Why Aug lives matter
By Adam Tatelman, Arts Editor
Since Deus Ex: Mankind Divided has recently dropped, I thought it pertinent to discuss some of the non-troversy surrounding the game’s story and launch ads.
In the game’s fictional cyberpunk dystopia, people with cybernetic implants—Augs for short—are regarded with fear and mistrust, often forcibly segregated from other humans. The creators have cited this as a metaphor for the suffering endured by all victims of apartheid; in one scene from the game, a group of Aug protesters can be seen holding a sign which reads “Aug Lives Matter,” in reference to the real-world Black Lives Matter movement.
It should be impossible to derive any message from the content of the ad other than “segregation is bad,” and yet the mere presence of this phrase has thrown everyone from Forbes Magazine to Polygon into a massive tizzy, claiming that the ALM sign has somehow belittled or marginalized the actual BLM movement.
In an interview with CBC News, Manveer Heir, BioWare’s senior designer on the upcoming Mass Effect: Andromeda, was quick to criticize the advertisements. “My problem is with using marketing to push a narrative,” Heir said, “which doesn’t provide the full context of the game, as a way to sell the game, when that narrative comes across as anti-blackness, even if it’s not intended to be.”
Aside from the fact that no minute-long trailer could possibly provide the context of the entire game, this criticism rings somewhat hollow when we consider that Heir is known for such open-minded, progressive Tweets as “No class required when killing white people,” or “I only accept the cut off ears of white men as payment.” Of course these are jokes, but that doesn’t stop Heir’s argument from sounding a lot like “do as I say, not as I do.” If I, the Other Press’s resident white male shit-lord, made such jokes about black people, would it be considered funny, or would it be treated as the odious nonsense that it is?
The purpose of science fiction—especially cyberpunk—is to create fictional allegories for contemporary social issues. Characters like the X-Men, for instance, have stood in for various marginalized groups since their debut in the 1960s, a time of extreme social change. Their purpose is not to perfectly reflect reality. So, Eidos Montreal can hardly be said to be “appropriating” BLM, but rather expressing sympathy for it. The fact that Heir, himself working on a science fiction game, cannot seem to grasp this concept is rather ironic.
By all means, criticize the game if its actual script handles the concept of apartheid tactlessly, but don’t judge it purely based on its advertisements, and don’t dismiss those who express sympathy for your cause merely because they haven’t done it in the approved vernacular. And if, like Heir, you wish to judge people according to the accident of their ancestry, then best of luck in reconciling your self-evident bias.