[Column] Is The Division The Good Guy?

TheDivision 2016-02-20 09-09-09-82

I don’t think the Division are the good guys.

If you’ve been hiding under a rock, The Division takes place following a biological terrorist attack on Black Friday in New York City, where terrorists use money infected with a virus to kill a lot of people. The Division is a government organization that only shows up when all other options have failed.

Immediately I started asking questions like “how does the Division work exactly? Are all agents assigned jobs where they can just up and disappear whenever there is an incident? Or are the jobs fake? Wouldn’t someone eventually figure out that their co-worker goes missing whenever a big tragedy occurs? Like how Clark Kent disappears whenever Superman is needed? Wouldn’t it be kinda obvious when a large group suddenly book plane tickets toward ground zero?”

But first, let’s talk about Tom Clancy.

The universes created by Tom Clancy are filled with amazing characters like Jack Ryan, Ding Chavez, John Clark, and scenarios that if not exactly realistic were at least reasonable for the alternate timeline that they took place in, and were generally based off of some person or event in the real world. It was Die Hard plausible: Bruce Willis could take on a whole group of terrorists solo, but still destroy his feet on some broken glass.

Tom Clancy, despite his lack of military experience, was a mastermind of warfare, on a level that baffled actual military leaders. If his universe had a war, he simulated war games to see how it would go. His writing predicted strategies years before they actually happened, like the use of airliners in suicide bombings or Russia’s invasion of Georgia, and described creations before the public even knew about them.

The Division doesn’t have a shred of Tom Clancy’s DNA on it, but frankly none of the games do. The most involvement he had with the video games was founding Red Storm Entertainment and writing the books that some of them are based on.

Tom Clancy also had little regard for the government, stating the following:

“What the government is good at is collecting taxes, taking away your freedoms and killing people. It’s not good at much else.”

This’ll be important later on, but back to the game.

My problem with the factions in the game is that they take popular Clancy tropes and fit them within the walls of New York City. If you’re looking at The Rikers make sense, they are all inmates that broke free and stuck together. Rioters aren’t really a faction as much as they are a collective name, but the cleaners are simultaneously the only enemy faction with a motivation other than survive/destroy, and also feel the least inspired.

After all, they are a faction call the Cleaners, whose goal is to “cleanse” the city, oh and their rank and file is made up of former cleaners (janitors, garbage men, custodians). It’s a Scooby Doo level of storytelling where the characters names are a pun of their jobs. I wonder what Mr. Shipping & Receiving does for a living.

The Division reminds me of the Jedi from Star Wars. They’re a secretive group that, when deployed, become judge, jury, and executioner. Their ranks have a habit of getting wiped out or going rogue and turning evil, and the few people that know about their existence don’t seem to hold them in much high regard or trust for those exact purposes. For all of their claims of being the “good guys,” they’re really more the anti-heroes. The Ghost Riders of their world.

If you play The Division with this mindset, everything makes a lot more sense. You casually stroll down the street and have full authority to murder anyone marked red on your map. Random civilians are absolutely terrified of you, and who can blame them? As the game tells you, regular people have no idea what the Division is, and you don’t wear any sort of marked uniform. To them, you’re just a bunch of heavily armed thugs gunning people down at your own discretion.

And naturally once your character goes off the grid (the dark zone), they are free to go rogue and murder other Division agents and loot their goods. Since no one can see what you’re doing, you can return in the good graces and assumption that you were a total angel during your time away.

Quick: Tell me who is responsible for the terrorist attack in The Division? You don’t know, do you? Considering that the Division is in place as a counter-terrorism force, you don’t do any counter-terrorism. Cleaning up New York City should, arguably, be a job for the National Guard or military, and considering the Division is a last resort group, it doesn’t seem like all options were really exhausted before you were called in.

I’d like to think that, were he alive, Tom Clancy would have put the kibosh on this story or at least put more emphasis on the whole government overreach aspect. You’d probably have a scene where President Jack Ryan fires the head of the Strategic Homeland Division (yes the same President Jack Ryan who assassinates the dictator of the United Islamic Republic on live television) before turning the operation over to Rainbow.

There seems to be at least some self aware understanding that the whole operation has gone tits up, the Division is only welcome because as much as some agents are making things worse, there are others that are actually helping, and the story does eventually come to a decent conclusion. I’d like to see some followup, even better if it is in a companion novel, on how the public reacts to the Division.

With all the civilians still in New York City, I find it hard to believe that their actions are remaining quiet this whole time, even if the word on the street is questioning why the hell this group of people wearing no uniforms and carrying military weaponry descended on New York and started massacring everyone.

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