“Frantic gun battles fused with a ‘punk rock’ style,” is how creative director Jason Schroeder and executive producer Mark Rubin describe XDefiant, Ubisoft’s upcoming game based on the Tom Clancy franchise.
And this is wrong. Very bad.
In case you are not aware, Tom Clancy’s XDefiant It will be a free team fighting game with different character classes. You can read more about it here. When talking about their game systems, we could be describing a hundred similar titles. However, this title stands out a bit for an aesthetic that is quite unusual, not only in the world of competitive shooter games, but in that of Tom Clancy.
In order to talk about this, we have to first clarify who this man was, whose name precedes that of so many Ubisoft titles. Rainbow Six, Ghost Recon, The Division Y Splinter Cell are just some of them.
Who was Tom Clancy?
This popular novelist was considered in life as one of the main exponents of “technological suspense” or “techno-thriller”: stories of political conspiracies and espionage developed in the modern world.
Clancy quickly rose to fame with his 1982 novel: The hunt for Red October. When he died in 2013, he had published a score of novels, all incredibly popular. These started out as Cold War political dramas. Eventually, heroes like Jack Ryan, John Clark, and Ding Chavez also faced Islamic terrorists, nuclear threats, and even Colombian drug traffickers.
Despite the popularity of his name in the video game world, Tom Clancy did little or no work on the titles attributed to him. It is true that he was a co-founder of the Red Storm studio, participated in creative meetings of the first Rainbow Six
Tom Clancy’s policies
It will come as no surprise to any reader of this author’s works to discover that Clancy was a deeply conservative man. His books make clear a deep admiration for the United States military forces and its intelligence agencies. He also shows distrust of progressive and left-wing politics. Villains in their stories include not only communists, but also environmental activists. He does not hesitate to portray liberal and Democratic characters as “weak” and in real life he blamed left-wing politicians for the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Critics and analysts of his books agree that Clancy had a very romantic view of the military might of the Western world. Are you beginning to see why the ‘punk’ aesthetic doesn’t fit us with the Tom Clancy name?
Today, many identify ‘punk’ only with ‘mohawk’ hairstyles and an ‘old-fashioned’ genre of music. But ‘punk’ used to be so much more. The counterculture that emerged in the UK in the mid-1970s was a reaction to a world that young people saw increasingly appropriated by corporations and the interests of the powerful, creating a mass culture that destroyed the identity of each individual. .
Fashion, music and ‘punk’ ideologies fought against consumerism, war, fascism and discrimination. It was an aggressive and direct culture. During the eighties, ‘punk’ strongly opposed the conservative governments of Ronald Reagan in the United States and Margaret Thatcher in England. But by then it was a culture in decline. As is often the case with everything that begins to become popular, the distinctive of ‘punk’ were appropriated by mass culture.
The punk aesthetic of Tom Clancy’s XDefiant
The iconic elements of ‘punk’ have been commodified. The fashion that was previously identified with this style is now sold in brand stores and the most representative bands of the genre were “sold” and their members became millionaires.
Video games are no stranger to this, especially in the days of paid DLC outfits. It is not uncommon to find characters, costumes and ‘skins’ that mimic the ‘punk’ style in games like Fortnite Y Dauntless. But it is especially sad to discover them in franchises that glorify militarism and present right-wing ideologies in their approaches. Good examples of this are the UK Punk Pack that we can buy at Call of Duty: Black Ops II and, of course, the general aesthetics of Tom Clancy’s XDefiant.
The logo of this game features a fuchsia zigzag on the soldier that always accompanies Tom Clancy’s name in the brand’s games. This is supposed to represent a ‘mohawk’ hairstyle. This is the way by which, according to producer Mark RubinThey will try to “differentiate themselves with a rebellious and irreverent style from the attitude normally associated with Clancy.”
This does not surprise us. The ‘punk’ aesthetic has been used for years as a symbol of rebellion, but it is often used to represent “not doing homework and disobeying mom” and not the just reaction against government oppression and consumerism that it began as.
The truth is that Tom Clancy’s philosophy and video games inspired by his works just don’t fit in with ‘punk’ ideologies. In fact, their militaristic and American supremacy obsessions are the antithesis of what that culture represented..
Then why XDefiant Do you appropriate an aesthetic that does not fit your intentions? We can only think that it does it to stand out in a genre saturated with similar-looking titles. There has been a very popular meme for more than a decade that says that all first person shooter games look the same. The truth is that if we remove the neon colors and elements of the ‘punk’ style, XDefiant It wouldn’t differ in any way from the games it tries to compete in. You are not looking to make a statement of rebellion against the modern world, you just want to appear less generic. Let players recognize it when they see a screenshot.
A true ‘punk’ video game
The ‘punk’ aesthetic is overused and has lost its meaning, but that doesn’t mean that the ‘punk’ spirit can’t be present in a video game. In fact, it is curious that a title from the same company that we criticize today represents much of what that culture meant in its day.
We talk about Watch_Dogs 2.
Despite being an AAA work, this is a game whose protagonists and their fight against a powerful corporation quite well represents the ideology of rejection of mass culture, discrimination and oppression. The exaggerated and colorful ‘hacker culture’ we see here is a reflection of the 1990s, when many thought that cyber activism and young people who knew the secrets of the internet would be the architects of the return of ‘punk’ culture.
Its sequel, Watch Dogs: Legion, it can also be a good example of a ‘punk’ presence in a video game. Not only because of its British setting, but because its plot focuses on the struggle of a group of rebels against a fascist state.
But ‘punk’ promoted the culture of ‘do it yourself’ in all its expressions, including fashion and music. That is why an indie game fits this ideology better than any AAA. The perfect example is Umurangi Generation. This indie work is full of anger and rejection against colonialism, cultural appropriation, consumerism and fascism. Its protagonists and creators are true representatives of modern ‘punk’.
Therefore, Tom Clancy’s XDefiant – no matter how neon colors and ‘mohawk’ hairdos he has – he’s never going to be ‘punk’. Tom Clancy’s name can never be associated with true ‘punk’. This brand, same as Call of Duty, It represents power fantasies through firearms Y celebrate violence through military power. These are things that ‘punk’ ideologies always rejected.