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We Wrestle With the Messy Politics of 'The Division 2' on Today's Podcast

Plus, our thoughts on the techno-thriller immersive sim 'The Occupation,' internet nostalgia journey 'Hypnospace Outlaw,' and joyous puzzler 'Baba Is You.'

by Austin Walker
Mar 18 2019, 11:44pm

Header courtesy Ubisoft

Just over nine months ago, Ubisoft caught some heat when Terry Spier (creative director at Red Storm Entertainment, one of the studios working on The Division 2) said that the The Division team was "definitely not making any political statements" with the game. It felt incongruous not only with the game's basic pitch—"lawlessness and instability threaten our society, and rumours of a coup in the Capitol are only amplifying the chaos," reads the game's website—but also with the messaging that Spier himself deployed in that very interview.

"[Washington DC] is the iconic seat of power," Spier said. "Everybody knows what DC is. Everyone’s seen the monuments, the Lincoln Memorial, you know, the Capital [sic] Building, all that stuff. So that was the driving choice behind why we picked DC. The message for The Division 2 is one more of unity, right?"

Even in this quote from last E3, it was clear what sort of political sandbox The Division 2 would be playing in: It would appeal to a sort of common sense idea of virtue. Reclaimed seats of power. The wonder of national monuments. A focus on building unity. What goes unspoken here, but what a dozen hours of playing The Division 2 makes clear, are assumptions about what players see as intrinsically good. The subtext (in so far as it's subtext at all) is not that these are apolitical topics, but that they are beyond political. "There's nothing political about rescuing the White House from attack," says The Division 2. "It's the White House."

What's of particular note is how it manages to communicate that ideology in a game that—like Destiny 2 and Anthem—mostly focuses on getting increasingly stronger guns, flanking enemies with your friends, and clearing the map of the dozens of availability activities. While these ideas themselves have a politics, it's how The Division 2 augments them that sets it apart: A camera movement meant to capture the sublime beauty of the National Mall (and the implicit tragedy of its post-apocalyptic state). A collection of discarded placards, with no sign of the (apparently ineffective) protesters who once held them. The paint-by-numbers revival of community shelters, which somehow feels less warm and organic than a similar effort in the series first entry.

We zero in on these, and the many other ways that The Division 2 "says something" despite its post-political ambitions in today's Waypoint Radio. But it's not only Ubisoft's trip to DC that we talk about: Listen to Danielle regale you with tales of the internet long past in Hypnospace Outlaw, Rob lead us into the British techno-thriller of The Occupation, and Patrick solve the word-puzzle, block-pushing mysteries of Baba Is You, too. And, uh, someone bought a racing wheel. Enjoy... that.

Discussed: Racing wheels, The Division 2, The Occupation, Baba Is You, Hypnospace Outlaw,

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