Worshipping Banashur: Far Cry 4 and the Ubisoft Version of Hinduism and Buddhism

Date: 16th January 2022 Time: 7 p.m IST

Abstract: In Far Cry 4, on the cover art of the game, the principal antagonist sits on the broken statue of a four-armed god placing his foot over the head of the decapitated statue. In the game, the player-protagonist often travels through a landscape that is filled with statues of gods, prayer flags and shrines. In fact, one of the missions takes place inside a temple and in the game’s obvious references to Nepal in the landscape and culture-scape of the game’s fictional locale, Kyrat. The Kyrati people are shown as following one religion, quite comfortably avoiding the multi-religious complexity of the region, where Hinduism and Buddhism co-exist. The people worship the god Banashur and his daughter, Tarun Matara, who is worshipped as a living goddess. As Ajay Ghale, the non-resident Kyrati who returns to Kyrat from the USA after his mother’s death, the player-protagonist has a lot to take in. Not least among them is how the game’s developers have introduced various complexities of religious beliefs and hinted at a plural culture, only to end up perpetuating the set of oriental stereotypes that belie the initial potential of the game. Through the way in which a popular triple-A game decides to represent the cultures and religions of the Indian Subcontinent is indeed an important lens to examine how colonial and deeply orientalist stereotypes about Hindu and Buddhist practices are being, surprisingly, perpetuated in such recent narrative media such as videogames. This paper is an attempt to explore these attitudes and stereotypes.Bio:Dr Souvik Mukherjee is assistant professor in Cultural Studies at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences Calcutta, India. Souvik’s research looks at the narrative and the literary through the emerging discourse of videogames as storytelling media and at how these games inform and challenge our conceptions of narratives, identity and culture. Related interests and expertise include a broad spectrum of topics in Game Studies ranging from identity and temporality in videogames to the videogame industry in South-East Asia. Currently, he is researching how videogames relate to Postcolonial Studies and separately, also how certain ancient Indian board-games contribute to the understanding of gameplay. Souvik is the author of two monographs, Videogames and Storytelling: Reading Games and Playing Books (Palgrave Macmillan 2015) and Videogames and Postcolonialism: Empire Plays Back (Springer UK 2017), as well as many articles and book chapters in national and international publications.
His other interests are (the) Digital Humanities, Poststructuralist theory, Posthumanism and Early Modern Literature. His databases on the Dutch Cemetery at Chinsurah, the Scottish Cemetery in Kolkata and the nineteenth-century Bengali industrialist, Mutty Lall Seal are all available open-access. He has also been an advisor on an archive on the ‘Plaques of Presidency’ project. He has been a board-member of the Digital Games Research Association (DiGRA) and a founder-member of DHARTI, the Digital Humanities group in India. Souvik has been named a ‘DiGRA Distinguished Scholar’ in 2019. He is also an affiliated senior research fellow at the Centre of Excellence, Game Studies at the University of Tampere.

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