'The Outer Worlds' and Having Politics vs. Just Referencing Politics

Given the length of most games, it can sometimes be hard to parse their politics or meaning even from a few hours of play. Endgame twists can paint the entire narrative of a game in a different light, strengthening core themes at best, and undermining them at worst. So it's natural to wonder where a narrative might go even if it's opening hours seem to hammer home a specific point of view. On this episode of Waypoint Radio, we discuss how this feels in The Outer Worlds, as well as making new friends in Fire Emblem: Three Houses, and just what is up with...the Clancyverse??. You can listen to the full episode and read an excerpt below.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/d3agyq/the-outer-worlds-and-having-politics-vs-just-referencing-politics
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I still don’t know the end of Rob Zacny’s Greece story!! Ahhh!!

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That “hope nothing happened over the weekend” bit at the start of the pod was just… fuck.

Just hope everyone on the crew is doing okay right now.

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Maybe I missed it but I remember the “Leftist” Rebels in Wildlands were coded to look and vaguely sound like lefties but they never really said anything that I would identify as ideological. It’s weird to me that the dev seems to think he did something subversive or interesting with them.

Also they betray your team at the end since they don’t want your foreign intervention anymore

Wildlands we fun when you were stealthily clearing bases and scratched my desires for open world sniping, but as stated in the pod the dialogue and plot generally was hot garbage.

Lore Reasons: Rob Explains The Clancyverse. Please god.

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There are some lines from the your handler identifying the rebels as socialists that imply that your player character is old-fashioned for being jumpy about working with them based on their politics. The player character then responds saying that was ironic coming from a CIA operative based in South America.

Like all of Ubisoft’s other political messaging in their games, they like to say half the critique out of the corner of their mouth before running back into the warm embrace of dumb shit your weird uncle thinks.

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As a person from a Latin American country where the US has supported two coups on leftists politicians in the last 60 years, one of them leading to a 20 year dictatorship and the other still ongoing, I think this cast is actually softer on the Wildlands writer than I expected. The guy comes off like a deeply proud US vet who is sad that Trump is giving a bad name to American interventionism and mad that biased reviewers aren’t following the company line and Respecting The Troops. I just wouldn’t care if this was a piece from two weeks after release and he felt bad his game was criticized, or if he acknowledged the opposing viewpoints and felt confortable agreeing to disagree. He’s a fucking piece of shit who I wish would disappear no matter how reasonable he is at being that.

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I would call his piece really awful (but not as bad as his game) and he truly missed the point entirely. I dunno who picked that title but what he wanted to talk about was how “authentic” ‘shithead’ was, not how he felt about Bolivia or the legit criticism leveled at him.

Which is odd since Ubisoft is not a small team or a small company. They must have had a massive diverse team with several Latinex members, maybe even people of Bolivian decent themselves. And still they were so utterly reckless and irresponsible with this game. And years later, can’t understand why they were irresponsible.

I hate the Recruitment part of Fire Emblem entirely. Like, they’re not just changing houses in a school, they’re basically changing allegiances to an entirely different country because their professor is level C in Lances and they had two conversations. If they’d made it more like these students are attracted to your leaders ideology it would be better than the current pick your favourites/gotta catch em all approach imo.

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It’s pretty silly. Supports reduce the requirements, but I almost feel like you shouldn’t be able to recruit at all if you don’t have a B support with the person. That way you at least have some personal connection to the character that sort of justifies them changing allegiances (but not really).

As I said to Rob on Twitter, I’m really glad that he brought up Hammer’s Slammers. It’s damn good military SF that legit acknowledges the horrible nature of its protagonists* and even grapples with this (to varying degrees of grappling). It’s definitely got some problematic bits, to say the least, but there’s also a selfawareness of the horror of war and the fucked-up nature of what this space mercenary company is doing that has never entered the Clancyverse.

*I think it’s impossible to read something like “The Interrogation Team” or one of two stories where the Slammers wind up wreaking havoc or genociding an alien species and come away with the feeling that they’re the good guys.

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Also the two named rebels are both named after Tupac Amaru because apparently there’s never been any other revolutionary in Bolivia ever.

Let me pitch this crazy idea: Ubisoft doesn’t like Latines. It starts with the original Ghost Recon where something in Cuba happens that I don’t remember, then Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter where you protect the border from invading Mexicans (yeah, bet you all forgot about that one), is notable with the villains in Black Flag and Ratio dying in Watch Dogs II, and now we’re back to Ghost Recon with Wildlands.

I never finished the main campaign of Black Flag because it sucked ass but weren’t the main bad guys Bartholomew Roberts and a conspiracy of white slave owners?

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You’re probably almost definitely right.

I honestly can’t remember what the base campaign was about, but Black Flag did have a DLC where you played as an ex-slave and freed slaves.

Diving into the Clancyverse reminded me of the one and only Clancy game I’ve played, 2013’s Splinter Cell Blacklist, and how unprepared I was for its politics. The overarching theme is that Sam Fisher and his team operate outside of normal military regulations and answer only to the president, but even having nearly unlimited authority to do whatever they want is still framed as an unbearable restriction. The president, who is just Hillary Clinton, is framed as just as much of an enemy as literal terrorists by being too much of a coward to let your squad off the leash to get stuff done and keep America safe.

As an example, partway through the game you find out that a terrorist has been captured and is being held at Guantanamo Bay. He has information you need but those babies running the offshore blacksite wont get their hands dirty to force it out of him so naturally you take the only reasonable option: break into Guantanamo, torture this guy (who gives totally reliable information), and then break out. You know things have gone off the rails when Guantanamo fucking Bay is portrayed as being too weak, too soft on those evil terrorists.

Then at the end of the game after the climactic showdown where you defeat the terrorist mastermind Fisher aims his gun at him and there’s a hard cut to black with the sound of a gunshot. Fade up to the crew watching Clinton give a speech on tv about how the terrorist has been killed and how America has made the world a safer place. Then you walk over to the jail that your team has to find out that he’s still alive! And since nobody else, including the president, knows he’s alive you have free reign to torture him to your heart’s content for information about other terror cells.

I know that being shocked that “oh my god they lied to the president!” comes across a lot differently now than it did in 2013, but still for the stinger just before the credits to be that the president can’t be trusted so the off-the-books special forces unit just…goes rogue and is now unbeholden to anyone was really surprising to me. The narrative frames this as a real fuck yeah, badass, heroic moment while I’m just sitting there like, “Maybe the military should be run by and held accountable to a civilian commander in chief because we live in a democracy. No? Zero oversight or restrictions is the cool aspiration? Nah, I’m good Clancy.”

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When you can recruit students, it is just changing houses in a school. That’s why you can’t do it after the time skip. And there are (albeit post-hoc) explanations of why they decide to forsake their home country (Lysithea’s reasons for joining the Black Eagles in particular) and there are consequences when they do.

As somebody who has read a few Clancy novels and played some Clancy games I would absolutely be on-board for “Waypoint presents Rob Zacny’s Tom Clancy’s Lore Reasons,” so we should definitely make that happen if all involved are game. (Even if it’s just literally one segment on one podcast episode.)

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Maybe it’s specific to my current route/house/characters, but I’ve been able to recruit one person post-time skip so far! I’ll keep it as vague as possible, but after defeating the student of another house in battle, they asked if they could join my army instead of dying for their army

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Haven’t gotten around to 3H yet but it’s a bit disappointing to hear that recruitment is just dating sim affection levels in this game. I loved the esoteric recruitment requirements in Binding Blade and Blazing Sword.