"Augs Lives Matter": Black Lives Matter co-opted for a scifi game, but creators claim coincidence

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/08/03/augs-lives-matter-black-l.html

Shouldn’t that be Aug Lives Matter?


Yes, but there is an implied too so it really should be #AugLivesMatterToo.

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This is so fucking lazy. 95% of these sorts of controversies would be avoided if writers would just write. No the consensually created super-humans getting shit on is not equivalent to black people getting gunned down by police officers, and there are a billion different ways to make a story about it that has more nuance and interesting ideas than just making this false equivalency. So many “triple A” games do this dumb shit and it never works. They have hundreds of millions of dollars at their disposal, why can’t they hire actual writers?


Wow, they’re really pandering to the gamergate crowd with this one.

Yeah, the thing here seems to be that it would be easy for them to take option (1) – to say “yeah, damn straight it’s a reference to BLM!” – if they were supporters of it. But the weird defensiveness confirms that they thought they were being lords of clever and subtle mockery and it has all gone horribly wrong for them.


I wish I could double like your post.

Also, remember that these are the people who (more or less)
openly declared that they were going to fragment and monetize the shit out of the series.
And truly thought this was a good idea.


The information you’re missing is this: unlike say, novelists, video game writers, for the most part, make fuck all off of the game’s sales.

Beyond that, why should they try hard, when such effort could be better spent on projects that aren’t in perpetual tug-of-war between designers, producers and the mass of writers assigned to the cubicles?


How on Earth does he expect to be taken seriously?

A question I ask daily.


I don’t see ‘mockery’ I see a way of using a contemporary slogan that is controversial in a story. They probably don’t want to admit it, because it can be contrived as a cheap ploy to cash in on the actual movement. However, the slogan is being adapted, and will likely continue to be adapted well into the future as a meme.

As far as lazy writing goes: I don’t think the focus of the developers is trying to equivocate BLM with ALM, and thus undercut the reality. That wouldn’t be shitty writing, that would be just being a bastard. I should note that development for this game goes back several years, before BLM became a big thing in the media.

That said if they go on to use this as a hash tag for news about the game, that would be in poor taste and be fair to scorn them for.
To the plot: In DX: HR, people both choose to be augmented and are forced into it. Augs start to become a new middle class, with non-augmented people unable to keep up with their Hanzer counterparts. It becomes woven into people’s contracts, such as the main character, who never chooses to become augmented. If you want the job, you lose the meat and take the metal. Some people are actually kidnapped and forced into it, which becomes a form of slavery because anyone who is augmented becomes dependent on an anti-rejection drug, Neuropozine. The ‘Mechanical Apartheid’ comes about as a result of a terrorist attack that drove all Augs temporarily insane. Only the last part is potentially poor writing from my perspective.

Also, Bioware is not developing this game, it’s Edios (Eidos?) Montreal.

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I was thinking along those lines too. This part is a hilarious giveaway:

The game, which tackles issues of segregation in a futuristic dystopia, already raised eyebrows after the company making it put out a bizarre statement reassuring players that ‘Deus Ex: Mankind Divided’s portrayal of government-mandated segregation is presented “as neutral as possible,”’ as if apartheid itself were a subject upon which neutrality was a reasonable position.

Keep those racist customers coming! It just wouldn’t do to have the thing seem all “PC” and “pussified” by portraying state-sanctioned racist segregation negatively.


That reminds me of something or other I noticed the other day that referred to some people as “racially liberal.” Racially liberal? What the hell does that mean? And what is its opposite… just plain racist, right?

Until very recently, racism was an ugly secret to be denied and hidden. It was not considered a valid political polarity. Even the most offensive sentences started with, “I’m not racist, but…”

No more. Thanks, Trump.


Word. Pretty soon Mericuh’s gonna need a new name.


:unamused: Do not mock my country.



Mericuh is my name for a certain province in the United States, a sort of mental one. 'Tis a sweaty place, oddly populated primarily with frustrated, angry white men.


Yea, I’ve lived there. Those guys ain’t so bad when you get to know them.

Reminds me of when I played Deus Ex: HR shortly after the OWS protests. Everyone in the game was treating protesters as a detestable kind of soft criminal. That bothered me and I shortly lost interest in the game.

Deus Ex: Defender of Shitty Status Quos


Bioshock:Infinite lost me on that narrative, too.

It’s important for games to try and tackle Real Issues, but they should also be prepared to git real about it. That kind of interferes with the big budgets and marketing microscopes trained on triple-A games. I like that they’re trying, I don’t like how they’re failing.


The previous game came out in 2011, so this one started development some time after that (they announced in late 2013 that work had begun on a sequel). BLM got hash-tagged and hit public consciousness in summer of 2013 with the Zimmerman acquittal. I rather suspect the Deus Ex writers stole the slogan from the early period of BLM, erroneously assuming BLM wouldn’t hit mainstream public consciousness the way it has. Given that they also came up with “Mechanical apartheid,” there’s clearly very ham-fisted attempts to lend power to the game narratives using real-world references that end up being offensive and, frankly, don’t even make much sense given the context.

Probably not mockery - or support - but merely trying to draw parallels with real-world events to (undeservedly) make the game narrative more “real” and complex and powerful (even though those parallels don’t really work in the game), without thinking through what that actually meant and what the repercussions would be. They might have written in the BLM reference at a point when they thought BLM was a semi-obscure movement that would stay that way. Now they’re trying to obscure their ham-fisted writing by denying a connection - which, in some sense is true, because although real-world references were stolen to lend their narrative more weight, their weird, fictionalized versions of these references don’t really make that much sense in their new contexts, and thus connecting them to their origins doesn’t inform one’s understanding of the fiction, either.

Outside of indie development, this just doesn’t happen, for a variety of reasons, and it’s embarrassing. Any time anything gets close to being real, it ends up being handled clumsily, to the point of being somewhat offensive, even when well-intentioned. It’s because thinking about things like this just isn’t usually part of the AAA developer skill-set.

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We’re talking about a piece of concept art. Not a continual message or a hashtag used for updates about the game. Granted when the game is released, it could prove to be a major theme, but even then the idea of police brutality and fear of the ‘other’ goes back a long way. All fiction is ‘stolen’ from real world events in some way. Maybe I’m too far from the issue to understand, maybe I’m jaded towards this sort of thing, maybe I just don’t like the way people seem to find outrage over fictional content when there are non-fictional events to be upset about, but you have every right to your feelings.