Ubisoft is, once again, at the center of social justice controversy as the gaming company’s latest mobile game, Tom Clancy’s Elite Squad, has drawn the ire of social media following imagery and messaging shown in its intro video and trailer.
There is a fine line between video games providing a break from the real world and actually tackling some of its issues virtually. Ubisoft is no stranger to that line, but has once again seemingly toed the wrong side of it as social media is reacting very strongly to raised fist imagery being coupled with the bad guys in Tom Clancy’s Elite Squad. This controversy has become mightily amplified.
So, to recap: Ubisoft supports sexual abusers, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and even made an entire game justifying killing Black Lives Matters protesters.
But sure, they definitely don't get political. Uh huh.
— Justin McDaniel ?️? (@JUSTINtime4aLAF) August 29, 2020
The new Ubisoft game is a whole new level of ignorance—which is what makes me doubt it was just naivety. Using the BLM movement as a cover up for a terrorist organization causing civil unrest, and having YOU play as the cops to shut this down. That’s pretty sinister.
— SON M. (@bogboogie) August 29, 2020
Ubisoft what have you done…
This is potentially your most tone deaf move yet.
How did this get through so many people to eventually make it onto the market? Holy shit. pic.twitter.com/Be7vY4biYu
— Give me a Shao Jun Game Cowards (@LazerzZHD) August 29, 2020
The new game’s intro explains that you, the player, are expected to help thwart a violent, evil movement spurred by a sinister “UMBRA” group that is capitalizing on a gullible base of civil unrest to create a “new world order.”
Using terrorism and social media to turn the protesting masses into willing co-conspirators, UMBRA desires to “discredit world leaders” in a “campaign of chaos.” Already a touchy subject that would need to be approached with much nuance and care given the current sociopolitical climate, Ubisoft painted this picture a little too boldly by using the raised fist as UMBRA’s logo — a direct parallel to the imagery used by the Black Lives Matter movement.
New Ubisoft mobile game sure is something: pic.twitter.com/2KkSczR442
— 'Eye of the Liger' Jake Young (@BestJakeYoung) August 27, 2020
In response to the upsurge of backlash, Ubisoft has attempted to make amends by removing raised fist from its intro sequence. As they explained, it “was insensitive and harmful in both its inclusion and how it was portrayed.”
An update regarding Tom Clancy's Elite Squad: pic.twitter.com/G6Hb1SO7Gx
— Ubisoft (@Ubisoft) August 29, 2020
But that hasn’t been enough for critics, who maintain that removing the imagery doesn’t fix the underlying tones of the game. By equating UMBRA with a protest movement and asking the player to eliminate them, people believe Ubisoft has legitimized anti-BLM rhetoric and created a virtual playground for those sentiments to be embraced upon. Further, the game’s writers have joined in disapproval of the imagery associated with their writing.
Remove the icon but the sentiment remains. You made a game about targeting protestors as the real evil as they "hide" behind the ideas of social good…
— Chet Faliszek (@chetfaliszek) August 29, 2020
Angry about the use of the black power fist here. I worked on the character bios and was informed that UMBRA is supposed to be a James Bond villain organisation, not something that looks like what the q conspiracy people think is happening. Irresponsibly bad optics. https://t.co/7Vi6Crry19
— Brenden Gibbons (@BrendenGibbons) August 29, 2020
As of yet, Ubisoft has not clarified exactly how it expects the game’s narrative to be received once it is fleshed out at a deeper level than the intro sequence. It would feel entirely possible for this reflection of the real world to provide an interesting, nuanced storyline, but it appears that all confidence has been lost in the title following the brunt imagery of its intro sequence.
For now, all we know is that the raised fist imagery is being removed. Although likely a positive step, the rest of the game now faces an uphill battle as overwhelming consensus finds the new title’s themes to have been poorly articulated.