Is FarCry Racist? Or Just Uber-Violent?

The FarCry game series is one of the most wildly popular and highly acclaimed first person shooters (FPS) ever made.  When the first one debuted in 2004, it sold over 730,000 units in four months.  Word spread and games sales continued to climb.

The premise behind the game is pretty simple, but original enough that it’s become a cult favorite as well as a mainstream classic and even a movie.  FarCry 3 is due to release this December just in time for the Holidays.  It will feature a jungle island storyline very different from the original’s island or FarCry 2’s African warzone.  Three threads seem to be the only link between the three games: mutant zombie-like super warriors are basically invulnerable unless shot in the face; the good guy (player character) is always a white, ex-special forces type; the game relies heavily on huge, open environments full of bad guys to slaughter rather than story lines and characterization to hold interest.

FarCry 3 Background

FarCry 3 is only a slight break from the other two in that the main protagonist (i.e. player character) is a photographer with no obvious (stated) military background, but it is basically implied given the abilities available.  It will include some new game mechanics and abilities, mentioned on its Wikipedia entry courtesy of the E3 2011 conference game demo:

It was revealed that the player has the ability to shoot enemies behind objects in crouch mode without moving his head up but with free hands. The demo also revealed an overhauled stealth mechanic as well as a possible leveling system based on experience points. The player will also have the ability to perform “takedowns” by performing melee attacks from above or in crouch mode. The game’s narrative director, Jason Vandenberghe said that the story mode map will be around ten times larger than its previous installments, indicating that it is still an open world sandbox game. According to new gameplay uploaded throughout video sharing sites, it has been noted that the player will be given the ability to survey and plan out his attacks with stealth takedown combinations and also take pictures with his cameras.

The bad guy is the same Vaas who appeared in FarCry 2.  The main character (player toon) is Jason Brody, described in the FarCry Wiki:

Jason Brody is main character and protagonist of Far Cry 3. He is an American, traveling with his girlfriend Liza and best friend Doug. At some point while on the island, they have a run in with Vaas, who kills Doug and kidnaps Liza. It has been speculated that Jason might be a photographer of some sort, and he also seems to have some experience with firearms and knives.

The funny thing is, the game doesn’t take place right after all this kidnapping and murdering.  Instead, it takes place months later.  Presumably, Liza is either dead or worse, so one wonders if Jason really plans to get her back or just exact revenge.  In fact, the game opens with Jason coming to and telling a bunch of indigenous tribal warriors that he’ll lead them to victory.  He’s got tattoos on his arms, which are supposed to be marks of victory from past battles in the tribe, and apparently married to or somehow engaged to a tribal priestess whose only job appears to be to not wear a shirt and give encouragement.

So Is FarCry 3 Racist?  Or Just Disturbing?

Here’s where Grant Howitt at the Guardian asks the obvious, and sort of gets a response from the game’s writer:

Does this have echoes of the controversy in Far Cry 2, a game which featured 11 protagonists of wildly different races and backgrounds but offered a player character choice of precisely zero women? Has the white male lead literally just rocked up and taken over a tribe of warriors and fixed all their problems by being white at them? I ask Jeffrey Yohalem, the lead scriptwriter, whether this is the case. He laughs a little bit under his breath.

“We’re glad you think that, because no, it’s not as it seems. Everything you see is taking place through Jason’s eyes,” – eyes which are increasingly unreliable thanks to a varied wash of hallucinogenic effects earned from mushrooms, pills, sleep deprivation, lack of proper food, poison, fever and whatever it is that they put in that tattoo ink – “and, well, if it looks like we’re doing one thing we’re probably trying to establish something else. Stories are like verbal optical illusions, and where the player realises that they’re a 100% wrong about something they were previously dead sure of … that’s where good stories happen.”

Yohalem goes on to point out that unlike other FPS offerings out there, the FarCry series has something that sets it very apart: it focuses on the killing.

You read that right.  Unlike other games, he says, which often focus on story, on heroic feats, or on puzzling out of a situation while you just happen to be shooting and stabbing people or creatures, FarCry glories in just the killing.  It’s all about aiming the gun and putting down the bad guy.  Everything else is just gravy.

Anyone who saw the Far Cry movie released in 2008 would agree.  It’s not about plot, good acting, interesting characters, or anything else.  It’s just about blowing stuff up, shooting people in the face, and occasionally seeing a woman with a lot of cleavage.  That film’s main star was Ralf Moeller (Conan in the TV series), who was largely ignored by the director in favor of another German actor, Til Schweiger, who played the role of Jack Carver.  For those who might be wondering, if you have two hours to waste, don’t waste it on this flick.


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