Far Cry 3 Aims at Cliches But Ends Up Criticizing Gamers


Storytime is a recurring series in which we analyze the storytelling found in video games by looking at the elements that form those stories, the messages they deliver, and the people who create them.


Warning: This post contains numerous spoilers of the story of Far Cry 3. Read on at your own risk.

There’s been a lot of talk about the story of Far Cry 3 and the various comments it makes about games. For all the discussion of whether gamers and critics “get it,” it seems pretty easy to get. There’s the “Alice in Wonderland” quotes, the dichotomous suggestion of protagonist Jason Brody and psychopathic antagonist Vaas being the same murderous guy, Jason’s escapist fantasies and the way he starts to love killing people, the drug-addled visions, the sex with the native mystic Citra — it’s all a send-up, drawing attention to these various tropes. Asking us, why do we think killing is cool and fun? Why are these our escapist fantasies?

Or at least, that’s what it’s supposed to be saying. What it’s really saying is, “How do you like being a giant man-child, giant man-child?” In fact, Far Cry 3 isn’t a criticism of video games or shooters or the tropes contained there in. It’s a criticism of us who would play those games and enjoy them, but if you pick the wrong ending at the end, you might just miss that point.

Those moments when we’re most like Jason Brody (the game suggests) are when we’re at our worst in Far Cry 3. For instance, Jason rescues his girlfriend from death at the hands of Vaas. We, that is, Jason and the player, rescue her, speeding away in a car while Jason mans its mounted machine gun, alternately exploding trucks filled with pirates and whooping at how awesome it is exploding trucks filled with pirates. In another section, Jason and a pal blow up a huge oil refinery and love every minute of it. When Jason rescues another kid, escaping on a boat, the guy remarks, “Nice tats!” before actually remembering that the pair of them are fleeing for their lives. Rescuing yet another guy leads to a helicopter ride and remarks of “Awesome” from that fool, who not long ago you had to torture in order to avoid blowing your cover among the baddies.

Yeah. The dudes in Far Cry 3 love it (except for the guy who was raped, I suppose). Jason finds himself imbued with power, suddenly capable of murdering scores of bad guys, winning the favor of the hot island mystic and even banging her right there on screen for us to enjoy — she even takes her top off for the benefit of the player, since we don’t actually have sex with her.

It’s all male adolescent fantasy at its most adolescent. In one level, you set a marijuana crop on fire and get some delightfully goofy effects to the visuals as Jason gets high. In another spot as you explore old ruins, Jason actually tells himself to “channel Indy.” And then you get to stab and kill that bastard Vaas in a highly brutal way. You get to penetrate (with your knife) the rapist who’s been penetrating your digital friend Keith. You get to hunt tigers and battle sharks and win.

And all the while, Far Cry 3 is pointing at what a disappointing, arrested development clown you are (though it may not even mean to do so). Even though it might be focused on sending up tropes of video games and marketing aimed at a specific demographic, it’s still unblinkingly providing you with these ideas and saying, “Here, this is what you like, right?” Your powers are conveyed by way of tribal tattoos like the kind you might drunkenly get in college. The only voices of reason are nagging women who, after you save them, only want you to stop having fun and return to the real world. Why would you do that when you could drive a car off a cliff, engage your wingsuit, parachute into an enemy base and then set them all on fire with molotovs?

Far Cry 3′s endings are when this point is at its height. There are two, determined by a binary choice right at the game’s final moment. Here, tribal leader Citra wants you to become the ultimate warrior and stay on the island forever. She’s kidnapped your friends and in order to get the last tattoo, you have to kill them — most specifically, Jason’s girlfriend. This is the character who has been decrying Jason’s descent/ascent into bad-assery, and in the last drug-induced scene, she continues to nag. Your choice at the end is to save her and your friends or kill her.

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23 Comments on Far Cry 3 Aims at Cliches But Ends Up Criticizing Gamers

SevenCell

On January 8, 2013 at 2:03 pm

You make a good point about the red/blue pills.
Short and to the point.

Sludge

On January 8, 2013 at 4:35 pm

GameFront’s pseudo-liberal ‘sexism’ mantra continues to be chanted with alarming regularity, and its readers continue not to care.

Phil Hornshaw

On January 8, 2013 at 4:42 pm

@Sludge

Actually I wasn’t targeting sexism but the stereotypes inherent in the entire gaming medium, and the views they suggest the creators of Far Cry 3 have about players who are specifically like me. What sexism are you talking about?

Roy Batty

On January 8, 2013 at 5:02 pm

@Sludge

I have been here since the ME3 debacle began almost a year ago and I have not seen the “sexism” mantra…Are you sure you are on the right website and not confusing GameSpot with GameFront? I HAVE noted this mantra on gamespot’s website.

Tiago de Andrade

On January 8, 2013 at 7:12 pm

Good reading of the game, Phil Hornshaw

However, I chose the “nice guy” ending and I felt what you felt: like an overgrown child. In my case, the “nice guy” ending was a blue pill. Only faced with the choice of killing my relatives and my friends, I realized the monstrous fantasy I was inserted. I choosed the “nice guy” ending because the choice woke me up from the fantasy. I could have realized that before in the game, however, that choice made the things clear. I think it was a choice between continue the teen fantasy to its maximum, or put an end on it by assuming an adult responsability: “enough of blood, Im more than that, more than that cruel fantasy”. In other words, I choosed the “nice guy” ending, but I dont missed the point. The “nice guy” ending is a possibility to those who get the point soon enough to not kill anymore.

Im from Brazil, sorry for the poor english. I really wanted to express myself better in order to add more readings to your interesting read.

gasmaskangel

On January 8, 2013 at 8:08 pm

I for one am getting kind of sick of this manchild crap that gets leveled at anyone who seems to enjoy anything ever. I’m actually quite curious what all the people who go on and on about how immature it is to like comic books or video games or whatever do for fun, because my impression is that they only take joy in being able to look down on other people’s hobbies, which is something I did when I was fourteen.

Grousing aside, what exactly is wrong with a good power fantasy now and then? I am, relatively speaking, powerless. Every day is a tedious slog through a job I don’t like for people I don’t love just to avoid losing my home and starving to death on the streets, so again I ask, whats wrong with dreaming of being able to actually leave a lasting impression on the world?

Robert

On January 8, 2013 at 9:18 pm

@Gasmaskangel
Hear, Hear

Hellblazer

On January 8, 2013 at 9:52 pm

I think you think too much Gamefront!

Mike

On January 8, 2013 at 10:21 pm

It was all for nothing, you died at the end, and, oh yeah, those are digital fake boobs, which makes them faker than porn.

Well now Phil, that really depends on what kind of weird azz porn you’re into now doesn’t it?

Axetwin

On January 9, 2013 at 12:35 am

I’m sorry Phil, but I cannot agree with you on this. You are reading way WAY too much into the game. As the saying goes; sometimes a duck is just a duck. In this case, maybe the reason the game is fun is simply because the game is fun, not because theyre trying to cover up some dark malevolent subtext.

Phil Hornshaw

On January 9, 2013 at 12:48 am

@Axetwin

There’s actually a lot of subtext to Far Cry 3 — its lead writer, Jeffrey Yohalem, has said as much many times. My point is that the game misses the mark on the comments its trying to make — not that it purposely is covering something dark, but that it fails to make a comment about games and ends up making a comment about those of us who would play it.

Here’s Yohalem’s interview with our Ben Richardson (http://www.gamefront.com/an-interview-with-far-cry-3-writer-jeffrey-yohalem/). You should also read his interviews with a number of other outlets, like Penny Arcade Report and (I think) Rock Paper Shotgun. But I’m not reading anything into the game that’s not there, I’m just saying that the way it came off to me didn’t feel like what it seemed to be meant to portray.

OsRT

On January 9, 2013 at 2:29 am

First article ive read on this site and i already love it.

Tiago de Andrade

On January 9, 2013 at 7:15 am

It doesnt matter if the game writers intended, or not, to sucitate Phils particular reading. What matters is that Phil has read that way and I think that is a much more interesting perspective than to see “just a duck” in the game. Thats the beauty about working with storytelling: not the seek of the authors “intention”, or the seek of the “true meaning” of the text, but the multiple readings that a story could achieve in each one of us.

In Brazil we say that what Phil did was “extract milk from rocks”. In other words, the read made by Phil add something interesting to a story that could be just a boring story for others, expanding the possibilities of interpretation.

Hellblazer

On January 9, 2013 at 11:52 am

You think too much Tiago de Andrade.

Swcloud99

On January 9, 2013 at 1:40 pm

That’s the kind of critical thinking that Hideo Kojima tried to make his audience have with Metal Gear Solid 2. He was trying to get people to analyse and think about the deeper meaning of things.
What a lot of you don’t seem to see is that every story ever written can be subject to a form of analyses. No story, ever, should be taken has “just a duck” because no story ever is. There is always something to get or understand either in the work itself or the context in which the work was released.
That’s something my cinema teachers used to say to me. It’s also something that has obsessed me for a long time.

Goner

On January 10, 2013 at 2:10 am

Sorry me again I mistaken: Grand publique = Large audience and in fact I was looking for “mainstream” so swap.

Goner

On January 10, 2013 at 8:41 am

Hard it is to make anything new ( book, movies, and so… game), but you can put together every little things you see somewhere else and got a “mainstream thing ” .I did not play this game just because of Vaas face, a strange mix of full grown man with now days teen hair cut and piercing’s he’d probably be a blond kid with wings if it was a Squarenix game, you can’t be anything and is opposite as the same time ( as if they don’t know what they want ), In the end.Well you saw what you want to see (the hunter of jurassik park 2 “no more killing” or Nicola Cage in the wicker man “the final ritual” ),Some’ s say it’s not about the destination but the journey ,by the way i don’t know how Jason could have enjoy the fun in the end with a sooo talkative babe, Hope fully there is still retro gaming or maybe it’s time for me to live a place where the magic has gone like the year…

Phil Hornshaw

On January 12, 2013 at 12:57 pm

@Goner

That’s a good point. I think maybe it might be more accurate that I think the “nice guy” ending lets you off the hook. It allows you to go, “well, I killed all these people and this was all kind of awful but I didn’t really MEAN it. I’m still a good person.” But the point of the comment the game is trying to make is to stop and have you think about things like being the white dude who appears to help these islanders and treating the island like a playground and whatnot. So you’re right, you can get the same (or a slightly different but still interesting) read off that ending, but I feel like the developers included it even though it matches less with their overall intentions.

Goner

On January 14, 2013 at 8:13 am

@Phil I must admit that ,i hate to talk something without test it ,i just look some spoil’ s video on the web, they’re so many people who love this game, that i felt a bit guilty , it seem that Vaas and some other character got very profound speech ,but..I just cant stand the character design, true talk it give me the same felling as the first time i try to play final fantasy 10, by the way i really appreciate FF 7.
But there is something overdone about far cry 3.

Love Puff

On January 14, 2013 at 9:27 am

Hellblazer – ‘too much’ thinking in your opinion is ANY thinking.

Isabella

On January 15, 2013 at 10:35 pm

INTEREST,THANK YOU

b0j4ngles

On January 24, 2013 at 5:33 pm

Just made a Gamefront account so I can say that this was one awesome article.

Phil Hornshaw

On January 25, 2013 at 8:10 am

@b0j4ngles

Hey thanks!