Eidos Montreal’s upcoming sci-fi RPG Deux Ex: Mankind Divided has once again provoked criticism after a reference to the Black Lives Matter movement was spotted in marketing artwork.
The promotional image shows a group of protestors holding up a sign that clearly reads ‘Augs Lives Matter’.
The phrase was immediately recognised by industry-wide observers as being very similar to ‘Black Lives Matter’, the movement that surfaced in 2013 following the highly notorious acquittal of George Zimmerman for his shooting of Africa-American teenager Trayvon Martin. The phrase has appeared multiple times since, seeing a particular resurgence after the subsequent deaths of other African-American citizens in shootings by US police.
One of those to call out the Deus Ex art for its use of the sensitive phrase was BioWare designer Manveer Heir, who tweeted: “I think Eidos Montréal should be ashamed of themselves for appropriating a real black struggle and movement for financial gain.
“Even if SOMEHOW in game the whole ‘Aug Lives Matter’ is done really well, in advertising it is devoid of context and highly problematic,” he added.
Executive brand director for Deux Ex Andre Vu responded to Heir’s accusations by saying: “You are criticizing our integrity and the fact we try to abuse of recent event when it isn’t the case.
“These words were thought in our game way before the current events. Unfortunate coincidence for sure."
Heir slammed back: “The fact that you went forward with posting the image and not realizing the optics/meaning of that image to people is incompetent.”
He later clarified to Polygon that “my qualm is not with a game tackling matters of segregation, civil rights issues, and apartheid, in fact I applaud games that try to tackle difficult political issues".
"My problem is with using marketing to push a narrative, 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.”
Of course, it’s not the first controversy to strike Mankind Divided, as the game’s marketing was previously criticised for using the term ‘mechanical apartheid’. Publisher Square Enix subsequently insisted the word ‘apartheid’ was being used in its dictionary definition of ‘a state of being apart’, rather than as a reference to the system of racial division that notoriously split South Africa for almost half a century.