Ubisoft says its games ignore politics. So why are they so political?

Ghost Recon Breakpoint Delta Company community content creators E3 2019 Ubisoft

The Vice President of Editorial at Ubisoft, Tommy Francois, used E3 2019 to double down on the company’s position that it doesn’t mix politics with games. In an interview on Inside Ubisoft, he explained in detail how the company uses open world games with systems to simulate situations where players can experience all perspectives they would encounter in real life.

In response to Far Cry 5’s controversy, Francois said, “We believe that ultimately, in the future, players should be able to go in the game world, have as many different experiences as they want, experience as many different political views as they want, as many religions as they want … as many different fantasies as they want.”

That statement might pass inspection if Ubisoft’s games didn’t depend on political narratives. But they do. In fact, Ubisoft has a habit of using real-world events, locations, and history as background for games.

Far Cry, The Division, Assassin’s Creed, and Watch Dogs have all made, and continue to make, political statements through their gameplay. In Assassin’s Creed, we see assassins take down corrupt politicians and assist the needy. In Watch Dogs, we see a hacker fight against the oppressive Central Operating System that controls Chicago. And in The Division 2, agents fight against criminals and terrorists that threaten order in our nation’s capitol.

All these games show Ubisoft’s love for political themes. At this point, it’s become a staple of their brand. For a company that is so concerned with not making political statements, it seems to make a lot of them. The trend persisted in the previews we saw during the Ubisoft Press Conference at E3 this year.

If it has politics, it’s making a political statement

The first game we saw was a preview of Watch Dogs Legion. Ubisoft’s Clint Hocking spoke about the game’s setting in London, and how the city has influenced culture today. The example he used — Brexit — seemed oddly, specifically political. He didn’t elaborate on what that meant, but one can only assume that London’s current political dilemma was a source of inspiration for Watch Dogs Legion. This is further validated by the messaging on the official Watch Dogs Legion website. A description of the game reads, “The fate of London lies with you. Recruit a resistance and fight back.”

The Division 2 review

Ubisoft frequently draws from historical places and stories in it’s games. Watch Dogs Legion takes that a step further, using current events as the source of it’s story. It’s a premise that makes it clear what side of the fight you’re on, and it falls right in line with the theme of the aforementioned Ubisoft games.

If this isn’t an obvious political statement, then I don’t know what is.

Ghost Recon Blackpoint, another upcoming military shooter from the Tom Clancy franchise, makes its own statement. The story is mostly a mystery, but Ubisoft has introduced antagonist Cole D. Walker During the conference, we sat and watched as he gave a pep talk to a group of radicalized ex-Ghost operatives called The Wolves. The Wolves have taken over Auroa, and in Ghost Recon Blackpoint, you will be facing off against them. The reason for The Wolves’ defiance is still unclear, but Ubisoft alludes that Walker’s betrayal is a huge part of the game’s story.

Even without context, it’s plain that both these games center around groups facing political opposition in their respective stories.

Francois’ argument that offering different perspectives stops Ubisoft’s games from making political statements contradicts itself. Often times, we’re only experiencing stories from one perspective, and that perspective is a bias whether they want to own it or not. Political messages don’t need to be overt to exist.

It’s strange that Ubisoft doesn’t want to admit to something it’s already doing. The company itself is fairly progressive, leading initiatives in accessibility, diversity, and inclusion. It’s one of the publishers that hasn’t suffered from massive studio layoffs, and at the press conference, we saw multiple women developers take the stage.

Ubisoft is tip-toeing around the obvious messaging in its games. Francois stated in his interview that the publisher aims to create more mature games that are nuanced. But many other forms of media tackle serious and mature themes with nuance while delivering a strong message.

Ultimately, the reluctance to embrace politics doesn’t equate to more mature games. In fact, ignoring what’s obvious has the opposite effect. Stories that could be impactful are reduced to frivolous entertainment that trivializes the real struggles people face.

That’s a political statement, whether Ubisoft admits it or not.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

Movies & TV

Obi-Wan Kenobi series is the latest Star Wars project headed to Disney+

Disney's direct-to-consumer streaming video service Disney+ will launch with an impressive catalog of classic content, new projects, and original shows and movies. Here is everything confirmed and rumored to be coming to the platform.

Can Lakefield help Intel contend with efficient chips from mobile competitors?

The Intel Lakefield chip design is one of Intel's most intriguing developments in years. It combines high-performance cores with energy efficient ones for a mobile processor design that can do it all.
Home Theater

Everything coming to Apple TV+ that we know about so far

Here's everything we know is coming to Apple TV+, Apple's subscription video service, which already has an impressive lineup of original series and films in the works from some of Hollywood's biggest names.

Can extreme ultraviolet lithography make Zen 3 much better than Zen 2?

Set to succeed AMD's immensely popular and capable Ryzen 3000 Zen 2 CPUs, Zen 3 is on the horizon with potential improvements to clock speed, IPC, and energy efficiency, all thanks to a new lithography process.

These are the must-have games that every Xbox One owner needs

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From Cuphead to Halo 5, the best Xbox One games offer something for players of every type.

Xbox's app lets you access your console while away from home. Here's how

Microsoft's Xbox allows you to access your profile information and launch media content directly from your mobile device. Check out our quick guide on how to connect your smartphone to an Xbox One.

Police warn Raleigh locals of military cosplay at Rainbow Six Siege tournament

This weekend's Rainbow Six Siege Major esports tournament in Raleigh, North Carolina, prompted the local police to give residents a heads-up about cosplayers, who could come to the convention center in fake military cosplay.

From the very best to the worst, here are all the Pokémon games ranked

With Pokémon Sword and Shield en route to Nintendo Switch later this year, we decided to rank the first seven generations of Pokémon games from best to worst. Which generation made us want to catch 'em all the most?

Nintendo is reportedly trading revised Switch console for older model for free

If you recently bought a Nintendo Switch, you may be eligible for a free exchange for a revised model with better battery life. The revised Nintendo Switch nearly doubles the battery life thanks to a new processor.


Fortnite from Epic Games first arrived on PC as an early access game in 2017. Featuring a mode called Save the World, players could jump online with a group of friends to collect resources, build structures, and defend against waves of…

The best Nintendo Switch deals and bundles for August 2019

Looking to score Nintendo's latest console? We've smoked out the best Nintendo Switch deals, including discounts on bundles that feature must-have games like Super Mario Odyssey, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Here's the Gamescom 2019 conference schedule and all the announcements we expect

Gamescom 2019 will be the site for four different presentations, including the next Google Stadia Connect event. Here is when you can watch the shows, and what to expect from each of them.

Epic Games insists Fortnite B.R.U.T.E. is fun; #RemoveTheMech not happening

Epic Games said that the controversial B.R.U.T.E. vehicles are part of providing "a fun experience" to Fortnite players. It appears that the developer has no plans of listening to the #RemoveTheMech movement.

Microsoft’s Xbox head debunks rumors of streaming-only console in the works

Xbox head Phil Spencer debunked rumors that Microsoft is working on a streaming-only console that will utilize the company's Project xCloud. Spencer also said cloud gaming will not soon replace traditional consoles.