itself.

  47. Chris says:

    I applaud the move towards trying to say something but acknowledge the failure of it

  48. RandomInternetCommenter says:

    “Being afraid of powerful people who killed thousands or possibly millions worldwide for reasons that aren’t fully understood is fundamentally different than hating someone because they’re a different color from you.”

    While the comparison to BLM falls short here, it’s not so far from the mark if you look at islamic terrorism instead.

    Much like augs, religion is opt-in.
    Much like The Incident, islamic extremism is caracterized by random attacks on innocents.

    People who reject islam out of concern for their safety or more abstract ideological concerns are similarly portrayed as bigots.

    Perhaps Mankind Divided is ham-fisted because public discourse has been increasingly so, lately.

    • Dotec says:

      “Perhaps Mankind Divided is ham-fisted because public discourse has been increasingly so, lately.”

      And in one fell swoop, all of MD’s sins were forgiven!

      Seriously, this is the line I would have gone for if I worked at EM and was tasked with addressing the “controversy”. I’m sure it wouldn’t hold up under under a few moments’ scrutiny, but I’m sure a good number might have been effectively neutralized when they paused to consider this. “Huh. Y’know, EM has a point there.”

  49. DungeonHamster says:

    Just occurred to me that you could make an analogy to the likewise often hamfisted way Marvel handles mutants.

    Lets face it, it is perfectly reasonably to be afraid of mutants. There are lots of good reasons to be leery of somebody who could on a whim blow up a city block, or maybe a planet. But much of the time (I’m not familiar enough with the Marvelverse to say always; I’m more or less basing my estimate off of the X-men animated series from the 90s), the situation is portrayed as basically having 4 groups: benevolent supermen, malevolent supermen, wonderful understanding normal people, and, of course, irrational hateful bigots.

    • Ninety-Three says:

      In your unfamiliarity with Marvel, you’ve missed the fifth major group: persecuted less-than-super men. They’re rarely if ever shown as part of the “main cast”, but X-men loves to flesh out its world by creating characters who have mutations that are more or less useless and harmless (like “super sense of touch” or “funny-looking skin”). These characters exist almost solely as punching bags for the irrational hateful bigots, so you haven’t exactly missed out on deep nuances of the settings.

  50. Oblivion437 says:

    My own experience dovetails with what George Weidman had to say about the game. Compared to Human Revolution and the first Deus Ex (if not Invisible War) the contact points between narrative and game are weaker. The narrative is less coherent. Meanwhile the game has never been better. There’s always multiple options to solve a problem, there’s always some way to leverage your character build choices into the mix, the game has a crafting system that isn’t time-wasting mechanical gruel. I think I went a good six hours straight, making nonstop progress, without firing a single shot in anger and dialogs were more tense than anything else. I get the sense that development on Mankind Divided was less focused and that’s why the apartheid theme feels so ham-fisted. I expect that it will end up suffering the same fate as Invisible War. It will age poorly while the game it followed will age well.

  51. Adam says:

    You pretty well nailed down why while I am mostly enjoying Mankind Divided, its politics and storyline are doing almost nothing for me beyond the immediate concerns of completing a task to get to the next mission or get a reward or try out a new augment.

    Making direct and hamfisted comparisons between “race” and “augmented” is a storytelling dead-end. Race isn’t chosen, augments are, even when the choice is between life or death. Races aren’t able to be controlled reflexively by a malicious third-party, augmented people are. Certain races aren’t inherently superior in some unambiguous, across-the-board, physical way, augmented people are. Etc.

    As such, the social implications of such a society can’t be dropped directly into 1960s-style apartheid or segregation and make any sense, and yet nobody with any cachet at Square Enix raised that flag, apparently, which feels in equal parts insulting and disappointing, especially considering the game itself is great fun.

    Here’s a more compelling approach: center the conflict around the question of whether or not there’s a moral imperative TO augment, particularly children who are/were too young to choose and who, perhaps, require(d) augmentation to survive childhood and/or whose parents saw augmenting their children as their moral duty. Remove all the superficial segregation crap and show a society that is forced to separate naturals from augs purely out of concern for both but that is now torn between augs who see themselves, justifiably, as the next step in human evolution and naturals who are fighting for their own immediate survival and the survival of humanity as they know it.

    I think that’s kind of what they were going for (“I didn’t ask for this.”) but in execution it just fails miserably.

  52. Abnaxis says:

    Ergh, I always hate showing up late to these discussions, because they’re the ones that spawn the best dialogs and now I’m 300+ posts down the list :(

    The thing that I hate about games that address racism is that I’ve yet to see one do it RIGHT. They all fall into the same tropes that other media does–racist people are portrayed as ignorant and fearful, and have no possible justification for being bigot other than because they’re assholes.

    I’m going to try my best at avoiding politics and talking about games, but…well, I’m going to try my best. As a precursor, let me say that I’m speaking as someone who grew up in a VERY racist area. Before I moved out at the age of 12, I had met a total of 2 black people–both of which were run out of the area because they were black. People always talk of X-Men as a comic geared toward adolescence, but I was really into it when I was younger because it helped me make sense of why my friend had to move out…

    From this perspective, I feel it’s important to say that if you live in an area where bigotry is prevalent, and you are a member of the dominant class/group/race/whatever, your life is much easier if you yourself are a bigot. Not just easier because you’re in the dominant group (though it helps), easier because you are a bigot. People treat you better. You have access to more resources, more friends, and more mobility. While in a macro sense I strongly believe that racism is worse for the community, in a micro sense, every member of that community enjoys an individual-level benefit from being racist–they are acting rationally, in a way, they aren’t just ignorant jerkfaces.

    You could do so much with this in a video game by creating a reward feedback loop that favors “bad” behavior, but the “thou shalt not make a video game with a team of more than two people that doesn’t satisfy a power fantasy” commandment of video game development prevents that. No, in video games every good deed needs to be rewarded, while every evil act needs to be sub-optimal (see also, all of the flipping Jedi Knight games).

    It’s too bad, because there’s SO MUCH video games could offer on this subject that other media can’t, if designers were willing to go there.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Mr Compassionate mentions somewhere up there that majoras mask as the one where its portrayed correctly.

      • Abnaxis says:

        I’m not so sure Majora’s Mask is a good allegory on racism (as I say in the reply I just put in above).

        More importantly, however, even if you accept the Deku section as having commentary on racism, it isn’t so much about racism as it is about what it’s like to be the victim of racism. It’s still the same old “racists are just big assholes who won’t let you go outside because you have brown bark.”

        What I want is a game that actually delves into why racism is a thing to begin with. Why people–who are by-and-large nice, decent, reasonable people–would be encouraged and rewarded for being racist.

        Let me give an example of the sort of thing I am talking about–a game of Crusader Kings 2 I played. I was playing as the head of a royal house. I married my son to a daughter based solely on her genetics (she was a genius) because I wanted them to spit out heirs with good genetics so I would have an even better ruler down the line.

        A decade later, no child is born. Year after year, nothing. I was starting to think one or the other of them was barren…

        Events periodically pop up in the game where you decide what your character will do, and in my case somewhere around year 12 of no heir, my character fell in love with his daughter-in-law, and I encouraged the affair to proceed. An acknowledged genius bastard is still an heir, after all, and that gets around the “son can’t have children” problem I suspected.

        In short order, my character’s wife found out about the affair, but I told him to continue anyway despite his wife’s disapproval. His cuckolded son found out, but my character again didn’t stop the affair by my choice. Finally, a child was born to the woman (not a bastard) and I breathed a sigh of relief because there was finally an heir…

        Until I noticed the dates. See, the daughter-in-law was five month pregnant went the affair began, six when the wife found out, and eight when the son found out. This whole time I had been encouraging my character to screw his obviously pregnant daughter by marriage. It hit me that the systems set up by the game encouraged me to act like a depraved medieval asshole–I didn’t care about any of the parties involved, all I cared about was the lineage they produced. The game succeeded in making me feel utterly skeevy thanks to the reward structure it set up.

        I think you could do the same thing with racism–i.e., encourage players to actually act like racists because the game subtly rewards them for it. I think this could expand our understanding of how racism works and why people still act in a racist manner in this day and age–because racism really does reward its practitioners in a way.

        However, that would mean making a game where people might feel bad about optimizing their score, and that’s breaking a cardinal rule for game design. CK2 and Papers, Please are about the only games I can think of that’ve done that well. Maaaaybe Spec Ops, but it still had a lot of problems with execution.

        • Syal says:

          It seems like any game that deliberately tries to make the player a racist is going to have to do a Spec Ops kind of thing, where it starts as a game and then turns into commentary. Otherwise, would the player notice, and would they take the message or just think the game wasn’t balanced very well?

          You could make a strategy game where race is a trait and if everyone shares the same traits gain bonuses, and then you make the first several members of whatever race have flatly inferior stats and by the time you meet any that are equal in a vacuum it’s not worth losing the group bonuses. Maybe one of the late-game encounters is a group made entirely of the other race whose dialogue changes based on how many of that race you have in your group.

          Or make a group where interaction means repeatedly dealing with the inventory system; you have to give them something, and then they give you something, and then you have to hold on to what they give you and it clogs up your inventory until you tell them to shove off.

          I think properly conveying player oppression is more impactful as a message, and also more fun as a mechanic.

  53. SKD says:

    What I would have liked to see in the game (I haven’t finished it but I severely doubt it is in the game) is an exploration of debates about limitations on augs. Something along the lines of no augs that expand an individual’s abilities beyond normal human abilities; or the difficulties of reintegrating soldiers who were augmented and the question of whether they should be downgraded when discharged or the restrictions of personal liberty applied to soldiers who have been augmented. Questions like these wouldn’t even have to be part of the main story but little snippets that show up on the news programs or in the newspapers.

  54. I know I’m late to the party, but I wanted to add an extra point here:

    This devolution from conceptual treatment of ideas (giving you concretes, abstracting the ideas from them) to the perceptual treatment of ideas (this maps to that Real Life thing) is actually a feature of increasing Naturalism in art. The style divide between Naturalists, who take a disintegrated view of life and ultimately reject any such thing as broad, universal ideas (and thus have an amazingly banal and journalistic approach to all writing) and Romantics is EVERYWHERE. It was apparent to me as the source of the main issue with the Hugo Awards Controversy.

    Naturalists are naturally going to disagree that this is “bad writing” because, to them, this details-mapping “throw in whatever is topical and portray it with minute accuracy but ultimately have nothing universal to say about it BECAUSE UNIVERSAL IDEAS DO NOT EXIST ONLY PARTICULAR FACTS” is the EPITOME of GOOD writing. A full sense-of-life (as in, not merely someone with academic pretensions but someone who “feels” it) subscriber of the naturalist school would praise this to the sky as being “relevant” and “brave”.

    To anyone who takes the view that abstract ideas have value and meaning, this is instead trivial, banal tripe.

  55. Pinkhair says:

    The game completely ignored the fact that Jensen knows about Eliza Cassan being an AI when the wacky conspiracy theorists asked him if he had any dirt on Picus.

  56. LOKITYZ says:

    This is the exact same reason of why I couldn’t enjoy Divinity Dragon Commander as much. The choices were too obvious and the political alignments were too clear. At first, I thought it was kind of amusing, but as the game went on, the world felt unauthentic, uninteresting, and too obvious in its implementation of real life issues. The game was too “on the nose”. A shame because the world had a lot of potential.

  57. Smejki says:

    Hello, Shamus, a Czech fan of yours here.
    Actually graffiti in Prague are in English quite often if not most of the time even today. This subculture came from the West after all.

    But that’s not why I am writing. There’s a thing that pisses me off on Mankind Divided. The dev completely botched the Czech stuff. Too many texts are obviously machine translated and make no sense or (better) are translated directly without thought instead of properly localized subsequently feeling unnatural. Like all the lines here
    “Koupit více papírové” would translate back into English as “(To) Buy more made of paper”. The original clearly must have been “Buy more paper.” Which, directly translated, should be “Koupit více papíru.” But that is just translation, not localization. Nobody would write such a note in Czech. If it is a reminder to self it would be “Koupit papír”=”(To) buy paper”. If it a note for someone else though, it would be “Kup papír.”=”(You) buy paper.” Having “more” in Czech suggest that you already bought some paper but in insufficient quantity.

    This one is my favourite
    I’ll just try to translate the mess back into English:
    “Remember(for eternity)/Keep in mind:
    (Right now) it is this Friday
    day, it is cleaning
    please (you all/you singular in formal form) remove
    yours succumbing to decay
    items, foods
    since 17:00
    Barbora Soudek” Holy shite. Even the name is wrong. She should be “Soudková”

    Or many signs around the city. Somebody in Eidos thinks that languages are just this simple thing where you write a sentence in some language and then just change it word by word from one language to another not even changing syntax let alone respecting for example inflective nature of the target language. So somebody clearly made that “News Stand” LED sign in English first and then just wanted to know how to make that 2-word English line into a 2-word equivalent in Czech because having it 1-word break the graphical design of said sign. So they used “Novinový stánek” which not only blows the letter-count through the roof making the sign ugly as hell but also (surprise surprise) is wrong. Well, every Czech would understand it, but in the same way an American would understand that by “auto-moving transportation machine” you mean a fucking “car”. Every “new stand” in Czech is called either “Trafika” or “Tabák”=”Tobacco(nist)”. Again, localization != translation.

    And to make it all worse all(?) “Czech” voice-overs were obviously done by some Russians. There’s heavy russian-like accent to most of them and they struggle to pronounce correctly even basic Czech words.
    I was excited when I heard they picked my country for the setting. I was less excited when I heard the first Czech voices. They felt a bit robotic but still made sense. But this final pack? OMG it made me sad. And a bit angry. Hearing DXMD had budget of about 70m USD I cannot fathom how nobody responsible cared to pay a few thousands for proper translation of several thousands of words and some voice overs. It feels extremely culturally arrogant. Or ignorant at best. I would never ever say “Just put it in Google Translate, Jimmy, and make the texture already. Those fags should shut up and be happy we ever noticed their country exists.” I mean we have some Hungarian lines in our game and we spent some time to find (a) a good translator and (b) native voice actors to get them recorded. I simply cannot understand how so often the non-English stuff in American games is so poorly realized. This is not the only case it happened. It happens every single fucking time.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      And to make it all worse all(?) “Czech” voice-overs were obviously done by some Russians.

      I doubt that.I remember back when gta4 came out that most yugoslav voices were done by americans who did their best stereotypical russian accent.Because I guess all of eastern europe is just russia.

      • Smejki says:

        I am talking about lines in Czech language. No Englishman could pronounce it without proper training. Let alone with Czech with Russian accent :D

        I can quite well live with English lines spoken in Russian-ish accent and have the game pretend it is a Czech attempting to speak English. That’s a classic trope and I understand its role. Also it might be hard to find a voice actor who can pull off hardcore Czech accent in English. What I cannot accept is when a medium wants me to believe this is a Czech character when it’s a Russian (or someone else for that matter) trying to speak Czech. While the first approach is a matter of convenience on all fronts the second approach has “fuck that culture” written all over it.

        • WJS says:

          “it might be hard to find a voice actor who can pull off hardcore Czech accent in English”

          Would it really? I wouldn’t have thought it would be much harder than finding a voice actor who can pull off a Czech accent in Czech. Wouldn’t the ones living in North America also speak English?

    • Shamus says:

      This was really interesting. Thanks for posting.

    • Ed Blair says:

      That is insanity. If the tables were turned I’d be losing my mind. Thanks!

  58. Jeff says:

    transhumanism, which seems to have replaced “conspiracy theories” as the dominant flavor of the franchise

    Huh, I just abruptly realized why I hadn’t cared at all about this Deus Ex game coming out, while I’d preordered and followed HR closely.

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