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Portrayals of Latinx Characters in 2020 Video Games Already Have Me Tired

Far Cry 6's announcement has only increased my wariness.

Earlier today, the first details of Far Cry 6 were leaked on the PlayStation Hong Kong Store, and I immediately became tired.

I don’t like jumping the gun with my assumptions about video games enough to write articles about them before they’re released. This is especially true these days, considering how little marketing can tell us about the products that come out of an already secretive industry. After all, The Last of Us Part II, the game with possibly the most deceptive — and fairly off-putting — marketing I’ve seen has become my favorite game of all time.

However, a game in a series like Far Cry, which is notorious for controversy in regards to its politicsespecially racial — taking place in a Latinx setting is the last thing I want in 2020. Far Cry 6 has already given enough information for me to be concerned, especially when it’s analyzed in the context of a space that continues to visibly fumble with Latinx representation to often embarrassing levels.

The English version of the Far Cry 6 standard edition page states: “Welcome to Yara, a tropical paradise frozen in time. As the dictator of Yara, Anton Castillo is intent on restoring his nation back to its former glory by any means, with his son Diego, following in his bloody footsteps. Their ruthless oppression has ignited a revolution.” You will be playing as Dani Rojas, a local Yaran who becomes “a guerrilla fighter to liberate the nation.” As Dani, you will fight against Anton’s troops “in the largest Far Cry playground to date across jungles, beaches, and Esperanza, the capital city of Yara.” Finally, among objects like weapons and vehicles, it’s stated you’ll be able to employ the “Amigos,” the new Fangs for Hire to burn the tyrannical regime to the ground.

None of this strikes me as too inherently egregious, aside from naming the Fangs for Hire the “Amigos” and pairing them alongside objects to be employed. However, I’m not inclined to give Ubisoft the benefit of the doubt when, as a result of an overwhelming amount of allegations about harassment and misconduct at the company’s various studios, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot is only now deciding to address the fact that Ubisoft’s all-white male Editorial Department, which oversees the creative decisions across the company’s global studios, should be transformed. No matter how much change and positive impact the employees of Ubisoft at the bottom push for in franchises like Far Cry or Watch Dogs, their efforts are easily squandered in the face of an embarrassing leadership composition that should’ve been addressed long before a wave of damning allegations against several high-profile figures.

cyberpunk jackie

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Far Cry 6 isn’t the only unreleased game I’m worried about given what I’ve seen this year. When watching the first private demo for Cyberpunk 2077 at E3 2018, my excitement for the game was quickly soured by the painfully stereotypical writing that was already evident for a Latinx character named Jackie Welles. At the time, I wrote:

In an audio recording of the demo that we took, Jackie goes an average of four sentences without randomly inserting a Spanish word in his otherwise English sentences. To add to that point, the words tend to be the popular words that non-Spanish speakers know of — words like culo (ass), pendejo (Mexican slang for an idiot), puta (slut), and hombres (men). Jackie says sentences like, “Put some pants on your culo and get down here,” “Shit eating suits, vamonos (let’s go),” and “I’ll stand. Can’t move on your culo. Makes you an easy target.” They are never full Spanish sentences that exist on their own; there are one or two random and simple Spanish words shoved in his sentences that make them feel unnatural and jarring.

It feels as if the writing is screaming that this character is Latino, when the point to any character is that one aspect of their identity should not encompass their entire character. By inserting Spanish words in what feels like practically every other sentence Jackie says, the game seems to be trying to constantly remind you of his Latin identity in a way that is both extremely stereotypical and incredibly redundant; we know he’s a Latin person thanks to the first time he says something in Spanish. When a situation goes south, it might make sense that he would briefly curse or unthinkingly speak in another language. When it happens almost every minute in a fifty-minute demo, Jackie feels less of a person and more of a stereotypical caricature of what a Latin person is. Combine this with the fact that the area the demo takes place in, Heywood, is described as “predominantly Latino… a massive suburban housing district, with an underlying gang problem,” thus falling into the extremely worn out media tradition of portraying Latinos as gang members, and I’m left concerned about how the writing of Cyberpunk’s gritty future will make use of present-day stereotypes.

Two years later, as we inch closer to the game’s release, my initial worries have turned into a reluctance to engage with the game to any degree. Jackie seems to get killed in the E3 2019 trailer, his body disposable in order to raise the stakes and generate hype. In the footage journalists and content creators were able to share from last month’s demo of the game, the issue seems only slightly less pronounced judging from Jackie’s dialogue. But it still feels stereotypical as his home is Night City and, given his accent, it seems English is his first language. To break out in Spanish expletives around V, someone who evidently doesn’t speak Spanish, is an action Latinx characters are often made to do by non-Latinx writers.

We’re only a few months from its release, and I have no interest in playing the game despite CD Projekt Red developing one of my favorite titles with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Instead of curiosity for the game, I’m only left wondering if this concern — along with other concerns about the game’s racial inclusivity— has been addressed.

Reyna Valorant

It’s already been a messy year for Latinx representation in video games that have seen the light of day, too. Valorant‘s Reyna and Apex Legends‘ Loba are both hypersexualized, morally ambiguous Latinas. Loba is entrenched in the world of crime, as so many Latinx characters are, while Reyna has an almost sexual appetite for murder — evident through how she growls, “more, more” as she activates her powers and kills members of the enemy team in her reveal trailer. “All dead, and I’m still hungry,” she moans once she’s done.

While Valorant‘s Raze is exempted from a life of crime in the little characterization she and her fellow Valorant roster members get, her design and ambiguously Latinx (and specifically non-Brazillian) accent don’t make her fare much better. Both she and Reyna deal with the same stereotypical, choppy kind of writing assigned to Latinx characters to highlight their ethnicity. The other night, I played Valorant with my friends, and I heard Reyna say, “Their head is in the guillotina, now pull.” I laughed incredulously and tried to say the sentence myself, but was unable to without struggling. Why anyone would replace “guillotine” with “guillotina” and say all other words in English is beyond me. While voice lines like, “adios,” “ay, corazon,” and “insecto” feel easy to believe, stereotypical lines of dialogue like, “Ah. What hope do these criaturas have? I almost pity them,” and, “you could never hope to my terra diante,” stand out in how eager they are to other these Latinx cast members from other characters.

And remember when I mentioned The Last of Us Part II is my favorite game? That’s absolutely true, but so is my frustration with the game’s general handling of race, particularly with its one significant Latinx character. I was disappointed with how gracefully the game handles aspects like Ellie and Dina’s sexuality and their relationship but struggles with Manny.

As Abby’s best friend, Manny is an extremely likable and genuinely lovely character. But he sticks out like a sore thumb from all the careful consideration The Last of Us Part II gives to non-brown and black bodies, since the game’s treatment of its Black characters is even more disappointing. Manny isn’t the worst example of a stereotypical Latinx character, but he doesn’t differ too greatly from the most egregious caricatures: randomly injected Spanish words in the middle of English sentences to signify Latinidad in ways that bilingual people don’t tend to sound like; the designated trope of a sex-crazed Latino man; being othered through a non-American accent that no other character possesses.

life is strange 2

I wonder when any game, especially a prestigious one, will come close to how Life is Strange 2 handles not just its Latinx characters, but also discussions on race and power dynamics. Through my interview with Life is Strange series co-director Michel Koch, I learned how easily achievable the bare minimum, and so much more, is with proper research and care. It doesn’t take a team composed of only people who know The Latinx Experience — especially because no single group, particularly one as infinitely diverse as Latinx people, is a monolith; it takes a genuine interest, an honest commitment to listening, and a dedication to improving a story’s writing, no matter the subject.

I’ll wait to see more of Far Cry 6, which won’t take long since Ubisoft Forward will take place on July 12. But the Far Cry series, Ubisoft, and the industry as a whole have never provided me with reasons to give them the benefit of the doubt. I don’t see it changing anytime soon.

About the Author

Natalie Flores

Natalie is Fanbyte's Featured Contributor, with bylines at places like VICE, Polygon, PC Gamer, Paste Magazine, and more.