As the release date for Deus Ex: Mankind Divided approaches, controversy continues to plague the title’s political themes. The latest outrage is over a conceptual image that was posted to the official website for the game.
According to Digital Trends, Square/Enix posted a series of images to the website that depicted what several large cities look like in the game. The article specifically mentions Paris, Rio De Janeiro, and Moscow. It is the Moscow picture that has some fans riled up.
'Mechanical apartheid' followed by 'Aug lives matter' is a bit problematic, isn't it? pic.twitter.com/tojtKVUHG9
— Dom Peppiatt (@DomPeppiatt) August 2, 2016
The picture shows a conflict between police with riot gear and augmented protesters (augs), which is not anything out of the ordinary for Deus Ex: Mankind Divided content.
What fans are upset about is the sign that the protesters are holding which says, “AUGS LIVES MATTER.”
More than a few tweets made the Twitter rounds regarding this depiction.
LRT: Yeesh, Deus Ex could have gotten away with the same sentiment without being so blunt "Aug Lives Matter"
How about "We're Still People"?
— CJ Melendez (@CJMelendez_) August 2, 2016
"Augs lives matter" is the moment the games industry finally finished digesting and was expelled from the cultural body to be flushed.
— Ross A. Lincoln (@Rossalincoln) August 2, 2016
"Augs Lives Matter" is a great way to ensure that I never play your game.
— Nick Ransbottom (@TheEzioKenway) August 2, 2016
Some people seemed to take it that Deus Ex, and Square/Enix by proxy is mocking the Black Lives Matter movement. They seem offended that artists would stoop so low as to poke fun at a sensitive issue in this country.
However, not everyone was offended. In fact, some were more surprised and offended at the outcry over the image.
"I'm mad about augs lives matter" translates to "you can't reference things in games that are real."
— 色 feeling 22 (@VentusSanctus) August 2, 2016
Deux Ex has always had the theme of classism
Art imitates life
"Augs Lives Matter" is not out of place or insulting.
You are stupid.
— RSaney (@Etherwinter) August 2, 2016
In a society that has become increasingly sensitive about nearly every issue that involves any controversy, it is not surprising that some people were upset about the Mankind Divided image. However, looking at it from a logical angle, it is hard to find fault with the picture.
First of all, the depiction does not come across in a mocking manner in any way. There is no joke, either overt or covert, going on in the image that mocks the BLM movement. It shows a realistic looking protest between a group of people and police; a group of individuals who, in the game, are being segregated, persecuted, and killed by the government. It is depicting content that is in direct correlation to the story of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided.
Furthermore, the sign, in all actuality, is a realistic touch that makes absolute sense considering the time in which the game takes place. The year is 2029. Augmented citizens are being rounded up and put into detainment camps, regardless of whether or not they have done anything wrong. Those that resist are sometimes killed. It is dark, dystopian stuff, but it shares in the fears that currently pervade our society. It is not unreasonable that the artists took a cue from that.
— The Gaming Gent (@GamerThrift) July 6, 2016
It is also not unreasonable to imagine that augs, would borrow a slogan from their past (our present) to protest a situation that is very similar regarding the fear that it raises. “Augs lives matter” is a natural evolution (for the story) and indirect extension of “black lives matter,” and a play on words of “all lives matter.” It is not farfetched to think that sometime in the future, a group would use a derivative of a slogan from the past to express their concerns about a similar situation in a way that was relevant to them.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided’s core theme is “mechanical apartheid,” which some others took offense to as well.
Digital Trends stated, “Used as one of the primary marketing tools for Mankind Divided (a trailer was even titled after the term), the developer’s choice to apply the historical struggles of South Africa to a fictional form of social injustice has drawn its own share of criticism.”
Put aside the ridiculousness of the idea that artist and writers should never write about controversial political issues for a moment. The fact remains that Deus Ex: Mankind Divided’s story revolves around this theme of apartheid, which literally means “separateness.” Fans of the game are well aware of this, as the whole scenario was completely set up in Human Revolution. Like it or not, the story already exists. The picture depicts that theme quite well without openly or secretively mocking apartheid or the Black Lives Matter movement.
It appears that what has happened is that certain fans of Deus Ex, who are also sensitive regarding the BLM movement, are getting worked up over a trivial matter that has nothing to do with their activism. The image does not belittle the movement. Clamoring for what amounts to as censorship is what belittles the movement. For without the freedom to express oneself, the movement could not exist. One cannot demand to speak one’s peace while telling another to shut up.
Regardless of how it is viewed by anyone else, the artists of the work were trying to create a realistic expression of the conflict existing within the game’s universe. In an attempt to come up with that depiction — one of protest against “mechanical apartheid” — Mankind Divided artists put themselves into the shoes of a future aug and asked, “What sign would I make to demonstrate my outrage at this situation?” The answer quickly revealed itself.
Notwithstanding the criticism, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided releases August 23, on PlayStation, Xbox One, and PC.
[Image via Square/Enix]