Tom Clancy’s: The Division + VICE — Infected

Prevention, crisis, survival: an investigation on the actual risk of pandemics in Canada and the game’s infected world.

12 min readJan 29, 2020


This document describes in brief Tom Clancy’s The Division + Vice — Infected, a promotional initiative that analyzes Tom Clancy’s: The Division (Massive/Ubisoft, 2016) considering its communicative function and other primary information elements. The research considers the product and its materials by studying the creative choices, the informative properties, the modalities of visual representation and promotion.

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1. Short analysis

Introductory note: Tom Clancy’s The Division (Massive / Ubisoft, 2016) is set in New York after a devastating pandemic originating from contaminated money spread during Black Friday. The city is now in total anarchy, with quarantine areas, and criminal groups fighting to survive. While the situation seems now irremediable, special agents of the government’s Strategic Homeland Division (SHD) join forces to save the survivors and regain New York, investigating the mysterious cause of the pandemic.

1.1. Pandemic
During the promotional campaign of Tom Clancy’s The Division, the documentary initiative of Ubisoft and VICE Canada called Infected, has been developed into three main project interventions, designed with the function of introducing and deepening the foundational themes of the videogame world, outlining its generative condition (a devastating pandemic) and the resulting geopolitical situation (civil crisis, administrative collapse, anarchy) thus aligning the videogame fictional condition with a series of relevant real questions: what risk of a pandemic currently exists; what prevention measures can be implemented; what procedures Canada provides in the event of an infectious emergency.

Let’s reconstruct the promotional context in chronological order:

  • Infected part I
    January 21, 2016
  • Infected part II
    February 2, 2016
  • Infected part III (originally scheduled for February 9, 2016; not available)
Real risk — The first episode of Infected establishes a first connection with the generative condition of the videogame world by introducing the key theme: what is the potential risk of a pandemic, what tools support the study of epidemiology, and what Canadian national structures operate for guarantee the prevention of health emergencies.

Infected: part 1
January 21, 2016
By combining archival material and interviews, the first video highlights the recent increase in infectious and flu phenomena worldwide, underlining how certain factors (animals, deforestation, climate change, globalization) can favor the birth of a pandemic phenomenon. The study of advanced mathematical models also allows to understand and predict the mechanisms of spread of a pandemic, and to support the continuous research activity of the National Microbiology Lab, the only governmental structure in Canada in charge of conserving the most lethal pathogens currently known.[1]

“It’s not about: will another flu pandemic happen? It’s about when will it happen, and how bad will it be”. — Matthew Miller

“Imagine catching a mutated flu virus, that is hundred times more painful than what you’re used to, with a 40% chance you won’t survive”.

“Many governments classify new superflu pandemic as the biggest danger to society, apart from a major terroristic attack”.

Mathematician Robert Smith underlines how humanity’s huge impact on the planet combined with insufficient social awareness can increase viral spread.
  • People interviewed:
    0. Aaron Maté (VICE reporter)
    1. Matthew Miller: professor of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences
    Robert Smith: mathematician
    Matthew Gilmour: scientific director general, National Microbiology Lab, Phac
  • Visited locations:
    1. Hamilton, Canada — McMaster University Hospital, (with Matthew Miller)
    2. Ottawa, Canada — (with Robert Smith)
    3. Winnipeg, Canada — The Canadian Centre for Human and Animal Health, National Microbiology Lab (con Matthew Gilmour)
  • Narrative structure and key notions (selection of primary elements):
    1. Introductory thematic statement (Bill Gates quote about a probability of a future, devastating pandemic)
    2. Interview with Matthew Miller (confirms hypothesis of high risk of a future pandemic)
    3. Connotation concept of pandemic threat (thawed prehistoric viruses, bacteriological terrorist attacks, Ebola emergency)
    4. Primary problematic definition: imagine a scenario with mutated flu virus (comparison with the devastating Spanish flu of 1918, responsible for about 50 million deaths).
    5. Current risk factors: population increase, antibiotic resistant organisms. Governments classify terrorism and the pandemic as primary dangers.
    6. VICE series title (Infected) and insertion of promotional product connection (Tom Clancy’s: The Division).
    7. Interview with Matthew Miller: animals and deforestation increase the risk of infection. Global warming allows disease-causing tropical insects to expand into previously inaccessible geographic areas.
    8. Interview with Robert Smith: mathematical models for studying diseases; likely parallelism with mutant creatures (zombies) considering operations of prevention, containment, protection, care. And it underlines how the current social awareness is insufficient. Another negative condition is that humanity has had a huge impact on the planet and increasing population density increases viral spread.
    9. Interview with Matthew Gilmour: The Canadian Center for Human and Animal Health, National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg contains deadly pathogens, the only structure in Canada, classified as level 4 of safety, capable of managing any organism. The globalization of people, transport and food resources has increased the risk of a pandemic and infection.

“With globalization of people through travel, and through globalization of food supplies, a chance of transmission of these pathogens is growing much more.” — Matthew Gilmour

Survival — Showing vehicles converted into mobile clinics, domestic spaces transformed into survival environments, and fortified underground shelters, the second short documentary describes which practical health security solutions can be adopted, which ideal conditions to seek, and which are the government official protocols expected in the event of a pandemic.

Infected: part 2
February 2, 2016
The second video testifies the private prevention initiatives of some Canadian citizens (with the example of an ambulance converted into a survival vehicle; and of Ark Two, the largest private underground refuge in Canada), and discloses what government procedures are currently provided for the prevention and management of a possible national health emergency.[2]

“The problem is that in this circumstances, even today, if something breaks out, it takes a period of time to identify what cause is”. — Bruce Beach

“In the worst case scenario, you would have many many people developing influenza in a very short time frame. When you get that many people infected it becomes very very difficult to put in place those contain and control measures. […] SARS was a wake up call.” — Camille Lemieux

  • People interviewed:
    0. Aaron Maté (VICE reporter)
    1. Robert Studer: survival techniques expert, owner Survival Central
    . Bruce Beach: founder of Ark Two, biggest private bunker in Canada
    Camille Lemieux: associate director; infection, prevention and control (IPAC Canada)
  • Visited locations:
    1. Oshawa, Canada (with Robert Studer)
    2. Horning’s Mills, Toronto, Canada (with Bruce Beach)
    3. Toronto, Canada (with Camille Lemieux)
  • Narrative structure and key notions (selection of primary elements):
    1. Interview with Robert Struder: Survival Central company ambulance converted into a survival environment; demonstration of survival training course; visit to a room converted into a survival environment (probable personal house).
    2. Interview with Bruce Beach: visit to the personal “Ark Two” underground refuge, as an example of an emergency rescue site, away from densely populated areas.
    3. Interview with Camille Lemieux: definition of the concept of flu pandemic; presentation of the Canadian government control, prevention and management system for health emergencies; example description of pandemic scenario; reassurance of proper functioning of the Canadian government system.
    4. Final sentence: invitation to participate in Tom Clancy’s writing and illustration contest: The Division — Fall of Canada).[3]

Infected: part 3
(Originally scheduled for February 9, 2016; not available)
Is Canada ready to handle the sort of super virus that has many scientists worried? In the final part of Infected, VICE visits The Ottawa Hospital’s “Ebola Room” and speaks with Dr. Virginia Roth about what protocols are in place to handle deadly infectious diseases. We also speak with German physicist Dirk Brockmann, who studies human mobility patterns to find out how infectious diseases spread in our globalized world.[4]

Note: The partial information reported was retrieved from the limited sources available. The author contacted VICE Canada directly, the journalist Aaron Maté and other professionals involved in the project, but unfortunately it was not possible to recover the third video, leaving the analysis incomplete. The entire Infected series is also published on Ubisoft’s official Youtube channel as “Unlisted”, that is, in a reserved mode that does not allow the videos to appear in the search results.[5]

  • People interviewed: (partial list):
    0. Aaron Maté (VICE reporter)
    1. Virginia Roth (doctor, Ottawa Hospital)
    2. Dirk Brockmann (physicist, human mobility patterns expert)
  • Visited locations (partial list):
    1. Ottawa, Canada — Ottawa Hospital (Ebola Room; with Virgina Roth)
  • Narrative structure and key notions (partial list):
    1. Interview with Virginia Roth
    2. Interview with Dirk Brockmann

2. Conclusions

2.1. Thematic amplification
The theme of pandemic contagion is a narrative element present in numerous entertainment products and contributes to building complex scenarios capable of feeding entire creative universes with strong apocalyptic, horrifying and survival connotations with diversified human groups, extensive geographical contexts, recursive mysteries and serial narrative branches. In the case of the synergic promotion of Infected, the contamination between the realistic contents of VICE and the thematic connections with the creative narration of Ubisoft expands the experience of the viewer-user by stimulating journalistic analysis, civic awareness, and desire for videogame interaction, intriguing the audience with themes that can also be traced back to direct experiences in the real world (known places and cities, social relationships, personal behavior) capable of involving also on an emotional level.[6]

The general concept of a pandemic includes 5 primary cardinal elements:

  • Pathogen
    The entity (biological, technological, unknown, paranormal) that triggers an infectious condition with negative, radical and irremediable global consequences.
  • Survivors
    Subjects, creatures or entities that survived the initial pandemic and the related civil crisis: the survivors are now fighting for the new existential balance.
  • Mutations
    Any unpredictable changes in the original pathogen, with radical changes in the initial global conditions and the subjects involved.
  • Origin
    The search for the triggering cause (scientific experiment, accident, cataclysm, terrorist attack) and related factors, with the aim of solving the mystery of the pandemic or solving a central problem.
  • Cure
    The discovery of an instrument (person, place, technology, entity) capable of healing from the pathogen or altering its characteristics, solving the biological emergency towards a new positive existential condition.

Like other Vice and Ubisoft promotional interventions, the Infected initiative has three main communicative functions:

  1. Information and awareness
    With the aim of informing the public about the global reality and especially in Canada, VICE offers a series of interviews with experts, scientists and citizens to document the methods of prevention and emergency in the event of a pandemic, presenting both the official administrative aspects and the private initiatives of citizens constantly in a state of alarm.
  2. Desire of gaming interaction
    As a potential victim of a likely pandemic, the user is invited to take part in the playful scenario by investigating the origin of the infection, becoming the witness of the entire survival period following the early stages of the pandemic as a predestined subject to discover important revelations on the cause of the global disaster.
  3. Scientific simulation
    The Collapse promotional domain invites users to become patient zero, the first subject affected by influence and responsible for global contagion. The experience, based on an interactive text adventure with satellite data and realistic mathematical models, makes the user aware of how easy it is to infect a geographical area, underlining the importance of the daily actions that we perform every day.

The end result is a combination of information and entertainment material that continues to testify to the sector trend of conceiving promotional collaborations based on immersive narratives with high levels of realism, creative contamination and engagement.

Global collapse — In an interconnected world, the complexity of telecommunications, transportation, and security systems highlight the high risk of a rapid and uncontrollable total crisis. Tom Clancy’s The Division’s first promotional video (P. Clair, 2013) metaphorically testifies to the infrastructural fragility of contemporary society, simulating the devastating and irremediable consequences in the event of a total crisis.
Pandemic and anarchy — After the collapse of government authority, New York City is now a scenario of uncontrolled violence. Criminals, fanatics and paramilitary militias have conquered entire neighborhoods, killing survivors in search of food and medicines. The initial speed-up sequence serves to describe the antecedent pandemic phase, the drama of the civilian crisis, and the resulting brutal anarchy. The backstory is then reconnected to the present time of the videogame world, entrusting the player / agent of the Strategic Homeland Division to save the survivors and recapture New York.
Viral simulations — Exploring the time interval preceding and interconnected to the videogame story of The Division, the promotional site Collapse operates as a realistic crisis simulator by calculating the risks of civil emergency in the event of a global pandemic using satellite data and real mathematical models. By impersonating the patient zero infected with a deadly virus, the user takes an interactive narrative path by deciding what actions to take to react to the symptoms (staying at home, going to the pharmacy or hospital, contacting another person, etc.) with the side effect of consciously promoting the contagion of millions of people and causing disastrous global effects. See Note: the interactive domain has been deactivated.
Rediscovered Diary — Written by Alex Irvine, New York Collapse (Chronicle Books, Melcher Media and Ubisoft, 2016) reproduces a survival manual that belonged to a young April Kelleher, survivor of the deadly pandemic that originated in New York. Through notes, underlining, comments, ambiguous clues, illustrations and extractable artifacts (notice of vaccination, public transport card, Manhattan map, disappearance poster, etc.) the reader relives April’s past and discoveries, decoding the secrets interconnected to the videogame story of The Division. Publishing initiatives continued for The Division 2 (Massive Entertainment / Ubisoft, 2019), with a trilogy of Dark Comics comics (Tom Clancy’s The Division: Extremis Malis) and a new novel by Alex Irvine, Tom Clancy’s The Division: Broken Dawn, where the reader finds the character of April Kelleher, who survived in New York and is now traveling to Washington with special agent Aurelio Diaz. See
Contaminated money — Connected to promotional materials, the initial video sequence visible in The Division makes explicit the criminal origin of the pandemic showing 6 key phases: 1) the premeditated bacteriological terrorist attack occurs during Black Friday, when the high flow of money exchanged and the large concentration of people on the move maximize the spread of the pathogen; 2) the growing number of cases of influenza causes a management emergency in the national health system, with critical care and structural blockages; 3) medicines and depleted food reserves generate panic, causing tension and unrest among the population; 5) the civil crisis is managed by sending the army to preside over New York, which has now become a terrain of violence and despair, and soon destined to collapse in an uncontrollable state of anarchy and abandonment.
Prevention Campaign — The Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (M. Reeves, 2014) promotional campaign included a fake public information announcement related to Simian Flu, the lethal flu originally transmitted by monkeys used for medical experiments. The video referred to a fake institutional site ( now deactivated) where a series of information was reported regarding the symptoms, the transmission methods and the prevention operations related to the flu. The pages also contained mock comments from likely Twitter profiles with communications and accusations against the US government, believed by some to be responsible for the disaster, fueling conspiracy theories.
War between species — In a likely chronology of events between 2011 and 2017, the global collapse associated with the spread of Simian Flu is shown, with tragic consequences for all humanity. The pandemic begins with a first infected person in transit in an airport, and then continues with prevention and containment measures, health, food and public order emergencies, until the suspension of the government’s civil authority: the world is now completely out control and prepare for a survival future among the surviving humans the evolved apes.

Notes list

[1] Official video description on VICE’s Youtube channel:
Is Canada at a risk to be hit by a major pandemic? We all know what the flu feels like. But what if you contracted a mutated flu virus so severe there’s a 40 percent chance you won’t survive? VICE speaks with medical experts convinced we may be overdue for a repeat of a virus similar to the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic that infected a third of the world’s population and wiped out 50 million people. On our journey we talk to an expert in mathematical modeling of disease and zombies, and pay a visit to the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg, the only lab of its kind in Canada, housing the most dangerous viruses in the world.

[2] Official video description on VICE’s Youtube channel:
VICE finds out how everyday people and the Canadian government are getting ready for the next pandemic In part two of Infected, VICE meets with preppers Robert Studer of Survival Central, and Bruce Beach of Ark2, one of the largest manmade underground bunkers in the world, to see how they’re getting ready for what could be the next super-flu pandemic. We also meet Dr. Camille Lemieux from Infection Prevention and Control Canada to find out how Canada is preparing in the event a deadly pandemic shows up on our doorsteps.

[3] The VICE episode also promotes an Ubisoft competition reserved for the Canadian public and dedicated to representing a scenario of civil crisis in Canada, expanding history beyond the borders of New York, the city at the center of Tom Clancy’s: The Division’s story. Artists, writers and players are invited to publish illustrations and texts by imagining the evolution of a pandemic in Canada, by visiting a special promotional domain (now deactivated). The result was a video obtained through a collaborative process between Ubisoft users and designers, testifying to the growing trend to involve the public in co-authorial initiatives.

[4] Official video description on Vice’s Youtube channel.

[5] See other sources:ì

[6] See

Study method and sources
This document is the result of a compilation process created with scientific and accessibility requirements. Special care has therefore been devoted to coherently structuring the texts and analysis sections, to selecting functional visual devices, and to providing verified information by correctly citing sources of documentation, with the final objective of sharing useful material for the purposes of study, criticism and information.

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The author releases the document through the license:

  • Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0.
    This allows third parties to share the published material indicating the origin, respecting the same type of original license and prohibiting the use for commercial purposes.

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