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Is Obsidian publicly undercutting The Outer Worlds' game director, Leonard Boyarsky?

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Posted (edited)

In a recent interview, Leonard Boyarky said this: https://www.videogameschronicle.com/news/obsidian-says-it-doesnt-want-outer-worlds-to-be-a-politically-charged-game/

Quote

Obsidian says it doesn’t want Outer Worlds to be ‘a politically-charged game’
CO-DIRECTOR SAYS HE’S BEEN ‘VERY CAREFUL’ NOT TO ‘LECTURE’ PLAYERS

Obsidian’s creative director, Leonard Boyarsky has said the studio doesn’t want to create a “politically-charged” game with The Outer Worlds.

The sci-fi RPG, which recently won the Game Critics E3 2019 award for Best Original Game, is being co-directed by original Fallout creators Boyarsky and long-time partner Tim Cain.

The game is set in a future world where megacorporations have begun colonizing and terraforming alien planets. As such, its plot heavily references the ‘dark side’ of capitalism.

However, co-director Boyarsky said the studio has been “very careful” not to “lecture” players with the themes featured in the game, telling VGC it’s “the last thing we want to do.”

He said: “I like money: I’m not against capitalism and in a lot of ways I’m happy with our society. But of course there are a lot of ways in which it could be improved.

“We started development in April 2016 and a couple of things happened [in world politics] between then and now that nobody expected. We weren’t expecting that.

Boyarsky said The Outer Worlds’ story is less a critique of modern capitalism and more about “power and how power is used against people who don’t have it.”

He said: “It can be insidious; the way which people control the stories you tell about the world. If you let other people control that narrative, then they can control you to a certain degree. That can be any form of government: if it wasn’t capitalism it could be something else.”

Boyarsky added that he’s tried to balance these themes with the humorous tone his previous games are known for.

“I don’t want people to think this is a really hard, politically-charged game: it’s supposed to be fun, it’s supposed to be humorous,” he said.

“Having grown up in America and been through the onslaught of consumer culture, we’re very familiar with that and like to poke fun at it.

“But like how with [2001 RPG] Arcanum when we were dealing with racial issues, the story always comes down to balance of power, how people get power and how they use it. We’ve been very careful, I’ve been very careful.

“There are people in this game who have philosophies that I don’t agree with and I take pains to make those people very likeable, very sensible and very believable. Then there are people in the game who say things I agree with, who are perhaps not very nice to hang out with.

“So we don’t want to set up strawman or anything and say, ‘look how horrible this is!’ It’s really about looking at all aspects of issues. The last thing we want to do is make a game that people feel is lecturing them.”

The Outer World team’s stance echoes that of Ubisoft, which recently moved to explain why its teams balance apolitical views in games informed by highly politicised real-world events.

Ubisoft wants its games to educate players so they can “formulate their own ideas”, it said.

The Outer Worlds release date is October 25, 2019 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4and PC.

In the same interview, co-director Boyarsky explained how The Outer Worlds’ endings work.

 

Predictably, this sent the culture warriors on Twitter and ResetEra into a tizzy. Then yesterday, Obsidian concept artist Hannah Kennedy tweeted this:

Let's take a closer look at that tweet:

1562372390910.png

Well, well.

Edited by Infinitron
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Posted (edited)

Devs need to stop pussyfooting around the matter of politics in videogames - if you're making a game set in a future which is literally run by corporations and showcasing a battle for power amidst the same, there is no way in Hell that isn't political. Same with Ubisoft denying their TOM CLANCY games are political, if any of these companies don't want to make political or "politically-charged" games they shouldn't exploit those bloody topics. They don't get to exploit the buzz and controversy of political hot topics and then wash their hands of the matter, ****ing own up, there's no shame in it, that's why we've made art and told stories throughout history in the first place.

That said, I saw the video interviews with Brian Heins and Leonard Boyarsky and albeit as loosely or softly as stated above, they did at the very least acknowledge The Outer Worlds had some basis and influence from their personal political beliefs. And again, that's fine. Mind you, Hannah Kennedy is also correct - I have also worked in films and TV shows that I didn't necessarily agree with ideologically, but again, this doesn't preclude the fact that what I was working for did have an ideology or touch on themes from a particular perspective regardless.

Edited by algroth
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First, there's absolutely not a single piece of sci-fi that isn't political. Second, if there WERE such a thing, it most certainly would not be a work where the future is run by soulless megacorporations.

 

Boyarsky is just trying his (not very good) best to not say something that will rile up the American corporate-asskissing right-wingers.

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Posted (edited)

As per Betteridge's law: "no"

Seriously, I'm not even sure what you're implying here. That members of the team don't think the game is politically charged enough? That they think it's excessively politically charged? Forgive me, I try to steer clear of culture war cesspits battlegrounds, so I may be missing some context.

Seems to me that the tweet you're referencing is little more than a wordier rephrasing of the "views my own" disclaimer that many accounts display in their profile blurb.

Edited by 213374U
¯\_(ツ)_/¯
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Something being political can mean different things for different people. For some it means exploring political issues and for others it means pushing a political agenda. In the past Obsidian has done the exploring and not the agenda pushing and I don't think that's going to change.


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Posted (edited)

Forget the specific issue of politics. Do you realize that it's easy to interpret that tweet (which has been endorsed by senior Obsidian personnel!) as a declaration of insubordination? "We have a different intent than our game director - and we're acting on that intent by making a different game than what he envisions." It's extremely unprofessional to use that word, "intent". Intent implies action. She could have said "views" instead.

Edited by Infinitron

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Alternatively it's just an indication that they aren't enforcing a party line in regards to communication.  I much prefer 'unprofessional' to the alternative. People constantly second guessing if they should say what they think or come up with something more palatable to a consensus, it's no way to live. 

 

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We must support Hannah Kennedy in her struggle against Leonard Boyarky imperialism.


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34 minutes ago, Infinitron said:

Do you realize that it's easy to interpret that tweet (which has been endorsed by senior Obsidian personnel!) as a declaration of insubordination?

I realize that you are interpreting it that way. Overt "insubordination" in a country with at-will employment is at best foolhardy, so I'm going to guess that you're simply reading too much into a fairly innocuous comment instead of assuming that junior devs would happily kiss their jobs goodbye over... a matter of perspective.

Or do you know something we don't?

 

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Posted (edited)
48 minutes ago, 213374U said:

 

I realize that you are interpreting it that way. Overt "insubordination" in a country with at-will employment is at best foolhardy, so I'm going to guess that you're simply reading too much into a fairly innocuous comment instead of assuming that junior devs would happily kiss their jobs goodbye over... a matter of perspective.

Or do you know something we don't?

 

I guess it's fairly likely that we're basically talking about a bunch of whiny juniors who are dutifully doing their jobs, resentfully muttering "Well, it's a politically charged anti-capitalist game to me" under their breaths while not actually creating anything that Leonard would disapprove of.

But, impressions matter.

Edited by Infinitron

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Game intention might not be to be a commentary on politics, but can have some content relevant or relying on current political landscape. Individual members of the team might have used this opportunity to discuss subjects they believe in/are interested in, while at the same time making a game, which hits broader themes. 


h1dczBG.jpg

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3 hours ago, kirottu said:

Something being political can mean different things for different people. For some it means exploring political issues and for others it means pushing a political agenda. In the past Obsidian has done the exploring and not the agenda pushing and I don't think that's going to change.

 

In this day and age its used exclusively for "pushing political agenda". I have struggled at first with what people meant when they say "political games"; telling to myself: "I like politics/power struggles in games, why is it a problem now?" etc. then I understood what they meant 😛  

Anyway, should we think of TOW as a non-political agenda pushing game like Leonard says or should we expect agenda pushing here & there from various developers now? Since they may have intended anything, which could make Leonard a liar.

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Developers' job is to execute director's/leads' vision so saying something like "that's not our intent" is a clear unprofessionalism

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Posted (edited)

Q: Is Obsidian publicly undercutting The Outer Worlds' game director, Leonard Boyarsky?
A: No

Not entirely sure what the target of the the manufactured outrage is.  If ten years ago someone tweeted:

Quote

A reminder that, much like my personal values do not represent those of my employer, the ideology of Caesar's Legion does not represent the development studio or their intent

no one would have paid it any mind.  I don't know how a single personal tweet is being played out as some sneak peak at internal conflict among the developers.

Edited by Ethics Gradient
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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, Gorgon said:

So what if someone finds being engaged with themes, debates and ideas in a game to be *fun* in and of itself? I certainly do, it's one of the main reasons I love Obsidian's usual work as much as I do. Neither are mutually exclusive, same as "politically charged" and "humorous" aren't mutually exclusive either (see South Park and The Simpsons as very obvious examples of the same).

Edited by algroth
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ahhh, i love successfully creating a fictional world controlled by mega-corporations without directly commenting on capitalism. now to take a big sip of water and check out what "subtext" means,

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5 hours ago, algroth said:

So what if someone finds being engaged with themes, debates and ideas in a game to be *fun* in and of itself? I certainly do, it's one of the main reasons I love Obsidian's usual work as much as I do. Neither are mutually exclusive, same as "politically charged" and "humorous" aren't mutually exclusive either (see South Park and The Simpsons as very obvious examples of the same).

That's great. This kind of a game needs that, but it needs to be in service of a story. I guess it's a bit of a damned if you do, damned if you don't kind of situation.

The game is coming out in the lead up Trump's reelection campaign. There are obvious parallels, not just Capitalism vs Socialism, but the whole 'fake news' thing and Trump's war on the press. so what do you do with that ?. I think that the kind of activist editorialising that you have seen in other parts of the industry is a bit perilous. What you need to do is have the NPCs battle it out, and have the player make up his own mind. 

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8 hours ago, Ethics Gradient said:

Not entirely sure what the target of the the manufactured outrage is.  If ten years ago someone tweeted:

no one would have paid it any mind.  I don't know how a single personal tweet is being played out as some sneak peak at internal conflict among the developers.

Because Infinitron needs to stir s*** when there isn't s*** to stir. Basically what they are saying that they don't share Boyarsky's ideologies or his intent with those said ideologies. It doesn't mean that they are sabotaging the game by shoving their own stuff in there when Boyarsky isn't looking or that they disrespect him in any way.
Last time I checked I can have different ideology than my boss and say it, without it meaning that I'm declaring a war against him and all his kind. I'm paid to do a job, that is it. I'm still allowed to have personal believes and life outside of it.

Twitter is just pure cancer as proven by Infinitron.

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3 hours ago, Flouride said:

Basically what they are saying that they don't share Boyarsky's ideologies or his intent with those said ideologies.

She and "the entire team" working on TOW should be obligated to share Tim & Leo's intent for the game no? Otherwise why appoint directors/vision holders for the game? 

She can ofc have different political views etc. Everyone has.

Unrelated to topic at hand: The only "ideology" Leonard stated is that he doesn't support pushing political agendas in his games, if someone disagrees with it, it's a red flag from me, hope they won't have the chance to push their agendas, either aligning with my own views or not, in future Obs games.

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So paraphrased:

Capitalism = Good
Crony Capitalism = Not So Good

I don't see any problem with that statement, but I'm not surprised that SJWs and post-modernists once again have their panties in a bunch, because Boyarsky didn't endorse full-blown global communism and one-world government fantasies.

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why does concept artist need to share any vision of director for the game?

writer need to have a consistent writing style

artist only need to put some slogan on the picture

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9 hours ago, Gorgon said:

There are obvious parallels, not just Capitalism vs Socialism, but the whole 'fake news' thing and Trump's war on the press. so what do you do with that ?. I think that the kind of activist editorialising that you have seen in other parts of the industry is a bit perilous. What you need to do is have the NPCs battle it out, and have the player make up his own mind. 

I'm viewing Tim's interview in a similar context.

From the standpoint of a present-day American, he seems to be trying to convey that: no matter where you are on today's political spectrum, you should be able to enjoy The Outer Worlds, and not feel particularly alienated by the pro/anti-capitalism themes or satire found in the game.

The goal appears to be to give the players as much room as possible to explore the narrative regardless of whether the staff, studio, or Tim Cain himself personally ascribes any truth to the notion that such opposing viewpoints carry equal validity.  

The fact that individuals at the company may have particularly liberal views shouldn't surprise anyone.  The LA metro area is a solidly progressive corner of the United States.

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