"Augs Lives Matter" banner in new Deus Ex concept art draws criticism

Eidos Montreal released a pile of new concept art for Deus Ex: Mankind Divided today, designed to showcase the appearance of "some of the major cities around the globe" in the game's unhappy near-future. The gallery includes shots of Barcelona, Berlin, Cologne, London, Paris, Rio, and several others, but it's the Moscow image which has caused controversy. Specifically, the presence in it of an "Augs Lives Matter" banner held by protesters. 

That of course is a reference to Black Lives Matter, the highly-charged political movement protesting the systemic racism and abuse faced by African-Americans. The negative response to the adaption of the slogan, albeit in a futuristic setting, is that Eidos Montreal and publisher Square-Enix are borrowing the imagery too lightly, and being tone deaf to real world issues. Here's a sample of some of the criticism.

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This isn't the first time the game has generated heated debate. Eidos Montreal's use of “mechanical apartheid,” another politically loaded term, to describe the segregation of augmented humans in the Mankind Divided game world also led to complaints that the game was appropriating real-world horrors for the purposes of PR. 

Executive art director Jon Jacques-Belletête told Polygon at the time that people weren't giving the game enough credit as art, saying at the time that “...when we're dealing with serious subjects suddenly we’re treated as little kids that are just doing videogames again. This whole thing is completely ridiculous.” But as Austin Walker notes above, something being “art” doesn't absolve it from criticism. Quite the opposite. 

It's possible that Mankind Divided will contribute meaningfully to the conversation about entrenched racism and the real-world violence it drives, but history tells us that's far from a given. On the one hand, gamers have fought a long-running battle for their medium to be taken seriously, and from that perspective difficult subject matter shouldn't be off limits. However, if developers treat raw, real life issues ham-fistedly, they should expect the same criticism that films and books receive.

Clearly this is a complex issue, and one which warrants greater discussion. I've reached out to Square Enix for comment, and will update if and when I receive a reply.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.