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Ubisoft Massive COO: "We don't want to take a stance in current politics"

Speaking during Sweden Game Conference 2018, Alf Condelius discusses the separation of games and politics with The Division

Being overtly political in games is "bad for business", according to Ubisoft Massive COO Alf Condelius who said The Division developer avoids taking a stance with its games.

Speaking today at the opening panel discussion of Sweden Game Conference in Skövde, Condelius said Ubisoft Massive tries to remove itself from the political interpretations people may have of its games.

"It's a balance because we cannot be openly political in our games," he said. "So for example in The Division, it's a dystopian future and there's a lot of interpretations that it's something that we see the current society moving towards, but it's not - it's a fantasy.

"It's a universe and a world that we created for people to explore how to be a good person in a slowly decaying world. But people like to put politics into that, and we back away from those interpretations as much as we can because we don't want to take a stance in current politics.

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Alf Condelius, COO Ubisoft Massive

"It's also bad for business, unfortunately, if you want the honest truth.... but it is interesting and it is a discussion that we have, and it's an ongoing discussion we have with our users, of course, because people want to put an interpretation into the universe that we create and they want to see their own reality in the fantasies that we give them, and the stories that the games are."

By avoiding any overtly political statements, Condelius argued, the studio is able to leave it open to interpretation, which is important for games like The Division in which people will spend "hours and hours and hours".

Ubisoft Massive is also working on The Avatar Project, set in same universe as the 2009 James Cameron movie, which Condelius used as a point of comparison when asked if the separation of politics from games is even possible.

"James Cameron's vision with the movie is that we need to do something as humans because we're going to destroy the world if we continue the way we are [going]," he said. "That is political, but we're not going out and saying you should vote for that person, or you should not do this; but it's a political statement of course, and we think that it's important, but we're not writing it on somebody's nose."

When pressed on whether games can be art if they are essentially afraid to make political statements, Condelius responded that "art doesn't have to be that straightforward" and doesn't "have to be a political campaign message".

"It has to be subtle for a lot of people to be attracted to it, it has to be undefined for many people to put their own definition to it," he argued. "It has to be vague in some aspects while it's in a very well defined world, for people to be able to interact with it for a very long time.

"[If] we want people to play the game for hours and hours, then we cannot be very defined in what everything means. That would be boring. That would be like watching one of the educational movies from high school."

GamesIndustry.biz has attended Sweden Game Conference with help from the organisers.

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Latest comments (3)

Taylan Kay Game Designer / Programmer / Marketer A month ago
"It has to be subtle for a lot of people to be attracted to it, it has to be undefined for many people to put their own definition to it..."

He's describing mass entertainment here, not art. Art does not have to give two shits about subtlety to be art. Guernica will give you a bloody nose with how on-the-nose it is. Or Dr. Strangelove. Or Captain Corelli's Mandolin. V for Vendetta. Milk. Watchmen. All of these works have a lot more to say politically than all Ubisoft games combined, without telling people whom to vote for.
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Josh Maida Interactive Director, 6ftA month ago
Even from the art standpoint, I think art at its best challenges its audience with questions by presenting perspectives outside of our own.

Preaching answers and/or belittling 'opposing perspectives' not only makes for less effective product, but less effective art as well.

Honestly speaking, I think James Cameron's Avatar film struggled here and it's encouraging to see Ubisoft Massive is approaching the property mindful of these challenges.

Good article.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing A month ago
It is already the defining trait of our time, that making money suspends any ideology or moral code you would otherwise have. Act shocked, if you must, but keep seeling weapons, is the baseline operating mode of most governments. Companies are no different.

For the game industry, this has always been par for the course. Starting with re-coloring blood, to removing swastikas, or changing textures that show too much bone for Chinese tastes. So instead of navigating government rules, it is now all about trying not to offend either side in a cultural civil war. Good luck, I guess?

Because if history has shown one thing, it is that silent neutrality only works until one side of a cultural conflict finally feels strong enough to issue the demand: 'declare you are with us, or we declare you are against us.' At that point, people often find that their choice of not exercising their right to speak out earlier has now turned into no longer having the right or chance to do so. Another thing that happened over and over across the globe in the past decade.
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