The box art for the next game in the Far Cry series, Far Cry New Dawn leaked on social media ahead of tonight’s announcement at The Game Awards. As per usual for the series, it’s provocative and transgressive. It depicts a white man strapped to a car riddled with bullet holes, and in the foreground, it shows two black women wielding guns.
In the past, I have sometimes thought the Far Cry box art was more interesting than the games themselves. Far Cry 3 and 4 both featured the game’s villains on the cover, each holding a gun and facing forward with a sly look or a smirk, as though taunting the player. Although we can’t say for sure what role the two women on the cover of Far Cry New Dawn will play, they do have a strung up white man in the background, while they sit in the foreground, looking over their shoulders menacingly, holding large weapons. Yeah, they bad.
The racial dynamics of this cover seem poised to make people on the internet lose their minds. Two black women—an undeniably underserved audience of video game players—are implied to be enacting violence on a white man. In the politically intense climate in the US right now, it’s easy to make a lot of assumptions about their motivations, and given the similarity in framing to other Far Cry game covers, these two characters might well be the game’s villains. Still, when I look at this cover, all I can think is, “this owns.”
I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen a black woman on the cover of a video game, let alone two of them. There’s a dearth of black female characters in games. While that’s been improving over the years, there’s still not a lot of them. Assassin’s Creed’s Aveline de Grandpré has appeared on a smattering of covers of the series’ spin offs. Sheva “I Need An Herb” Alomar is on the cover of Resident Evil 5. In Far Cry 5, you could be a black woman, and they had a black female gun-for-hire character, Grace Armstrong, who was honestly kind of annoying but was featured prominently. By contrast, Overwatch, last year’s recipient of Best Ongoing Game and Best Esports Game at the Game Awards, as well as the winner of Best New Game in 2016, still does not have a black female character after over two years. (No, the robot doesn’t count, and no, Symmetra is not black.)
I don’t need every game to have a black female character, or to be about blackness. I don’t even want that. I’ve spent years playing as white men and have clearly survived the experience. I just want games that reflect the world that I live in, a world where black women exist. It’s less about representation in media and more about the fact that it just feels ridiculous that so few games acknowledge the existence of black women.
The characters on the cover of Far Cry New Dawn are unabashedly black. They have broad noses, dark skin, and wear their hair in braids. Even in dirty jeans and a sweatshirt, they look like they ain’t nothing to fuck with. They look like they should be posing in the background of a Beyoncé or Rihanna video. They look like people I know. It’s about goddamn time.