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Ubisoft apologizes for 'insensitive and harmful' Elite Squad imagery

Publisher says it will remove "raised fist" from cinematic portraying protest movement as terrorist organization

Just a few months after "standing in solidarity with the Black community," Ubisoft is apologizing for "insensitive and harmful" imagery in a video from Tom Clancy's Elite Squad that features a terrorist organization using a raised fist logo often associated with the Black Power movement.

"Imagery that appeared in the opening video sequence of Tom Clancy's Elite Squad featuring a 'raised fist' was insensitive and harmful in both its inclusion and how it was portrayed," the publisher posted on its Twitter account this weekend. "We have listened to and appreciate the players and the broader community who have pointed it out and we apologize."

The raised fist, which has been associated with a variety of social revolution movements for over a century and is particularly well known as a symbol of the Black Power movement, is the chosen symbol of Elite Squad's antagonist terrorist organization Umbra, which is also the Latin word for shadow or darkness.

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The game's introductory video describes Umbra in a way that maps closely to far-right portrayals of the Black Lives Matter movement: that it is not a legitimate, organic result of discontent and injustice but something concocted by globalist puppet masters, that it has gained popular support by lying about what it hopes to achieve, and that it is an existential threat governments are justified in putting down by any means necessary:

"The world is in an alarming state. Wars, corruption and poverty have made it more unstable than ever. As the situation keeps worsening, anger is brewing. From between the cracks, a new threat has emerged to take advantage of escalating civil unrest.

They are known as Umbra, a faceless organization wants to build a new world order. They claim to promote an egalitarian utopia to gain popular support, while behind the scenes, Umbra organizes deadly terrorist attacks to generate even more chaos and weaken governments... at the cost of many innocent lives. Simultaneously, they have been hacking social media to discredit world leaders and rally people to their cause.

Under immense pressure, world leaders have come together to authorize a new international cross-agency unit designed to combat Umbra. It is clear, playing by the rules will not win this fight. The leader of this unconventional squad will need to recruit elite soldiers from every corner of the world, including the criminal underworld.

As commander of this unprecedented squad, we need you to put an end to Umbra's reign of chaos. Welcome to Tom Clancy's Elite Squad.

Ubisoft has said it will remove the raised fist imagery from the intro video in an update tomorrow on Android and "as soon as possible" on iOS.

Ubisoft has repeatedly come under criticism for borrowing from real-world issues and conflicts in the settings and backstories of its games while insisting there is no political intent behind their titles.

There was some possibility that might have changed last year when Watch Dogs 2 creative director Clint Hocking said the game "has a message for sure" and even spelled that message out, saying, "Putting aside our differences and fighting back against things that are obviously wrong -- that's what we need to do."

However, Hocking's statements were later walked back by Ubisoft EMEA executive director Alain Corre, who said, "We're not there to tell them what they have to think at all. What we want is to offer possibilities to explore new ways of behaving, new ways of exploring, and at the end of the day they make their own minds up."

Elite Squad is being developed by Ubisoft's Paris-based Owlient studio. It is best known as the studio behind the free-to-play horse breeding game Howrse.

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Brendan Sinclair avatar
Brendan Sinclair: Brendan joined in 2012. Based in Toronto, Ontario, he was previously senior news editor at GameSpot.
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