Deus Ex: Mankind Divided writer responds to ‘mechanical apartheid’ debacle

By Sherif Saed
19 June 2015 11:32 GMT

A member of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided’s writing team attempts to explain the reason behind the use of the term “mechanical apartheid” in the game’s promotion.


Update: A new Reddit post has surfaced from someone claiming to be Gilles Matouba, former director of the game. He gives a bit of a backstory into how the term was conceived and offer his side of the story.

It’s too long to post in its entirety, so I posted an excerpt below. You can read the full thing through the link.

“I am Gilles Matouba and there is a thin chance of you knowing me. Still, I am a veteran French game developer with 15 years of experience in the industry. Mostly at Ubisoft and Eidos Montreal. Until September 2014 I was the Game Director of DXMD at Eidos Montreal. 3 years ago Andre Vu, the Brand Director of the DX franchise, and I coined the term ‘Mechanical Apartheid’.

“Thing is… I am Black (& French…). And Andre is Asian (& French). When we decided to go all-in on delivering the experience to play as Adam Jensen, an Augmented, in a world aggressively segregating his own kind, we actually wanted to offer to our audience something unique. Something that was close and very personal to us: The experience of being torn between 2 worlds and 2 identities. Augs calling you the ‘uncle Tom’ of the non-augs, non-augs always insecure when you’re around, always deeply being scared or appalled by your mechanical body.”

Original story: During Square Enix’ E3 press conference, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided developers took the stage to talk about the game.

In their presentation, they used the term “mechanical apartheid” when describing the state of the game’s world and how it discriminates against those with mechanical parts in their bodies.

The game’s executive narrative director Mary DeMerle spoke to Destructoid about the use of the term.

“When we make a decision like embracing that term, ‘mechanical Apartheid,’ we do it with a lot of thought and a lot of specific concern about how we’re doing it,” she began.

“And what we are also trying to do with Deus Ex is look at the world, and trying not to judge the world but to present it in a very – we like to talk about shades of grey. So we like to present the issues to the best of our abilities without judging you or your actions, so that you can make up your own mind about it.

“It’s one of the things I’m constantly telling the writers on the team is that you can’t write dialogues that are judging, you can’t come up with choices where you’re slapping people in the face for their moral decisions.

“You have to present them in as neutral of a way as possible to enable players to feel that and interpret it in their own way. Obviously, there will be people who are super sensitive to those sorts of things, and we recognize that, and we feel bad when we offend someone but we are trying to be as truthful and as honest as we possibly can.

“We’re not trying to be preachy here, just holding up the mirror. And that’s one of the things about science fiction: it embraces concepts that are hard for society to see.”

Mankind Divided received a a lengthy gameplay demo this morning.

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