Dear Mr. or Ms. Ubisoft,
This is my formal request that you give your employees enough money to produce a digital man in the image of my father and then insert that man into Far Cry 5.
A few weeks back, Dan Hay, Far Cry 5 creative director stared down a group of writers and talked in a low, booming voice about Montana and Far Cry for 30 minutes. There were pictures and videos showcasing a digital Montana: a cow saying moo, a guy with no sleeves, a priest reading a gun, and most striking was a picture of outside—all very accurate. But something felt off. Dan talked like he knew the place, like how the people there have very good bullshit detectors and how Montana is a great place to build a powerful religious army. But after flying home to Deer Lodge, Montana last week and taking stock what makes the place so great, I realized Far Cry 5 really just needs a whole lot more of my dad.
Far Cry 5 has so far nailed the look of big sky country, but the characters are all cartoon caricatures of rural folk. Something's missing. For example, it seems doubtful that Far Cry 5 will include members of the nearby tribal nations. It also seems doubtful it will include my dad. Either way, the point stands. Montana and all big empty spaces have their extremes, but the people that live there, the truth, is something more nuanced. Folks there are odd and particular with a heaping of heart. The truth is my dad, and here’s why.
He is a “born and bred” Montana mountain man
Joe was born in Montana, raised around Cut Bank on what we call the Hi-Line. It’s cold as hell up there near East Glacier, a severe landscape characterized by what isn’t there more than what is. What is there: a few people, a big-ass penguin, rivers, coyotes, bears. What isn’t: everything else. There isn’t much to do besides wander the landscape and eat, which shapes a very niche lifestyle.
More Far Cry 5
If you’re looking for anecdotes to bring your videogame Montana to life, sit my dad in a room with dim light. I remember stories about chasing off grizzly bears, how my grandpa used to wade into and fish ice cold mountain rivers in the nude, the surprising and awful utility of sheepskin, and that time they lost my uncle on a boxcar filled with booze headed toward Seattle. He really likes to tell the one about the moose. After fishing a while, he looked up and noticed he was standing between a momma moose and her calf. Moose aren’t as dopey or docile as they look, and it chased him to a big tree where they had a tense standoff. They’re not super nimble creatures (both moose and my father), so they lazily danced around that tree until for a few hours until our golden retriever Harry got brave and went into full-on wolf mode and attacked the moose, giving my dad enough time to make his getaway. Harry was fine, by the way.
My dad doesn’t have to be the main character. I know that we can customize our person this time, choosing gender and skin color and the like, but how about an option below Male and Female that just says Joe. His VO will be free. Drag him into the studio, give him a can of Hamm’s beer, and ask him about Cutthroat Camp or why the tastiest part of a trout is the tail. He knows a way, trust me. Ask him about the purpose of life. Ask him about life on the reservation. Ask him about my high school football career—he knows it better than I do.
And while I don’t know much about Joseph Seed, the leader of the enemy cult in Far Cry 5, my dad’s name is also Joseph. He’s not a God-fearing man, though he did marry a preacher’s daughter out of Minnesota and really wants to get a tattoo that says so. ‘Preacher’s Daughter’ in a nice script, encased in a heart, itself encased in the silhouette of a fish. My dad could be a subtle foil to Seed, who might not even be from Montana for all I know. One worships a very particular version of the Christian deity and the other worships the ground he was born on. Far Cry’s favorite expository mode of storytelling, first-person sequences where a person talks at the player while gesturing about like they have to pee real bad, would be a perfect fit for my dad anyway. His bladder is the size of my thumbnail and he never shuts up.
He looks like a character actor in full Rural Guy makeup
My dad attempted to grow a ponytail the moment his balding started to accelerate. It was an act against God, and I admire him for it. He looked like the kind of person you’d find living in a cabin in the woods who calls himself The Mayor and has a strong, vocal distaste for the federal government. But he wore that frizzy, fucked up mullet until my sister’s wedding day, as promised.
He’s a principled man, and such a man snugly fits into the mold of a quest-giver. A quest giver has goals, ideas, and needs things done. My dad certainly has ideas, and they’re mostly bad. My siblings and I have a hard time bringing friends and partners home because we’re worried he’ll ask for a lock of their hair. They might have the perfect color for a fly he wants to try. His goofy style and strange motivations make him fit the the mold of the videogame archetype perfectly.
Other quest-givers and characters were made in his image, even if they didn’t know it. He’s an older Scooter from Borderlands with a fear of four-wheeled vehicles. He looks a lot like a friendlier, gassier Trevor from GTA5 that retained the ability to invent new curse words on the spot.
He drinks a lot of Hamm’s beer if you’re looking for a lucrative brand partnership
If you’re not familiar, Hamm’s is an awful pale lager that my dad likes to drink “after it’s been sitting in the sun for a few hours.” It tastes of putrefied water, a days-old bath warmed by a dry, hot sun. It is hell and hell is Hamm’s, but my dad can drink it without issue. I consider this a “character trait” and one that defines him. My father likes things that would make the average person wrinkle their face up and wail at the sky. The conditions of his life that shape his perception of good and bad taste are completely different than the average person’s. He’s a gross old man and I love him.
I’m not saying he’s a total weirdo, but the guy grew up in a very particular bubble. Far Cry 5 has so far only looked inside that bubble from the outside, peering in to see the blurred silhouettes of pick-up trucks and torn flannels. Ubisoft knows there are bars in Montana and that they have beer. They know the bars might be made of wood. Good. But they don’t know what the people are made of. In the case of my father, he’s made of my mother’s delicious venison recipes (who'd be great in Far Cry, too, but is still a Minnesotan at heart), inventive cusses, pissed sweatpants, and a whole lot of Hamm’s beer. Either way, get the Hamm’s license. I’ve seen them for about three bucks for a tallboy sixer, so the licensing the brand for a multimillion dollar videogame is probably 15 bucks or so. Maybe you’ll get free beer out of the deal, which you’ll need for my dad’s VO sessions anyway.
He could be the fly-fishing vendor
We’ll be able to fish in Far Cry 5, which has my dad jacked even though he’s never touched a controller. It’s more about the depiction of his life’s work in popular media. He’s been fly-fishing longer than most philosophers stay with the books. If you’ve used a fly in western Montana to catch a fish in the last 20 years, its design was probably influenced by my dad. He always brags about turning down NFL football coaches and big time CEOs when they personally ask for guided trips. He keeps it simple and secretive.
Since I can remember, he’s been dragging my family’s collective ass around the state, miles into the mountains to find his secret fishing holes. Our destination is always a small creek winding through the brush, barely more than a trickle, but home to the most naive fish alive. It’s first contact for those poor trout whenever my dad seeks them out. He’ll lean on tree and tie a homespun fly—his favorite go-to is called the Double-Fuckin-Ricky—and chew the extra line off with his teeth. He’ll flick his wrist and cast, the long line flowing like its own stream through the air, somehow avoiding a tangle of tree branches and bushes crowding the creek, and the fly will land on the water exactly where the trout expect errant bugs to drown. We ate filets every week. You know you want his mo-cap because that cast is a pretty valuable intellectual property. Throw in another case of Hamm’s.
Fly-fishing is even a form of activism and protest. While big companies and celebrities buy up Montana land by the minute, state law keeps the waterline public. Whether the fishing is good or not, he’ll follow the water deep into enemy territory just to get a rise out of greedy landowners. A massive cult isn’t likely to abide by state law, but I like to imagine a rogue band of old Montana fly-fishermen and women taking their mountain punk attitudes to the limit, leading the charge against the real wackos in Far Cry 5’s world.
At the very least, a dude like my pops could give the player some fly-fishing quests. Find a legendary fly, catch a legendary fish, stop poachers from harvesting bull trout, sneak into enemy territory and steal his dwindling Hamm’s supply back.
Ubisoft could learn a lot from my dad. Sure, we haven’t met every character in the game so far, but we’re not all cultists or bartenders or perpetual car engine tinkerers. We’re just weird, solitary goofballs. Like Dan Hay said, Montanans have great bullshit detectors. But that’s only because they’re so damn good at spewing bullshit. Far Cry 5 won’t feel authentic unless it aims to fill its version of Montana’s severe landscape with the same necessary lightness.
In closing, my dad is a strange man from Montana. When he dies, all that remains will be a bunch of fly-rods and the cans he hides around the house. And his eerie digital image. Please put him in the videogame.