Why Rainbow Six Siege Moved Away From Its Counter-Terrorism Narrative
Folks who have played Rainbow Six Siege since day one may remember that the game launched with a counter-terrorism narrative, one that has been largely phased out since February 2019. Developer Ubisoft Montreal did this to better parallel players’ experiences playing Siege.
“We started with a counter-terrorism narrative which transitioned into a more competitive and sportive fantasy in the context of a ‘military simulation’ in order to parallel the player experience,” narrative director Alex Lima told GameSpot.
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“Moving forward, it’s important to extract key elements from both fantasies to establish our narrative identity. A story that can be both competitive and combative to maximize the heroic potential of our Operators. We need to get that recipe right. Siege isn’t going anywhere so we need to make sure the story is comprehensive and scalable.”
In a February 2019 blog post, Ubisoft Montreal detailed that, in Siege’s lore, Aurelia “Six” Arnot, commander of Team Rainbow, had left her post to accept a position within the US State Department. She picked her long-time advisor Harishva “Harry” Pandey as her replacement and he continued recruiting folks who would be valuable members of Team Rainbow while also starting an initiative to invite people who could act as valuable teachers to their fellow Operators.
And so going into Year 4, Season 1 in March 2019, Siege transitioned away from a story about Team Rainbow fighting terrorist group White Masks, and became a story about these Operators from all over the world training against each other in hardcore competitions that fans would watch. It’s sort of like a special forces Olympics.
“Siege isn’t a story-driven shooter, but having a strong universe is key to motivating the content,” Lima said. “From creating new characters to inventing the battle pass items, elite skins, etc., we try to abide by a mythology that’s respectful of the Operators, who they are, and what they can do.”
With this change in the narrative, Siege needed new villains, which Ubisoft Montreal has been slowly building towards over the past two years. That’s why so many of the new Operators added to the game since March 2019–Kali, Wamai, Ace, Aruni, and Year 6, Season 3’s new character Osa–all come from the same organization: Nighthaven. It’s a group that can stand in opposition to the core members of Team Rainbow.
“We’ve been sowing some seeds over the years when it comes to Nighthaven,” Lima said. “It’s hard to tell a story about competition or rivalry without characters who are a little more, shall we say…’morally suspect.’ We have a lot of Operators in Siege and you can’t create friction within a roster composed solely of ‘good guys.’ Since we’ve moved away from ‘real-world terrorism,’ we need the conflict to come from a different place. We have a rule on the narrative side which is ‘Operators first,’ so, in keeping with that rule the conflict needs to now come from the characters themselves. Nighthaven for us opens the door to this type of storytelling.”
Siege has explored one other narrative thread before (though more as a spin-off) during the Outbreak event, in which a falling meteor infected a town with the Chimera Parasite, transforming humans into alien-like zombie monsters. That narrative was continued in the Containment event and is the basis for the upcoming Rainbow Six Extraction. Though the two games share similarities, Ubisoft Montreal is confident Siege and Extraction won’t cannibalize each other’s audiences.
Rainbow Six Siege Year 6, Season 3 Crystal Guard is now live in the game’s PC test server. It introduces Osa, Siege’s first transgender Operator. She’s an attack Operator whose unique gadget is the Talon-8 Clear Shield, a deployable transparent bulletproof shield.
Though seeing Ubisoft Montreal continue to support Siege’s narrative and expand to be more inclusive to marginalized identities is good, Ubisoft leadership is in hot water following a slew of allegations. Ubisoft Singapore is currently under investigation by Singapore’s Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices following a Kotaku report that details toxic culture, sexual harassment, and racial pay disparity at the studio. These allegations come in the wake of several sexual misconduct accusations towards senior members of Ubisoft in 2020 as part of the #MeToo Movement.
In reaction to Ubisoft leadership’s unsatisfactory response to these allegations in both 2020 and 2021, almost 1,000 Ubisoft employees signed an internal letter to leadership this past July, in which employees simultaneously called out Ubisoft for giving its known abusers copious amounts of second chances and praised Activision Blizzard workers for organizing a huge walkout to protest the misogyny and sexism that allegedly facilitates its “frat boy” culture.
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