So The Division is out and has been for a few weeks now. I enjoy it, the endgame is grind-y, but fun, so far and it's just been a fun place to burn time while rocking a podcast or two and searching for the 'phat loots' we all love so much.
Then I made the mistake of reading a Kotaku review. Now, to be completely fair to the writer of said review, they may not have expected their social commentary to go this far That was what the comments did. Before I get into this, however, I'll be completely upfront about three things:
1. I have reached max level in The Division. Meaning I have beaten all story content and dabbled in the Dark Zone PVP/PVE areas.
2. I should not have been surprised that an article on Kotaku, or any of it's many sister sites for that matter, took a heavily biased stance on something. That is how they get their pageviews after all.
3. I should not have read the comments on the article to begin with. That was a mistake I can readily admit to. I am sorry for doing that, both for myself and for anyone who reads this since those comments moved me to type this damn thing to begin with
Now then; let's get down to the meat of this.
While I have greatly enjoyed my time with the game, it has become obvious to me that I apparently didn't pay much attention to it during my double digit hours in that world. I say this because the very first collection of comments on Kotaku's review mention how you just run around gunning down homeless people and take part in Right-Wing wet dreams. If such an opinion is so often repeated, I wonder if I have been playing a super secret version of the game. With the exception of wildlife such as birds and dogs, you cannot harm any unarmed person in the game world. You can read about stories of such a thing, rioters attacking a group of non-combatants for example, but that is it. Any civilian you can save can't be injured by your weapons. The cursor turns green, you can pull the trigger, but nothing actually happens to them. It's almost like, I don't know, you're some kind of good guy! Speaking of which.
The more "obvious" complaint people are making is that you are not a good guy at all: You're some kind of government lackey out to cleanse the world of the poor and downtrodden. Again, in over twenty hours of playtime, I guess I must have missed that part. There are moments where it gets absurd of course, like when the people who supposedly are just trying to survive also shoot the supplies you're defending, but the concept that you're some kind of reverse Punisher who's out to sweep the streets clear of any seemingly worthless human life is insane. I read that comment thread, followed it deep into that pit of revulsion and I came out with a new understanding of what the original poster was talking about. Namely that he or she didn't know what the Hell they were talking about.
Their argument, as near as I can understand it, was this: An off-hand comment made during the game referenced the "Black Lives Matter" movement. This line, uttered by an African-American woman who lead one of the game's hostile factions, was handled poorly and seemed to provoke the topic yet offer no sense of explanation or examination of what the topic means. The commenter saw this, and the aforementioned (but, again, impossible) purge of innocents in the game, as a form of Jingoism.
There are a lot of deep dives we could take here on that topic. Examinations of what that phrase truly means to some people and the like, but let's not. Instead, let's just stick to two very obvious things that took some digging to find in that thread.
Let's not beat around the bush here people: Tom Clancy wrote mostly about Jingoistic scenarios. They were kind of his bag. I'm not saying every story was like that, nor am I saying that the man thought that way in his day to day life, but such a concept showing up in The Division is not a surprise. That setting was discussed in further depth in the review proper, the author coming to the conclusion that the game was too afraid to actually elaborate on some topics it brought up. I take issue with this because both the author and the main commenter I'm referencing seemed to read far more into the game than I did. I'm not saying they are wrong for doing that in a game, but I will call them out for doing it here. The Division is, at it's core, a game set in a fairly realistic version of New York City. That is obvious. The part that annoys me is how a few lines, uttered by a character you barely know, somehow means that the entire game is a propaganda piece. These assumptions were made, one would imagine, because the character in question who speaks that line is the leader of "The Rikers," a gang that formed after it escaped from an abandoned Rikers Island and made it back to NYC.
Rikers Island is a messed up place out here in the real world. It's walls house forms of cruelty and corruption I could not even imagine let alone get into here. I bring this up because the reviewer made damn sure to do so. The game, however, never did. It made no mention of this gang's motivation beyond getting revenge for being locked up. There were no banners thrown in player's faces hinting that they had been mistreated. The only hint you got about their motivations were those of a more common, dare I say even obvious, nature. The cops put them away and left them to rot at Rikers; now they want revenge. Hell, I would too. That's not propaganda, that's human nature.
I won't even touch the Black Lives Matter controversy the reviewer and commenter mentioned. Know why? Because the game damn sure didn't. The off hand comment made by a boss character in the game may have hinted at it, but the effort both people I've been reading reviews and comments from are going through sure make it sound like the game is throwing the topic in our faces. It is not, so I will not even bother going deeper than this. It was a hunt to find something that was not there, pure and simple.
"Three Hours Total"
So here we are folks, the main event. The whole enchilada. The entire reason I typed this...
The commenter who, along with the reviewer, started all this Jingoistic/Race-Related nonsense to begin with stated that he or she had only played "three hours total" of the game on PC. "It was a gift" they said. Even that admitted fact, however, did not dissuade them from speaking up about the horrible things that Ms. Barrett, the leader of "The Rikers" gang, hinted at with her comment. Now, maybe some of you haven't played the game or, perhaps, some of you just forgot, but here's a little fact for you folks: It is impossible to get anywhere near that area of the game within three hours. That is a mission with a recommended level of twenty. There is no way on this or any other Earth that this person made it to that fight within such a short amount of time.
So why the long blog post on my part? Was it the obviously slanted nature of the review? No, not so much. That is what reviews are. Was it the bashing the game took recently for it's flaws? Nah, people can like what they like. My problem, the thing that truly enraged me, is how this uninformed commenter read the review, altered some words to not be so obviously taken from it and then threw that misplaced "knowledge" in the public's face.
Yes, I know: It's the internet and people are terrible, but come on. Come. On. If you're going to make claims like theirs, you had better be able to at least access the part of the game you're bashing. I'll be honest people: It disgusted me. I had hoped, foolishly I admit, that the person just wanted to comment on the nature of the topics at hand. Maybe, just maybe, even go deeper into the true atrocities they claimed to be so against and how the the game itself handled them. But no, they just wanted to throw their opinion in under a disguise of fact. To push an agenda.
This has been a rant, I know and I'm sorry if you feel angered by the content you've just read. But hey, unlike that commenter, at least you earned the anger! Kudos.