This week, video game developer Ubisoft released this image. It’s a still of the villains of the newest installment of their popular action franchise Far Cry:It’s a surprising move, but one that shows an interesting trend in the politics of the series, and raises some interesting questions that don’t usually come up about blockbuster video games.
I present to you the trailer, though I should warn you, it contains some violent content:
For those unfamiliar, Far Cry is an action-adventure series where you are dropped into a fixed location (usually exotic, often fictional) that has been occupied by some sort of antagonistic armed force. It’s your job, as the player, to liberate this location from its oppressors. This is accomplished by destroying fortresses and completing missions for various rebellious factions.
I’ve completed Far Cry 3 and 4 (I don’t have a current-generation console, so I skipped the prehistoric spin-off Far Cry Primal), and I can personally confirm that they are very, very fun games. Far Cry 3 received critical acclaim, and for good reason, but it did catch some flack for its representational issues. This is notable in its female characters, as well as it’s white male protagonist, who the player controls, and who is encouraged to mow down waves of South-Asian looking enemies.
It also plays into some unfortunate stereotypes about “exotic” women of colour, detailed in the first few minutes of this video, which again, features some explicit content:
With Far Cry 4 however, I noticed a big improvement in the game’s cultural awareness. Female characters with power and agency were all over the game, often written with the depth and moral ambiguity of the male characters. The protagonist was also mixed race, half native to the fictional Himalayan setting. Everything seemed like a step in the right direction, representation-wise, even if the game itself was not quite as good.
Now comes Far Cry 5, which arrives at an intersection of several “discussions” currently happening around the internet. The villains appear to be some sort of right-wing religious cult, which brings up a few questions. Namely, is it okay to make a game where the villains are essentially Trump supporters? Are we justified in enjoying beating on these characters?
This reminds me of the debate among the left a few months ago, when Neo-Nazi Richard Spencer was punched in the face on the street.
Many liberals condemned the action as a part of the same political violence that Spencer was promoting. Others, myself included, thought it was funny and entirely justified. Spencer was advocating Nazism, literal genocide, and I believe there are some beliefs that should get you punched. The world was unable to reason with the Nazis the first time, and attempting to “debate” them only allowed them more time to commit atrocities. Some people just can’t be reasoned with.
I’m aware how dangerous this line of thinking is. My last article for this website argued that violence usually creates more violence and is a fantastical way of solving problems. I believe that, but I also believe that an exception can be made for literal, actual Nazis. The violence of the Nazis was often bureaucratic and out of sight, and making open supporters of that movement afraid to go outside, isn’t random assault. For Jews, gays, and other minorities, it’s self defense. I also think this exception can be extended to white supremacists of all stripes, like the characters who appear to be the villains of the game.
So I, for one, am excited to shoot some virtual white supremacists, and I think it will be a nice change for video games, a medium all too comfortable with its in-game enemies being black and brown people.
It’s also entirely possible that I’m making all the wrong assumptions from that image and trailer, and that the villains are a religious cult with no ties to Nazism, the Confederacy, or white supremacy. If that’s the case, I’ll probably still get the game. But just so I can reenact my favourite scenes from Justified.