Battlefield 2042 Dev Says Climate Apocalypse Is For ‘Gameplay Reasons’, Not Social Commentary | IGN

Battlefield 2042’s setting is, in a word, fraught. The world is in the middle of a cascading climate cataclysm. Entire countries have been destabilized by the chaos, leading to an unprecedented refugee crisis. Some of those refugees find themselves conscripted by either Russia or the U.S. in a new World War, where they slaughter each other in a number of conspicuously dystopian environments. One multiplayer map literally takes place on an Antarctic brutalized by the oil industry. Another plays out in a Persian Gulf metropolis ravaged by sandstorms.

As I watched the reveal, it became impossible to ignore how many of 2042’s themes are borrowing from explicit storylines that we’re concurrently living through. The climate displacement era is already upon us, tensions between global sovereignties are growing, and it’s no longer difficult to imagine a Lower Manhattan where the water comes up to your knees. DICE is presenting a stark, brutal interpretation of the earth in the very near future, where our ecological systems are pushed past the brink by unsustainable power structures. It’s a foreboding, highly plausible dystopia, and that renders Battlefield 2042 into a political object — whether the company wants to admit it or not.

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I say that because design director Daniel Berlin demurred at my line of questioning when I interviewed him shortly after the Battlefield 2042 presentation. Here is my query and his answer, unabridged.

IGN: “[Battlefield 2042] is talking about de-patriated people, we’re talking about citizens who’ve been displaced by climate change and war. Is there any sort of sensitivity towards those issues for you guys? Is there any social commentary anywhere with what you’re trying to do? Or is this purely just a multiplayer game?”

Berlin: “It is definitely purely a multiplayer game for us. The reason we decided to go down this route is so we could create a narrative with this world that we could create through the eyes of the No-Pats. [The in-universe term for the refugee warriors.] We wanted to get more spectacle in there, and more massive events happening. The setting fits that perfectly. It fits that scale, and it gives us reasons to go all over the world. […] It’s for gameplay reasons across the board.”

I doubt Berlin truly believes this answer. He coexists on the earth with the rest of us, and the team at DICE is clearly familiar with the prognostic source material they’re drawing from. There is nothing that outlandish about the nightmare Battlefield 2042 intends to present, and it’s paradoxical to claim a work of fiction where resources are scarce and the vulnerable are recruited into an interminable conflict between superpowers isn’t political.

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But unfortunately, there is still a fear of admitting the obvious within the triple-A gaming strata. We just went through a similar newscycle with Far Cry 6, after Ubisoft initially asserted its narrative where a guerilla fighter is attempting to usurp a fascist dictator in an extremely Cold War-looking Carribean island, was also ‘not political’ (before eventually saying it was, just that it wasn’t about Cuba). The publishers don’t want you to believe your eyes.

It seems likely that EA believes by avoiding the P-word, they are removing themselves from greater levels of critical and customer scrutiny. But consider what the company is inferring when it declares ideological inertness. If Battlefield 2042 was truly apolitical, that means DICE was exclusively inspired by the graphical possibilities of our coming apocalypse, and that the collateral human misery, failed states, and biospheric catastrophe seemed solely like incredible venues for firefights and nothing more. That is grim as hell!

By filtering climate armageddon solely through, in Berlin’s words, “gameplay reasons,” DICE has ironically one of the more trenchant political commentaries the crisis has entertained. We all know what’s coming, but we dare not verbalize those who are responsible. I hope EA, and the rest of the games industry, changes its tone before it’s too late.

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