Did this ‘Deus Ex: Mankind Divided’ image cross the line?

deus ex image hot water saint basil s cathedral on red square in moscow
The Deus Ex series has never shied away from politically sensitive topics, and the upcoming Mankind Divided‘s metaphor for racism, which sees augmented humans attacked by society following a series of deadly incidents, is certainly well-intentioned. However, publisher Square Enix’ latest marketing stunt may have crossed the line with some fans.

In preparation for the game’s launch later this month, a number of images were posted on the official Deus Ex:Mankind Divided website, showing what several major cities may look like in a future filled with augmented humans, or “augs,” as the game’s characters often call them. Many were unobjectionable, with Paris seeing a massive, twisting silver structure wrapping itself around the Eiffel Tower, and a massive new bridge in Rio De Janeiro looking to make traveling easier than ever.

And then there’s the image of Moscow, which you can see above. A protest between riot-gear-wearing police officers and a group of protesters holding a sign that says “Augs Lives Matter.” The statement, taking clear inspiration from the recent “Black Lives Matter” movement, as well as the resulting “All Lives Matter” backlash or response, is not going over well with social media users.

The tweets allude to another phrase coined for the game: “mechanical apartheid.” 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.

In an interview with Polygon, art director Jonathan Jacques-Belletete says that his team has been treated “like little kids” for wanting to tackle political subjects in the game.

Given the augmented humans’ status as outcasts from society, forced to live in seclusion after losing the trust of the public, Square Enix and developer Eidos Montreal probably believe that using politically sensitive phrases in the game will help players more easily consume its social messages while they enjoy its game elements, but, as we’ve seen today, it runs the risk of coming across as partisan and opportunistic.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided launches on August 23 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.

Pre-order on Amazon


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