Oh Far Cry 3, We Weren’t Meant To Be

*Pretty much spoiler free, but trigger warning for racism and rape*

A black man with glasses (notably the only black man in the game from what I’ve read) who is shown healing the main character Jason.

In a blatant disregard for my backlog of unfinished and untouched games, I bought Far Cry 3 this week.  I don’t even know why — I am not a big FPS fan, I’m quite poorly skilled with a gun in my hands, and I haven’t played any of the other games in the series.  Something about it just lured me in.  I’d say it was the animals, but that would make me a sick individual considering how many of them I have skinned for precious crafting materials.

I’m a few hours in, maybe 4-5 hours if I’m lucky.  I picked the easy difficulty level, knowing my complete inability to line up crosshairs on a target and manage to click my mouse button at the right time.  The intro scene is a bit intense, with some harsh language and some brutal moments that made me a little bit uncomfortable.  After that, my character Jason (who was supposedly vacationing on this island with his friends before being kidnapped and suddenly gaining superior manslaughter and hunting skills) is thrown out into this world in which he must save all of the native people with his “white man know-how” and manage to survive.  So far, this has meant doing challenges to convince the native ‘savages’ that I’m somehow magical and superior to everyone else and therefore the savior they’ve been waiting for.  There have been several writeups out there already about the problematic racism in Far Cry 3, such as this one on Rock Paper Shotgun.

I said, rather flippantly, that the people of this island are the race they are, because it’s the island they’re native to. It is what it is, essentially. And that’s the case – that’s really not the issue here. It had to be set somewhere. The issue is the horribly worn tropes it so lazily kicks around when it gets there. As it is, you have the simple-folk-natives, and the immigrant white men with their mixture of South African and Australian accents. And one black guy. White people ask you to get involved in enormously elaborate machinations, ancient mysteries, and local politics. Locals ask you to help them kill endangered species, find their missing daughters, and point out when their husbands are gay. Essentially, the locals behave as if they’re helpless without you, but when you wield their tattoo-based magical powers then true greatness appears. And it’s here that the problems really kick in.

There’s a term for it. It’s “Noble Savage“. And it also falls under the remit of the “Magical Negro“. The trope is that the non-white character possesses mystical insight, magical abilities, or simply a wisdom derived from such a ‘simple life’, that can enlighten the white man. And it’s pretty icky. The premise relies on the belief that the individual’s race is in some way debilitating, something their noble/mystical abilities are able to ‘overcome’.

There’s also mention of some implied rape, which I haven’t gotten to in the game yet but I believe is the rape of a man by another man.  I’m really not far enough into the game to give this a ton of critical thought, but this game screams out red flags to me.

Gameplay wise, is it fun?  I think there are hints of a really enjoyable experience in there.  It’s surprisingly fun to track down the different animals, though pretty disgusting and graphic when you skin them.  I enjoy sneaking up on the tapirs and the pigs and just watching them enjoy their time in their natural element.  There are some other moments that made me yell out with triumph, such as some interesting ‘challenges’ and missions and sliding down a zipline while shooting a gun at everything below.  And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy speeding around in Jeeps and other vehicles, slamming into and running over just about everything in sight.  I know they used “Skyrim in the jungle” as a marketing ploy, but it doesn’t feel that far off.  There are some serious hints of that open world exploration that are very reminiscent of my Christmas 2011 in which leaving the house for food required too much time away from Skyrim.  Generally speaking, any game that lets me mindlessly run around the world, uncovering the fog-of-war on the map while looting ALL THE THINGS is going to be elicit some positive feelings.  The game is also quite pretty on my PC, so I can’t fault it there.

But there are some serious annoyances with the game, mostly surrounding the save system and its innate ability to make me die and lose all my progress.  I don’t know about you, but when a game rolls back to 20 minutes prior and makes me redo everything I just did, I get mad and close out the game.  That’s happened to me 4 times now and each time I’ve sworn off the game entirely.  Granted, I do die more than the average player.  I have an uncanny knack for running away from a bad guy, into a tiger, then into an alligator, then into a komodo dragon, then into a dog that eats my arm off.  I’m just not sure the game is worth that frustration when I’m already pretty pissed off at the racist narrative and have some rape content awaiting me if I play much further.  Considering a Skyrim DLC just came out — if I want to play an open-worldy game I think I’d rather it be in an Elder Scrolls world with my bow & arrow than rumbling in the jungle as a white savior in Far Cry 3.

Is anyone else playing this game?  If so, what are your thoughts?

About Tami Baribeau

Lead Editor and co-founder of The Border House, feminist, gamer, lover of social media, technology, and virtual worlds. Pansexual, equestrian, dog lover, social game studio director and producer. Email me here and follow me on Twitter!
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10 Responses to Oh Far Cry 3, We Weren’t Meant To Be

  1. Sivi says:

    From what I’ve seen watching other peoples’ playthroughs, there’s a lot of “Magical Black Person” and “White Saviour” going on, though some of that can be pretty funny if you read it as the islanders and Dennis being super patronizing to the protagonist. Some of the backstory, item descriptions, etc, seem fairly critical of American and Japanese actions in the south Pacific.

    But reading the wiki plot description (spoilers, obv) makes the whole thing come out actually as racist and messed up as the early stuff suggests.

  2. I haven’t played it, but the early trailers already suggested a pretty grotesque version not only of colonial relations, but also a disquieting version of personal progress. The narrative seemed doomed from the start to play out as a frat-house “white man’s burden,” but what got to me was the implied sense of what redeems the faux-hawked “hero” (I may be imagining the faux-hawk) is becoming a soldier/killing machine/figure of violence. The implied sense, which I haven’t really seen discounted, is that the issue with “bro” society isn’t that it is violent, but rather that it isn’t violent enough – the “state of nature” of vicious survival in warfare seems to be presented as the key to redeeming masculinity. Combine this with the sadistic overtones in all of the game’s promotional materials, and it is pretty clear from the get go that Vaas will probably represent the end point of the player character’s arc.

    Again, I haven’t played it, but I have been paying pretty close attention to the reviews and the promotional materials. I’d love to be proven wrong, but…

  3. Alexandra says:

    Regarding the save problem, outside of missions you can press F9 for quicksave and F11 for quickload. It won’t save your location but (I think) it saves your inventory / accomplishments (such as climbing towers, clearing camps). AFAIK this isn’t documented anywhere; lots of reviewers missed it too.

  4. Harper says:

    I’ve considered buying it, but I’m trying to avoid buying games with white, brown-haired men as the protagonist. Not that I have anything against white, brown-haired men (being one myself), I’m just sick of game designers following the same template. Now that the game is out, reviewers and gamers I respect have all been talking about the various problematic elements of the game, making me even less interested.

    • Shannon says:

      *sniff* I’m not normally in the habit of thanking white men for giving a shit about the way that white men are “default” but I’m so glad to see someone cares enough to do something.

  5. Eric says:

    I’m fairly certain that the end of the game could be quantified to be some sort of weird rape scene. I won’t go into it, but for those of you who know what I’m talking about, thoughts? (Warning: If you go look up the ending I speak of, Triggers abound, it is an FPS).

  6. Omar Little says:

    Somehow they made something even more condescending and offensive than its predecessor.

    For an uncomfortable stroll down memory lane, FC2 was a brilliantly designed sandbox game with nothing but disgusting plot elements -you play a mercenary in the middle of a civil war in Africa, for one (because mercenaries can possibly be good guys in these conflicts). Yeah, I’m going to leave this one alone. Where’s Don Cheadle when you need him?

    DISCLAIMER – I refused to purchase this game but have witnessed it being played.

    Back to FC3 – This thing manages to hit on so many tropes:

    A) Developed-world snot coming to a non-developed culture and somehow becoming “better at everything” than they are. Even though they attempt to explain it due to plot contrivance — come on.

    B) Notice all these Americans are white? One can argue that maybe it’s to make them “the highest of the high” where they’re from, but that’s annoying.

    C) I get that the island is Polynesian? How did it end up being populated with a mishmash of everyone who isn’t English speaking/White from every “dangerous” region from the world? You have a nebulously Latino warlord and his sister who somehow doesn’t even look or speak the way he does?! I get that the Liberian guy helps you but it seems like a weird plot point that he even is from Africa. Supposedly he moved the US, joined the marines and then left because the “brown guy always has to be in the jungle somehow?”

    D) I’m not even going to bring up the rape element because I never got that far.

    E) Stupid game logic: You have to sneak up on X number of animals to skin them to build wallets to hold cash but at one point you loot a leather wallet from a dead pirate. What can you do with this wallet? Just sell it as vendor trash (a game element that I wish would die in a fire). Granted, this isn’t social justice issue, just something that makes me want to bang my head against a wall, but it’s something I should bring up.

    F) I want to punch this game and everyone who worked on it.

    • Omar Little says:

      Oh. Re: the above, let’s not forget:

      * All Latino men are apparently cocaine-addled criminals/terrorists
      * Hey, the head villain in charge is a white Afrikaner establishing the fact that apparently all the dark people have to have a smart white guy running the show because only they are capable of organized evil on an institutional scale
      * All the “noble savage” garbage which has already been discussed

      Sorry for spamming the comment thread but the sheer amount of rage this game provokes can’t necessarily be contained in one post.

      • Shannon says:

        Thanks for your comments! I didn’t realise how bad this game was. I was told I might like it but I hadn’t looked into it at all… think I might just in future disregard recommendations from that person. :s

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