Racism at Ubisoft? – Far Cry Primal

Far Cry Primal cover artI play video games in my free time, and decided to try Far Cry Primal. You start out as a young black male — bit of a shift for me, because I prefer to play as a female when the option is offered. In Far Cry Primal, it isn’t. I mention the race of the MC here because it becomes an issue later in this post, so it’s relevant going in.

First, though, let’s establish the setting, because the setting plays into this enormously.

The game starts well. You learn to kill a Woolly Mammoth, pick up the torch for your fallen leader, head out into the wilderness to rescue your people and bring them together.

So. What does Introduction With Woolly Mammoth tell you?

That this story takes place in the temperate northern hemisphere. Start with the Woolly Mammoth’s largest distribution. This is all the area in which Woolly Mammoths appeared.

North America, Northern Europe, Northern Asia. Africans didn’t travel directly to North America (no land bridge — the only one of those was between Northern Asia and North America).

So eliminate North America as the possible location of this story.

So far, so good. At this point, it can take place at any point in northern Europe or Northern Asia, both places with large northern hardwood forests.

The game offers some in-depth resource collection and crafting mechanics. Its primitive-weapons hunting system is good. Nice weapon accuracy, relatively straightforward construction.

So far, I was having fun with the game.

The problem came a lot of hours in, when something that had been pinging at the back of my brain suddenly moved frontward.

Along with all the big predators chomping on you with astonishing regularity, there were these Crazed Neanderthal Killers who came out of the brush to attack with homicidal mania, intent on slaughtering you and all the women and children you were trying to rescue.

And while all the good folks in the story are dark-skinned, every fucking Neanderthal-esque nightmare of homicidal insanity is a light-skinned, kinda-hairy Northern European dude.

Why do I now stake the location in Northern Europe specifically?

Because here’s the known range of the Neanderthal — Northern Europe and the Middle East — and while the skin color of the Neanderthals through its extended range is pure conjecture, LOGICAL conjecture notes that the purpose of very light skin is to toughen skin and nails by increasing keratin, and to facilitate the absorption of Vitamin D in low-light areas.

The Middle East is gets sunlight pretty much straight on. Northern Europe gets it at a sharp angle where more bounces off the atmosphere, and has half a year when it doesn’t get sunlight for all that many hours. (Used to live in Alaska — I learned how this stuff worked when I was nine and ten.)

Very light skin has zero survival value in places that get sunlight straight on.

So by process of elimination, this is Northern Europe.

So here’s the actual story. Africans are invading the homes of Northern Europeans.

So this story is actually about Hairy White Neanderthal dudes who are attacking the invaders to protect their homes and families, told from the point of view of the invaders who are portrayed as heroes.

However, there are no Neanderthal women or Neanderthal children in the game (at least as far in as I played). I guess including them would have made a bit more obvious the racism built into the game. If you were also slaughtering the light-skinned women and children along with the big white guys, someone might make a fuss about that.

But — and again, I have to note that I ditched this game pretty early in — (contrary to archeology and DNA testing, which demonstrate that the Neanderthals interbred with modern humans, and vice versa, across three separate “out of Africa” migrations) when you portray pale-skinned Neanderthal males as crazed killers who must be slaughtered by the dark-skinned heroes, everyone is apparently okay with that.

I looked all over the web for anyone else who had noticed this, and there wasn’t a peep.

Then I tried imagining what would have been the response if the invaders had been white, and the homicidal maniacs protecting their territory while being portrayed as the villains had been black, and I know damn well there would have been a public outcry that would have brought Ubisoft to its knees.

Deservedly so.

My question is this:

Why hasn’t Ubisoft been called out before now for THIS egregious racism?

There is NO acceptable racism.

My response? I have taken the only three options that are given to me.

  1. I bought the game as downloadable content. I can’t get a refund. So I deleted it from my PS4.

  2. I will never buy another game from Ubisoft.

  3. I am posting this review in the hopes of bringing this game and its contents to the attention of others who disapprove of racism. At this point it’s too late to hope that the review could affect the number of sales of Primal. But noting Ubisoft’s racist content in this game might negatively affect sales of its future games.

 

While I welcome comments on this article, READ THE BLOG RULES ON POSTING

If I would have found things changing had I played longer, and if the story got to a place where the indigenous folks and the invaders were living in harmony together and interbreeding to build a new and better humanity, let me know. I’ll re-upload the game, play through to the part where it gets good, and withdraw my comments and observations.

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About the author: Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and self-publish my new ones.

18 comments… add one
  • EuropaLives Mar 21, 2019 @ 7:12

    You are the about the only person I could find online who felt the way I did after playing Far Cry Primal for the first time today. The game is incredibly racist! The good people are “diverse” (mostly brown/black) while so far in the game all the bad people are white. At first I thought it would be a diverse game with all the races showing up in the all the tribes (even though that biologically makes no sense) but was shocked when its really just brown “heroes” against cannibal whites. Its as if the people at Ubisoft had a Freudian slip and their anti-white prejudice came out and they somehow missed it. I don’t know if I can keep playing the game and might try to refund it.

    I’m tired of: 1. Brown washing of White history (Europeans 10,000 years ago were White, eg. bodies we’ve found frozen in ice) 2. Anti-white racism: Homogenus white tribes are the “bad guys” 3. Leftist propaganda that ignores biology (“diversity” is the enemy of true diversity, a mixed race tribe would all be a shade of brown within a few generations)

    • Holly Mar 21, 2019 @ 13:02

      I’m tired of skin color being a divider. It’s an evolutionary response to the angle of sunlight and the hours of sun available at any given time, and how that sunlight affects your ability to absorb Vitamin D.

      As such, it’s a bullshit thing to build hatred around.

  • James Apr 1, 2018 @ 15:25

    This game was portrayed exactly how it was meant. If you would continue to play you would see that the MC killed Neanderthals because they were the invaders attempting to colonize their territory. Ubisoft likes to dabble in controversial world issues and African colonization is where they took this idea.

    • Holly Apr 2, 2018 @ 8:13

      Got a little lost on pronouns in the sentence above. Paleolithic Africans never made it to Northern Europe, and Neanderthals never left Northern Europe and bits of the Mediterranean.

      The game obviously takes place in northern Europe — landscape, trees, and wildlife all fit.

      So Iā€™m guessing that you meant that the game was supposed to be that Africans were the invaders. And Neanderthals were the folks being invaded? So the game was intentionally about the genocide of an indigenous people?

      Sounds about right for Ubisoft.

  • Laura Lundy Apr 22, 2017 @ 22:01

    Ubisoft Montreal makes Assassin’s Creed. The premise of the game is that the Muslim Assassins are defending something precious from the Templars. At the beginning of the game there is a disclaimer stating that the game was made by a multi-racial, multi-ethnic team and that no disrespect was intended to anyone (just paraphrasing, not quoting here). It seems odd that on one hand you have a game that throws in a disclaimer like that, and on another one that appears racist and both are made by the same company. Its a GREAT game, btw.

    My thought is that they didn’t think things through past – our hero will be black because that goes against the grain of most games. Most games I’ve played where there is a human character that cannot be changed has been a white male.

    Of course I am an rose-colored glasses sort of person, so I could easily be very wrong.

    One question, though – does the game take place on Earth?

    • Holly Apr 28, 2017 @ 9:32

      One question, though ā€“ does the game take place on Earth?

      Yes.Same as all the other Far Cry stuff. My thought on this is that they were very careful not to offend Muslims, but didn’t give a damn about offending white guys, because white guys are now the acceptable scapegoat. So there was no such disclaimer.

  • Betty Apr 22, 2017 @ 17:55

    While some Neanderthals did interbreed with Sapiens in the distant past, most of them were wiped out over the course of history. Sapiens arrivals in Neanderthal areas coincided with the extinction of a vast majority of Neanderthals.

    You are more Sapiens than Neanderthal, skin colour aside, and the legacy of our species is a brutal, bloody one. Insofar as the game chose to spin it in a gross, political fashion, glorifying the wiping out of an entirely different human subspecies, well, perhaps. I agree with you that is definitely disgusting and worthy of critique.

    But the fact that you seem to personally identify with the Neanderthal, who probably constitutes 2.5% of your DNA, rather than the dark-skinned Sapiens, whom you are a larger descendant of, and whom is responsible for the creation of economic markets, democratic institutions, literature, and all those prizes of civilisation you admire, seemingly on the basis of being “visually white”, shows your own skin tone bias.

    • Holly Apr 28, 2017 @ 9:35

      I don’t personally identify with either. But I do have a white husband and two white sons, and I dislike the fact that a bunch of groups claiming to be in favor of equality for everyone make a point of meaning everyone but white males.

  • Nashira Lyons Apr 21, 2017 @ 14:15

    I’m not a gamer, but my entertainment media rules are strict: an active female or POC protagonist and I’ll maybe give you some of my money. No woman? No POC? You don’t get my money.

    I will watch a documentary of just white dudes battling each other during the War of the Roses. And I’ll read a non-diverse book about the creation of the Great Recession. But something that is fiction? I vote with my money.

    Put a white savior movie star in DancesWithLastSamuraiGreatWall? Fine. Just don’t expect me to buy a ticket. I recently turned off a family film via our streaming service because an Asian-American actor had to use a ridiculous “Chinese” accent to be “funny.” I don’t begrudge him having to take the work, but neither do I want my daughter internalising the idea that everyone Asian in the US is some sort of foreigner.

    I’m sorry you had to waste your dollars, Holly. But I think the only thing we can do is be careful where we spend or click and let our friends/family know when we find something offensive or just plain unimaginative and not worth our time.

  • Chalan Johnson Apr 20, 2017 @ 0:25

    Hi Holly. First, I want to say thank you. I have been watching this site for a decade and a half, and have valued everything you’ve taught me over the years.

    Second, I too am a gamer. I actually bought No Man’s Sky after reading your thoughts on the game. I bought it right after that, and though I haven’t beat the game, I do adore it, and how it’s grown with the additional patches.

    Now, here’s were things get a bit dicey. I have always wondered how to separate products from creators. For example, I adored the movie Ender’s Game. I though it had some really neat ideas and executions of those ideas. So, I bought the book to see how it is in comparison to the movie. However, I know many people who won’t ever read from him because of homophobic statements he’s said ect. I own the book. It wouldn’t hurt him or help anyone for me to not have the book. I do intend to read the book, even though I will not likely get further books from him. Less because of his views, though that is a factor, but honestly, more because I feel that if he doesn’t agree or accept people not like him, he is unlikely to write them, and thus will have a muted and minimized cast as a result.

    How this applies to Ubisoft.
    I am a gamer. I love games, the stories in them, and the mechanics of them. I obviously don’t like or approve of racism. I’m the type of person who tries to remind others that racism isn’t something that just happens to people of color, but to all people. If this had been reversed, I agree that more people would be up in arms about this game. For me, I wasn’t particularly inclined to get the game, but now with this information, I wouldn’t ever buy it.

    But, and when you said that you would never buy another ubisoft game my mind went to a couple places really quick.

    The first place was, what games do they make? Because, depending on the game, I might not be will to not buy their games. My reason for this involved two main things, regardless of the choices that one game, with one game publisher might make, there may be other amazing games that have better people creating them than the team that made Far Cry who don’t deserve to be shunned because they are with a group that isn’t the best. My second reason for this was much more selfish. I don’t want to miss out on something I might love because some, not all, people are morally repugnant.

    I do acknowledge that if you are with a resist/sexist(Insert ist) company, then you are in a way condoning the behavior and the same goes for the consumer. To that I would say, that there is no way to fully remove ones self from people/company that are small minded. Depending on where you work, or where you buy your groceries, clothes, ect. You may not be able to distance yourself completely.

    The second thing I thought of immediately after wondering what games they make, is whether this was intentionally meant to be racist, or simply the product of several poor decisions, and a deeply confuse and politically correct society. I think its very possible that they needed to be able to have easily identifiable good vs bad guys, and didn’t go the other route, darker skinned being attacked by lighter skin to avoid backlash, and mistakenly thought that the other way would be better received. In our culture, people don’t make black jokes so they don’t offend black people, but they allow the reverse because they think its less bad, or not bad at all. This can be applied to skinny women verse curvy woman as well. Call curvy fat and your vilified, but a large person says a skinny person is a skeleton and that’s fine. I think that it was a bad choice, but I don’t think it was an intentional one. I think that people stupidly still have a bunch of “Ist” ingrained in them. I can’t believe we still fight wars rather than working as a species to better our world at large, but we do.

    I’d love to know your thoughts on any part of this. I think this issue is intriguing and I’m not one hundred percent sure where I sit on this topic. Like I said before, I won’t buy this game, but I’m not sure that I agree with not ever buying anything from this game publisher.

    PS. There is only one game I’ve ever really played from this company, which is the prince of Persia series. I’m not sure that could give that one up. But, I’m am leaning away from the idea of purchasing from Ubisoft in the future.

    • Holly Apr 20, 2017 @ 7:35

      You’ve made some excellent, well-thought-out points in your reply.

      My reason for not buying another game from Ubisoft (and you have given me some second thoughts about that), is this: The only vote a product consumer gets in an open marketplace is with his or her money. I cannot know what they were thinking when they made it. The folks who programmed the game might not have meant any harm — they could in fact be Just That Stupid. Some people are.

      But games like these have hundreds or even thousands of people who touch them from inception through Go Gold day, and I cannot believe that EVERYONE who had a part in this game was Just That Stupid. Cover designers, marketing directors, play testers, story writers, artists — an A-List video game has as many people involved in bringing it out as a big Hollywood movie.

      So I think the same kinds of folks were involved in deciding “no one is going to dare complain about black guys killing white guys, and if they do, the SJW will rip them to shreds” as thought, “Hey, we’ll make all the women in Mass Effect Andromeda ugly so we don’t offend the SJW” crowd. I didn’t buy that game, by the way. I always play as a female if I can, and, having never had the option to be a hot female in real life (the best I’ve ever managed was “kinda cute”), I like to play as a hot female in my games.

      What kinds of folks are these? Moral and ethical cowards.

      And again, my only recourse — my only way to protest this moral and ethical cowardice, is to not buy any more games from Ubisoft. Or Bioware. Right now, that’s where I’m standing.

      I’m STILL playing No Man’s Sky, by the way. It’s generally what I do for an hour or so at night before I go to be.

      I start over from scratch with every update, and the I’m on my fourth go-through. Have platinumed once, almost made it after the second update, not even close this time. But I did find a 48-slot crashed ship, and I’m slogging through repairing all the slots now. šŸ˜€

      • Chalan Johnson Apr 20, 2017 @ 10:21

        Thanks for your response. I agree. The best way any consumer can vote for what they don’t agree with is buy hurting the companies bottom line by with holding money. And you have a point, it’s very likely that there were people who knew it was wrong and let it move forward anyway. It’s a shame that so many great games right now are falling into this horrid pit of bad decision making.

        With Mass Effect, I was so upset. I wanted that game in a bad way, with all the frills and buyable add on content. I would have got it all. But I was waiting till payday and I started hearing some disparaging rumors about the animation and writing. I love games with great graphics, but for me story is King. And even though they are patching the bad graphics and animation, you can’t fix bad writing this late in the game, with this kind of product. I won’t buy the game. That’s all we can do to let them know to never make this kind of mistake again. It’s also disappointing about how the females look. I always play female when its an option, and I want them to be beautiful. I don’t always make them look the same, but games are an escape, a fantasy, and we should be able to lean heavily into that. I’m fine with having more predominately professional and appropriate hair and attire, but the face should be able to look as nice as I want it to.

      • Chalan Johnson Apr 20, 2017 @ 10:30

        Also, I restarted No Man’s Sky once it had the new survival mode. It took me four restarts to have a viable game to play.

        First Time, I saved after I died and didn’t have enough of anything to refuel my shields or life support, and didn’t have anything close enough to get anywhere safe. I was marooned and there was nothing I could do to save myself. Restart.

        Second Time, I’d finally gotten my ship flying. I was impatient and so done with with my planet. I took to the air and picked a planet and landed. Then realized there was nothing on this planet, and no plutonium to refuel my now empty ship. Marooned. Restart.

        Third time, I’d learned that you can find ships with beacons instead of saving money to buy one. I found one, and it was way closer to me than my original ship, which I’d yet to find. I went to it, adopted the new ship, then realized that I didn’t know where the other ship was to start the Atlas Quest. Restart.

        I’m on the fourth iteration, and I still have much to do, but I love the game. I can’t wait to wade further in and see some really spectacular things. I’ve tried to avoid spoilers as much as possible since i have such a long way to go with the game.

        It reminds me of Sims Castaway but in among the stars rather than stranded on an island.

  • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard Apr 18, 2017 @ 17:44

    Sigh!

    Holly, the Glorious Narrative tells us that only Whites can be racist! [Sarcastic Grin]

    • Holly Apr 20, 2017 @ 7:38

      One of the black nurses I used to work with ripped some white guy for being a white guy. When I said, “Wow, pretty racist there,” she told me only white folks could be racist. She wasn’t being sarcastic. She genuinely believed that.

      It made me despair for humanity.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard Apr 20, 2017 @ 8:35

        ::I hope the following isn’t too political.::

        There’s a theme going around that goes “You want more Trump? That’s how you get more Trump” that sums things up.

        I voted for Trump and don’t think he’s “racist” or the other “ist” that certain people throw around, but IMO he got support from plenty of people because Trump didn’t care what names he was called.

        • Holly Apr 20, 2017 @ 8:57

          I don’t permit politics or religion in the classroom. I’ve seen it destroy communities — and I’m seeing both destroy the country I love.

          But I’ll discuss both here as long as folks follow the blog rules.

          I did not vote for a presidential candidate in the last three elections. I did not think there was a qualified candidate running in any of the three.

          In this last election, I thought Hillary was criminal scum, I thought Bernie was a communist, I thought Jill was a communist, and I thought Trump was an idiot.

          I did think Trump was the least unqualified, but in a country of somewhere around 400 million people, voting for “least unqualified” did not sit well with me. Where’s our Jeffersonian stateman, our Lincolnian man of integrity, our Reaganesque guy who gets shit done?

          My two votes for Reagan, by the way, are the only votes I ever cast for President that I did not have cause to regret.

          Trump has done better so far than I expected. Beyond that, I don’t yet have much to say about him.

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard Apr 20, 2017 @ 9:06

            Your Place, Your Rules.

            Which is why I was concerned about “being too political” in my comment.

            To be honest, I voted Trump more to cause the crook problems than any other reason.

            He has done better so far than I expected.

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