Video games generally cover any and all subject matters, real or imagined. It's part of what makes them one of the best forms of entertainment media. We can enjoy worlds that are starkly familiar, and we can adventure through spaces that we could have never imagined. However, there are times that they cover a topic that strikes a bit of a nerve. One is slavery, as it appears in Conan Exiles. Even the creative director at Funcom (creators of Conan Exiles), Joel Bylos, knows that the inclusion of slaves and slavery in the game is going to push some buttons.
The thing of is, Conan Exiles is certainly not the first video game to include slavery. Many titles have. Think of the Fallout franchise. How many questlines involve tracking down slavers and liberating their camps? Assassin's Creed III: Liberation had quite a few quests with the same goal: free slaves. The big difference between these two titles and Conan Exiles is, that rather than setting the slaves free, you are the one capturing them. But this is entirely dictated by the canon of the Conan universe. Conan himself was raised a slave, so it makes sense that a game based in his world would include slavery.
Slavery is something that has happened throughout human history. It has taken on a great many forms as well. There has been slaves where people are taken by force. They are required to complete labor and tasks, or risk being punished or killed. Indentured servitude is often considered another form of slavery. As these were people who signed contracts, which often allowed them passage to somewhere they wanted to be. Once there, they were often kept in a vicious cycle of repayment via labor for food, clothing, and shelter. If you loosen the definition of slavery, modern maids could even fall on the spectrum. At least, those who are very much underpaid for their work.
As I said in the beginning, video games often represent reality. Those that do realistically and respectfully, are often touted as triumphs in the industry. They are few and far between at the moment because many a developer and publisher tend to steer more towards subjects and plot lines that will not anger their potential customers. But of the games that are there you can often find hidden gems. They are merely depicting something that has happened in reality. Something that we shouldn't forget lest it become rampant again.
That brings me to my next point, the things that we do in video games do not dictate what we do in reality. I'll often play games in the shoes of a male character, and do my best to pursue romantic plot lines that end in sex scenes. But in reality, I'm not interested in having sex with women at all. In Far Cry 5 I set countless numbers of animals on fire with a flamethrower, but that doesn't mean I want to set alight all the rabbits in a 100 yard vicinity of me in person. Just like anyone who plays Conan Exiles and participates in the collection of slaves, will not be dragging anyone with a lasso in reality.
All said and done, I don't believe we should ever censor games. We shouldn't prevent developers and publishers from showing something that they believe is important to their particular title. Funcom wanted to include slavery in Conan Exiles to stay true to the source material. They also wanted to integrate it as a mechanic so players could have a better chance of enjoying the world on their own. Rather than having to gather together a bunch of real people to construct camps together, one single person can do it on their own with the help of thralls. It took utilizing a touchy subject to make that happen, but it has in part made Conan Exiles what it is today.
What are your thoughts though? Has Funcom lost your business with this inclusion? Or were you glad to see it in the game?