Recently a certain contingent of people on the interwebz have been up in arms about the apparently racist box art of Far Cry 4. The box art, as shown above, features a light-skinned man patting the head of a darker-skinned man in a clearly subservient position. Alex Hutchinson, the creative director of the game, clarified on Twitter, saying “Just so it’s clear for those jumping to conclusions: He’s not white and that’s not the player.” So there you have it. Verdict: Not racist. But (assuming that the man is indeed the villain), would it be so unimaginable if it was?
You may be saying to yourself “Racism? That’s terrible! Of course people should be upset if there’s a racist character!” I don’t really think you sound like that, but work with me. This is the bad guy. The villain. The object of the game, at the end of the day, is most likely to put a bullet in his head. Should he not offend some of our sensibilities? We play games full of mass-murderers and tyrants. We witness horrors and are filled with righteous indignation, and we run off to start our own little genocides against the forces of evil. If a character in a game can sacrifice people on a whim, would it be such a stretch of the imagination to see that person having some irrational prejudices as well?
Far Cry has never been a series for children. There’s an M on the box for a reason. In a time when video games are being forced to prove time and again that they are just as valid a medium of art as cinema, or books, we shouldn’t being shying away from real world things. If a movie can confront concepts like racism and discrimination, why not a video game? Developers should be able to explore these harsher aspects of life without fear that they themselves will be decried as bigots. Pretending that racism does not exist makes it no less real, and stifling its discussion only serves to slow progress.
If you played Far Cry 3, you most definitely remember a character named Vaas. There’s probably a picture of him next to the word “Insane” in the dictionary. I wouldn’t be surprised if he hated any particular race. Nothing else he does is rational or logical, why would that be any different? Racism is viewed as an especially negative thing by everyone but racists. It seems to me that it would be a desirable trait to ascribe to any character you want to play the role of the villain.
I’m really looking forward to Far Cry 4. If it’s anything like the previous game, it’ll be a visceral, intense, and fun experience. It’ll also have a despicable and enrapturing villain. And I like it that way. I want to explore darker themes and know that my character if fighting for more than just his or her own survival. We can’t bar a topic from being addressed just because it’s uncomfortable. In fact, I’d say that’s all the more reason to bring it to the forefront.