Far Cry 3’s Jeffrey Yohalem On Racism, Torture And Satire

By John Walker on December 19th, 2012 at 1:00 pm.

Having completed Far Cry 3 a while back, I found that so much of the game’s story just didn’t sit right with me. Not simply in the sense that it appeared to contain colonialist nonsense and clumsily handled rape plots, but that I felt I was missing something. That the game was trying to say something to me, perhaps partly through that which I found problematic, and I hadn’t been able to hear it. So I pursued the game’s author, Jeffrey Yohalem, to talk it through.

Yohalem proves to be a very animated, very passionate writer, who sees Far Cry 3 as a complex exploration of many ideas, mostly questioning the role of the player in a game, and what they’ll do in order to win. It was, he says, an attempt to break the loops of modern gaming, to ask the player to start to demand better. Fortunately, I’m animated and passionate too, so we get to discussing how successful this really was. What follows is a heated chat about what gaming could and should be. I return at the end with some thoughts on the conversation.

A frame of reference: Far Cry 3, an undoubtedly brilliant shooter, seemed to come with some odd baggage. Many who played it, including me, found its apparent use of “white messiah”, “magical negro” and “noble savage” tropes to be somewhat disconcerting. While there was certainly no hatred or malice displayed to a particular race (unless that race is translucent white Hollywoodians), it seemed difficult to understand how the game wasn’t employing stereotypes more familiar to 19th century literature. Along with that was a strangely vapid sequence in which you learn of the repeated rape of a friend, and some very peculiar sex scenes, all of which seemed like the worst of gaming in the midst of the best of gaming.

But at the same time, it didn’t feel that simple. It felt like it was there for a reason – but a reason I couldn’t grasp, and one I didn’t think was explained by the time the game had ended. That’s the position from which I began our spoiler-filled conversation.

RPS: My impression of Far Cry 3 was a game that wanted to say a lot more than most games do, but also a game that perhaps didn’t quite manage to say some of those things. What was your overall goal when you started writing this game?

Jeffrey Yohalem: My goal was to say exactly what I think I say. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. There’s not really anything I would point to – I mean, there are a couple of things missing I guess, but those things supported points that are already made. The goal was to create a videogame that examined what shooting does to us in a videogame. When I play a videogame there are all kinds of systems that work on my brain, and most videogames try to hide those systems under a story. And that story is intended not to be about what’s going on in the game. Almost every story in videogames is – I don’t love this term but – ludo-narratively dissonant. It’s purposeful, because stories usually pave over potholes in videogames. There are systems that don’t quite work together, there are systems that create emotions in the animal parts of our brains that are uncomfortable, and so story is used not as something that conveys meaning, but as something that hides uncomfortable stuff, sublimates uncomfortable emotions.

RPS: Can you give an example of the kinds of things that are hidden by games like that?

Jeffrey Yohalem: You have a secret ops agent who’s killed hundreds of people before as your protagonist, so it means that if you shoot hundreds of people over the course of the day in your videogame – which would never happen in reality unless you had a mass-murderer – that you, the player, are okay with that because the story has paved over the pothole. There’s a lot of secret stuff going on behind the scenes in videogame companies and development houses. Players aren’t seeing inside the box. I’m trying to expose the mechanisms inside the box.

RPS: I guess one of the key moments for what you’re talking about in FC3 is when you return to the caves. Each time you return to the cave, and you see your girlfriend and friends, you have those moments of reconnecting to your humanity. But midway through the game those stop. So where do you see that continuing commentary on how Jason is being affected by shooting so many people? Or indeed how I’m being affected.

Jeffrey Yohalem: It’s the player. The player is experiencing the loop. There’s that moment where you’re torturing your little brother to get information, which is taking something to the extreme. Other games have torture scenes and they try to pave over the pothole, by saying it’s essential to saving humanity, you’ve got to find the terrorist and the bombs going to go off soon. They’re trying to get the player to be okay with torturing somebody, because the gameplay mechanics of doing it are fun for them. So in this case it’s torturing your little brother, and there’s no real reason to be doing it. You’re not saving the Earth, you’re not doing anything that makes that act okay. That was meant to really shock people.

Also, the end! The end of this game is all about what you as a player are. It’s your turn to be whoever you want to be. Who you want to be in the face of these gameplay loops. Throughout this whole game we took you through all of these loops, and at the end we point them out to you. Citra literally says it, that she’s going to erase your save game, and she says if you want to win, you’re going to complete the final tattoo. So the question is, do you want to win? Do you want to go through these gameplay loops.

So I think there’s this misperception out there – and this is the most interesting misperception that I’ve found – people who thought the game was going to be an examination of shooting. Like, what it would be like to be a real person in this jungle, shooting people, and if you kill hundreds of people what happens to you. That’s not what this game is about. It was never what this game was about. That may be what Spec Ops: The Line was about, it’s not what this game is about. This game is about entertainment, and about how far will you go in these loops, and how much entertainment are you actually having from them. Are you willing to kill these characters in the game in order to finish your entertainment.

It’s not a judgment about you, either. It’s really something for the player to approach as smart, intelligent grown ups. It’s a riddle for the player to solve. The player goes to the game and experiences this riddle – and if you go to this game without looking at it as a riddle, it’s like looking at a building that has four supports and should have six. The game is not supposed to make sense if you’re not looking for the riddle. It’s supposed to destabilise your sense of what a traditional story is in a videogame. If you look at the story on the surface, then it doesn’t hold up. There are all sorts of shocking exaggerations that are there to intentionally destabilise the player.

RPS: Would you suggest that one of those destabilisations is what has been perceived as racism?

Jeffrey Yohalem: Yes! It’s NOT! It’s the opposite! The game is the opposite. It’s so funny to me. I’ve seen these arguments on forums, and I think these arguments are fantastic because people are engaging in a discussion about art, which is exactly what I was hoping would happen. But, the game’s argument is that Jason is basically used by everyone on the island – Jason is basically a gun, that is upgraded by the natives on the island. It’s the opposite of Avatar. And it’s fantastic to me, because Citra is standing in front of the home tree when you first meet her, you’re called Snow White, the people are called the Rakyat, which means “the people”. It’s the laziest name for a tribe ever, they’re not real, they’re a metaphor. People need to be looking at the names of these things. There are all kinds of secrets in this game for people to figure out, that tie into the main plot. It’s all part of what the game is trying to say.

I wanted to create this gigantic riddle. I created the glyph puzzles in Assassin’s Creed 2 and Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, and this is a gigantic glyph puzzle.

RPS: Do you not think there’s a danger of having your cake and eating it? You’re deliberately being a hokum story, you’re deliberately evoking lazy stereotypes, but at the same time, aren’t you just evoking lazy stereotypes?

Jeffrey Yohalem: Yes! Do you know what the name of the island is?! It’s Rook Island! Which means to fraud people! Look up the definition – the definition of “rook” is, someone that steals your money, or it’s a piece in chess. So this is an island that is a fraud. The point is, look under the surface. Not because the game is a fraud, the game is not a fraud, but the island is. What is going on on this island, and the clues are right there in front of you. In my mind it’s an interesting undertaking to take on some kind of examination of deeper issues like this, because like you said if people don’t examine it that way, then maybe they don’t see it? But like I told you, I was building a building that has four legs instead of six. If you don’t see those issues, the thing doesn’t make sense. I find it fascinating again, all the stuff that people are discussing on the internet, because you can see that the people who only looked at the surface are really uncomfortable. So much so that they keep discussing it. So to me that says that the story is not fitting. If the story functions correctly, like say Avatar – Avatar allows you to fit with the story. The story completes, then there’s nothing to discuss any more. So your brain goes, “Yes, I like it.” As humans we’re always looking for meaning, and for things to make sense. So if you miss the deeper meaning it doesn’t make sense any more.

The end of this story is very blatantly a subversion of any kinds of racist stereotypes. What I feel like what’s happened is to explain this story you need more than a soundbite, and I feel like a lot of people just glancingly looked at the thing and then got upset. They didn’t actually explore the whole game.

RPS: When I got to the end of the game what I saw was a depiction of a tribe, standing topless in simple clothes, dancing in a tribalistic way. It was very clearly an image of this archaic 19th century perspective of natives on an island. And I was given the choice to join them and as a white man become their leader, or walk away. I’m not quite sure how that squares up with a dramatic statement. How is it more than what I saw on the screen?

Jeffrey Yohalem: [Very animated] Because if you choose to become a part of that tribe and become their leader, it’s completely manufactured in your head! It doesn’t come from them at all! They never said “become our leader”! She says “become our king”, she doesn’t say “become our leader”! And then if you choose the tribe, she kills you! It turns out you were being used by them. The entire time you thought you were the leader of the whole tribe, you were nothing. You were just a gun that she upgraded with tattoos.

RPS: But is that any different from the tribe making you their leader, carrying you on their shoulders, and then boiling you in a pot?

Jeffrey Yohalem: [laughs] Yeah! It’s exactly… I’m playing with all of that! The game is about playing. I was just reading an article this morning about the conceptual artist who did Lose/Lose, the space invaders game that deleted your files, created by Zach Gage. He did a piece where you’d come in a museum, and stand in front of the piece, and when you stand in front of it, it tallies that you stood in front of it. The point was to be a satire of popularity. Why would you judge something by the number of people who’ve seen it? Some people said, “This is great, that I stood in front of this piece and it’s acknowledging my existence.” So they were missing the satire. The artist is very clear in the article about what he wanted to say with that piece. So what I was hoping for with this game is that people would say, “Maybe there’s something more interesting and different going on here that I can examine?” That videogames can be more than what they’ve been before. Which is covering up potholes in meaning instead of conveying it.

RPS: Do you not think that part of the problem of people’s not interpreting it this way comes from the fact that the majority of games’ stories are as bad as the thing you’re parodying? They are atrocious. So people come into a game expecting these incredibly immature and incredibly simplistic, and often incredibly stereotyped storylines, so when they approach Far Cry 3, instead of saying “This is an arch commentary on that,” they say, “Well this is another one of what most games are like.”

Jeffrey Yohalem: That question is an interesting one, because I thought we went so extreme in such a huge number of ways, that we had been totally exaggerated. I’ve played all of these games, so the shocking thing for me is that people would think this is serious. At the same time, all of the articles coming out didn’t come out for other games. So there must be some form of exaggeration, I must have succeeded at exaggerating. For example, the rape by Buck being glossed over, where he rapes Keith, or implied rape, that’s so exaggerated because it’s taking the exploitation of female characters in videogames and saying, well what if it’s a man, how do you feel then?

In most games that exploitations is glossed over, so in this case it’s glossed over. So by swapping out the Keith character for a female character, and then not having this deep emotional scene acknowledging the sadness from how these guy feels from that, it makes you really uncomfortable.

[Becoming agitated again] The sex scene [at the midpoint] – first Jason is shooting at that gigantic monster. He kills the monster, and it jump-cuts to him orgasming with Citra! He’s firing sperm at this gigantic monster, and then suddenly he’s on this alter with Citra, having sex with her, and then he thinks he’s the leader of the tribe and makes the big speech, and it’s his power fantasy! That’s the other thing – it’s all from first-person, so it’s completely unreliable. There’s a reason why Jason is a 25 year old white guy from Hollywood – these are all ideas that are in his head. You’re seeing things through his eyes. That’s why the Alice quotes are there, and why Willis’s database entries are written from Willis’s perspective, and not written from a universal perspective. So the game is all from a series of perspectives, and I think it’s all there. And again, you could say to me, “Why isn’t this even more exaggerated?”, but why should it have to be? I don’t understand why what I did isn’t so insanely exaggerated already. What you’re saying is that games are so bad with this stuff that it has to be so through the roof – I mean, male rape, having this transition, having the end of the game be that she kills you while having sex with you? And she says, “you win,” as you’re dying. The only thing more outrageous I could think of is if she castrated him.

RPS: You say the rape scene is critiquing how mawkishly rape scenes can be shown, but I’m not sure I understand your point when you say you changed it to a man to say something. When I played it, I saw that it was a situation where a man had been repeatedly raped. I didn’t think, “Ah, but it’s a man rather than a woman.” I didn’t find anything to make me compare it to rape scenes featuring women. What I fear with that scene is that it ends up becoming a sarcastic remark, at the expense of a really traumatising subject.

Jeffrey Yohalem: Well, I don’t think it downplays a traumatising subject. Keith is not okay after that. He says very little for the rest of the game. You know, in Assassin’s Creed II your mother is raped, and she doesn’t talk for the rest of the game. So Keith is very similar. What he says after the rape is he tells you your brother is dead. Then he doesn’t talk. I don’t think that it downplays or is sarcastic. None of this is intended to be ironic – I don’t like games, or jokes, that hold people at arm’s length – that the only emotion that people can experience is the irony or the sarcasm of it, which is something I think was going on a lot in entertainment three or four years ago, maybe even two years ago, where it was all about, “Look how funny we are – we’re making fun of this.” That’s not the point at all.

It’s not intended to be glossed over in that sense. The intent was to not allow there to be some kind of cathartic sad scene where people get to deal with the fact that Keith’s been through this. I don’t give you the satisfaction, and it is a satisfaction, when you watch a character go through experiencing the torture of what they’ve just been through, it satisfies the player’s expectations of that thing being addressed. So that scene is taken away from the player. So you have this disturbing exchange of power, something Jason and Buck experience, where Buck forces Jason to call him sir, demeans Jason and his manhood, this diminishing of who Jason is – of who the player is, because the player is in Jason’s body.

And then the player experiences what Buck did to Keith. I really do think that it being a man matters. Throughout the game you have Daisy and Lisa, and Citra, and you expect certain things, the mistreatment of those characters, because of how past videogames have treated them. I don’t think you’re expected Keith to be treated as an object in that way. The fact that Buck did that is shocking, because it hasn’t really happened in videogames before. And at the same time, videogames have a primarily male audience, so it’s very easy to have this gratuitous portrayal of women in other games be glossed over and allowed by its audience, because it’s not them. To really hit someone where they live, I think destabilises the trope. I’m hoping in the future when you encounter the objectification of women in games, you go, “Maybe this is uncomfortable, the way I felt uncomfortable in Far Cry 3.”

To be fair, Far Cry does it twice. When Citra kills you at the end, it’s like Mario thinking he’s rescuing the princess for the whole game, and then the princess stabs Mario, and says “You win”. The point is, she didn’t need saving. She didn’t need rescuing, she’s not a princess in a castle, and she’s not waiting for you to save her. In fact, it’s all part of this elaborate ritual. It’s not even clear that she needed your help to begin with. In fact Vaas was there to do it first, and Vaas left because he didn’t want to be a part of her crazy ritual. It’s not that she needed a white saviour at all. She didn’t need a white guy at all. She was just looking for the ultimate warrior and someone to be her gun.

RPS: The problem for me is I didn’t choose that ending. I chose not to slit the throat of my girlfriend! There’s no way I was going to do that, so I walked away. While you get one less scene of her tits, you get a more elaborate ending for walking away, but you don’t get this delivery of the punchline.

Jeffrey Yohalem: Correct. And with YouTube so big right now, I assumed everyone would go and look at the other ending, and I created it that way.

RPS: And I did – the first thing I did was look at the other ending on YouTube. But then I was vicariously seeing someone else’s ending, I wasn’t experiencing my ending, I wasn’t getting my punchline to the game.

Jeffrey Yohalem: But if you don’t choose to win, if you don’t choose to get the final tattoo, to me you’ve chosen who you are – you’re the guy who saves the girlfriend. The curation for you is different.

RPS: Do you think this understanding was carried by the rest of your team? I’m listening to your arguments, and I understand the points you’re making, and I’m coming from the position of thinking this is one of the best games I’ve played in a long time. But stuff like the hunting for skins is so ridiculous in the game…

Jeffrey Yohalem: Right! Right, cos Jason asks why he’s doing it. Isn’t there a line where he says, “What am I supposed to do?”, and an objective pops, an objective gives you what you’re supposed to do.

RPS: Yeah, but the way it’s delivered by the game, the mechanics of the game, don’t seem to be carrying the same satire. To the point where, when you ‘skin’ an animal its skin is left on and you seem to take a lump of guts. Do you think the delivery of the game in some places fell short of the message you were trying to convey?

Jeffrey Yohalem: To me that helped the delivery. Games are built by gigantic production teams. So even if everybody on the team doesn’t understand what the point of the game is, what I understood was: here’s the direction that these people are going to go in. So to me all that continues to support the message of the game. Because the message of the game is, look at all these systems that we’re creating, and if they’re illogical, and if they’re not challenging you as an individual but are just things for you to do that pass the time, then see how that makes you feel. The crazier the things that you’re doing are, the more interesting it is that you’re not going and helping the friends.

People who have looked at the surface of the game think that the story and the game are at war with each other as they are in most games, with the story just plugging potholes and the gameplay is going along its merry way. I think it’s very exaggerated that, “Oh, go save the friends! Go save the friends!” but most people are out on the island doing all this other crazy stuff and experiencing the gameplay. And that’s actually the point of the story.

It’s not a game about go save your friends. It’s a game about – doing a lot of picking skins from things, and wait, it’s just a pile of meat – this doesn’t even make sense, yet I’m still doing it instead of saving the friends.

RPS: How on board were the project leads with your ideas?

Jeffrey Yohalem: The director was a hundred percent. Pat Plourde is a genius. We worked together on Brotherhood and AC2, and something called The Lost Archive, which was a DLC for Assassin’s Creed Revelations, where we started exploring some of these ideas. Of how gameplay and story could be one-to-one. That’s about a guy named Clay, who’s got all these support structures in his life, like his parents and assassins and his job. And gradually he loses all those support structures or they fail him. It’s a game where you shoot blocks, and a block is a support structure that you’re walking on, so the game gets increasingly harder to play, an ultimately he runs out of blocks and he has to kill himself by falling. It’s a game about the loss of support, and that’s conveyed literally through the gameplay. If you muted it, you’d still experience a game that’s about the loss of support.

Far Cry 3 is a continuation of those ideas. He was entirely on board. And everyone else, in all of their different departments, understood what was going on, and what we were trying to say. But again it’s such a labyrinthine production – as it is with every triple-A game – that on some levels it’s like the Wild West. You have this freedom to express things in a way you wouldn’t have in a blockbuster movie.

RPS: In Roland Barthes’ essay The Death Of The Author, he argues that the author is meaningless once the piece is out there, that the understanding is in the interpretation of the viewer. If most people come away from this game saying either it’s racist, or it’s old-school colonialism, do you still think you’ve succeeded in what you’ve set out to do?

Jeffrey Yohalem: I think that’s an interesting hypothetical question, because my feeling is most people aren’t feeling that way. I get the impression that it’s a small minority of people who feel that it’s racist, or talking about that. So my hope is that a vast majority of people do not come away feeling that way, because then they’ll have missed the point. But, the point is for them to examine who they are. I feel like we’re living in this incredible time when you can actually experience someone else’s curated mind. To me that’s what games are. To me that’s where the Death Of The Author argument doesn’t necessarily hold up. This experience is curated. It’s curated by us. So all the systems you’re playing on that island, and all the things that happen in the story, and all the moments that you play, are chosen. If an artist curates his installation in an art gallery, and it’s very important spacially how things are laid out, although you could just ignore that and go to the bathroom in the art gallery instead of looking at anything, I think that there’s no argument that if someone goes into that installation they’re going to have some kind of impact that the author intended.

My argument is that the player is an actor, and the game is the director. And it’s the job of a great director, as opposed to a bad director… A bad director says, “Look at this thing! Look at this! Feel what this thing is! Feel the power of this – cry!” A bad director tells an actor, “Cry now.” Which the actor in their head goes, “Fuck this guy. I’m not feeling that.” In fact, I want to do the opposite of what the director just told me. Not explaining why – it’s really offensive. It’s distrusting the actor’s intelligence. Or even the actor’s essence. So a great director instead says, “Here are all the things that are going on in the world in which this play occurs, and the script. We take those and see what fits with you and give me that.” The goal of Far Cry 3 is to allow players… I think the problem with narrative in the past has been that writers are trying to say something, and they’re trying to get the players to sit down and listen to it. My feeling is that games are interactive, they’re about what you’re doing in the world, they’re about gameplay, and they’re not about sitting there and telling anyone anything.

So they player gets up, and explores the world, and explores the curated experience, and he can’t find everything in the world in that experience, and that’s very intentional. The director has chosen what this island is made up of – it’s called Rook Island, it’s not called some other island – and the Alice quotes have an effect on you, and there’s a meaning behind all the Alice quotes. And there’s meanings you may find then in those things that surprises me as the author. Which is wonderful, because it’s then like you’re expressing your self. You take the story, and the puzzle pieces in the story, and you put them together in a pattern that I didn’t realise, I go, “Wow, that isn’t what I thought of at all when I was writing it.” And it works. The only thing I wanted to ensure was that the surface reading of this plot didn’t work. Like I said, I was trying to remove support structures from the building so the building would fall down if it was analysed that way.

RPS: Right, but I’m coming at this with the perspective of a player. So take the boss fight – in that moment it doesn’t matter whether this is metaphorical, or if it’s an arch commentary on the nature of boss fights – the reality is I’m still having to play through a really crappy boss fight. In that moment it doesn’t really matter what commentary it’s making – as a player I’m still having to struggle through a crappy fight. Do you see how the intention can become mistranslated in the mechanics of what the player has to do?

Jeffrey Yohalem: This is the most collaborative art form we’ve ever done as a species. It’s incredible. If what you’re saying is that not every element in this game lived up to what you feel is good as the player, that’s valid because there are so many different art forms here. At the same time, what we try to do with Far Cry 3 is – you’re choosing to go on this vision quest mission. So you could be hunting animals, or you could be… And by the way, you’re hunting endangered species on these island – that’s also intentional – it’s supposed to be an exaggeration of things you do in other games. It’s supposed to make you uncomfortable. Everything that we curated in there is supposed to make you feel uncomfortable in some way. Some of it I think didn’t quite succeed, because it wasn’t exaggerated enough as you said, but a lot of it is.

RPS: But again, we’ve just been trained over decades to shoot endangered animals in Tomb Raider and Uncharted and so on – we’re just used to shooting endangered animals. It’s just another game having us shoot endangered animals at this point.

Jeffrey Yohalem: Yes, but if that were true then I wouldn’t see articles on the internet about it.

RPS: But people have always mocked the Tomb Raider games for the fact you’re shooting endangered species!

Jeffrey Yohalem: Yeah, but then there are all these articles online talking about how disgusting it is in Far Cry. Modern art felt like it couldn’t shock anyone any more. Modern art’s been in this strange period where it’s trying very hard to be relevant, and to shock people, and this videogame seems to have shocked a lot of people.

RPS: But so do sick, stupid videogames. A game like Medal Of Honor I felt was deeply revolting, a really vile game. I find it problematic that the writer of that game could come back and say, “Ah, but it was satire.” Do you see – it’s maybe too easy a get-out?

Jeffrey Yohalem: Yes, of course it’s too easy a get-out! That’s why I put all the clues in there. There are dozens of clues! Of course it’s lazy if it’s not real satire. If it’s not real satire I can’t come after the fact and tell you – that’s the point of the clues. Before the game is produced, all the clues are put in there, so when you say exactly what you just said to me, I go, but wait, look at this, this, this and this.

You may say that the things I’m saying to look at, like the name of the island – if you analyse each of the Alice quotes it’s about the metaphor behind each of the characters you’re experiencing – and the island is clearly Never Never Land, and there are all these references… You pointed out one of the clues – the Snow White clue. If this was about the white messiah motif, would I be so stupid as to have a main character’s nickname be Snow White? I’m making fun of that!

RPS: But I think where you say, “Would I be so stupid?” you really get to the key issue here. Most games writers are being stupid! We don’t have any background to assume you’re being smart here. It’s so much simpler for the player to assume you were being as stupid as most game stories are.

Jeffrey Yohalem: My experience of this has been that literally… that gameplay has a tutorial at the beginning of the game, where it’s explained how to play. Or over the course of the game – in Assassin’s Creed, over the course of the whole game you’re explained how to play all the different systems. So I never thought that story should have a tutorial until experiencing this. Whether maybe there was a point where I should have literally had a tutorial in the game. For me it was the death of Grant, that Grant as the main videogame classic protagonist being shot in the head at the beginning of the game – this game is not that. And Alice quotes at the beginning. All of that was supposed to put you in this state of, “Okay, I’m going to examine this differently.” Maybe I needed to be even clearer. What I’ve been doing now in interviews is trying to explain the story tutorial, which for me is not a negative because gameplay gets to do it. I don’t feel like I’m cheating in some way to say that maybe you should examine this as a riddle or a puzzle. That’s what I would have put at the beginning of the game if I were putting a tutorial in. What I was trying is create a game with the story, which means it’s interactive. And it’s something that players come to if they want, not something that they’re forced to.

My biggest surprise has been that people didn’t expect something like this, and I guess I should have anticipated that.

RPS: Do you think that because this is following on from Far Cry 2, for whatever it achieved it didn’t have this sort of depth behind it. Do you think people’s expectations are set because it’s the third game in a series?

Jeffrey Yohalem: I don’t think so. I think Far Cry 2 talked a lot about philosophical and artistic issues, and that was my opening. For me FC2, with the guns jamming and the malaria and all these systems that were considered not fun, it was about deconstructing the fun of a videogame. I thought Clint was very clear in a lot of interviews he did that that was what he was doing. He was trying to be philosophical about videogames, about their fundamental mechanics. If you have a gun that can jam at any point when you’re shooting it disrupts the flow. So he’s examining what makes a game fun, if I take away what’s considered traditionally fun.

So Far Cry 3 is actually doing the same thing – and I’m surprised that no one’s referenced that connection between the two of them – it’s just that Far Cry 3 is saying, what if I give you so much quote-unquote fun that it becomes uncomfortable. It’s a different approach to the same problem – they’re both trying to approach building the same building, I think. Everyone keeps saying how they’re so different, but in reality I think conceptually he approached it from the mechanical side by disrupting the mechanics, and I approached it from the story side by disrupting the story.

RPS: But at the same time you can argue, you know, I’m spending my £30 on this game – I don’t want to have my fun interrupted, and that…

Jeffrey Yohalem: YES! That’s my…

RPS: …I don’t want to be the victim of your experiment.

Jeffrey Yohalem: That’s my argument! What I experienced in Far Cry 2 is that I didn’t have fun playing it, although I found the ideas really, really interesting – let’s say. I’m not saying that was my experience, but that’s something that you see out there. If you approach Far Cry 3 you’re not going to find any of those problems. This is where the level of exaggeration issue comes in – if you turn the volume to 11, it’s like you’re screaming at the player and it’s very uncomfortable. It turns a lot of players off. I was trying to reach a volume of, err, six. Like Cronenberg’s A History Of Violence, you can approach Far Cry 3 on the surface level and still have a lot of fun. Now you may say that compromises some kind of artistic ideal, that if I had cast it so it was so exaggerated that it was not entertaining at all, unless you read it as commentary, then I would agree with you that it is forcing my opinion down the player’s throat and being a bad director. My goal was to bring joy to everyone. But at the same time I’m hoping players can look at the riddles in the story and see that there’s a lot more going on there. And actually look into themselves and learn something through the journey. The goal was really not to waste players’ time, because we’re going to die soon, and there’s so much to read and watch and do on this planet.

RPS: You talked about how in previous Assassin’s Creed games you questioned themes and tropes, and have gone far farther with that Far Cry 3. Do you think it’s a fair criticism to say, why not make a game that doesn’t make all these mistakes? Why set out to highlight the mistakes or the laziness, or the issues, or the laziness in the players – why not set out to make a game that’s really good?

Jeffrey Yohalem: First of all, I don’t think there’s any laziness in the players. I think our players are some of the most intelligent, grown up, free-thinking people that there are. I feel like a lot of games don’t respect that. I feel like we’re in this place in the videogame industry where we’re in an abusive relationship. Players feel like game developers don’t respect them, and don’t create meaningful works for them, so they call a lot of games stupid. And a lot of developers get upset because things are being called stupid, and they say that players don’t get it anyway, so they just handhold them all the through. I think that’s an abusive relationship. You need to break that cycle. You need to cause both sides to step back and say, “Maybe there’s something else that we can both have between each other.” We can create situation where players go, “Huh, maybe games have something interesting to say after all, and I’m going to listen.” And then that puts the pressure on game developers to not create lazy crap. Players will see it. As soon as players are listening, game developers have to deliver. In that context you can see that Far Cry 3 is trying to break that loop, rather than create the thing that’s going to happen when people are definitively sitting there, listening.

I feel like we’re in a place still where there’s this dark anger between the two sides. Far Cry 3 was trying to break that loop and say, maybe what we’ve been doing before… Vaas’s insanity speech is the lynchpin of the game, because he’s talking about videogames. If you take what’s been done before, and you see it for what it really is, then can we make something better? Which is what Jason’s speech and the good ending is about. Where he says, “I’ve been a monster, maybe I can’t come back from this.” But he thinks he can. So it’s a statement of hope about the industry.

RPS: So are you now going to go on to make something better?

Jeffrey Yohalem: Yes… I’m not allowed to say anything…

[At this point a PR on the line panics and jumps in, assuming I’m asking what his next game is. I explain that I’m not. That it’s a philosophical question.]

Jeffrey Yohalem: I’m not going to give away anything, but there’s a statement at the end of that game, and I will hold true to it.

RPS: That seems a great place to stop. Thank you for your time.

So then. I think what I feel most strongly at this point is a wish that I’d experienced the Far Cry 3 Yohalem believes it is. It’s unquestionably one of my favourite games in a good long time, but not because of the story, and perhaps even despite it. I can only imagine how more brilliant it would have been to have been understanding the experience on that level, alongside adoring the simple mechanics of playing the thing. I’m also fascinated to realise that the game’s biggest mistake might have been covering up your tattoo with a wing suit. If completing it was so important, concealing it for the second half of the game seems to be a surprisingly dumb decision.

It’s tempting to believe that some of Yohalem’s claims about the game’s intentions are a little too convenient, but he’s right – what about all the clues? He said there were dozens more, but he wants people to find them for themselves. While I doubt very much that things like the crappy skinning animations are really a deliberate conceit to this meta-analysis, I have come away far more convinced that much of what felt simply poor about the game was genuinely an attempt to make me feel uncomfortable, to “destabilise” me, as Yohalem would put it. I think the mistake, perhaps, was the belief that being destabilised would have any profound effect on a player.

There’s one larger issue, however, when it comes to my feeling that this is a case of wanting to have their cake, and smear it all over their faces. You may well have noticed that at the start of the interview, Yohalem says,

“The goal was to create a videogame that examined what shooting does to us in a videogame.”

Then surprisingly soon after he said,

“This is the most interesting misperception that I’ve found – people who thought the game was going to be an examination of shooting. Like, what it would be like to be a real person in this jungle, shooting people, and if you kill hundreds of people what happens to you. That’s not what this game is about. It was never what this game was about.”

Where might they be getting this misconception from?! And it’s worth noting that in a previous interview Yohalem said,

“We want this game to be about shooting. Let’s make a game about shooting, and what it does to humanity. This game is our statement, and it’s a very clear statement, about what we feel shooting means.”

There’s definitely an impression that the answer changes to excuse the game. With such stark contradictions in intent, it doesn’t seem too surprising that the game has failed (in my mind) to convey the meaning he wished.

And as I say a few times above, we’re pretty well worn when it comes to dealing with exaggerated, unbelievable plots, and no more so than with shooters. We make excuses for nonsensical stories because we enjoy the mechanic of shooting at targets in well designed locations, so there was no jarring moment in Far Cry 3 to make us think this was being any different. In a year that’s contained the jingoistic stupidity of Black Ops 2, and the outright racist stupidity of Medal Of Honor, if anything Far Cry 3 felt less exaggerated and offensive. Throwing in racial stereotypes and colonial backward thinking just feels disappointing, rather than shocking. When you make a game that’s satirising shooter power fantasies, and questioning what the player will do in order to progress through a game, you have to be more effecting and more grotesque than the norm, and Far Cry 3 simply isn’t.

Sure, you aren’t trying to save the world when you’re torturing your brother, but you are trying to get through this scene so the game you paid for keeps progressing. And that’s the same reason you might simulate torture in a game where there’s some loose plot about preventing a terrorist – it doesn’t matter that Jason’s intentions are personal, we’re only ever doing it to turn the page, and the point gets lost. In neither is the real world in any peril – there’s only the concern that we don’t get to see what happens next. Sure, that’s something that’s open to satire, but the mistake here was believing that there was ever any player-perceived noble intent in any of the other games that asked you to do it.

That’s the mistake Far Cry 3’s plot keeps making. I love that it was trying to be about gaming itself, that it was a statement, and I applaud it wholeheartedly for attempting this. But again and again, what Far Cry 3’s story really does is just put another selection of negative examples on the piles of negative examples in gaming. From my perspective as a player, it wasn’t pointing at them and asking me to question them – it was joining in with them, and asking me to accept it yet again. Yohalem is completely correct that his missing support structures for his house made me feel unsure what it was really about – I ended up writing much about how that made me feel, as did many others. Like he says, if all these articles are appearing about his game, and not the others, he must have done something right. But unfortunately, I think, rather than making us aware of the horrors of the starving Irish when he says they should eat their babies, instead it too often felt like he was publishing baby recipe books to the very hungry. As a work of satire, Far Cry 3 fails, simply because it required this interview to be apparent. But as an attempt, I’m delighted it’s there, and I am thrilled to see what comes next.

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349 Comments »

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    AndrewC says:

    If Far Cry 3 is a satire on games, then all games are a satire on games.

    • FurryLippedSquid says:

      Call of Duty being among the cleverest.

    • GenuineEntropy says:

      Agreed, I would suggest that in order to qualify as satire your audience must be aware that what you have written is intended as satire.

      I’ve played Far Cry 3 and enjoyed it immensely, but at no point during the narrative did I consider the writers to be doing anything satirical.

      [Spoilers!]——————————————
      The noble savage/ white-man saviour tropes, the short-lived (traumatised) rape victim plot line, the murder of the protagonists siblings at the hands of a compelling (if fun) and well realised (if hollywood-style) sociopathic antagonist?

      While all these elements felt like they’d been written with a sense of fun (in a slick, hollywood script kind of way) I at no time detected irony, self referencial/ deprecating humour, satire or parody.

      To take the case of the rape-victim subplot, it’s wrapped in shlocky humour (“His name is Buck and he likes to…”) but there’s a complete absence of the sort of fresh perspective or social commentary that the word ‘satire’ implies. It’s just a few crude jokes and dialogue that makes the player desire vengeance — which some may argue could be considered a success in terms of character-motivating dialogue writting.
      [/Spoliers!]——————————————

      This is a bold claim for a game that appears to want to be no more than a bit of fun with a silly, action-packed and compelling (by TV/ Hollywood standards) script.

      Why claim high art or ambition? Tropes are just ideas human brains easily latch onto and it’s not as if writers working in other mediums haven’t repeatedly done things “just because they’re dumb fun” over the decades.

      • Unaco says:

        So… satire is subjective? And it’s only satire if you consider it to be, or if it’s a majority or what? I guess something like Clockwork Orange, which many, many people were outraged over when it was released, wasn’t a satire… because only a few people considered it so? What about Brass Eye for example… a lot of the audience saw it as the satire it was meant to be, but a good number failed to see the satire. Does that qualify as satire? What about Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”? A very, very straight faced satire that, unless perhaps you were familiar with the structures of Latin satire you might not realise is a satire.

        I don’t think the audience awareness test for satire is a very good one.

        • GenuineEntropy says:

          Hello Unaco.

          I actually meant that the intent to create satire is generally detectable in most (successful) works of satire.
          Merely claiming that something was intended as satire when that fact is not apparent to the majority of your audience implies failure.

          To take your own examples:
          Brass Eye – Patently and overtly satirical (and highly self aware with it), hardly high brow (despite being a phenomenally good show) those that could not detect its satirical intent are unlikely to appreciate the existence of satire as a concept (oh pedo-geddon episode, how could anyone have been stupid enough to take you seriously?).

          Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” – Of a different time, but certainly one of the strongest examples of satire written in a seemingly serious, but entirely ironic tone (and withering with it).
          The seriousness of the tone was the slight.
          The satire *was* that this outrageous and ethically repugnant proposal was being sincerely presented for the readers consideration.

          Clockwork Orange – Probably the most controversial of your examples, film students still argue if Kubricks work did justice to the original text in satirical terms. I think we can all agree the satire was more clearly evident in Anthony Burgess writing than in Kubriks on-screen re-imagining, to the extent that some consider the film more social commentary (i.e. rebelling in the face of totalitarianism only to ultimately fail) than out-right satire (i.e. the sending up of totalitarian regimes taken to extremes, which is perhaps better represented in the novel).

          I agree with your point to an extent (the artist has the right to claim they intended their work as satire) but the acid test of that is contact with the rest of the world beyond your type-writer

          If no one but you the author thinks it’s satire, is it satire? Perhaps, but arguably very, very badly executed satire that fails on comparison with other more successful satirical works.

          To bring the conversation back round and on topic, Is anyone really claiming they (have played and) interpreted this game as satirical in tone?

          • Unaco says:

            “To bring the conversation back round and on topic, Is anyone really claiming they (have played and) interpreted this game as satirical in tone?”

            Yes. Lots of people are. So it is satire?

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            AndrewC says:

            Unaco: Swift isn’t satire because maybe some people didn’t get it, but Far Cry is because some people might? Your arguments are very strange and, further, i’m not sure what position you are trying to argue.

          • Unaco says:

            That’s not what I’m saying.

            What I’m saying. Swift is satire. As is Chris Morris. As is Clockwork Orange.

            FarCry3 being satire, I don’t know, I haven’t played. Forget about FC3.

            “To qualify as satire your audience must be aware that what you have written is intended as satire” is a terrible idea. If, using this test, some people failed to see the satire in Swift, or Chris Morris, or Clockwork Orange, would that negate these things as being satirical? No, of course it wouldn’t. The audience not seeing satire does not negate the satire of a work.

          • GenuineEntropy says:

            Unaco

            As with your three examples, time will tell how we collectively regard it and that will be the mark of the authors success or failure at creating a satirical work.

            Again: I have played through the game and while I detected plenty of quirky, jovial, action-movie style fun against an occasionally controversial background, to later justify that occasionally controversial background as satire (hiding behind the entirely transparant and overt humour occurring in the foreground), well i can see why to some that feels like contrived justification after the fact.

        • GenuineEntropy says:

          Uncao: “If, using this test, some people failed to see the satire in Swift, or Chris Morris, or Clockwork Orange, would that negate these things as being satirical? No, of course it wouldn’t. The audience not seeing satire does not negate the satire of a work.”

          To go back to one of your examples Brass Eye (and indeed Time Trumpet & The Day Today) are defined as satire in synopsis (so whether Mr Morris or Mr Iannucci wants to identify their work as satire is irrelevant, the audience has done so for them).

          Sure, the artists intent matters, but most artists intend to create things people will like. If they fail to be liked, has the artist succeeded in his attempt to create something people will like?

          Now read that sentence again replacing the word “like” with “find satirical and relevant” or “find funny and amusing” or “is in any way considered a good thing”.

          See where I am coming from? It’s great to *think* you’re doing something, but when you do these things for an audience (beyond your own mind/ amusement), those sorts of definitions move out of your control.

          To wit: I have not seen a single piece of writing or opinion along the lines of “Far Cry 3 is a great action game set against a satirical background”. Not one – despite the artist or authors intent.

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            darkChozo says:

            The issue with that, I think, is that popular opinion isn’t necessarily “correct” (in quotes because subjectivity is silly). There are clearly some people who think that the game is satirical (there are a few in this thread, myself included), and have written opinions to that extent. Not to say that it makes me or others right, but it does make the idea worth discussing.

          • Apocalypse says:

            Indeed authors intend matters, and if the author tries to do write something it stays in the genre of his intention even when its bad.

            So you may argue that far cry 3 is a bad satire that has yet quite entertaining shell with a failed attend of satire below the surface, you you can praise the satire of the game for its subtility or however else you want to review the game. It stays satire, and in my humble opinion it is a good one, subtle below the surface, constant nagging on your perception of the game, messing with the reality of the game and making it obvious blunt even that you are not the hero of this story while everything in the gameplay suggest otherwise.

            For Pete’s sake with that ending, how could the game be anything less than satire?

        • Dominic White says:

          While this is a pretty crazy conversational tangent, I will add that a lot of serious, well-respected movie critics went to see Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers and didn’t pick up on any kind of irony or satire behind it at all.

          This was in spite of the film ramming Robocop-grade (so concentrated it could kill a moose) parody down the viewers throat nearly constantly. It was dripping with it, but somehow, some supposedly intelligent people managed to miss that. So let’s just open up the possibility that sometimes a point, no matter how blatant, can go over the heads of people.

          • GenuineEntropy says:

            That’s actually a really good example and one which gave me some pause…

            I would still contend that time + popular consensus is the ultimate judge (a notion which holds up in the case of your example).

            Thanks for the thought!

          • Unaco says:

            Starship Troopers is a good example, thank you.

            “I would still contend that time + popular consensus is the ultimate judge (a notion which holds up in the case of your example).”

            What about something like Machiavelli’s The Prince? Been around for a while, but the popular consensus is that it’s a serious political treatise. The theory that it is, in fact, incredibly subtle satire is one held only by those who are quite familiar with Machiavelli, 16th Century Florence, and the context in which it was written, or those who have had it all pointed out to them. And, even then, that satire is only evident from a very close reading and understanding of the work. Is The Prince not satire because of the very, very small people who see it as satire?

            For me satire, and something being satirical, isn’t so much about the audience interpretation, and is more about the artist’s intent.

          • The Random One says:

            I think a better way to put Entropy’s point is: A work must stand on its own, without intervention from its authors. Therefore, for a work to be truly satirical, people must understand that it’s satire on their own. If they don’t, then either the author didn’t place the elements that indicate the work’s satirical nature well enough, didn’t understand the audience or the target of the satire well enough to work with them, or didn’t place them at all and is a filthy liar. So if people in general don’t think a specific work is satirical, it’s either bad satire, or not satire at all.

          • Cleave says:

            “A work must stand on its own, without intervention from its authors. Therefore, for a work to be truly satirical, people must understand that it’s satire on their own.”

            I think that sometimes the ‘point’ of satire is that a portion of the audience won’t realise it’s satirical and become offended, such as Matt and Trey’s depictions of American opinion in South Park and Team America. But maybe that’s just trolling..

        • John Walker says:

          I’m really not sure you can have read A Modest Proposal if you think it’s subtle. Let alone that I reference it at the end of the article.

          • Unaco says:

            It’s been a while, but yes, I have read it. And I didn’t say it was subtle, I said it was straight faced. It is incredibly hyperbolic, and makes use of reductio-ad-absurdum quite extensively, and things like antiphrasis, rigid use of Quintilian rhetoric, rather than overt, self referential or deprecatory satire. And the satirical element is only apparent once certain references and allusions are understood. At the time of its original release, many readers did not see it as satire, they failed to see it, and the outcry over it went so far as to threaten Swift’s patronage.

            Nowadays, anyone who starts to read it, goes into it knowing it is a satire. At the time of its initial publication, they didn’t.

          • John Walker says:

            To be clear, I don’t disagree with you. I think you’re right to call me up on that remark – I was incorrect.

            It’s awkward because you haven’t played the game, so it’s difficult to usefully explain my point. But the issue here is the argument is unbeatable. The argument dictates that it’s never possible to say something wasn’t successfully satirical, since the response “you didn’t get it then” always overrules. My argument made above is that FC3 fails to exaggerate or parody on the norm for gaming, and as such fails to be recognisibly nor effectively satirical.

            While the wonderful Brass Eye was certainly somehow taken seriously by some, it was clearly parodying the state of news/analysis programming. Swift’s A Modest Proposal – probably the best piece of satire I’ve read – was overtly exaggerated in its central premise, as horrified as many were by it at the time. In fact, A Modest Proposal is a good example of the difference – here Swift was saying something astonishingly offensive and outrageous with a straight face. In FC3 it’s saying something typically lazy and stereotypical with a blank face.

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            darkChozo says:

            Would a comparison to something like Brave New World be more appropriate? I found that the satirical elements in FC3 were more about a kind of dissonance between how the protagonist acts and how the protagonist is expected to act, not about straight-out parody. After the opening bit where Jason is thrust into the action, he basically acts like a straight-up action hero, one liners at all, despite the fact that it doesn’t really suit the situation or the world. That would just be bad writing if it was the writer doing that, but it’s not the writer, it’s the character — something the other characters react to (the friends wondering what’s happening to him), and something that’s sort-of addressed by the ending (albeit not terribly well).

            That being said, I think that FC3 is an example of a game with a fairly intelligent plot that’s completely let down by it’s execution. The writing and pacing were pretty bad, and there were a lot of big tone shifts that were really out of place (thinking of the helicopter mission near the end here).

          • rockman29 says:

            Thanks for the comparison John. A Modest Proposal is one work I learned a bit about in just one year of English, a first year class. Your comparison made me understand the interview better. Awesome stuff, really long interview, haven’t finished it just yet, great stuff though :)

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        AndrewC says:

        I took it as an unironic bro-fantasy, where you are the most badass of your friends, you get to kill people righteously, fight tigers single-handedly, screw the beautiful princess, save the day and be really intense and dark and stuff,all while jetski-ing, hang-gliding and blowing shit up.

        Dumb fun, as you say. Obnoxious and borderline hateful too, in my opinion, but definitely dumb.

        Unaco: then use a dictionary definition if you want to be pedantic. It still fails.

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          darkChozo says:

          I’m sorry, but how could you possibly not see a drop of irony in the game? By that view of the plot, the “good ending” has you murder your friends in cold blood. Sure, you could see it as poorly executed, but I don’t see how you can see this as a completely straight manshooter.

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            AndrewC says:

            A single drop in an ocean?

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            darkChozo says:

            Well, it’s what some people might call an “example”, but I’ll go on.

            -You’re forced to torture your own brother in one of the most uncomfortable depictions of torture in a video game I’ve seen (compare to something like how protagonist-driven torture is treated in COD), hardly heroic behavior
            -There are tons of hallucinations suggesting that not everything is as it seems to be, and at least twice it leads to the player doing something potentially objectionable that they weren’t aware of (four if you count the pseduo-boss battles)
            -There is a lot of suggestion that there’s something’s off about the protagonist, from the general tone of the character, to characters directly mentioning it in-game, to it being a theme of one of the epilogues (again, compare to COD (BLOPS, specifically), where a character is off because of magic Russian brainwashing and saves the day heroically at the end)
            -The “mentor” character, who starts off pretty standard, later has a scene where he’s drunk and basically subverting every mentor trope ever, shows concern about you worrying about your friends and family, and says that African warlords are good people

            Like I said, feel free to claim that the ironic elements were poorly executed (personally I think the writing was pretty awful and that the tone was pointlessly schizophrenic at times), but don’t say that it’s completely unironic when it’s clearly not trying to be.

          • noclip says:

            There’s a good ending? Am I missing something? I only counted two…

          • noclip says:

            darkChozo: I find it hard to believe I could be alone in finding BLOPS (the first, I haven’t played the second) a lot easier to read satirically. The only thing missing from the very last scene of BLOPS was “America, Fuck Yeah” playing in the background.

        • Unaco says:

          I wasn’t talking about FarCry3 specifically… haven’t played it yet, but I’m not that concerned about spoilers. I’m just pointing out that GenuineEntropy’s audience awareness test for satire is a very, very silly thing.

          Edit: From the little I know of FC3, and from a dictionary definition of satire, it doesn’t seem to fail completely to me… the whole jungle-spirit-warrior stuff seems fairly ironic and ridiculing.

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            AndrewC says:

            Let’s use Chris Morris. Fur Q and Uzi Lover:

            (edited to put in correct link) http://youtu.be/1sxZ4tsp8gc

            ‘The whole controversy is preposterous. These killings are clearly ironic.’

          • GenuineEntropy says:

            Based on my first hand experience of the game, this particular element is delivered in an entirely serious and straight-faced manner (the script and voice acting are all seemingly earnest).

            The only humour or irony I could detect in the ‘white-man-saviour spirit-warrior” stuff was the silliness surrounding this as justification for the inclusion of something so patently gamey and divorced from reality.

            Clarity note: I really, really enjoyed the game as a game (writing, plot and dialogue aside).

          • Unaco says:

            And what? What about Chris Morris? And why are you linking Spanish language videos featuring scantily clad women in Christmas themed outfits and coffins? Is… is that meant to be for your ‘alone time’?

            Chris Morris is satire. Obviously. I can see that, you can see that. But, if someone didn’t see that it was satire, as they did when it was broadcast, by GenuineEntropy’s test, would it or would it not be satire? I’m commenting on GenuineEntropy’s idea that “to qualify as satire your audience must be aware that what you have written is intended as satire”. I think that’s a terrible idea. It only allows for overt, over the top, ridiculous satire… rather than the perhaps more subtle and nuanced satire.

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            AndrewC says:

            Hahaha, wrong link (though a link to a Christmas themed advert for a funeral home is pretty funny. I was putting it on my tweets at the time)

            Here’s the Day Today link: http://youtu.be/1sxZ4tsp8gc

            The problem with your argument is demanding absolutes.’if one person doesn’t get it, then it isn’t satire’.

            No definition can survive this test.

          • Unaco says:

            “The problem with your argument is demanding absolutes.’if one person doesn’t get it, then it isn’t satire’.”

            I… I don’t think you quite understand me. Where have I said this… that if someone doesn’t get it, then it isn’t satire? Where? I’ve been saying the complete f*cking opposite.

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            Zephro says:

            Well without going all epistemological I don’t think the phrase “X is satire” has a direct meaning. It’s not a material thing that can be interpreted through a materialistic framework like science. So it’s experienced by the writer creating it and by the audience interpreting it. Obviously they are going to be different and I doubt either are authoritative.

            So does “X is satire” mean “I found it satirical” or is it a more complex statement when broken down to something like “The author X intended it to be satire, most p of the Audience found it to be so, therefore it is successful satire” <- more detail.

            Anyway I doubt either side is saying it definitely 100% is or isn't satire as that seems to be an impossible statement.

          • Archonsod says:

            “The only humour or irony I could detect in the ‘white-man-saviour spirit-warrior” stuff was the silliness surrounding this as justification for the inclusion of something so patently gamey and divorced from reality.”

            You didn’t think there was something a wee bit odd about the fact the guy who clued you in on it all was a non-native African American wearing a US Marine shirt?

          • Cleave says:

            “Based on my first hand experience of the game, this particular element is delivered in an entirely serious and straight-faced manner (the script and voice acting are all seemingly earnest).”

            I don’t really see how you can do satire without a straight faced delivery.

      • doozer667 says:

        I don’t necessarily agree with you that a piece of art has to make it clear that it’s a satire, however the piece has to be aware of the environment it has been made in. In an industry environment where disturbing and offensive content is the norm, you need to go out of your way to make it obvious. I’d also argue that maybe a satire isn’t even necessary in such an environment because people are likely already sick of the very things you’re supposedly critiquing.

        He claims the industry views the consumer as stupid, but he clearly has the view that the consumer is stupid himself. He thinks that in order for us to demand better of the industry that people need a satire. If we needed a satire just to realize that, then why make it so hard to label it as satire?

        Personally, I was disgusted solely by the initial game play/trailers they showed. I didn’t buy the game, nor do I want to now that I’ve heard it was supposedly a ‘satire.’ I didn’t need to pay $60.00 to be convinced I wanted more from this industry, and I doubt many other people need to either.

    • Pasco says:

      Absolutely.

      FC3 is just so… standard, in so many ways. All the examples given of making you feel ‘destabilised’ or that are intended as ‘satire’ or ‘ironic’ or ‘fake’ could be slotted into any of the other big FPS this year and no-one would blink.

      Games (and FPS in particular) are so far beyond hyperbole that in order to comment on them using a game you need to push so far as to be beyond ridiculous. The medium may be beyond satire for now.

      • Brise Bonbons says:

        Oh, I don’t think gaming is beyond satire; I just doubt that the model of satire where we take extremely common tropes and turn them up to 11 (or 6, in this case) is the best option at this time, for all the reasons evidenced by this interview.

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          darkChozo says:

          I think this interview is a good argument for Death of the Author, if for no other reason than the author is reaaalllyy bad at explaining himself.

      • noclip says:

        I would go beyond “standard” and say that as a whole it’s robustly mediocre. A lot of the story-related mechanical stuff (the escort missions, the poorly placed checkpoints, the finicky event triggers) isn’t bad with a purpose, it’s just bad… in exactly the ways you would expect from a middle-of-the-road shooter cranked out by a rushed team without a clear idea of what they were making. He can go on for hours about thematic misinterpretations but at the end of the day he still shipped a pretty good open world game with a crappy campaign bolted onto it.

      • RobinOttens says:

        I’d say Spec-Ops was pretty effective in commenting on the state of triple A action games. And all they needed to convince most players was that one shocking scene half-way through and some clever writing throughout. That game also never outright stated it was making a point, but most players picked up on it nonetheless.

        Also, can I just say that I think satire is the most boring and uninteresting message a piece of art can have. And the kind of statement Far Cry 3 (and Spec-Ops too for that matter) is making, feels a bit too easy/shallow and does not do anything for me.

        • coarse.sand says:

          Robin, Spec Ops directly states its intent in the closing scenes of the game when you’re having your conversation with Konrad. It’s true that most players will probably have picked up on it beforehand, but it does go out of its way to have Konrad explain to you what the game is about. Spec Ops is not ridiculing, it’s outright condemning modern military games and the actions their designers force players to perform.

    • simulant says:

      You can justify it all you want but I still feel that the plot of Far Cry 3 is an epic failure. It turned me off to the point of not finishing the game. Uncomfortable isn’t the the word, Far Cry 3 made me feel stupid for playing it. (most FPS single player campaigns do, but FC3 takes the cake.)

      Having played nearly every FPS since Doom 1, I’m not sure that FPS games should have plots at all. A FPS is simply not a good vehicle for forced narrative. Multi-player FPS is generally a better experience though the RPGification of online shooters is taking it’s toll.

    • Pindie says:

      This this and this.

      If you make a pornographic film that has a plot even worse than most productions of the type it’s not satire. It’s a particularly bad example of genre which is known for bad screenplay in the first place.

      The satire just falls flat on its face if it’s not overdone and then overdone more to the point the audience is certain this is a satire.
      Something must happen that would never happen if it was not a satire.
      The way FC3 is you may just expect copy-cat games from other developers who did not get the joke.

      The only way to make certain satire is understood is to make literal reading impossible.
      Kinda like Super Meat Boy did. It was poorly executed satire but you could at least tell what they were going for.

      I do not think the audience is at fault, I think Ubisoft writers just dropped the ball. Once more.
      Dropping a few clues does not help since badly written movies often have random things dropped in to obscure the fact.

      Does anyone believe Decker wan an android?

      • Treymoney says:

        Yes. Everyone believes that.

      • Premium User Badge

        Dilapinated says:

        I thought the whole point of the dream + unicorn in the Director’s Cut was to hammer home that yes, Rick Deckard is a Replicant. It’s Gaff implicitly telling Deckard that he knows the contents of his dreams (as with Rachel’s spider dreams).

    • GeroRRA says:

      While the spoilers about Far Cry 3 were mentioned (and why I held off reading this), the spoilers about Assassin’s Creed 2 were not mentioned. Consider me very annoyed.

  2. sonson says:

    Fuck me. Dan Brown writes video games.

    • Premium User Badge

      AndrewC says:

      The explanation of ‘ROOK Island’ is particularly sweet. Perhaps this fakeness explains the reason why all the camps are made from the same cookie cutter assets, making them indistinguishable from each other.

      Can’t figure out if his narrative project just went horribly wrong, or if this is a last minute bodge when someone pointed out the story was a bit unpleasant: ‘guys, we’ll pretend it’s about madness, and then it’ll be ok. Alright. Now: shhh’

      • sonson says:

        I hope to encounter chess being used as a metaphor for life at some point, I like that sort of intelligent observation.

        Also “You don’t get asked to be their leader, you get asked to be made their king”. I hope this is some sort of critique of the concept of the divine right of monarchies within pre-colonial socieities.

        I don’t know, maybe I’m just beign harsh but he basically just seems to reiterate his own intentions rather than interact with the observations made about them. I don’t doubt that he put * a lot* of thought into what he was doing, but I do think that all his ideas are all very subsceptible to the critisicms raised.

        • Premium User Badge

          AndrewC says:

          Applaud the Far Cry 3team for trying then, but look forwards to they day when they actually get it right. I can get behind that.

          I feel you are being less harsh than me, though. As John stated, if Mr Yohalem thought he was being hyperbolic in his presentation, he has never played any game ever. The motivational speech to the tribe is less hyperbolic than Avatar, for that matter.

          • sonson says:

            When I say “put thought into” I basically feel like they made the game and then intelectually justified everything that happened afterwards according to these ideas swimming around in his head. I think the mechanics and plot more or less stand entirely aside from those intentions to be honest. You can certainly project them onto them afterwards, but that’s a pretty huge failing if the author genuinley wants to make people think.

            They’re miles off that in my opinion. It’s not pre pubescent blast shit for fun, but it is basically sixth form/Gap Year “awareness” and depth. Big issues without mature consideration, and heavy doses of gratutious violence and sex.

            A good rule of thumb I’ve found is that games that make you think don’t need or want to broadcast themselves as such.

          • Brise Bonbons says:

            I agree entirely. I mean, yeah, most creators put lots of thought into their work before they let it run free into the world. Yet that’s why the death of the author is so important: The months of effort and good intentions only matter so much when the rubber meets the road, and you need to come to grips with that as a creator even if you personally believe that intent matters.

            Your piece has to stand by itself and communicate with the people who experience it. As the creator it doesn’t matter how much time and thought and detail you put in if it can’t do that, because you can’t always stand over the viewer/reader/user’s shoulder and whisper to them that they’re doing it wrong.

            And you can’t walk in after the fact and shout everyone down, explaining patiently that they just don’t get the genius of your work. Because hey, you do that and look defensive and arrogant and petulant.

            If you are confident that your work will hold up in the long term, let it stand by itself and move on to the next project. In time everyone will understand it, or it will be forgotten with so many other misunderstood works of genius.

      • zbeeblebrox says:

        Nah, I think he’s being honest here. I’ve encountered this kind of authorial mistake before. Sort of how John says it seems like he was trying to have his cake and eat it too – basically, a common mistake I see people do in writing stories is they will make one observation: “Hmm, there’s a lot of X stereotype/cliche in my genre, I should comment on it” but then they go a step further, “HMM, there are also already some commentaries on this stereotype/cliche! I should comment on those while I comment on it!”, and then they fall right off the cliff by deciding: “HMM! I know! I’ll take this already-overly complicated commenting and *hide* it inside a satire that appears to be playing it straight on the surface!”

        So now, instead of making a story that clearly communicates its position, the author has a garbled, hidden series of misdirections that are all inadvertently serving to make people believe the story is actually playing it straight, just in a weird off-kilter way. The author walks into the story intending to make fun of something, and through one too many conceptual leaps, and ends up enshrining it by mistake.

        • DoomMunky says:

          Correct. The proper way to comment on misconceptions about your work is to show up, patiently explain your intentions, listen politely to arguments about its interpretation, then leave and get to work on the next thing. Defending and excusing and re-explaining means you didn’t do your job right.

  3. roryok says:

    SPOILER WARNING Would have been nice. I haven’t played any of Far Cry 3 yet and this seems to be revealing a lot of plot details. I stopped at question 3

  4. Grape says:

    Fuck, I remember John Walker’s original essay about this.

    Made me lose so much respect for him.

    • John Walker says:

      Can you say why?

      • SlappyBag says:

        I think those articles are some of the more interesting personally.

      • pottering says:

        John Walker, bring them hell.

      • Lorka says:

        I can’t imagine why – one of the best pieces I’ve read on RPS in a while. Thanks John

      • The Random One says:

        He didn’t reply because he lost so much respect for John he can’t even acknowledge his existence.

    • Premium User Badge

      Stellar Duck says:

      You remember back to the 4th of this month? 15 days? Well done I say!

      • Unaco says:

        Yeah, but it was a John Walker article… most people try to blank them out as quickly as they can.

        • Premium User Badge

          beekay says:

          :c well *i* like all of the rps people so THERE

        • Dozer says:

          John’s articles on the wider context of gaming are a highlight of this site for me.

          • suibhne says:

            Hear, hear! I don’t always agree with him (tho I often do), but I’m always pleased to see RPS leading the “industry” (games journalism?) with pieces like that.

          • Brise Bonbons says:

            Agreed, these sorts of conversations about the social context in which games exists are the main reason I visit RPS.

            It is very much the wild west of criticism still, I suppose, but personally I prefer that to the state of criticism in film and the fine Arts. At least here we can all have a good conversation without obscuring the whole thing behind a mountain of nonsensical jargon.

        • Premium User Badge

          Stellar Duck says:

          They may well do. That’d be foolish though.

          Even when I don’t agree with John, and heaven knows that happens (ME3 for instance is a case of him being 100% objectively wrong and clearly mad), I find that it’s good to read stuff you don’t agree with.

          In general I find that John writes some of the most interesting stuff on here as he often moves outside the strict (and often boring) realm of games.

          • Unaco says:

            I find John’s articles are always the most negative, the most strident, the most moralising, agenda pushing, and polarised out of all the Hivemind’s work. I don’t think that sort of writing is helpful or beneficial for Gaming.

            YMMV.

          • Premium User Badge

            Stellar Duck says:

            They are certainly outspoken.

            I honestly see no issues in pushing an agenda. I’d do so myself if I had the platform to do it and the passion for it. But as you said YMMV.

            As for his pieces being beneficial or not, I’m not sure I think that matters. But even so it’s miles more interesting to read than regurgitated press releases and posts about a new trailer/screen shot. I can get that anywhere, whereas honest to god opinion pieces about games are somewhat rare.

            And I think that games as a medium (and an industry) has to be able to deal with criticism or questioning, be it of stereotypes in FarCry 3 or depictions of ladies in the games. Else it’s a pretty childish medium though to be fair, that’s the current way my thinking goes. The comments to Johns pieces more and more make me want to turn away from games as I can’t stand a lot of the people who share my hobby.

            In recent years I’ve been walling myself more and more in, limiting my online experiences to a select few places and games and returning to single player games as I just don’t like a lot of the people who play games.

          • zain3000 says:

            I might be one of the few (and the proud) to agree with John regarding the ME3 endings. I truely believe that it was a case of BioWare being smarter than everyone gave them credit for. As John said, the choices you made during the course of all three games did have an effect on the story while you were actively engaged in playing. The issue, as I interpreted it, was that the myriad of choices had no bearing on the absolute end-game.

            But that’s when I think the point BioWare was trying to make really hit home for me. Sometimes there is no happy ending. Sometimes, no matter what you do, you can’t stop what’s going to happen. The Reapers’ words were prophetic.

            But, I saved ALL those colonists on Feros from the Thorian! I released the Rachni queen and gave that misunderstood species a second chance! I reconciled Thane and his son! I helped Jack come to terms with her past! How can I accomplish so much good and have it all be for naught?!

            Shit…

            And that’s where the power-fantasy hit a roadblock that it could not overcome. Sometimes, things are out of your control. Sometimes, you don’t have the power to set the universe aright. BioWare waited till the very end to drop that bomb, and I think it was f’in brilliant!

          • Premium User Badge

            AlwaysRight says:

            Well said zane3000. That’s how I feel too.

          • Brise Bonbons says:

            I think each person has a whole range of ideas, from shit to OK to brilliant. Very few people have nothing but sound, well reasoned opinions, or for that matter, nothing but shit irrational ones. Similarly not every band makes only good albums and not every studio makes only amazing games.

            Take each idea or article for its own thing. It’s just lazy to deem everything a person thinks to be bad or good simply by dint of it being theirs.

            Now, I understand we all have limited time, so sometimes we say “95% of the things this person writes is garbage, it’s bad odds for me to even pay attention”, but that’s a different thing entirely.

            In short, it is not actually strange that John might have a better point to make about Far Cry than Mass Effect. Maybe he’s just smarter about one thing than the other, or maybe you just agree with him on one and not the other.

            Or, really, Unaco is hard to converse with.

          • Premium User Badge

            Stellar Duck says:

            It’s a bit late, but in case someone wonders: my issue with the ending of ME3 is not that it’s not a happy ending. Very few people complain that it ends on a dark note and it strikes me as a strawman.

            My problem with the ending is that it’s badly written, employs a literal deus ex machina which the writer doesn’t have the skill to pull off, comes out of nowhere and is completely out of sync with the themes of the game so far.

            For all I care they could kill every person in the galaxy. I’d say it was interesting if the reapers won. It just had to make sense. And it didn’t.

            That’s why I think John is mad. He often claims to like stories and writing, yet he thinks this piece of jumbled mess is good. I simply don’t understand it.

        • Triangulon says:

          I agree with the above; John’s articles are one of the best features of RPS and one of the things that sets it apart from (and above) other similar sites in my opinion.

          • Premium User Badge

            Zephro says:

            Seconded, they tend to be the more interesting articles and help set RPS apart from other sites. They also exemplify treating Games as a higher medium than just one for banal pleasure, i.e. giving them the proper criticism a film would get rather than just asking if it was fun.

          • I Got Pineapples says:

            That’s actually my big issue with games criticism. It wants to be Film Criticism but it hasn’t really gotten itself the intellectual chops yet. So we tend to get stuff like this.

          • Premium User Badge

            Zephro says:

            Well I felt this had more intellectual chops than most film criticism I see. Eye of the beholder and so forth.

            Anyway it’s nice to see someone actually holding games to “higher” standards of a sort. Or at least discussing it maturely.

        • my_big_cups says:

          Wow, what an incredibly disrespectful thing to say. How easy it is to criticize someone else’s work. Here you are, on a website that gives you 100% free content, and at that, it’s really fucking good content, as far as game websites go. And you come in here and just throw a blanket of shit on someone trying to do something good for you. I can’t prove it, but I’ll bet that IRL you are a huge coward.

          • Unaco says:

            Really, there’s no need to get personal… calling me a coward is pretty low don’t you think? I haven’t personally insulted John here, have I? Merely criticised his work. And I’m sure John is a big enough boy that he doesn’t need you to come fight his fights for him.

            Firstly, what I originally said was something of a joke. I don’t rate John’s work highly, I’ve said that before… this seemed like a funny way of saying it again. Secondly, surely I am allowed to criticise the work of a critic, no? Or are critics somehow above criticism? And John does make it very easy to criticise his work. Thirdly, just because something is ‘free’ that doesn’t mean I can’t criticise it, does it? Otherwise we can’t criticise the vast, vast majority of journalists and journalism. Being free doesn’t elevate something above criticism. Fourthly, yes… throwing a blanket of shit, perhaps. I’ve seen John throw blankets of shit on things aswell… why is it OK for him to do it, but not for myself? Fifthly… I’d argue whether what John is doing is doing ‘good for me’. I’d argue that John’s divisive, polarising writing is actually not beneficial for gaming as a whole… it perpetuates the idea that things are black or white, good or bad, and doesn’t allow for the grey area that reality is entirely composed of.

            Why don’t you stop, take a minute, read the other responses to what I said… they were all perfectly civil, good natured, good humoured, didn’t stoop to the level of personal insult.

            As for being a “huge coward”… I’m actually pretty svelte. And I’d contest it was the person throwing insults around on the internet who was the coward, and not I.

          • John Walker says:

            Hey, Unaco, when you say “Yeah, but it was a John Walker article… most people try to blank them out as quickly as they can,” you do understand that’s not a compliment, right?

            I really don’t care that you hate everything I write – I remain simply bemused that you ever read past my name at the top of a post – but please, come on, you don’t get to claim you weren’t making it personal!

          • Premium User Badge

            AndrewC says:

            You need to work on your internet-comedy tags, Unaco, you consistantly come over as personally abrasive and abusive.

            Or satirical, I guess.

          • Sheng-ji says:

            Unaco has been called a lot of things since I’ve been reading the comments section, but coward is one which I don’t think can be justified. Since RPS articles started appearing on steam, it has attracted an element which for want of better phasing troll and bully people who draw attention to themselves, people like Unaco and he is one of the few who will stand up to them without descending to their level. I don’t know what to call that, but I’m certain it involves some element of bravery.

          • Unaco says:

            I never claimed it to be a compliment John, merely a criticism. Do I have to compliment you? I apologise if you took it personally. I only meant to criticise your work, liken it, perhaps, to a car crash you pass and can’t help but stare at, and then spend the rest of the day trying to forget about… the 2 comments I replied to (“I remember this article” / “You remember an article from 2 weeks ago? Well done”) seemed like a good comedy set up for my comment.

            I am sure you are a lovely person in real life. And I don’t hate everything you write… seeing you say goodbye makes my day at times. I’m not making this personal John… I am only criticising your work and not you as a person. If I have gotten personal, please point out to me where I have.

            I’m a little bemused that you say I shouldn’t read and comment on your work, just because I don’t like it… Does that mean you don’t/won’t write about games you don’t like/enjoy? If so, we could maybe have a deal.

            And, being serious, for once, I don’t hate everything you write. When I like what you’re writing, I really like what you’re writing… your work on the science of games and violence, Susan Greenfield, mass media representations and reporting of games is pretty great. But, when you miss the mark, I really feel like you miss it by a country mile, and I’ll tell you about it in comments.

          • John Walker says:

            Oh, don’t be needless now. As you know, I was making the point that it was an overt insult, along with the dozens of others you weirdly take the time to send my way. You’re more than intelligent enough to have understood that.

            Again, obviously, the point I make is that it seems weird to subject yourself to the content I write when it clearly bothers you so much – you’re not being paid to review it, and I think most people would get by without your endlessly smug and cunty responses were you to find another way to wile away the hours until your death.

          • Unaco says:

            Smug AND c*nty? Are you flirtin’ with me John?

          • LennyLeonardo says:

            “Smug AND c*nty? Are you flirtin’ with me John?”

            Well, that showed him.

          • Midroc says:

            I’m finding it really hard to place you Unaco. In some of your posts you’re pretty well versed and knows how to coherently write constructive criticism. In others you just sound like a 12 year olds first attempt at trolling.

            What you wrote to John weren’t criticism, it was just an insult. And how can you say it isn’t personal if you Don’t read articles based on who the author is, rather then the quality of the article.

          • f1x says:

            He is what we call a professional trained troll, versed in all the ancient arts of trolling, possibly continuing a tradition thats goes back to Socrates trolling the Agora

            And as long as you keep feeding him, he will keep coming back

          • Laephis says:

            Thanks to not being logged in, I was treated to Unaco’s usual steaming pile of bullshit.

            John Walker: if you’re pissing off people like him, you’re doing something right.

          • LostInDaJungle says:

            He’s satirizing the “Great White Troll” stereotype by being such an over the top troll. Jeez people, don’t you get satire?

            What I read was a guy who’s had some games that were successful on the gameplay elements that were considered poorly written. The author says “Gee, Ass Creed 2 sold X Million copies, I must be Thomas Pynchon!”

            Spoilers ahead:

            My Wife, who is a total non-gamer, points out the freaking obvious. When you’re going down to torture Riley, one of the guards is watching your vacation footage on a TV. My Wife says, “Wait, Hoyt knows what you look like then, right?” Umm, yeah. And somehow he’s into trusting random White Americans who show up on Rook Island even though some random white American is causing holy havoc for him. He had to know who Riley was.

            So, I’m walking into the room knowing this is a set-up, but there’s no option to NOT do this thing. Press A to torture Riley or fail the mission.

            Later, Hoyt says “You think I’m f’ing stupid?” Umm, no, I think the writers are. That’s what went through my head. I powered through the Hoyt missions to get to a “choice” that wasn’t a choice. What was Citra offering me for killing my friends? I was a powerful warrior without her. Gold? Riches? Or living out the rest of my life in the nicest hut on poverty island instead of going back to the air-conditioned paradise that is Santa Monica? I felt no real connection with the Rakyat, I felt no animus towards my friends.

            After looking over the “Making of” footage, the best part of the game and writing was Vaas, who wasn’t even in the original design doc. Take away Vaas, and the only thing left are the awful parts of the plot.

            You’re not Thomas Pynchon. You are an author in a genre that is considered slightly below Kiddie Shows in terms of plot.

    • Gorf says:

      Well I thought the original “bad points” article was pretty ignorant seeing as he hadnt finished the game, and I was hoping he would have finished it later, realised it was satirical, as I did, and written something like “ooops it looks like I may have missed a point or two here”, but instead he has stuck to his guns and given this guy a bit of a grilling.

      And yeah, with regards to Johns articles I also find them unnecessarily controversial and out of sorts with the rest of the writers on RPS more professional style.

      • I Got Pineapples says:

        Yeah. I’m going to say the Far Cry 3 article did honestly irritate me. It’s hardly been my favourite game of the year, though I liked it quite a bit, but I think it deserved better than ‘Well, here are the most shallow readings I can take of the game midway through it’.

        I also could have done with his little response at the end of this one as well, to be honest.

        On occasion, RPS decides to have a bit of a wank and the whole FC3 felt like one of those times.

    • John Walker says:

      Here’s what confuses me most about the vitriolic reaction here to the Why I Loathe post: it was a dialectic piece, the antithesis to the Why I Love post. I contradict myself wildly between the two, which I’d assumed would lead most people to make the leap to figuring out my feelings were somewhere between the two.

      It was in fact the Loathe post that led to the interview with Yohalem, who got in touch with me after it to say how he had enjoyed it, and was interested to know my opinions when I’d finished the game. But hey ho!

      • LennyLeonardo says:

        If only you’d conducted an interview with John in which he makes it clear that his Loathe post was not meant to be taken on face value…

      • John Walker says:

        But I laboured on in both pieces about why I’d picked the order I had!

      • The Random One says:

        “We’re not that sophisticated, I’m afraid.”

        John, make sure you put a tutorial next time you write a wordy article.

  5. timstellmach says:

    Sorry to say, but I’ve seen the claim of irony used to disavow creative responsibility before. It just comes across as the usual detached, hipster dodge.

    • Network Crayon says:

      Agreed. Far Cry 3 is not satire. Further more, i can imagine how it was pitched to this chap.

      Producers: “We wanna make the pratoganist in Far Cry 3 be, like, a ‘Normal Person'”.
      Writer: “uh… Ok, so he’s a normal person… then he gets a gun. So deep.”

      • sonson says:

        You could do something incredibly deep on just that, actually. The point is there is basically nothing to follow up the author’s repeated assertion that this is very much the case.

      • f1x says:

        The fact that he constainly tries to make a paralelism between the game and “modern art” says a lot

        • Brise Bonbons says:

          Look, I love modern art and I even enjoy reading about the ideas behind it, but the explanations/contortions on display here are just not… Intelligent. They’re clever, but not especially thoughtful.

          Modern art, I think like most things, is best when it follows the KISS rule. It should be effective in all sorts of ways from all sorts of perspectives, because it should be deep and lean enough to allow for many people from diverse backgrounds to bring their own ideas to the table and have a conversation.

          The attitude on display here (by the FC3 writer) is less hipster, and more defensive 2nd year art student who knows just enough to feel extremely clever and assume others fail to get it because they are not clever enough. At least that’s my take based on my experiences with art students.

          • f1x says:

            I used the ” ” to notice that I’m talking about “modern art”, of course there is fine modern art and a lot of different things so anyone can find its niche

            What I mean is that he is trying to build a parellism with “modern art”, by using words like “shocking”, so he is basically puting up the argument of “if it produces a shock its artistic, it dosnt matter if its good or not”, which makes it closer to the most trivial wing of modern art

        • bigblack says:

          Brise: except for the fact that I have put 20 hours into this game and I detect satire and overt ridiculousness nearly everywhere I look. If you don’t see what I do, do I get to call you a liar and accuse you of being a child, as well?

          John and everyone else are perfectly right to point out that the satire isn’t working FOR THEM AS PLAYERS, but there is a rather large gulf to cross from that position, to your claim that Far Cry 3’s writer is an amateur artist-come liar covering his tracks.

          I can only imagine that the many here who doubt this guy’s honesty don’t often watch ‘art’ films with groups of other people, where it is insanely common to see comedy and satire and lofty goals of many stripes absolutely fall on their face. That does not invalidate the attempted creative goal, it’s simply not working as intended. The End.

          Broad appeal = easy to digest material with clear sign-posts as to how people in your audience should feel; the reactions here in the RPS comments are close to saying ‘don’t try this uppity shit in my games unless you are going to ace it’, and that is a bullshit position for those with soft minds. Yes, please, let’s all shit on this guy for attempting something relatively unique, which didn’t work quite right. BURN HIM.

          • Brise Bonbons says:

            Call me whatever you like. Any creator I’ve known goes through a phase where they are too certain about their own infallibility to accept criticism, and hopefully we move beyond it. I did the former, and hopefully the latter as well, though that is always a work in progress.

            The thing is, as with any human endeavor, a little humility is a great thing, and being defensive when confronted with something that might have been a fuckup on your part is seldom a good quality to possess.

            The guy thought he had some clever ideas. He released them into the world and they fell flat for a lot of people. He should be trying to understand what happened so he can make it work better next time, not doing the rounds and arguing with critics that they just don’t get it and look I put in all these hints it’s your fault for not looking for them. Maybe that’s what he’s doing, I dunno, but it doesn’t really come across that way to me.

            Also, I just don’t fucking care that he tried, not given the way he tried. If he was honestly trying to engage with issues of race and sexual violence, I’d give him some leeway, but he doesn’t really come across as caring much about them. So I don’t think he gets a pass for trying to use them as tools to make a point.

            EDIT: I will admit my original post was too harsh, it’s not helpful to slam the guy the way I did. I apologize to him for that should he ever read that comment.

            But were I to ever find myself talking to him face to face, I’d still tell him to stop the BS and just talk to me about the game itself and not his intentions or the hidden clues I missed.

          • f1x says:

            Thats what I meant when I was talking about modern art,
            everytime this Jeffrey touches a sensible matter (raper, violence) he shouts “modern art!” as if that would mean “if you dont understand it you are not open minded enough” instead of trying to actually stablish a proper dialogue with the player and use a bit of self-criticism,
            because he understood the whole modern art thing wrong, but I’m refering constantly to that because he is mentioning it 2 or 3 times across the interview

            the hidden clues is another rampant example of that, “if you dont get the clues you are not smart enough” thats the message the guy is sending, like someone told him that building a mystery in the alchemic/hermetic tradition of it its just about hidding random things along the way,
            as someone said, he is just another sort of Dan Brown

  6. Premium User Badge

    corinoco says:

    Interesting read; though it makes me LESS interested in FC3, and more interested in playing FC2 again.

    FC2 was brilliant; while lots of people hated the respawning checkpoints, I loved them; it made me think of what real wars in places like Afghanistan & Vietnam are/were like – ‘didn’t we clean this village out last week?’

    This article makes FC3 sound like an attempt at hipster irony; ‘YES! See how bad rape and shooting endangered animals is? See? ‘. It’s the easy way out.

    Maybe I’m wrong – I haven’t played it yet. But the devs talk of all the clues hidden in the game? Come on, if you have a message or story, TELL IT! Lots of little clues is a cop-out. ‘That misaligned texture? IT’S AN IRONICALISTIC CLUE!’

    No thanks.

    • f1x says:

      Well I got a similar vibe from reading this interview,
      until now I’ve been playing a bit Farcry 3, maybe 3 or 4 hours but after reading this I’m no longer wanting to play it I feel like this Jeffrey guy will be hidden behind every tree pointing at me and saying “HAHA YOU DONT GET THE JOKE, HAHA FOOL!!!!”
      or everytime I pass a normal simple looking rock, he will say to me from the skies “dude there was a hidden clue there, didnt you notice the shape of the rock is the same as the floor of the temple of Salomon? omg”

  7. f69 says:

    The game is an over the top acid trip. None of it bothered me.

  8. Zogtee says:

    lol, writers

  9. khomotso says:

    Nothing undermines the arguments about art (or depth or whatever you want to call it) in gaming quite so much as a developer convinced they’ve succeeded.

    That said, the loop business he was talking about rang true for me: I stopped at the ridiculous boss fight, having had enough of the silly loops and the bad directorship of the game.

    But because I’m talking about it on the internet, that must mean it worked.

  10. SuperNashwanPower says:

    Slightly off topic, but this has been building in me for a week or so …

    I just can’t quite get on the same page as the general consensus regarding FC3. Maybe I had overly high expectations being a huge fan of the series, where others came in with no expectations at all, but my experience just isn’t matching up with the glowing reviews.

    I am really liking the open world stuff, but I think there were some bad decisions made for a large percentage of the story missions. I’m not a fan of ‘cinematic’ games, especially ones that are built on turret sections, limited mission areas, and the frequent removal of player control via cutscenes and QTE’s. In this, FC3 suffers as per the modern warfares (which seem to be positively aped in the Lost Expeditions missions). Its in trying to deliver story through these elements that I felt FC3 ended up being dragged into “OK” territory rather than “amazing”. Added to this, I couldn’t find any empathy for the characters, who were mostly people I would want to avoid. I felt like Vaas was wasted, especially in his denouement which ultimately turned into a frustrating grind to get past, rather than a thrilling boss battle. It promised so much but did not hit the high notes.

    Once I had spent a few hours completing all the truly open world missions on the first island (Radio towers, relics, crafting / hunting and outposts) there is only the story and side missions/ challenges to do, which are extremely patchy, often cursory, divorced from the game and limit the map size available. I found myself resenting having to sit through the story missions which, with the exception of the occasional more open map, were the antithesis of what the game does so well. The island goes quiet once all the outposts are liberated, something I wish I had potsponed now. Once I had the signature weapons, I felt no need to look for relics or letters, which in any case were clearly signposted. There was no need to go and put the effort into searching a cave or underwater wreck, because I knew there was no value to what I would find beyond a recipe I wouldnt use or an achievement. Both things that I didn’t really find by exploring, but which are intangible unlocks .

    Maybe its an unfair comparison, but in the Skyrim’s, Fallouts and STALKERs, I never knew what I would find when I explored, but could be fairly sure the trip would be worthwhile. A bit of story, a weird new weapon, some rare supplies. After I had liberated my last outpost, the desire to explore fell away, at least for the first island.

    I am now on the second island, and the mission maps have opened up more. The wingsuit is an amazing addition. But I find there’s only so much playing around I can do before I want something to get my teeth into, but ultimately where there is very little, and in this perhaps I am unfairly comparing it to RPG’s. I am amazed that so many people say they have put so many hours into this game. I utterly loved my first 6 hours with it, which is perhaps more than can be said for many games. However personally I am at the point where I just want it to be over, which I regret for a game series I really enjoy.

    Its good, but I can’t get onboard with the GOTY level praise its been receiving.

    • kataras says:

      My feelings for the game exactly. I got so frustrated with the missions on the 2nd island, I stopped playing. So much potential though…

  11. Triangulon says:

    Great interview. Very interesting and has certainly made me re-examine a few things about the game which I thoroughly enjoyed (apart from the final boss fight).

    However, as someone approaching games as a player rather than a connoisseur, I would prefer writers who a clearly very talented to create genuinely good games rather than satire or social commentary which negatively affects gameplay. Although I appreciate that this may not be as interesting for them I am here to be entertained for 10-30 hours by a fun game, not for 10-30 minutes by understanding a cleverly written game (which needs explaining to me).

    • Brise Bonbons says:

      heck, as a self-identified aficionado and connoisseur of games, I still think the best course of action is to make a good game which also weaves in threads of satire, commentary, and cultural critique *in a subtle way*. There’s nothing in the rulebook that says you need to choose one technique, or can only make satire which sticks to the cliches of its source material.

      I mean, in the case of FC3, there’s no artistic goal I’ve seen expressed that required the creators to pick up these specific, highly complex and problematic subjects (racist stereotypes about Pacific Islanders and rape). As far as I can tell they picked the theme ’cause it was cool and fit the Far Cry brand, and later embraced them for the potential shock value.

      I think you could achieve even better satirical value by avoiding these distracting themes altogether and focusing on a setting more closely tied to the targets of your satire, i.e. white gamer bros.

      But “Far Cry: Suburban Frat Safari” was probably already taken.

  12. Simes says:

    I did come to the conclusion that it was, at least in part, meant to be a commentary on video games, but that was mainly because of the way all of the people in Badtown talk to you about how everyone’s a puppet and there are other people pulling the strings. Which I liked very much.

    The rest of the point, however, got lost in the noise of it being video game business as usual. And the animal skinning thing just sounds like a very poor excuse for a badly-implemented feature.

  13. Derppy says:

    I think Far Cry 3 is an amazing game, but even more importantly, it creates discussion about what’s acceptable in games.

    I think it’s great games have begun pushing boundaries apart from violence, because I hate the concept that games are happy entertainment for children.

    When an island is controlled by insane pirates willing to murder people, rape is something you’d expect to happen, it’s part of the world and a powerful tool to create emotions.

    It’s bizarre in games slaughtering hundreds of innocent people without a reason is considered fine, but when the plot involves sexism, racism or abuse, it’s terrible.

    I applaud any game studio brave enough to include grim/taboo topics in their game, despite being declared Satan by Fox News and internet petitions.

    • Premium User Badge

      AndrewC says:

      It’s not that there’s horrible subject matter -and we’ve had that for ages anyway – it is how they are depicted, and wether this man’s assertions that it is satire hold up.

      As for creating discussion: The BNP incite discussion about race.

    • John Brindle says:

      I’m going to assume you are wilfully or deliberately ignoring the point, because I don’t want to believe you simply do not see it.

      Nobody is claiming that the mere PRESENCE of race or rape is automatically terrible. People are VERY CLEARLY saying that the treatment of rape – “as a tool” – is trivialising and weird – and that the treatment of race – as a subject – is shitty and (in fact!) racist.

      When you take on serious issues you have a duty to represent them fairly. That’s the problem.

    • sonson says:

      If you want to talk about big issues, great. But they needed to be given the gravitas and depth they warrant on account of their depth. Otherwise there is no point, and it just looks crass and or pointlessly over-earnest.

  14. kadeton says:

    Wow. This guy comes across as someone who is nowhere near as clever as he thinks he is.

    Who also clearly hasn’t read Barthes, but somehow feels able to comment on it anyway.

    • Lanfranc says:

      My thoughts exactly.

    • lokimotive says:

      Oh, absolutely, this guy doesn’t seem to be able to recognize the very real problems with the narrative he’s created.

      That being said, I do have to give him some credit. To me, the game clearly has a satirical bent, and all the motifs of madness sprinkled throughout were obviously intentional and should be taken into consideration during analysis. From the flashing keywords on the loading screen to how the characters interact with each other, it seems pretty clear that we should not be taking the game at face value. It really isn’t a straight up bro fantasy, to me. At the same time, though, it clearly isn’t successful in its ironies, and the problems that arise seem to stem from this guy’s general lack of understanding about what he’s getting into narratively speaking.

    • MikoSquiz says:

      I thought the plot was just kind of stupid. But in a shocking twist, it turns out it’s incredibly stupid.

  15. mandaya says:

    I think if an artist has to do interview rounds to explain his work to the public he believes didn’t get it, he probably did a poor job.
    It’s good to see RPS posing the tough questions and not letting Yohalem get away with just stating his claims, like that killscreen interview which reminded me of a papal audience.

  16. Network Crayon says:

    Maybe the problem is pacing? I like so many people cleared the radio towers, crafted everything and killed everyone in the outposts before doing any story related stuff, then in the first story mission i went back to the pratoganist is suddenly wetting him self. I’d killed hunderds of guys by then. liberated nearly the entire island, completely at odds with the story. (Actually that may be unintetionally be the games satire)

    I would have linked the story missions into the exploration, or at least made them unlockable along the way. it’s like two seperate games.

    • Premium User Badge

      ProctorEldritch says:

      *SPOILERS*
      I felt the same way. When I reached the point in the plot where Jason tortures Riley, I chuckled when Jason exclaims “What have I become?” Because at that point I had a body count of well over one thousand. Maybe that’s the point though? If so, it went completely over my head, because I’m used to woefully inaccurate depictions of the protagonist–see Yohalem’s “secret ops agent” example–and FarCry 3’s plot is, to me, utterly indistinguishable from other silly story lines.

      Jason doesn’t express any remorse or feelings of disgust after clearing an outpost by plunging his blade into a man’s intestines or burning someone alive with a flamethrower, but he does express disgust when gutting an animal or torturing his brother.

      • Premium User Badge

        darkChozo says:

        I think the reason why this case can work where others don’t is that there’s already some tension around the fact that Jason isn’t feeling much remorse for his actions. It’s a theme that’s loosely reinforced throughout the game that Jason really shouldn’t be taking things as well as he is, so the fact that he finally shows some remorse for his actions isn’t totally unbelievable — it’s what one might expect from the start. Compare that to someone like Nico from GTAIV, who is not only a trained killer to begin with, but also is really inconsistent on whether he’s a humanist or a psychopath, both in gameplay and in plot.

        Actually, looking back on the discussion, it almost seems like the difference between “getting” the plot or not is whether you view Jason as a believable (maybe not the right adjective, consistent might be better?) character. If you see him as generic action hero #46, or even worse, just an avatar of the player in the world (which comments like “he talks too much” suggest), then I could see how the plot doesn’t make much sense as a satire. Really, the plot only makes sense in the context of Jason being a fucked up character in a fucked up situation.

        • Premium User Badge

          ProctorEldritch says:

          Good points.

          I don’t think a sandbox environment lends itself to the commentary Yohalem wants to deliver (and the plot, for that matter). I didn’t find Jason’s character consistent because immediately after reacting in a normal way to the slaughter of another human being, I take him to massacre men in an outpost and he doesn’t blink an eye. My Jason was a mass murderer, and the fact that he massacred upwards of a thousand people without any introspection broke my conception of his character. It also broke the impression the message the plot was trying to convey, making it comical in my eyes. I think the remorse he expresses later in the plot would be more believable had I not killed so many people in such a gruesome manner. The fact that the player has so much freedom in this game breaks Jason’s character.

          • Network Crayon says:

            Yeah that’s put much better than my initial statement. I suppose open world games are best when they seem incidental, telling a story involving character development might not work when so much happens in an unoragnised way.

            Chin up, the games still very fun.

  17. finkleton says:

    When it comes to media (books, films, games, tv shows etc.) claiming to be commentary or satirical, I have one personal guideline; if a satirical piece of work is only identifiably as satire once a creator has stated that it is, then it is either A) an attempt to excuse a poorly thought out and designed work (e.g. Tommy Wiseau and The Room) or B) bad satire. I get the impression from reading Yohalem’s own words that Far Cry 3 falls somewhere in between, leaning more towards the latter.

    • Sparkasaurusmex says:

      Far Cry 3 is pretty obviously satire, though.

      • SanguineAngel says:

        Obviously, it falls to interpretation but for me it was not that obvious. As the article says repeatedly – with games in the state that they are currently, most of the supposedly satirical exaggerations seemed to me to be fairly standard terribleness habitual throughout the industry.

        I am glad to see that they were concious of the vast disconnect between the narrative drive of “Rescue your friends now” and the gameplay drive of “Do anything you want, take your time, no pressure” but to be honest I would really really REALLY have preferred it if they had actually FIXED that problem rather than leave it and claim it as satire. It’s not the great exaggeration he claims it to be when every sandbox rpg/shooter seems to do exactly the same.

        Also his entire smug attitude rubbed me up the wrong way. I get that he is excited but his constant dismissal of any criticism as people just “not getting it” and refusal to even consider why was painful to read.

  18. Premium User Badge

    beekay says:

    (edit: spoilers ahead – why you’ve read and commented on this article about FC3’s story without having played it is beyond me, though.)

    Was anyone actually shocked by the revelation that whatsisface had been raped by a guy who had been making overt sexual references about beating him the entire time?

    I mean, I guess I was vaguely like “oh!” but I really would’ve been more shocked if it’d been the rape of a female. It’s not like female rape is totally passe in games at this point – I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen a game refer to it – and it doesn’t have the comedy aspect which male rape somehow possesses.

    Then again, since the entire game was an utterly incomprehensible trip through the land of magic and make-believe, and all the significant figures were killed by your tendency to hallucinate, I think there could have been an explicit depiction of Hitler sodomising a cow and I’d barely bat an eyelash.

    • Dozer says:

      “Comedy aspect”?? Good grief. Where are you getting your culture from… don’t answer that, it’s a rhetorical question.

      I think people put spoiler alerts on their comments because the comment can appear on the site sidebar and be read by people who haven’t read the article.

      • Premium User Badge

        beekay says:

        Haven’t you ever heard anyone joke about male prison rape? I’m not saying “this is genuinely hilarious,” I’m saying most people do seem to think it’s hilarious -> I hear about it more, and presented as comedy -> the impact is dulled relative to female rape.

        • SanguineAngel says:

          Yeah in fairness, that particular topic is far less taboo and way more frequently joked about in the media and in general I guess. That’s a whole other thing though

    • Eddy9000 says:

      “it doesn’t have the comedy aspect which male rape somehow possesses.”

      You’re a double idiot, once for holding that view and again for thinking it’s okay to express it. And you clearly haven’t seen ‘Deliverance”.

  19. Mirqy says:

    You can’t create meaningful satire when the norm is so far beyond what a satire will do. The golf club scene in bioshock works because you’re being beaten around the head with the idea…but only for a minute and the rest of the game gets on with being a game and allowing you to have fun.

    I haven’t played FC3, but it seems to me that if the game succeeded in making me as disgusted with my behaviour as the writer seemed to expect then I would stop playing, assuming that it was just unpleasant. Which might mean it succeeds as art, but it’s a failure as entertainment and as a product.

    Great interview, thanks!

  20. Premium User Badge

    darkChozo says:

    *late game spoilers*

    What I got from Far Cry 3’s plot was that it was a somewhat clever narrative hidden under some rather mediocre writing and variable tone. It was a game that was actually pretty good at making things seem… off, in a way that was really interesting. Stuff like Jason’s completely-out-of-place one liners, or the fact that he was so quick to go into super-manshoot mode despite the rich white kid background, made it so it felt kinda slimy to do what basically every FPS ever makes you do. Then the game goes and does stuff like the second-to-last mission in the helicopter, which pretty much destroys the tone of that part of the game, and also makes Riley super-complacent with getting tortured and generally being in a shitty situation (a familial thing, maybe).

    That being said, my god is this interview filled with idea-speak.

    • Melete says:

      Have you actually watched “Apocalypse Now”? If so, maybe you should rewatch the “Ride of the Valkyries” scene. : )

      (I love the smell of napalm in the morning.)

  21. Premium User Badge

    Faldrath says:

    Pretty amazing interview, thank you for that. I haven’t played much of FC3 yet, but it does seem that we have here a case of a developer being a victim of his own vocabulary – that is, everything is so clear *to him* that he can’t acknowledge that other people will see things differently. Which is common enough in any artistic endeavor.

    Then again, arguments such as “if he has to explain it, then he has failed” aren’t necessarily good ones. Plenty of important art was not immediately clear to contemporary audiences, and only gained its reputation over the years, after critical analysis. I’m not saying that FC3 *is* “important art” (as I said, I haven’t played it yet and I’m no seer to predict how it will be viewed years from now) – I just wanted to point this out.

    Again, interviews such as this one are invaluable. Thanks, John.

    • Greg says:

      I agree it was a great interview/article, though I doubt the implied complexities of the plot and character decisions were intentional and instead ‘evolved’ within the mind of the writer. I don’t fault him for it, though I do find it a tad disingenuous to make these claims that are probably nothing more than controlled PR disavowals of perceived moral negatives.

  22. Radiant says:

    Confused writer writes confused.

    • KikiJiki says:

      Skims to me like the interviewer (John) went in with a clear agenda, and structured questions and the direction of the interview to reaffirm what he already confirmed to himself the game must be about.

      • Premium User Badge

        maninahat says:

        Or he was just giving the writer the chance to defend the game by asking about the problems that he and others had with it. He was asking all the right questions, seeing as how the whole point of the interview was to shed light on the issues that some players were having.

      • The Random One says:

        Lots of agendas being thrown around in RPS lately. They must be getting ready for the new year.

  23. Brad Grenz says:

    It’s ironic that a medium that spent so long trying to be taken seriously as an art form has found itself in the strange position of not being taken seriously enough by its own fans and critical apparatus. With Far Cry 3, Spec Ops: the Line, the Mass Effect 3 ending, and even going back to the No Russian level of MW2, the controversies always seemed to arise from incredibly shallow readings of what those games were trying to present. It’s a shame the reputation of these games has been so sullied for making the mistake of overestimating the intelligence of their audience. Games have reached a level of sophistication where gamers, and and especially game critics have got to start considering the possibility that a title may have greater thematic ambitions and meet them at least half way.

    In the case of Far Cry 3 it was obvious to me very early on that the player character was supposed to be a cartoonish douchebag, that the locals thought he was something of a joke, and that the hyper-gamification of the open world was a pretty funny, over the top response to the complaints about FC2’s immersive verisimilitude.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      It’s a weird situation for sure. I wonder if players would’ve been more ready to accept the game as parody/critique if it’d been developed by an indie with a reputation for that sort of thing.

      Must say I’m kind of glad to have read (most) of this interview before having actually played the game (despite the spoilers), so that I’m prepared to look behind the curtain, though I’ll never know if I’d have got it without the forewarning.

      It’d be good to hear from those who read it as intended without prior instruction from the writer.

    • Premium User Badge

      darkChozo says:

      I find it interesting that a lot of the discussion on FC3 seems to completely disregard tone and context when saying X or Y is bad or offensive or what-have-you. I see a lot of factual statements and not much exploration of the intent behind them; stuff like “this is racist because it uses racist tropes” or “this is unrealistic because the character shouldn’t be this good at killing” without much exploration of the idea that there might be more than the obvious there.

      Not necessarily saying that those criticisms are false, it just seems to me that the discussion is rather skin deep. Pretty much every vaguely subtle satire could be reduced to core “facts” to make them seem to extol the thing they are satirizing; think of accusations of Huckleberry Finn as being racist (just to note, that’s not a comparison of plot quality, only of the reactions to the plot).

      • Brise Bonbons says:

        The thing is, Huck Finn is more or less grappling pretty directly with the issue of race relations, isn’t it? I mean, that’s my recollection though I haven’t read it since I was young.

        Does Far Cry do the same? I have seen nothing to indicate so, beyond the ridiculous assertion that the twist ending (which turns the islanders from backwards mystics into, OK, devious manipulators, much better…) somehow “plays with” racism in a way that is… Doing what exactly? Holding a mirror up to the dumb white kid playing the game and saying “you’re so naive”?

        If FC3 actually engaged with the islanders as characters, that would be another thing entirely. But as it is, they seem to be more plot device than anything else.

        • Premium User Badge

          darkChozo says:

          Heh, in retrospect, Huck Finn was probably a poor choice for comparison there. I wasn’t attempting to say that it and FC3 are particularly comparable in their treatment of race relations, it’s just that Huck Finn is a go-to example for satire that people blame for exemplifying the thing it’s satirizing (re: book bannings and such).

          The point I was trying to make is that a lot of the arguments around the game don’t seem to be very well fleshed out. Saying that Far Cry 3 is racist because a white man goes to a primarily-colored-island and becomes a powerful warrior under the mentoring of the natives is like saying Huck Finn is racist because its only major black character is uneducated and subservient to the whims of white children; it’s not a sufficient argument. Racism is all about the intent and the treatment, it’s not very hard to come up with treatments of the above that are both racist and not racist.

          It’s not something I think is limited to racism; there’s a lot of it in this thread, stuff like “the writer is crazy so the plot sucks” and stuff that insinuates that an FPS can’t have a good plot, which I rather disagree with. Might just be general internet stuff, though.

    • I Got Pineapples says:

      To be completely blunt about it, if it was an indie game the satire would’ve been picked up on because the game would be standing there with a huge sign saying ‘Here’s the Satire of the thing we are satirizing! Do you see it? Shall I explain it? I will explain it even if you don’t want it explained! Because we put Satire in there! SATIRE!’

      There’d also be be some sort of developer statement about how this is a satire of the thing they satirizing. Just in case you weren’t clear on it.

      Then there would have been a developer interview at some point where the interviewer would go ‘Oh yes, I see you satirized the thing in the game that the game was satirizing and aren’t I implicitly clever for noticing that’

      I mean, I loved me Hotline Miami and Analogue: AHS but you seriously should not get bennies for metaphorically coming round to my house and explaining shit to me.

      Your AAA titles don’t get this sort of reading partially because they tend to at least be subtle about it and it confuses people and partially because game writers who are being paid actual money, while they tend not to actually be that good, have at least apparently have a vague idea about how getting your themes across can work.

      But seriously, the absolute bare minimum to have anything but the most overt themes come across is apparently Spec Ops: The Line, a game that is the equivalent of a shouty man shouting about the nature of war and violence in video games to you.

      This shit needs to stop.

      • Premium User Badge

        AndrewC says:

        Indie games: unsubtle

        AAA games: subtle

        I do not agree with you.

        • I Got Pineapples says:

          It’s more

          AAA games:Unsubtle

          Indie game:So incredibly unsubtle that one can possibly use the term ‘As Unsubtle as exploring the themes in an indie game’ as a metaphor for how unsubtle they are.

          • Brise Bonbons says:

            That is a mighty broad brush you are painting with there. I might have a 3 inch trim roller you could borrow if you’d like to get some of those details blocked in.

            Or, to be serious, what do you expect to accomplish by generalizing so much? You’ve made me sort of grumpy at you, but you certainly aren’t changing my mind about any of the Indie titles I’ve played recently.

    • Premium User Badge

      Nogo says:

      I’ve actually been thinking about this quite a bit and it seems a lot more problematic than a lack of respect on the audiences part (to be blunt.) Take the skinning animation for example: Yohalem is correct that it feels silly and awkward, but instead of me stopping to think “hmm, maybe this is drawing attention to how incongruous and gamey this is” I just end up thinking “I bet they saved some time and money here.” Or how the natives are supposedly manipulative, but then I never see them do anything but stand around doing nothing.

      When games try and throw us for a loop most of the time we just assume the developers screwed up, because that’s usually what happened. They needed to either go all in by including the castrations and mad howling being hinted at or they needed a world that didn’t feel like every other game in the genre. Instead it exists in this bizarre state of trying to send up games like CoD by being almost exactly like them save for a few, easily misinterpreted, winks and nudges. Having a character in the game write about “Badtown” being dumb and generic doesn’t make me think about bad towns as a thing, it just feels like the writers are aware of how dumb and generic their very own bad town is.

      • Pindie says:

        The thing is: the things that did not seem right always seemed to have required less effort.
        Two birds with one stone in best case scenario, just plain lazy and then justification for laziness in the worst case scenario.

        The simple solution would be to make something weird happen that did actually require more resources to be used than the normal alternative.

        I never thought the respawning guard posts in FC2 were a conscious criticize or deconstruction of game. I thought they were a lazy way to artificially prologue the game. I still think I was right.

    • Pindie says:

      I think creators would help their case by not giving an interview pre-release where they claim they have picked the 20-ish douchebag because he is the likely target audience and they want the frat boys to sympathize with the main character.

      That might have thrown some people off, right?

  24. Jamesworkshop says:

    it is worth it to note that authors are not always the best judges of their own work, I would like to see some discussion illustrating the difference between something containing and being something, for example is Schindler’s List a Nazi movie or a movie with Nazis in it.

    Those final three quotes seem more like a conflicted vision than calculated excuses although that’s speculative on my part.

    On the rape theme i’m struggling to think of any actual video game examples that would allows us to take them as being presented in an already established way, can’t think of any Paul Kenneth Bernardo parallels in games.

  25. Sixosaur says:

    So now we’ve moved from ‘bad attempts at stories ruining gameplay’ to ‘bad attempts at meta-commentary on ‘bad attempts at stories ruining gameplay’ ruining stories.’

    Boo.

    And I thought the idealistic videogame writing industry was going to lead us out of the irony-trap art fell into in the last century. For fuck’s sake will the hipsters never die? What next? A game without gameplay?

    Holy crap that’s what they’re planning, isn’t it? o.O

    • Simes says:

      “Planning”? You haven’t seen Curiosity, then?

      • Premium User Badge

        AlwaysRight says:

        Ooo this gives me the idea for a clever gaming analogy:

        “Far Cry 3’s story thinks it’s Cow Clicker, but it’s actually Curiosity”

        BOOOM! where do I collect my Pulitzer Prize?

  26. Network Crayon says:

    Actually if they really wanted to make a satire, they could have made everyone on the island freindly. The bad guy an over friendly rescuer who wont leave you alone, and the main pratoganist is Duke nukem…

  27. MarcP says:

    RPS WIT made this game look interesting, but this interview thankfully cured any desire of buying it. Yet another writer going for the twenty-something, thirty-something anglophone demographic whose exposure to cultural content is mostly movies and other video games. You’re not much of a free-thinker if you can’t look further than your own culture nor if you embrace the same values as everyone else in your social circles, and a story isn’t deep if it’s only moving because the target audience lacks experience and perspective.

    How about some actually mature storytelling, without using sex, skin color, gender, power or money as a plot device? How about plots that actually challenge people’s worldviews, as opposed to so-called controversies that are so familiar players aren’t ever pushed out of their comfort zone? Of course then, by definition it wouldn’t resonate as well, wouldn’t titillate as well, wouldn’t sell as well.

    It’s the worst of indie gaming brought to the AAA scene: all the pretense (ah, here’s the magic word; cue in idiots so afraid of opposite viewpoints they’d rather characterize an entire argument through a single word. “Whew! Might almost have had to think there, if it wasn’t for this kosher word meaning we can dismiss everything. Good thing we dodged that”. Free-thinking indeed), all the pretense and pompousness of the worst indie devs combined with marketing power and good eyecandy.

    Good job, Jeffrey Yohalem, good job working hard at lowering standards everywhere. Going to reinstall and play some Far Cry 1 now. Bet you’d want to revisit that game so it turns out the mutants are really us all along or so the player could bone that big bad mercenary guy, wouldn’t you? Too bad you can’t. Too bad its B-action movie plot is better than anything you’ll ever write.

    • philbot says:

      Your comment disturbs me, because you are talking so much … shit.. about something you clearly have no interest in being interested in.

      “You’re not much of a free-thinker if you can’t look further than your own culture nor if you embrace the same values as everyone else in your social circles, and a story isn’t deep if it’s only moving because the target audience lacks experience and perspective.”

      I think you have become such a “free thinker” that you can’t be screwed with anyone else’s opinions, thoughts, or feelings. This entire article is about the actual depth of the story!

      “How about some actually mature storytelling, without using sex, skin color, gender, power or money as a plot device?”

      Name one (good, mature) narrative in history that has managed to achieve this, and I will be impressed. Your comment comes across as someone that despises games as a whole.

      • lokimotive says:

        Yeah, I’m not really sure what topic you could possibly address that couldn’t be boiled down to “sex, skin color, gender, power or money”. Family? Religion? Faith? Even with those, you’d have to tread a pretty thin line without running into ‘power’ as a topic.

      • Pindie says:

        On mature storytelling:
        If by mature you mean “containing themes and ideas that can only be appreciated by grown ups”…
        I think I can find a few examples. If you mean video games then I have to point out a Bungie classic “Marathon” series which menages to be moving even trough all the story is told via flavor text.

        Incidentally it does contain a 4th wall breaking reference that is cleverly disguised in a poem and can be red in literal sense that pretty much blows the “you win” stuff out of the water.

        “I have no mouth…” is another example, it built up from the original novel to the point where I think it has to be considered its own thing.
        Other than that I am not sure… Sanitarium? Clocktower? Darkseed? Beneath a Steel Sky?
        I have not played those in a longer time so they might be different from what I recall but…

  28. MuscleHorse says:

    Slightly outside of the main topic but does anyone else have trouble deploying the parachute with the wingsuit? The pop-up says to hit ctrl but it does nothing…

    Very much enjoyed the game, though I can’t help but feel the writer is full of shit. Would also like the everyman protagonist and his friends not to be insufferable yuppies.

    • Premium User Badge

      beekay says:

      Parachute deployment seems to be mostly down to whether or not you’re on Santa’s naughty list than when or what conditions you frantically mash ctrl under. I just thank goodness you’re only forced to use it when you’re over water.

    • Craggis says:

      Ah, yes, I’ve had this problem: you still need to press ‘c’. Rather unhelpfully, if you rebind the crouch key to something else the parachute tooltip changes, but not the actual key you need to use.

    • Salt says:

      I had the exact same keybinding bug. The parachute button is actually C. That is the default button for crouch. When we rebind crouch to Ctrl the popup text is updated but the actual binding for deploying the parachute isn’t.

      (Oops, serves me right for not refreshing comments before posting)

  29. LennyLeonardo says:

    I demand an embargo on the word “hipster”. It’s the worst word in the world.

    By the way, parody/meta narrative is not something invented recently by people trying to be clever. It’s been around since Tristram Shandy. Actually, since Knight of the Burning Pestle, wait no, Don Quixote. Actually it’s probably been around for millennia. One of the great things that parody does is remind people how stupid it is to be precious about media that, in spite of their assumptions, does not belong to them.

    • Incredibly_Shallow says:

      Wonderful point. Parody will shit on what you hold precious and make you feel uncomfortable about it. I’m so in favor of profaning the sacred (even if its open-world gameplay and our expectations of it). It is like they made a mechanically great open world game (addictively so) and then through the story and subtext, mock the entire mechanism of great open world games. Delightfully subversive.

  30. mickygor says:

    I wasn’t considering playing this game, but now I want to. To know that the open world parts are mocking people who enjoy open world parts delights me.

  31. Dozer says:

    I haven’t read Alice In Wonderland. Would this game sail straight over my head?

    Should they put ‘Must be familiar with Alice In Wonderland’ in the system requirements?

    (I had a copy of Alice In Quantumland, but it’s been AWOL for ten years. I think I lent it to someone.)

  32. rampofdeath says:

    It was interesting to hear the writer’s responses to a number of points. You got the feeling that there was no core shape to the story he was describing, that he wasn’t crafting a whole, so much as a big bag of reactions and responses in various shapes.

    When challenged on specifics (racism, animal hunting, boss fights etc) he didn’t tend to retreat to a singular vision, and explain why these things fed into and were necessary to maintain this story/vision. The theme–as much as there was one–was always playing off of/playing up to/subverting and so on, often in a non-uniform manner from topic to topic; in some situation he claimed to be doing this by aggressively ramping the trope up to the point of farce, in others he claimed to subvert and twist it (male rape) to elicit a response.

    I think John got right to the core of this issue when he pressed him on creating something with all this in mind, something that didn’t rely on the tropes and lazy mechanics Yohalem was so eager to parody and examine; as John said in doing so he ended up heavily relying on them. Perhaps this is the root of John (and others) feelings of “missing” something, of something being intended beyond the surface mechanics that doesn’t quite click. The writing is trying too hard to play up and subvert and doesn’t do enough to create something itself.

    • Premium User Badge

      Zephro says:

      Having not played FC3 this sums up my feelings from the interview. John seemed to be driving at the core of the narrative but the responses seemed kind of chaotic and unstructured. So it pushes me towards John’s point of view (for purposes of considering buying it).

    • Brise Bonbons says:

      I think you’ve got it, Rampofdeath, very well put.

  33. voidmind says:

    I finished the game yesterday and I had the same thoughts as John Walker.

  34. Ted_Breakfast says:

    Love this interview — very interesting and great to see a games journalist actually challenging their interviewee. I agree with John’s summary, it seems that Yohalem really was trying to do something a bit cleverer than we gave him credit for, but the fact that he has to point it out means he failed.

    Does anyone else think his point might have come across a little better if they followed through on the threat to delete your save game?

  35. ryke says:

    The whole interview sounds like a cop-out. I genuinely enjoyed FarCry3, and obviously there were elements of satire, and obviously the character was meant to be a huge douche, and all that. That’s obvious. But in the end, the story is still about a rich white kid finding fun and empowerment (and obviously that’s commentary on video games, I get that) while being generally revered by a bunch of natives, which in the context of the game are supposed to be real, and their portrayal is pretty damn racist at times. Then it uses rape as nothing much more than a tool to establish a character as unhinged and dangerous, and a dumb, cliché’d drug-induced rite-of-passage hallucination pretty much turns into a sex scene with the natives’ warrior goddess.

    And then there’s the fact that the main character’s descent into revenge and brutality is implied (or at least comes accross to basically everyone as) to be caused essentially by the influence of the natives and their warrior-goddess. In fact, the ending pretty much flat-out says so. That the main character’s progression is a parody or critical look at gamer culture doesn’t erase the fact that the way the game shows us that progression is fairly racist. It could have sent the same message in a completely different way, but it didn’t.

    It’s obvious that there are elements of that which are satire, and used deliberately, and that the writer wasn’t just really ignorant or really racist. But those elements are badly used and the whole thing remains problematic as fuck, basically. Playing the game, it didn’t feel as though the deliberately satirical elements came together well at all.

    It’s not a very well-written game, and I find the interview here is quite bad. I did enjoy the game for the actual gameplay, though. Badly-written game, not the end of the world.

    • Brise Bonbons says:

      Very good description of how the tribe’s use of the protagonist doesn’t diffuse the problems attached the the way the tribe is represented.

      Well, in general, just a very good explanation of things. Cheers!

  36. Incredibly_Shallow says:

    I do think that the writer was trying to make all these statements and they are obscured intentionally and that they don’t necessarily add up to great gameplay (or an expected great gameplay experience) at the end of the day.

    But because I respect his integrity as an artist after this interview, I will point out that the point of art is not to please the viewer. If videogames are going to become artwork, then we can’t expect to be pleased all the time (in the same way that non-artistic cashgrab games have trained us to be pleased).

    Art is there to make you think, it’s just a creative expression to ponder. Far Cry 3 succeeds in that in spades for me. (logged like 20 hours so far this week).

    • Sparkasaurusmex says:

      There is art in video games. The art is when a player masters a level and can beat it with his eyes closed or whatever.

      Video games are art only when being played by an artist.

      • The Random One says:

        That’s like saying a painting is only art when someone who really understands painting is looking at them.

  37. Premium User Badge

    Surlywombat says:

    In some respects I feel it worked. While I was playing I felt a strange disassociation from the game world I was playing in. However right up until the very end of the game I was expecting it to turn out to be a drug induced hallucination (aka the “it’s all a dream” cliché”). As such I played it like that.

  38. derbefrier says:

    I guess I just don’t get it. I have played quite a bit of this game now and not once have I found myself thinking its racist in any way. Not once have i been under the impression that the game conveys a sense of white superiority or that one race is somehow better than another. I see a local rebel force teaching a scared kid who was in the wrong place at the wrong time how to survive in the wilderness by leveling up and getting more powerful in a typical game fashion so he can save his friends. Maybe I haven’t got to the racist part yet?

  39. krait says:

    Regarding “spending 30 pounds on the game just to feel like the victim of your experiment”, I find that an incredibly lame argument. There is a huge sense of entitlement in there that is quite shocking. That risk is just there whenever you acquire a work of art. Are you claiming that artists should mainly pander to the public’s (or the players’) expectations? Video games are not deep fried pizza that you shovel into your shopping cart without thinking twice!

    Art can not be subject to consumers’ ideas of right and wrong. I think it is important to remember that art *may* depict stuff that is generally abhorred. Art is allowed to do that even without having to justify itself. You can’t subject art to political correctness for example. You may not like it, which is your good right, but that doesn’t automatically make the art bad and it doesn’t mean you can have your entrance back.

    I think it positive that a large publisher like Ubi allows this kind of extremism and experimentalism in one of their franchises. I appreciate it. It enriches Ubisoft’s lineup and everybody else. Far Cry 2 had a few similarly jarring surprises, especially at the end of the game. After I recently played through that and went “seriously, WTF”, I’m not surprised by anything in Far Cry 3 – it seems like the logical continuation. Both games seem to heavily challenge the player’s expectations – and a lot of people would say “that is wrong, you can’t do that, it spoils the fun we’re entitled to.” The jury is still out on that.

    I think the Far Cry franchise has established itself as being able and allowed to throw you these curve balls (again, Far Cry 2 already did that stuff, and that game also makes it clear to the protagonist that they’re just being used, and even part of the problem – you just need to play it all the way to the end, the tone is the same). Personally I’m glad it did. Too many other games’ design maxim is “always make the player feel good”. Those games have their place, but not everything needs to be like that.

    • Incredibly_Shallow says:

      Wonderfully said.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      Yeah, it’s great to have the occasional game come along that wants to give you a cupcake then kick you in the nads. Variety is nice, and I would happily pay for it.

    • ryke says:

      I don’t think that what you’re talking about is really the issue for most people. I mean, I can’t talk for everyone, but I see what you mean. I saw it in FarCry 2 as well as in FarCry 3, and in parts it was good. It is interesting that the game doesn’t always make the player feel good, and throws you for a loop in those ways that can be a little shocking. But in both games, it was handled badly and didn’t add up to a captivating story that properly dealt with the problematic elements it brought up in order to shock the player. It’s entirely possible to shock and depart from the norm while giving much better treatment to the issues involved, or at least framing the whole thing in a way that acknowledges the problems it’s dealing with.

      In short, claiming that no story elements in FarCry 3 are racist, or even claiming that it’s the OPPOSITE of racism, instead of acknowledging that there were mistakes in the writing or in the way he tried to get his point accross, and that he tried but failed to frame the whole issue in a satirical way that would raise questions without being offensive or derisive, is the opposite of what he should be doing.

      Racist elements of a story written by a writer who didn’t mean to be racist and intended it to be satirical and raise questions is not the opposite of racism. At best, it’s a well-meaning attempt to avoid racism that floundered, but that’s still a mistake that should be acknowledged.

    • lokimotive says:

      I agree completely: even though I think the narrative was fairly problematic, it seems rather obnoxious to suggest that because I’ve payed money for this I’m entitled to be entertained only in the way that I want to be. I don’t necessarily think that that’s Walker’s opinion (he frame’s the question more as a possible reaction), but it is an opinion that can be really problematic and, frankly, harmful. If video game designers were beholden entirely to consumers’ expectations then there’s no possibility for experimentation. Great movements in any art forms are met with initial skepticism, at the least, or outright hatred.

    • Simes says:

      I think the problem might be less pronounced if the experiment had been more successful.

    • Tasloi says:

      Principally I agree. It’s one of the reasons why it’s a bad idea to have any ideological -ism influence videogaming. It almost inevitably creates a monotonous atmosphere (even more than there is already). That obviously doesn’t mean there’s no merit or necessity to a critique like this.

    • John Walker says:

      It doesn’t come across well in the text, but at that point I was more trying to make a counter-argument that others may feel, rather than I might feel. (It didn’t help that he was shouting over me as I was trying to form the question.) Personally I love to be the victim of gaming experiments. But here I was trying to present the argument that FC2 just isn’t fun because it’s deliberately not fun. And indeed as a result of that I gave up playing it.

      • LennyLeonardo says:

        I thought it came across quite well, but clearly some people’s minds are too literal. Not the only writer to have fallen foul of this, it seems.

  40. Zanchito says:

    Well, I like this guy already!

  41. Apocalypse 31 says:

    Such a great interview, and also a great write up!

    I have so many new feelings about the game now….but I guess that’s not a good thing since I didnt really get them from the actual game.

    On the surface (the science of FC3) I think it is such a well done and beautifully built game. Very few other open-world games come close. It certainly blows any of the GTA-series games out of the water and I would say it rivals the beauty of Just Cause 2 (such a beautifully designed game!)

    I think Spec Ops The Line did a great job in their plot line, in that it you hit a certain point where it was much more obvious to players of the satire and irony and it all came full circle with a smooth ending. On the other hand, their gameplay lacked badly!

    I think the opposite could be said about FC3. The game looks and plays great, gameplay is fun (aside from the damn hunting quests [side note – did anyone see this as a blatant rip off of Red Dead Redemption?]) and as a shooter it is a great game. While, on the other hand their ‘told you so’ plot line fell a little short, as I said in the beginning of this post, my moment of clarity came from reading this post, not from playing the game.

    All in all….I think that the fact that we are having this kind of in-depth analysis of the game, and such rich conversation means that the game was a success.

  42. woodsey says:

    It’s playful and ridiculous enough with its own concept that I’d never accuse of it racism, but it’s also not a critique of anything – which is pretty much the only thing he seems to say, without giving any good examples as to why. The only act of trope subversion I can think of is when Dennis, the first Magical Mystical Negro you meet in the game, turns out to be a lonely drunkard with some unrequited feelings.

    They did claim it was meant to be a critique of other games and a satire of what the average rich-kid American would expect should they get stranded on a tropical island months before release, however, so I don’t feel this is just a quick cover-up either.

    Good effort, but stuff like ‘Rook’ meaning ‘false’ are add flavourings and nods, not commentary in and of themselves.

  43. choconutjoe says:

    After reading this I feel a sudden urge to rewatch Darkplace.

  44. Premium User Badge

    Xantonze says:

    “[Becoming agitated again]” : this is just unfair, Mr. Walker. Looks like you just want the guy to sound like a retarded teen because you don’t agree or didn’t get his message…

    If you look back at the comments on the various FPS coverages about the game and its discourse, you can see that many players felt the way the author is intending.
    Just because it went over your head doesn’t mean it was totally unsuccessful.
    The way I read your article, you’re complaining that the game is’nt signposting enough the fact that it has a critical discourse on the medium: in the end, you’re asking the game to be “clearer”, just because it doesn’t “read” like one of those philosophical indie fables you know are shooting for something deep and clever about life or whatnot.
    Spec Ops was doing the very same thing: commenting on the very dumb shooting sequences it forced you to play through. But it was impossible to take it for a simple shooter because the critical discourse was so clear it sometimes got dangerously close to patronizing.

    In short, I have the feeling you’re not asking the game to be more “clever”, but actually dumber.
    Look at your arguments: “there are so many dumb shooters that we have come to expect them to be stupid”. And then you put the blame on the game for not being clear enough about its satirical intentions… This is just plain lazy.

    Also, care to use something else than Barthes’ “death of the author” for a change? That sacred cow has been milked to death already.

    • Sparkasaurusmex says:

      I didn’t have the guts to say it, but this is exactly what I think. Good post.

    • Gorf says:

      Totally agreed i was gonna mention it too. The whole “LOL… look at how animated he is getting” attitude was really pathetic.

      • Unaco says:

        Indeed… I think John was quite pleased that Yohalem got cross during the interview. Or, he was quite pleased with himself that he made Yohalem get cross.

        • I Got Pineapples says:

          It obviously made him feel like a real grownup journalist so he got extra excited, thinking he was all Paxman and shit.

          • Brise Bonbons says:

            So you guys are going to criticize John for “making him look like a retarded teen” while at the same time making comments like:

            “…he was quite pleased with himself that he made Yohalem get cross…”

            “It obviously made him feel like a real grownup journalist…”

            Uh, really? OK then.

    • lokimotive says:

      Evoking Barthes seemed a little inappropriate in this context, too. I generally subscribe to Barthes’ ideas about narrative, but the most compelling argument against it that I’ve seen (by someone who I can’t remember) dealt specifically with irony. For irony to work, the intentions and perspective of an author have to be taken into account, otherwise the irony has to be taken at face value.

      Of course, that’s not an entirely successful negation of Barthes ideas, because Barthes is mostly railing against the idea that there is one true interpretation of the text birthed from the author entirely. I don’t think Barthes really suggests that authorial intention should be shattered entirely, just that it’s more problematic than it was traditionally viewed.

    • John Walker says:

      I wasn’t mocking him at all in pointing this out. It’s important context. He was really damned agitated, and not mentioning that would not convey his words at all accurately.

      • Gorf says:

        It really wasnt necessary and i found it slightly cruel. Even without the inserts we can see the guy is passionate. All it did was benefit you, and your aim to make him look like a panicky court defendant.

  45. Nallen says:

    This was a great read, the type of content you have to search far and wide for.

    So he is essentially saying Far Cry 3 is The Cabin in the Woods of video games. I can see that. It sounds like it suffers from the same issues to be honest.

  46. Calabi says:

    Huh, I thought it was obvious it was satire? That the player is being abused.

    It raises the question of how do you make a decent satirical game. No matter what you do I’m betting the majority of players will miss it. Their used to being treated a certain way and taking things at face value, things being only skin deep.

    edit: And I havent seen anything racist in the story so far. I’m wondering whats racist about a tribal people making a white guy do all their jobs for them.

    • Sparkasaurusmex says:

      racism is in the eye of the beholder. I think perhaps the more inherent racism we possess, the more we see racism everywhere.

      • Brise Bonbons says:

        Wait, you’re trying to imply that people who call out media for racism are just the biggest racists, right? Seriously? I hope I’ve misunderstood.

        I mean, I’m trying to understand how institutional or cultural racism fits into your view, but it just breaks my head.

        • The Random One says:

          The truth is that the more racist you are, the more you think other people that point out racism because they themselves are racist. This is because they don’t think they are racist, they think everyone is racist and they’re just honest about it, and honesty is admirable.

  47. x3m157 says:

    This article seems to be a proof of Poe’s Law – in that satire is indistinguishable from the real thing unless it is explained.

  48. Milky1985 says:

    I read what he was saying as basically the protagonist is as batshit insane as the rest of the people on the island, only getting the powers from the tattoo because he believes he got the powers from the tattoo etc etc, can see the satire stuff now its mentioned but not obvious from the start of the game.

    The PC being a nutjob and it being a big power fantasy makes a lot of sense tho

  49. zaphod42 says:

    Hey John, thanks for doing this. Really, thanks. Somebody needed to, and other gaming websites are being really pussy about interviews with this guy. I absolutely LOVED Farcry 3, I think it was my sleeper Game of the Year, but there were some serious issues with the story and they’re possibly holding back the game industry, and if anything the writer seems to think he’s the one who is pushing the envelope with games storytelling. Not so.

    He claims that Farcry3 wants to make you rethink what shooting does to you. Then a little bit later, he doesn’t seem to understand why players wanted a realistic shooting experience versus a crazy exploitation romp. Why would players expect that? Maybe because he told us to!

    This writer has his head up his ass and somebody needs to bring him down to earth. He had some great ideas in there (Spoiler alert: Farcry3’s story is Peter Pan, Assassin’s Creed and Alice in Wonderland mixed together) but there’s all these problems he doesn’t seem to realize are problems (massive racism, rape, torture, etc.)

    • ryke says:

      This is pretty much my experience with the game. It’s great fun, and it’s obvious the writer wasn’t actually going for blatant racism and exploitation. But he screwed up, and now he seems completely unwilling to admit it. There are really problematic parts to the story, essentially because his attempt at satire ended up really uneven, and just borderline badly-written at times. Satire only undoes racism and terrible treatment of serious issues if it, you know, addresses those issues and doesn’t just use them for shock value or casually insert them. The author’s intent changes whether the author is racist, not whether there are racist elements to the game.

    • Blackcompany says:

      If you really want to make a statement on all the stupid shit we are asked to do in games, here is an idea: stop including the stupid shit.

      Bam! Instant statement. Namely: we can make a GOOD game.

      • nearly says:

        that’s kind of missing the point. they’re offering you the feedback loop that monetary values tell them you crave and basically saying “you’re a scumbag for doing this.” same as the mocking loading screens as spec ops: the line progresses, chastising you for being so ready and willing to commit mass-murder.

        • ryke says:

          And then they make a lot of money and keep making games like this, only occasionally mentioning that rationale when people get genuinely offended about something they do.

  50. Blackcompany says:

    I can just imagine the development process:

    How do we make an open world game more popular? Fill it with the same tired tropes found in games like Skyrim. You know. Useless fetching, slaughtering animals for skins that serve no purpose while remainingmysteriusly aattached to the animal. That sort of tripe.

    But boss that doesnt really fit this context.

    Just claim it was satirical.

    • Gorf says:

      Please play the game and you’ll see that there are no fetch quests (in the sense you are referring to), and that skinning the animals is entirely necassary to expand your inventory.
      The skin remaining on the animal after skinning, I just took as a lazy design decision, and the fact it came off as a lump of what looked like flesh….is just nitpicking…. i mean how many of us have skinned an animal? For all I know when you skin an animal and fold up the skin it may look like a pile of flesh.

      • Pajama says:

        There are fetch-quests in the form of “Go here, Kill X” or “Go here, Kill X, Take Y key” and what not.

        Secondly, the Hunter missions are exactly that, they are forceful “Go out and slaughter endangered species of animals on this island” to increase your Ruck-Sack’s carrying ability. The protagonist is doing this for a entirely selfish reason and were supposed to go “Oh, poor golden tiger” after slaughtering a country in racist black men and no woman [sexism maybe?] or kids but all the fathers ever. To claim that it wasn’t hypocritical or silly that they pretty much used every trope in every genre they attempted is laughable.