By Daley Wilhelm

Last fall, Wolfenstein did it’s utmost to capitalize on the current culture by featuring a social media campaign fueled by unadulterated violence against Nazis—what Wolfenstein has always been about. Of course, that made the alt-right and all their Neo-Nazi leanings pretty upset. Punching Nazis is “morally wrong,” after all.

This spring, the much anticipated fifth installment of the Far Cry franchise left behind it’s exotic settings for something a little more domestic, something worryingly familiar: your all-American cult. The box art says it all with a tableau of the Eden’s Gate cult posed like the Last Supper—Jesus’ stand-in is the enigmatic Father, his apostles his zealous, gun-toting family.

Image from Polygon

Maybe it was because of the Father’s haircut and sunglasses, maybe because of the antagonist not being an ambitiously foreign, brown face, or maybe it was the modern Montana setting; whatever it was the game pissed off the alt-right. How dare video games make white people the bad guys.

Image of Alt-Right tears from Pedestrian

In the months leading up to Far Cry 5’s release, there was much speculation about the commentary the game might have on race relations in America. Teasers and trailers from the game featured cut-and-dry white supremacist imagery, complete with swaggering white guys with Southern accents lamenting about the moral decline of America. Surely, the game’s story would have something to say about the polarized tensions in the current political climate.

Far Cry 5 delivers on fun gameplay and an immersive open world, but not so much on a relevant narrative to today’s issues. Unless you want to count the allusion to Trump’s waterworks sex tape.

Regardless of the plot shying away from the messages that could have made it “the most controversial game of the Trump era,” the game is about a cult, which is something the cultural consciousness often forgets is still relevant. Eden’s Gate resembles some radical groups based in America, and setting Montana as their stage is no coincidence.

Image from the Southern Poverty Law Center

Some background on Montana culture—being a large, wide and culturally isolated state certain ideologies have had room to flourish without outside influence. One of these is that citizens as “sovereign” or the idea of Montana being a separate entity from the rest of the United States—Montana sovereignty.

According to the FBI, sovereign citizens are anti-government extremists who claim that even though they physically live within the United States, they are separate from it. Sovereign, and thus not beholden to the same laws of the land. According to some creepy blogs that popped up during Obama’s first term, states considered declaring sovereignty and getting the federal government to “butt out.” Montana being one of them.

Image from The Advocate

Montana’s sovereignty or being a sovereign citizen is at the core of paramilitary groups such as the Militia of Montana or the Montana Freemen, which Eden’s Gate may be based upon. The Montana Freemen identify as an anti-government Christian Patriot movement who believe in individual sovereignty and of course the New World Order conspiracy.

Eden’s Gate is running around with big guns and disregard for the government at large, they’ve taken over Hope County as their own, but at it’s core is a new take on Christianity that’s not really all that new. The Christian Patriot movement was associated with the David Koresh’s cult in Waco, Texas. Father Joseph Seed has been accused already of baring an ideological resemblance to Koresh.

Eden’s Gate is vaguely Evangelical—the prayers, the churches, and the river baptisms all speak to the open-palmed Southern spiritual Christianity that’s familiar. Add in the paramilitary aspects Montana already hosts and you have your antagonist for the game, which in the end, is kind of lazy.

Image from the Far Cry Wikia

The problem with Far Cry 5 and its cult is that the game dabbles—it hints at political tensions, tiptoes around real life issues, and gestures at actual cults and extremist groups. It does not commit: not to a message or a concrete ideology. This makes for a shallow lore, when players were expecting a deeper world and darker background to explore.

In an interview with Rolling Stone, academic Dr. Alexandra Stein who has published books on cults and cultish behavior criticized the game for reducing cults to caricature. Cutting corners in representation made Eden’s Gate a simple evil. There’s no way the average person would get embroiled in it, and the cult has to resort to science-defying drugs to keep the masses docile. The real horror of cults is that people voluntarily place themselves in the community and the way they are draw into such extremist ideologies.

Doomsday or the end being neigh are easy to preach about in modern times—but what makes Eden’s Gate brand convincing? What’s their hook? Ubisoft said they had written a “bible” to correspond with the inner workings of the cult, but the gameplay itself reveals little as to what’s so appealing about their pseudo-Evangelical ideology.

It’s honestly murky where religion comes into Eden’s Gate. They’re a militia who are rankled by the government for “forgetting the middle class” and are convinced the Wild West is on its way back. Giving it a thin veneer of religious justification doesn’t do much except for cheapen the apparent research gone into the game.

Far Cry 5 might be remembered more for what could have been. It could have been controversial, a game born out of dark, divisive times in America and rooted in a real past an present of extremist movements in Montana. Instead it’s a good game with a shallow story and flimsy background. It looks great, but that quality is only skin deep.

Sources: Byte, Twitter, Polygon, Daily O, FBI, Wikipedia, Rolling Stone

Images: Twitter, PolygonPedestrianSouthern Poverty Law CenterThe AdvocateFar Cry Wikia


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