I Have No Faith in Far Cry 5
Far Cry 5’s reveal was drenched in politics. The cover image recreated Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper but replaced it with rural Americans surrounded by weapons of death. Stars on the flag are replaced with the cult’s icon. Far Cry 5 was presented as a game that would seemingly tackle our obsession with guns as well as the danger of the alt-right.
Instead the enemy faction was presented as a non-partisan doomsday cult. This group gathered followers through the charisma of its leader, and the newest iteration of Far Cry’s love-to-hate antagonists: Joseph Seed. Believing himself to be divinely chosen to lead, Joseph Seed sends his cult, Project Eden’s Gate, to “save” as many souls as possible. Whether or not they are willing doesn’t matter. As Project Eden’s Gate has taken over fictional Hope County, Montana, the federal government responds by sending you, the customizable rookie protagonist, in with some other officers to arrest Seed. Things obviously go wrong and you are left to begin creating a local #Resistance movement to, “bring the fanatical cult to justice.”
Setting the cult in the rural area of Montana, taking advantage of evangelical iconography, and having a cult and other NPC’s armed to the teeth with lethal weapons but ignoring that each of these things have a major place in conservative politics is disingenuous. Montana is a state that has voted Republican in presidential elections since 1952 in all but two elections, with the latest exception being Bill Clinton in 1992. In the latest election Trump won by a margin that hasn’t been enjoyed since Bush in 2004. Likewise, conservatives always have the Evangelical vote, and are supported by the NRA with millions in campaign funds. Far Cry 5 and Ubisoft have not shown a willingness to engage with the fact that its setting and characters are conservative-based and what else that support entails. Instead they have a cult that is surprisingly inclusive, not discriminating membership on race or income but instead welcoming all into the fold.
Having a cult that draws heavily from conservative platforms but ignoring the long history of racism that platform has promoted is wrong. Conservative politics have included gerrymandering districts and passing voter ID laws based on the lie of voter fraud in order to suppress the black vote. Republicans have no interest in curbing police brutality against minorities and instead want to further militarize our police force. Our borders need to be closed off to non-whites and other undesirables under the guise of security. Food stamps that feed the (largely black) poor are a drain on the federal budget but not the billions paid to (largely white) farmers to protect the soil used. These policies reflect the character of those who make up counties like the fictional one in Far Cry 5, and choosing not to reflect that betrays their claim of authenticity.
Ubisoft shouldn’t be able to pick and choose what parts of American culture it wants to emulate and draw from. They want to talk about Cliven Bundy and his standoff against the federal government but don’t want to also bring in his views on how blacks had it better under slavery than with government subsidies. They want to give off the feeling of fanaticism that followed Charles Manson but not the fact that he believed in an upcoming race war between whites and blacks. They want the diversity of the People’s Temple without acknowledging that blacks were attracted to that movement because of its version of socialism. Far Cry 5 picks and chooses what aspects of cult movements it wants to partake in instead of being a genuine representation. Developers haven’t even named specific cults as their source of reference in interviews, showing an unwillingness to discuss that aspect of their research and instead have experts talk about Eden’s Gate in vague terms.
Not that Far Cry is a series renowned for its handling of themes. Far Cry 3 was about a white college kid leading natives in revolt against the oppressors they couldn’t topple on their own. Far Cry 4 talked frequently about the consequences choices can lead to despite having the same outcome for every choice you could have made. Why am I not surprised to see that Far Cry 5 wants to take advantage of the imagery of rural America but not the insidious beliefs that lie beneath it? Each game has been a power fantasy that had shallow representations for its place of location, and Far Cry 5 hasn’t shown anything to differentiate it from that trend.
Despite not wanting to talk specifics in regards to politics, a quest giver in Far Cry 5 uses the specific phrase, “Obama loving libtards” when assigning the playable character a quest, making his views clear. Why would I as the player character, one who is customizable and silent in order for the player to wholly insert themselves, help him? He’s running for Senate and needs you to help his campaign despite the fact that we most likely do not share the same views. This forced cooperation may speak to Ubisoft’s attempt to portray the need for alliances across party lines in service of fighting a greater threat (Project Eden’s Gate), especially given the goal of forming a resistance of many different people groups to combat Seed and his cult. If this is true, it shows hypocrisy in that a forced ally can hold conservative viewpoints but the enemy isn’t for fear of offending Republican players. Continuing the trend of picking and choosing images for their own use, a random NPC featured in Waypoint’s coverage of Far Cry 5 has a shirt that is definitely taken from Obama’s 2008 campaign. However, don’t ask developers about Joseph Seed’s voting record as that part of the character is deemed unimportant.
Even when it comes to the topic of cults overall, I doubt Far Cry 5 will address some elements seen in many, such as the sexual abuse of not only women within the group but children as well. Founders of cults have often been cast out of previously established organizations, religious or not, for their perversions and criminal behavior. They use their newfound power over cult members to once again commit heinous acts against their followers who can’t fight back out of fear of excommunication from the one place they felt welcomed and safe. Knowing the general unwillingness video games at large have when it comes to confronting sexual acts when compared to other forms of violence I doubt Far Cry 5 will approach this subject, despite its presence in major cults.
Ubisoft wants to pick and choose what represents a location like Hope County, and by doing so betray their attempts to ground the power fantasy of the Far Cry series in something realistic.