Far Cry 4: The Potentials And Pitfalls Of Race

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Far Cry 4 is probably one of my most anticipated games right now. I’m probably going to do multiple blog posts on my hopes and expectations for the game, but for right now I’m gonna focus on the controversy already surrounding the box art and what it might mean for the game’s subject matter. People are afraid Ubisoft will do something really stupid and offensive, but I think within lies a nice opportunity I’m afraid the writers will miss.

If you haven’t seen it (and can’t see the image here), the box art basically shows what looks like a white guy in a purple suit sitting on a throne next to a kneeling Asian man who’s holding a pinless grenade. It’s presumably a representation of slavery over some non-whites, and no matter how you look at it it’s pretty messed-up. Ubisoft may have even changed by now judging by the limited edition cover I just saw, or may change it later on.

Judging by the press release, which reveals only a little about the story, the throne guy on the cover is likely FC4’s antagonist — a self-imposed king who’s oppressing the local people. Where it goes from there depends on the game’s other characters, but first I have to ask why they’d use that as a box art.

If the white guy on the cover is indeed FC4’s antagonist then we’re not really supposed to like him. In that context the image is supposed to evoke revulsion, but then why would it be the box art? That kind of feeling isn’t gonna attract someone browsing a GameStop or Wal-Mart. The other possibility is that we’re supposed to see the antagonist as a badass, similar to Far Cry 3 antagonistVaas who was probably the most popular character in that game. Giving the same kind of treatment to what we’ve seen of FC4 so far though would backfire for aforementioned reasons.

One main reason a lot of people are afraid is because of Far Cry 3, which was pretty much as classic “Mighty Whitey” tale. It’s very nearly Dances With Wolves whether or not the writers say it’s supposed to be satirical. To make things worse its protagonist is an annoying rich kid. Ubisoft has shown the capability to create likeable protagonists when it tries (Assassin’s Creed II, the older Splinter Cell games) and even respectable protagonists that fall outside the standard white male archetype (Assassin’s Creed, Assassin’s Creed III, Assassin’s Creed Liberation, Beyond Good And Evil, Prince of Persia). Unfortunately they also fall into boring cookie-cutter patterns too (Far Cry 3, recent Tom Clancy games, potentially Watch_Dogs). I can only hope they do something interesting with FC4’s protagonist.

And this brings me to that interesting opportunity I hoping beyond hope Ubisoft grabs: I really hope the main character of Far Cry 4 is a Gurkha.

If you don’t know what a Gurkha is, they’re basically a Nepalese warrior tribe that was brought into the British Empire’s classification of “Martial Races” and has since been fighting wars from World War II to Afghanistan. Here are some real life examples of Gurkha exploits: http://www.badassoftheweek.com/index.cgi?search=1&tag=Gurkha

We know FC4 will take place around Nepal, and kneeling guy on the cover sports what I am told is a Gurkha insignia on his chest. I’d be shocked if Ubisoft didn’t involve Gurkhas in some way in this game. I’m just wondering how. In any case, in my opinion it’s an opportunity for Ubisoft to put cool characters in a game that aren’t quite like what most people have seen. It’s an opportunity to do something a bit fresh but still badass.

Of course we probably won’t know much about FC4’s story or even the rest of the game until E3. It’s definitely one the games I’ll be most looking out for.

BULLETS:

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