Outerloop Games’ newest title, surprisingly isn’t just a game about kicking evil ass with a beautiful falcon. It hits really close to home.
Falcon Age is a game about Ara and her relationship with a falcon as she fights an evil corporation. The game explores anti-colonization as well as reclaiming/reasserting your culture and identity.
When you begin the game Ara, is just a number, a cog in the wheel of this oppressive corporation. You’re told how to be an “asset” to society and this is how you prove your worth. This is practically an analogy to cultural assimilation. Your warden robot, constantly tells you you’ll be a better citizen the more you comply — I.E fit in.
Soon after meeting with your beautiful baby bird, you two escape the prison. Eventually, you’re saved by her aunt and then I realized the narrative backbone of the game isn’t entirely new. If like myself; you’re an immigrant, or child of immigrant parents, or not native born, this story is pretty damn relatable.
Before you venture off properly, her aunt drops truth, a lot of truth. We learn that Ara’s relationship with the falcon isn’t happenstance. Hunters and falcons are a long tradition of her family and culture. However all of that is all but gone due to the evil corporation’s actions. Her aunt expresses her displeasure at reality and Ara essentially forgetting where she comes from — including the rejection of her name.
Seeing her aunt lament about Ara’s circumstances reminded me of my relationship with my own culture. You see, I’m the son of Haitian immigrants and this talk happened with me too. For the first years of my life, I didn’t speak Creole (Kreyol). I could understand it but I couldn’t communicate it. I didn’t have any issues or speaking disabilities, I choose not to.
One day, I overheard my mom on the phone. She mentioned to an aunt of mine she was a sad, that 7 year old me, didn’t speak the language of our people. I remember vividly, that she felt that I was just assimilating into American culture. She was absolutely right, I was believing what society told me. Problem is that’s a part of who I am, not my all. My connection via spoken language was a barrier I had to knock down.
This stuck with me and I remember the feeling. I can’t speak for others but when I couldn’t speak the language of my culture, I don’t feel authentic. It felt like I was missing a part of myself. So this stuck, like Ara I had to go forth and discover myself.
That Summer, my family and I visited Haiti for a long period of time. I (alone) took it upon myself to ask my cousins and aunts to teach me Kreyol. It wasn’t easy but I did learn. Today, my Kreyol may not be fluent but I can hold conversations with anyone.
With Falcon Age, our heroine’s relationship with the falcon is her means to engage with her culture, acknowledge her identity, and of course fight against colonization. Assimilation is a form of colonization, or an adjacent if you will. It can be bad (depends on whom you ask) because you’re forgetting who you are, it’s active erasure. To stop or reject it, one would have to embrace multiculturalism every opportunity they have.
Thus as I grew up, I made sure to speak Kreyol even if I got embarrassed, so I could learn more about Haitian culture. To further solidify who I am. Of course, I still make an active effort to continue to learn about the culture.
By the terms of the game you’re liberating land from colonizers and you can’t be more active against erasure than that right? So, I’m smashing robots with my majestic bird with righteous fury.
Side note: I believe speaking your respective non-English language is one of the easiest and applicable ways to decolonize yourself. I don’t care if anyone feels self conscious, I’m talking to my fellow Haitians in Kreyol. We won’t be talking about you. Honestly, I’d tell you about yourself in a language you understand.
So as I’m playing through Falcon Age, I’m very appreciative for what it is. Meeting new members of the resistance, seeing more of the world, and bonding with my precious bird or prey. Granted, I have a few hang ups with the controls and mission layouts, yet this is not a deal breaker.
One important question I have thought is: How many more games will be driven by the same subject matters?
I hope more developers provide us games that help us remember the importance of recognizing our cultural backgrounds.
Because when you stop and think about Ara’s story isn’t too removed from that of many people…unless you have a Falcon trained to be the scourge of colonizers.