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Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 ‘is not making any political statements’

A game about the next Civil War refuses to take a side

The Division 2 - four soldiers walking down a street toward the Capitol in the late afternoon Ubisoft
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

In many of its military-themed games, developer Ubisoft has made a point to pull storylines from potential real-world events. Recently, with Far Cry 5, it went a step further by poking at modern day domestic tensions, both social and political, over gun culture and religious extremism. But, ultimately, that game refused to take a side. It prodded audiences with controversy, but was ultimately toothless.

The marketing effort for Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 has spooled up, and Ubisoft is using the same kind of topical imagery and poignant rhetoric once again. Set in the near future, the game asks players to fight back against a corrupt government and help save the United States from tyrants.

Meanwhile, in the real world, some Americans are concerned that the current administration is becoming tyrannical in its own right. Some would say that the land of the free may even be drifting toward fascism. These were the thoughts on my mind when I sat down with Terry Spier, creative director for North Carolina-based Red Storm Entertainment which, along with Massive Entertainment, is helping bring The Division 2 to life.

The trailers and the gameplay reveals have, so far, told me that this is a game about a near-future Civil War. But it’s not a game about politics, Spier insisted. It’s a game about saving lives and bringing society back from the brink of destruction.

Polygon: It’s a very charged political climate in this country.

Terry Spier: It certainly is.

What does it mean for you personally to be making a game about the next civil war?

There’s a couple reasons why we chose DC, right? And I think it’s important to say the first reason was how do you top Manhattan? Manhattan was such an iconic city, is such an iconic city.

Starting out right under DUMBO, right?

You know, we want to one up that. It’s the iconic seat of power, you heard [our team] say that. Everybody knows what DC is. Everyone’s seen the monuments, the Lincoln Memorial, you know, the Capital 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? I think that’s what we’re going to drive home. And what you’ll see as you get more and more information about the game, is about the Division sort of being that last line of defense against the ultimate collapse. So the Division agents are going in and they’re unifying and they’re helping and they’re rebuilding. And that’s what I love about the Division.

As it was described, they’re actually fighting against a corrupt government.

Rebuilding and helping the civilians move forward and move on. So, there’s tons of narrative bits in there.

But you’ve got that red searchlight coming out of the Capital dome. The leadership has been decapitated. So the Division is the last remnants of the old government trying to push out the sitting government?

That’s an amazing assumption that you’re making, one that I’m not going to confirm or deny. I’m just going to say that you are a veteran agent who was activated before the time of The Division 2 and you got the SOS call. OK, you’re war torn. You’re tired. You’ve been doing Division stuff elsewhere and you arrive in DC to find what it is that you’re going to find. And you’re going to rebuild and make sure that DC does not collapse, SHaDe [Strategic Homeland Division] does not collapse and that the nation does not collapse. And so should it be clear, we’re definitely not making any political statements. Right? This is still a work of fiction, right? Our job —

Wait a minute. It’s in DC.


Your central character here on the key art has an American flag bandana tied to their backpack.

That’s correct.

This is not a political statement?

Absolutely not.

Taking up arms against a corrupt government is not a political statement?

No. It’s not a political statement. No, we are absolutely here to explore a new city.

You have this grin on your face.

I can absolutely understand the question, the assumption, and the nature of it, but I’m here to tell you that DC, the reason that we chose it was for the ones that I said.

What does that mean to you personally, you who live in and work in and lead your life in North Carolina, making a game about the next revolution? About civil war?

I think making a game or making a game in DC is, is awesome. [Our team] talked about the one-to-one recreation. I’ve said it already too, but being able to get the players to tell their own stories in DC and be able to go there and feel the heat. I loved the coldness of the first game and to be able to go to DC and actually get to feel the humidity and hot summer of East Coast weather. That’s what I’m most excited about.

There were times in The Division where you didn’t always feel like the good guy. There were enemies and there were situations and there were of bits of dialogue and missions where it felt like the writers wanted you to feel something for the folks that you were taking down. What are the moral stakes here in The Division 2?

I touched on rebuilding. The civilians are definitely a huge focus on what the player’s going to be doing in the Division. You are helping those settlements. If I haven’t talked to you about the open world already and the fact that it’s dynamic, the rebuilding aspect of the civilians are about making sure that you loosen the grip with those enemy factions. They’re preying on the civilians. So I think if you’re going to point to any sort of moral compass, it’s that you are absolutely there to lift up and help and unite all of the civilians that are in DC that are being oppressed by these factions and letting them grow. Get those gardens up. Get the fresh food, you know, and get the water flowing. That’s going to be the good stuff.

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