A Look At The Far Cry 5 Controversy: Should We Be Up In Arms?
The Far Cry series has traveled far and wide from its roots of exploring an island filled with mercs and then taking a crazy sci-fi turn halfway through the first game. Its even strayed a long way from the series-defining third entry (arguably the best of the bunch), which had me absolutely salivating at the prospect of getting to punch a shark in the face after seeing those commercials way back in 2012.
There was an actual charge of excitement in the air here in my home state when camera crews showed up to shoot a commercial that was widely rumored to be for Far Cry 5.
The resulting short clip -- featuring a man's head being banged against a church bell in the wide open Montana landscape -- had more than a slight feeling of Outlast 2 meeting the Far Cry guerrilla war formula. That feeling was further fueled by the full announcement trailer that arrived not long after.
That excitement was less palpable in the online reaction from series fans, with more than a few expressions of disbelief as people who have never been here wondered just what the heck is so scary about Montana? Could anyone really get into a huge shootout without the whole world immediately knowing about it, or could a resistance believably engage in guerrilla warfare against a militia group?
And of course, in today's everyone-is-offended culture, a certain segment of the gaming populace wasn't thrilled with who the bad guys are in this entry of the series, taking to social media to make their outrage public.
Montana -- We're Scarier Than You Think!
For those who aren't aware of the scale, Montana is a huge, wide-open area that takes the better part of a day to traverse by highway at 100 MPH (that's one of our state's biggest killers by the way -- with hundreds of deaths a year as people do exactly that).
In terms of size, you could fit all of the U.K. into Montana, with room to spare. The state is also perfect for the standard Far Cry trope of hunting animals for crafting components, as we are filled to the brim with wildlife of all sorts -- and plenty of it can eat you.
There are a ton of out-of-the-way places here where the Far Cry 5 scenario of a fringe separatist group could easily occur. Nearly everyone in the state is already armed, and we have plenty of religious fanatics of all stripes.
If you aren't super familiar with Montana history (and why would you be?) we had the Freemen and can sadly lay claim to both the Unabomber and Richard Spencer -- yes, the Richard Spencer from Nazi punching memes. We can also own up to infamous cannibal and serious killer Nathaniel Bar-Jonah -- who actually lived in my town.
People think of Montana as a conservative Christian bastion – and it is – but the typical concept of evangelical or Catholic Christianity is certainly not all we have here in terms of religious groups.
There's a massive Buddhist gathering in the summer that takes place in the middle of nowhere, and of course we've hosted the Rainbow Gathering. Montana is also home to many Hutterite colonies that still live like its the 1800s -- and in some of those colonies, girls literally can't sit on the same side of the room as boys in classrooms or churches.
In other words, between the hodge-podge of religious groups and massive surface area for seclusion, Montana is sort of the perfect location for Far Cry-style shenanigans.
There's No Room To Be Offended Here
Fair warning: I'm going to get political on you here. For those who prefer to keep their gaming free of that sort of thing -- well, no hard feelings. We'll see you down at the next section of this article.
As a Montana resident, I'm baffled by the conservative and religious groups who are up in arms about the storyline and imagery of Far Cry 5. Headlines like the one below sadly equate the extremist antagonists of the game with Joe Republican.
But frankly, even the more mainstream conservatives in Montana have no room to be upset by the notion that they are pro-violence. To be clear, that's not hyperbole from a liberal -- that's a fact that was clearly observed just last month.
One day before our special election to replace representative Ryan Zinke – who was named Secretary of the Interior earlier this year – Republican contender for the seat Greg Gianforte grabbed a reporter by the throat and repeatedly punched him for demanding an answer about Gianforte's stance on a healthcare bill.
Rather than tanking or even mildly hurting Gianforte's chances, that act appears to have secured his victory in the election the next day, with rank-and-file conservative voters here openly expressing support for his violent assault on the free press. Our state-wide news outlets on social media were flooded with comments in support of the crime.
The situation gets worse when you pivot away from the national party candidates and move over to the fringe. We have more than our fair share of the “don't tread on me” crowd that actively stockpiles weapons and believes the government controls the weather through HAARP.
Think of the farm level from the original Homefront, and you aren't too far off from some of our residents. Remember the Bundy wildlife refuge occupation from early 2016? We're way overdue for something like that – expect it to hit the headlines before too long.
Extremists Are Not The Baseline
Besides the previously mentioned anti-government extremist Christian Freemen group, I suspect the specific antagonists in this entry are based on the real life Church Universal And Triumphant -- another cult right here in Montana that has actually built underground bunkers and stockpiled weapons.
Many of the more level-headed gamers were quick to point out something that the outraged crowd seems to have completely missed: having a fringe extremist part of a religion as a game's bad guy is not an assault on that religion. In fact, the head of the resistance against Far cry 5's fringe cult is a pastor of a more mainstream church.
The fact that people felt they were being targeted by this game is actually rather disturbing, as it indicates they identify with the extremist fringe being depicted, and not with the mainstream center of their particular religious and political affiliation.
One would hope much of that outrage is less than serious, and it does seem like Poe's Law is in full effect with the official petition to cancel the title or change the game's setting and antagonist.
It is entirely unclear if the petition was started by an actually unhinged, hypocritical extremist or if someone on the other side of the political spectrum is making fun of unhinged, hypocritical extremists. Just take a gander at this head-scratching section of the petition:
Enough is enough UbiSoft. We’ve sat through your multicultural lectures and your preachy games aimed at degenerates and miscegenators. We’ve tolerated it in the name of gameplay design and innovation. But no more! Far Cry 5 is an insult to your fanbase, the Americans who make up the majority of your customers, and it’s time you woke up to that fact. Change this, or cancel it.
It’s time to draw a line in the sand. We, the American gamers that make up the majority of your userbase, demand to you cancel this game, or alter it to be less offensive to your main player base. In these times, you must understand that there might be some violent repercussions if you intend to follow through with your pointless criticism.
Change the villains. It’s not so hard, really. Just change the villains to something more realistic. Islam is on the rise in America, as is the violence of inner city gangs. Are you scared to do so? In the words of Boltair – “To learn who rules you, simply find out who’s not being criticized.”
The notion that gamers shouldn't be shooting at digital targets of a certain skin color, nationality, or religious background because America is somehow blameless in all things is beyond ludicrous.
Homegrown extremism exists, there's no denying that. And Americans kill other Americans far, far, far more often than foreign terrorists or soldiers from other nations. It makes sense that eventually they will be the focus of an FPS.
It's Just A Game, Far Crying Out Loud
All of this outrage and resulting push back is predicated on the notion that Far Cry 5 is trying to make some sort of blanket statement or take a swipe at any given Trump voter, and I'm not convinced that is actually the case.
The second half of the announcement trailer, when the banjo comes in and the Dukes Of Hazzard-style car chase kicks in, is getting seriously overlooked here. Even if it has an undertone of religious and political extremism, it seems clear the game is going to be a big, dumb action fest where the antagonists this time just happen to be flag-waving hillbillies.
Was Far Cry Primal a declaration of ill intent against cave men and sabre-tooth tigers? Was its predecessor an assault on the people of Tibet? Should Just Cause 2's ludicrous explosive mayhem have been seen as a legitimate complaint against the nature of southeast Asian nation states?
The simple fact can't be avoided that first-person shooters need someone to be shot at -- and we've already got plenty of games where you gun down people in the Middle East, or Africa, or Nazi Germany, or the jungles of South America, or Asia, or Mediterranean islands, or the urban sprawl of huge American cities.
There's no reason rural Montana and its oddball inhabitants shouldn't get their day in the crosshairs.