3 Controversial Games That Came Before "Far Cry 5"

FAR CRY 5 PROMISES TO BE ONE OF THE MOST CONTROVERSIAL GAMES IN HISTORY BUT IT'S NOT THE FIRST AND IT WON'T BE THE LAST.

Set in Hope County, Montana, Far Cry 5 explores what happens when the nation is taken over by gun-toting, religious zealots. This is bound to strike a chord in the Trumpian Age where neo-nazi and White supremacist groups have been more active than they have been in over 40 years. I agree with Forbes writer, Erik Kain that "Duck Dynasty, Sons of Anarchy, Deliverance...these are the words and phrases, shows and films, that come to mind" when I watched the trailer.

Whether people want to admit it or not, the video game community is like the funhouse-mirrored reflection of American society--our exaggerated selves. Some video game developers, knowingly or not, explore that reflection through certain sociopolitical topics that too many people are afraid to confront. Hence, the controversy. But Far Cry 5 is not the first and it won't be the last. Let's explore a few games that brought on the controversy.

BIOSHOCK INFINITE

The team behind the Bioshock series like to create more than just a 'kill all the bad guys' type of shooters, which can definitely be seen in their Ayn Rand-inspired first Bioshock game. But Infinite took on racism which made racists incredibly uncomfortable. Surprisingly, Infinite did an excellent job with addressing racism head on--something politicians and political pundits seem to be incapable of.

Set in the floating city of Columbia in 1912, you play as Booker DeWitt, a man sent to find a girl, Elizabeth who is being held captive by the founder of the city, Comstock. Columbia was founded on American exceptionalism, imperialism, the fusion of religion into governance and racial superiority. In the very beginning of the game, DeWitt is stopped and asked (told) to play a game: throw a baseball at the captive interracial couple being displayed on stage. "Playing Bioshock Infinite means confronting a time in American history when racism was not just overt, but also a mundane part of society."

Screenshot

And then, there were people who were pissed about DeWitt being forced into baptism in order to proceed in the game. Religious zealotry and racism often go hand in hand in America. These two themes are central to Infinite's, for they set the tone of what the ruling people of Columbia believe and what the resistance is fighting against. Sound familiar? Remember, funhouse mirrored-reflection.

GRAND THEFT AUTO SERIES

Everything from the excessive promotion of violence to prostitution--so many parents, politicians and political pundits were pissed off. The games are clearly not for children, hence the rating M for Mature. But parents still bought the game for young kids and were shocked that the game wasn't for kids! Oh, noes! Players can drink and drive, kill anyone, steal cars, sell drugs, bang prostitutes (then kill them) and antagonize the police.

Each game takes place in a new, fictional city based on actual US cities (San Andreas is based on Los Angeles, Vice City is based on Miami, etc.) and a new protagonist for each game. Each protagonist has one thing in common, though: a life of gang or mafia-related crime. The purpose of each game is to rise to the top of their respective crime worlds and to do this, you have to get your hands real dirty. With every GTA release, Rockstar Games becomes embroiled in another legal battle. Sex, cars, crime and the ability to commit almost any type of violent act you want left critics steaming mad. And they get madder with each release.

The Infamous "Hot Coffee" mission/date cut scene in GTA: San Andreas

The Infamous "Hot Coffee" mission/date cut scene in GTA: San Andreas

But nothing got GTA critics madder than the "Hot Coffee" mini scene from San Andreas. And "Hot Coffee" was a doozy!  Hot Coffee was a mini game where you made Carl "CJ" Johnson engage in very explicit sexual activity with some of the game's female characters. The object of the mini-game was for CJ to get the lady aroused by pressing certain buttons. The backlash was so swift that even Hillary Clinton got involved, leading an investigation and led an attempt to criminalize violent games. How did Rockstar developers respond?

happiness_statue_hillary_clinton.jpg

MORTAL KOMBAT

At one point in time, Mortal Kombat was considered too violent, gruesome and inappropriate for video games. The original Mortal Kombat game was released in 1992 in arcades and on Super Nintendo in 1993. Super Nintendo was seen as wholesome. Nintendo is still looked at as the gaming console for kids--innocent digital fun. The controversy surrounding the game wasn't just about the gruesome violence, but that the game was clearly being marketed to children. Before Super Nintendo released the game console, they met with developers to convince them to change the red blood to the color green. The reason the controversy was so extraordinary is that at the time, gaming was seen as something that was for kids. But as video games became popular, more teens and young adults played them, though, the gaming industry didn't quite take that audience seriously.

MK was also released on rival console Sega Genesis and allowed players to unlock the blood and gore with a cheat code (I actually remember this--yes, I'm that old). When a government aid's kid asked his father to buy the game for him, that's when all political hell really broke loose. Senator Joe Lieberman formed a committee, using Mortal Kombat to scapegoat America's growing violence. Lieberman ultimately called on the gaming industry to recall the game and to regulate itself. MK wasn't recalled, but the government witch hunt led to the rating system games have today. MK ushered in a new era of gaming--gaming for teens and adults.

Of course, these are not the only controversial games to emerge. Dishonorable mention goes to a game whose premise was to play as a man who stalks a woman and her daughters so that he could rape them. Another dishonorable mention goes to a game whose premise was literally the extermination of Black, Latino and Jewish people. Video games will always be controversial and the scapegoat for people to blame violence on instead of looking to society itself. Video games and their communities may mimic society, but they do not cause our problems. They only hold the mirror up to show what's already there. 

Far Cry 5 will release in the U.S. on March 27, 2018. Will you play?

Will Virtual Reality Become As Mainstream As Video Games?

From Call of Duty to Candy Crush, video games are in practically every household. Will VR be the next household item?

Both video games and virtual reality have been around for quite some time. Video games, designed to be in every home or easily accessible via arcades, quickly became mainstream and has evolved a great deal since it's early days in dark arcades or the two button controllers. Virtual reality, however, has remained elusive to mainstream audiences. Investors are banking on that changing very soon. Facebook, already a household name, acquired Oculus VR for $2 billion and looks to do for VR what Facebook did for social media but can Facebook make VR a household item--a mainstream go-to for entertainment?

The very first video game was created in October 1958 by physicist William Higinbotham. It was called Tennis for Two, practically the predecessor to the popular 70s game Pong, which was created by inventor, Ralph Baer. "There were computer video games in the 1960s, but computers were so rare and so large that they were strictly for academics." With the computers becoming a household item, so too, were video games on those computers. Computers have always been the gateway to the popularity of video games due to accessibility.

As computers became smaller and more affordable, more games for those computers emerged and accessible via floppy disks. Then the advent of early gaming consoles such as Magnavox Odyssey and Atari allowed people to play video games via cartridges. But with new technological advancements came new games and greener graphic pastures. It was in the 1990s that video games truly solidified its place in mainstream society.

Source: PC World

Source: PC World

Why, then, with all of the technological advancement and very promising and exciting experience virtual reality offers, is VR not a household item yet? It's simple. Until recent months, VR headsets were too expensive and not easily accessible. VR headsets also come in two categories: tethered, meaning connected to a PC or other device or mobile. At present, the least expensive tethered VR is the Playstation VR, sitting at $400. The Google Daydream View is a mobile VR headset. Mobile, in this sense, means inserting your mobile phone into the headset and attaching it to your head, using the phone as your display. Mobile VR headsets are inexpensive, compared to the tethered VR headsets.

With VR, you can see the world without leaving your home. You can immerse yourself in exotic environments and be at the center of the action of a video game. So why is VR still not commonplace like video game consoles? Variety writer, Todd Spangler makes a very valid point in that VR just is not something that is considered a "must-have".

VR’s immersive, solitary confinement simply doesn’t square with how people consume entertainment at home. Never mind that you can’t interact in-person with another human being with a Google Daydream, Oculus VR or Vive headset strapped to your noggin...Then there’s the fact that VR requires a caffeinated level of engagement. You have no choice, locked in the cage of a VR headset, but to pay constant attention.

VR seems like something that would be fun to try, say if you go to an arcade or entertainment wonderland like Dave and Busters. But to invest in a VR headset just for an immersive gaming experience? You'd have to be pretty dedicated to solitary entertainment without human interaction.

Luckily, VR is being used for more than just entertainment. Entrepreneur discusses the many ways VR is being used outside of gaming, including. to perform experiments in controlled environments and "to help paraplegics regain body functions." There are a great many uses for virtual reality that go beyond immersive video games. 

A post shared by Oculus (@oculus) on

Virtual Reality: Blurring the Lines Between Movies and Video Games

ONCE JUST A FIGMENT OF SCI-FI WRITERS' IMAGINATIONS, VIRTUAL REALITY PUTS USERS INSIDE WHOLE NEW WORLDS IN BOTH FILM AND VIDEO GAMES.

Video games have become more and more immersive with role playing and first-person shooters. You feel as if you are there in that environment, interacting with objects, non-player characters, and, in some instances, other players. Similarly, movies have become incredibly immersive with 3D, IMAX, and 4D experiences. With the increasing technical advancement, virtual reality will break the already crumbling barrier between movies and video games.

Think about games such as Heavy Rain, an interactive video game thriller where your decisions and actions determine the outcome of the story. In Heavy Rain, the protagonists must stop the Origami Killer who drowns his victims with prolonged exposure to rainfall. The game already acts as an interactive film that you can control. Imagine playing this game and being able to feel raindrops on your head—on your arms—while playing as your character. Virtual reality makes this type of gameplay possible.

Imagine being Katniss Everdeen and exploring her world across all four of The Hunger Games films. In 2015, Samsung, Lionsgate, and Reel FX animation studio collaborated to bring fans of The Hunger Games series a 360 virtual reality experience. The 3D experience "allows viewers to explore key moments throughout Katniss’ [sic] journey, across all four films in the series."

Source: Screenshot from  The Hunger Games  virtual reality tour

Source: Screenshot from The Hunger Games virtual reality tour

Films have also created immersive environments with 3D, where the characters look as if they are coming out of the screen toward you, and 4D, where theaters add physical elements to the viewing experience such as smell. With VR, films are elevated to even greater heights, allowing you to become fully immersed in the film. VR adds an element of interactivity for film that goes beyond the trivia questions that accompany DVDs.

With VR, games and film put you in a 360 degree world where you experience the story from the point of view of a character or even an object. In some films or games, your decisions determine the outcome. In others, you, the viewer make choices, but are still left in the dark as to the ending of the game or film. For example, similar to the game play of Heavy Rain, the film Broken Night explores a woman's (Emily Mortimer) unreliable narrative of an intense trauma. Speaking to a detective, her confused memories unfold: returning home in the midst of a fight with her husband (Alessandro Nivola), they encounter an intruder. The viewer is placed in a position of choosing which memories to follow, sharing her confusion before coming to the startling truth.

Source: Tribeca Film Festival

Source: Tribeca Film Festival

As VR puts the viewer in the thick of all the action, films and video games become even more story-driven and viewer focused. The lines of game play and film are indeed blurred with the increased technological advancement of virtual reality. VR can make video game play seem as if the viewer is inside of a movie. And in that same token, films have an element of video game play, such as making choices and interacting with objects and people. With virtual reality you don't just play video games. You don't just watch films. Soon, when we hear about an interesting film or game to be released, we will say, "I can't wait to experience it."

Game Night 2.0: Pax Unplugged Edition

Nearly four years ago, my husband and I hosted a few friends one night for a simple game night. It was an excuse to get together since life with children had taken over and we rarely saw each other any more. Before we knew it, that one little night would turn into a monthly tradition of late night game marathons. I often joke that our tabletop trend is the grown-up manifestation of our old PS2 days - hours spent goofing about and beating each other up in DoA 2. Back then, it was weekly. They’re a little harder to schedule these days, but we make do with what we can.

We take turns introducing new games into the mix, however these new games rarely get more than a fleeting chance and are banished to the “one-hit wonder pile” while we return to our  tried and true. Some may call it a gaming slump, returning to the same two games over and over. I tend to have a more optimistic view; the longer we’ve been at it, the easier it is to realize we have a niche. We prefer games with humor. Games where you have the option of cooperating, but for the most part are free to backstab and connive your way to the top. Regular in our rotation: Steve Jackson’s Munchkin and AEG’s Smash Up. Dozens have come and gone, these are the only two that return regularly.

So, when our core group had the chance to attend the inaugural PAX Unplugged this past November in Philadelphia, it was an opportunity we could not pass up. Three days and two nights of adult-only company, surrounded by thousands of like-minded and equally geeky folks and board games!? Oh, hell yes!

While the well-established PAX brand of cons has catered to the video game set; PAX Unplugged focused on all things analog: tabletop, board, card, pen and paper, dice, mini-fig, etc.

It was a fantastic three-day con and a true testament to the astounding tabletop renaissance we are in the middle of. Massive game tournaments; guest speakers; game releases; nearly 200 vendors; a gaming floor and lending library that could make even the most experienced gamers swoon; and a sold-out Saturday.

We test drove several games, and found a few that will be added to our regular roster. If you’re looking for easy-to-learn, fun games to shake up your game night, these are definitely worth a try!         

Caption: A late night filled with DiceBot MegaFun.

Caption: A late night filled with DiceBot MegaFun.

DiceBot MegaFun      

  • 2-4 players
  • Ages 14+
  • 30-45 minutes
  • WizKids Games

Description from the publisher:

In the future, robots battle it out to the amusement of humans.

Our take:

This game was an absolute blast to play!

We played several rounds and see it joining our regular rotation. It is easy to learn, has quick set-up and fast action.

Each player takes control of a robot card. You draw six weapon cards, which can include uzis, lasers, bombs shields, jammers, viruses and more, and then strategize your initial dice scramble. All players throw their dice into the middle and then grab dice back one handed, placing the dice on the body parts of their robots. You want to get dice that correspond to your weapon hand - as each card is activated by a dice (ie: shields are activated by the pink dice). The head piece is placed last as it has a special ability depending on the color dice you place.

Everyone plays their first card face down. Upon turning, you have to expend the dice needed to activate the action. The player with the highest weapon speed goes first and so on, down to the lowest speed player. The cards indicate the direction the attack can go, and the number of damage it can do to the affected player(s). Players can block damage if their damage number is higher than that of which is attacking them.

You run through six rounds and whatever players are left standing at the end receive a victory point.

Three victory points win the game.

Playing the ranged DPS Pyromancer during a game of Dice Throne.

Playing the ranged DPS Pyromancer during a game of Dice Throne.

Dice Throne

  • 2-6 players
  • Ages 8+
  • 20-40 minutes
  • Mind Bottling Games

Description from the publisher:

Dice Throne is the game of intriguing dice, tactical card play, powerful heroes and unique abilities! Your hero choice has a significant impact on the strategy and feel of the game. So pick a champion that suits your play style and take the throne!

Our take:

We were able to get an early release of this game during the con. It will be released via retail on Jan 24.

This was another home run! Quick to pick up, fun to play, and absolutely beautiful design.

We played this game cooperatively - two on two -  but you can also do free-for-all. Each player chooses between six class types (ranged dps, melee dps, healer, tank) and you battle via a combination of cards and dice rolls. To some degree, the dice roll portion of the game reminded us of a glorified Yahtzee - trying to get straights or flushes to let loose certain attacks, or moves, depending on the character.

The use of accrued combat points and the deck of cards provided a nice counter to the simple mechanics of the dice rolling. The cards give you the ability to enhance and upgrade your moves.

As I tend to love ranged dps in all forms of gaming, I chose to play with the pyromancer. She was highly enjoyable to play. A terrific damage dealer, but as you can imagine, she had little to no damage mitigation on her end. We found that pairing her with the paladin created a nearly unstoppable force.

As is expected, your goal is to be the last person (or team) standing.

Of note, the devs have said they will be heading to crowdfunding sites in the near future to create expansions - adding new classes.

Super Kitty Bug Slap’s super cute super kitties.

Super Kitty Bug Slap’s super cute super kitties.

Super Kitty Bug Slap

  • 3-5 players
  • Ages 6+
  • 20 minutes
  • Steve Jackson Games

Description from the publisher:

Pause and you lose! Only the fastest paws will win! Grab the coolest cats you can find for some bug-slappin' action in this speedy card game of quick thinking and swift paws! Super Kitty Bug Slap is a fast-paced game for 3 to 5 players, where slapping the right cards will put you in the lead, but slapping the wrong cards will send you home with your tail between your legs!

Our take:

I am pretty sure Steve Jackson can do no wrong. As a massive fan of ALL the variations of Munchkin we’ve tried, we picked up Super Kitty Bug Slap to have a game to bring home to the kids.

One player serves as the dealer and remaining players choose an archetype kitty card. Kittys can have unique shape, color and a unique bug.

As the dealer lays down a card, you want to be the first to “slap” it if it has any traits that match your card. Whoever slaps first, wins the card and whoever has the most at the end, wins.And as my kids would say, easy peasy lemon squeezy.

We love adding trying out new games, and would definitely love some new additions. If you have a game you love, let me know!