As video games permeate pop culture they raise a lot more questions to a much wider audience. Far Cry 5 is but the most recent example of this. One of these question is ‘should videogames be political’? Should they undermine and mock society, especially given the current turmoil the world is in? In a word, my answer is: Yes.
Far Cry 5 has ditched the tropical islands and war-torn small African nations in favour of rural America. And now could not be a more perfect time for it to have done so. Based on the information the trailer has already provided us, the game revolves around a militarised religious cult attempting to expand its flock in the fictional ‘Hope County’. A militia in Oregon last year managed to take over a federal building in protest over the perceived unfair treatment of two farmers at the hands of the federal government. How these men escaped the label of ‘terrorist’ is beyond me and I think Far Cry 5 offers a look at a potential future where these kinds of acts continue to go under the radar.
Charlie Brooker’s dystopian visions in Black Mirror are poignant because they offer glimpses into futures that aren’t many steps away from our present. Far Cry 5 presents us with a vision no different from this. All it takes is one charismatic leader to turn a simple militia with small goals into the militarised force seen in the trailers. A game like Far Cry 5 has the potential to tell millions of people about the dangers of religious extremism and cults. No longer is the enemy a nameless insurgent in some distant country. The enemy is your conservative neighbour stockpiling weapons and reinforcing their truck. The enemy is your local pastor who preaches hate, intolerance and violence instead of love, acceptance and peace. This game has the opportunity to show people that religious extremism comes in all languages, creeds and colours and that people should be looking for it in their own communities rather than demonising others.
Art has the ability to change the way we think about the world and videogames have a level of interactivity that’s not possible with other art forms
Games undermining the current status quo is nothing new in itself, Far Cry just did it more overtly by hitting so close to home for American, Christian and white gamers. Bioshock provides us with a fantastic critique of objectivism, The Last of Us forces gamers to question their very notions of humanity and GTA takes digs at the FBI, the government and American society and culture itself. Papers, Please can be read as a critique of many nations attempting to tighten their borders in order to curb immigration. As the player stamps visas and checks ID papers they realise their efforts are becoming more and more futile. The task is too difficult, the time is too sort and the people are too human. The entire notions of border controls and immigration policies are brought into question.
The series already has a legacy of bringing forward complex themes and questions of morality. Far Cry 3 had players watch as Jason Brody abandoned all his preconceived ideas of morality, humanity and success and he accepted a more primal version of himself, free from the shackles of modern society and expectation. Far Cry 4 presents us with a choice, not between the good and bad ending, but between a violent theocracy and an autocratic dictatorship. Whichever choice you make, you are not the great hero that comes to save the day, but something of a pawn to one person or the other.
Whether or not you agrees with the points made by these videogames is irrelevant to me. The point is that they are starting conversations and discussions on perhaps the most important issues of our generation. Art has the ability to change the way we think about the world and videogames have a level of interactivity that’s not possible with other art forms. I think the fact that some developers encourage people to challenge what they’re told or to simply show them a different perspective is fantastic and I look forward to seeing more games do it in the future. Hopefully Far Cry 5 will not buckle under the pressure, and will fully realise its potential to change the way we think and even the way we act.