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.