The newest dystopian setting in one of gaming’s top franchises: Rural America
By HAYLEY TSUKAYAMA | The Washington Post | Published: June 5, 2017
Ubisoft announced May 26 that its upcoming video game, "Far Cry 5," will set the series in the United States for the first time. The story pits a player’s band of Heartland resistance fighters against a charismatic doomsday cult leader who kidnaps townspeople all while proclaiming a love of freedom, faith and firearms (not necessarily in that order).
The game, which has been in development for three years, hits at a time when questions about the stability of society, sovereignty and the taking back of “real” America can truly resonate. The game’s creative director, Dan Hay, said that although he didn’t want to get too political with "Far Cry 5," its themes were influenced by the 2008 recession. Hay said the “us vs. them” storylines and the feelings of disenfranchisement that he saw in the wake of the economic meltdown helped him draw the battle lines for the series’ next installment.
What he wasn’t expecting, he told The Washington Post, was to see the real world and the game start to mirror each other -- and how it would affect his own life.
The game is set for a Feb. 27, 2018, release. The following interview with Hay has been edited for length and clarity.
The Washington Post. Where did you come up with this idea for the setting? I know how long game development takes, but this seems a little prescient.
Dan Hay, Ubisoft: We’ve been kicking around the idea of coming to the States since "Far Cry 3." About three years ago, we were discussing, where we actually [wanted] to go. I don’t specifically recall where the idea for Montana came from. When that idea popped up, it was completely unexpected.
But when we were talking about cults, we realized we had the opportunity to have a truly magnetic leader. And then we imagined that on the ground, in a place where people don’t want to be bothered, where they want to be left alone. It’s a frontier.
So we went to Montana to kind of test it and feel, like, is it real? We were there for 24 hours and were like, “Yes.”
How did you find the people that you talked to in Montana?
When I met people, I really got the sense that they didn’t suffer fools. Everyone was nice, but there was a moment where you kind of had to gain their trust. And that was a unique thing. That’s something that really works for us. When you meet characters, you’ve got to have a rapport with them.
And then, there were stories we heard from people. We heard about what they cared about. And what they didn’t care about — that was the interesting thing.
You read about how, a lot the time, you end up being maybe a culmination of the last five people you’ve talked to. But I didn’t get that from these folks. It was interesting to meet people and think, “That’s not something that I’ve heard recently — or before.”
How do you think the people you spoke to will react to the game?
I won’t speak for the people that we met, but I can imagine what somebody from that region would think. We’ve talked to some folks who are from there and talked what about what we’re doing. And I get the sense that they understand. It makes sense.
It is our Montana, and [people know] that we’re going to twist it a little. But it’s super cool to see them look at the build, and look the images, see the locations and say, “That looks like a place I remember.” It’s not that place, but it feels similar.
Politically, how do you think reaction to this game is going to play out?
On the side of politics and larger talks about America and how relevant is it to now and today, I mean, we built this three years ago. It’s been in the oven for three years.
But what we’re used to doing [when making a game] is leaving the office and walking outside, and the world feels very different. And it is a little strange to go outside and have the world feel not dissimilar from what we’re building day to day.
I think that the game has had an indelible mark on me. I have been listening to what the Father’s saying [referring to the cult leader character]. I know the script, and there’s that sense of “Something’s coming. You feel it, can’t you?” That’s changed me from the standpoint of the concept of being prepared. Four or five years ago, I would not have really thought of [that].
Before I went to Montana, I drove a Prius. And when I came back, I bought a Jeep. If you’re working on something and it kind of weaves its way into your head, you start to think a little differently. This game has affected my day.
So, are you a prepper now?
No. But about 2 ½ years ago [when researching the game] I was walking around downtown Toronto, and I saw this guy come out and he was kind of disheveled, and he had a sandwich board on. It said the “end of time is near” or the “end is nigh.” And I had two thoughts. The first thought was, “Yeah maybe.” And the second thought was: “Wow, that is a new thought. What does that mean?”
"Far Cry 5's" creative director, Dan Hay, said that although he didn’t want to get too political with the video game, its themes were influenced by the 2008 recession. Hay said the “us vs. them” storylines and the feelings of disenfranchisement that he saw in the wake of the economic meltdown helped him draw the battle lines for the series’ next installment.