Note: iOS 9 + Facebook users w/ trouble scrolling: #super sorry# we hope to fix it asap. In the meantime Chrome Mobile is a reach around
hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Far Cry 3: The creative failure of industry 'commentary'

9:30 AM on 12.18.2012 // Jim Sterling
  @JimSterling

How a writer thinks critics didn't 'get' what wasn't there to get

Far Cry 3 has been accused of racism, sexism, and relying too heavily on exploitative narrative tropes. Lead writer Jeffrey Yohalem, however, thinks the critics have missed the point, and told Penny Arcade that Far Cry 3 is supposed to be a commentary. 

"It’s set on an island in the South Pacific, so immediately the thing that comes to mind is the white colonial trope, the Avatar trope," he explained. "I started with that, and it’s like, 'Here's what pop culture thinks about traveling to a new place,' and the funny thing is, that's an exaggeration of most games, they just don’t expose it.

"For example, GTA is a colonization game. You come to New York, you colonize New York. Most open world games function that way. Ezio comes to Rome and colonizes Rome. To take that to its extreme, exaggerating those tropes is how you reveal them. The exaggeration of that trope is what happens in Far Cry 3."

In my own review for the game, I found the story relatively inoffensive and stylishly presented, but did point out that it veers dangerously into "Mighty Whitey" trope territory. Far Cry 3's story is basically about an inexperienced young white man coming to a tropical island and being better at the natives' way of life than they are in a matter of days. It's a cliche that's ripe for satire and commentary, but the problem is -- Far Cry 3 really doesn't do that, despite the writer's claim.

If Yohalem wishes to insist his story is supposed to be an exaggerated commentary, he's going to have to come to terms with the fact that he's not a very good commentator, because Far Cry 3 comes off as quite genuine and clearly acts like it wants to be taken seriously. Far Cry 3's plot never distinguishes itself from any other open world game, and not once did I ever get the impression it was trying to be more than a straightforward -- albeit slickly produced -- adventure story.

That's fine, and I wasn't offended by any of the game's narrative elements, but if it was intended to "exaggerate" anything, it failed. Given how ridiculous videogame stories generally are, Far Cry 3 needed to go way further than it did to expose the stupidity of the genre. Compared to something like Saints Row, the game's writing is tame. I'd argue Volition's done a lot more to expose the silliness of open world games, and when you compare it to Far Cry 3's effort, Yohalem's statements come off as disingenuous, attempting to answer criticism with excuses after the fact. 

"When you’re with Citra in front of the warriors, that’s Jason’s fantasy, you know the white guy from LA has sex with this beautiful woman, it’s very gratuitous, and it’s in front of the whole tribe," Yohalem added. "It’s a fantasy that we’ve seen in pop culture cinema.

"What I didn’t expect was the people who half-listen. If you half-listen to the story, it seems like it’s reinforcing tropes that I disagree with."


The above quote is a perfect example of my problem with the writer's argument. Yes, the sex scene with Citra is a gratuitous fantasy -- but in an industry where gratuitous fantasy is the norm, presenting this scene without any added irony or commentary just comes across as yet another pointless sex scene in a world full of pointless sex scenes. It appears cynical, not satirical. As he says, it's a fantasy we've seen in pop culture cinema, but it's recreated so faithfully in Far Cry 3, it cannot be considered as exaggerated -- it's just another example of the trope. 

Not once is there a shred of dialog or a visual cue to clue the audience into the idea that this is the protagonist's personal fantasy. Jason never says this. He never indicates beforehand, even briefly, that his dream is to shag a priestess in front of a crowd. It just happens, with a muted seriousness. In simply presenting the scene without added commentary, it looks like the writer's fantasy, not the main character's. It's sex for sex's sake. 

Again, if that's what Far Cry 3 wanted to do, then whatever -- but implying now, weeks after release, that we're ignorant for not "getting" it, is offensive. I assert there's nothing to get. The videogame industry is not known for its subtlety, so if you set out to criticize, satirize, or otherwise comment on the medium's tropes, you're going to have to work hard and communicate it clearly. You don't get to act better than your peers by simply saying you are. You have to actually be better, and Far Cry 3 is not better. 

It reminds me of the "satire" seen in The Simpson's Game, released a few years ago. This is a game that set out to parody problems in videogames by simply including the problems within its gameplay. It would give you tired and repetitive block puzzles, but excuse the lack of inspiration by having a character quip about how tired and repetitive the block puzzles were. That's not how it's meant to work -- simply acknowledging how bad your game is doesn't work as satire. There's no difference between your "parody" and any other game with mediocre block puzzles -- the result is still the same, as players are being bored by insipid gameplay no matter the stated intent.

Game developers often think that, if they point out their own flaws, they're allowed to keep them. Having an RPG character make fun of fetch quests isn't a joke if you're going to lazily make the player do the fetch quests anyway. It's just insulting -- it comes off as a developer admitting they know how lame their gameplay is, but isn't interested in doing a thing to change it. 

This is what Far Cry 3 did from a narrative perspective. In acknowledging these tropes, the lead writer admits he knows what's wrong with his game. However, by simply presenting these tropes with a straight face, he's not managed to make any kind of creative statement. He's fallen into the trap of simply being the thing he's trying to criticize. Or at least claims he's trying to criticize. 

I maintain that Far Cry 3 is a great game, and I think its story is okay -- notable more for its superb voice performances than anything else. However, to suggest its critics didn't "get" the game, when it presented nothing to get, is both misleading and insulting. The justifications for Far Cry 3's plot actually serve to make the game look worse, because now it's not just a big dumb action story -- it's a big dumb action story that failed to be a smart and cutting observation of the industry.

Frankly, it would've been better if  Jeffrey Yohalem had cashed in his chips while he was ahead, rather than take this PR gamble. Better to be known for writing a successful escapist's fantasy, than writing a failed indictment of it. 



Jim Sterling, Former Reviews Editor
 Follow Blog + disclosure JimSterling Tips
Destructoid reviews editor, responsible for running and maintaining the cutting edge videogame critique that people ignore because all they want to see are the scores at the end. Also a regular f... more   |   staff directory





 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community fisters, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding *.disqus.com to your whitelists.

destructoid's previous coverage:
Far Cry 3


  Apr 01

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon gets teaser video and goofy site

Grab your promotional Far Cry 3 banana carriers while they last!


  Mar 27

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon leak suggests 80s radness

Slay dragons and collect VHS tapes, according to leaked achievement list


  Mar 06

Far Cry 3 writer suggests upcoming content

Maybe a downloadable game named "Blood Dragon"


  Jan 23

See how Ubisoft made Far Cry 3

One of my favorite games of 2012


View all:powered by:  MM.Elephant

Ads on destructoid may be purchased from:



Please contact Crave Online, thanks!


Gaming's Beautiful People #3: Waifu Warfare (Bloggers Wanted)

Understanding How Street Fighter is Played

Cblogs of 2/05/16 + Digital Preservation

Music Notes: "Tied Down" by Forever Still

Desert Golfing - The Model Mobile Game

Review: Pony Island

Do you even Bebop?

Cblogs of 02/04/16 + Bayonetta and some other one I suppose

Waifu Wars: Your Cruel Device, Your Blood Like Ice..

Best Kickstarter implosion EVER as dev money is spent on booze and strippers

 Add your impressions

 Quickposts
Status updates from C-bloggers

Bardley avatarBardley
My absolute finest moment in all of Metal Gear. Also, the first time I had driven a truck.
JohnSmith123 avatarJohnSmith123
Ok. That EDF 4.1 game is really really good. You can even sing and shout "EDF!" with your soldiers! Holy crackers.
StriderHoang avatarStriderHoang
I want to goad my wife into playing RE Revelations 2 with me but I don't know if she can deal with the whole 3D spatial movement thing, even if she plays the supporting character.
Lawman avatarLawman
Heads-up: Mega Man soundtracks are free right now at the Capcom Store. Guessing it's a glitch. All of them are digital downloads, except for Mega Man 9, which is a physical CD that requires money for shipping. Link in comments.
Solar Pony Django avatarSolar Pony Django
My Brawl in the Family books finally came! It took a while but Matthew (guy who made the series) has been super busy so I totally understand. =D
Dreamweaver avatarDreamweaver
Here's what a typical dinner with me looks like: Stouffer's chicken parmesan, Lay's potato chips, and a cold can of Mountain Dew, all eaten on a cold set of tiles. That's right, ladies, THIS is what you'd be missing out on. Eat your heart out, @SayWord.
thelivinglegend avatarthelivinglegend
Not digging the difficulty of Xcom 2 so far. I always thought the first one was tough but fair, but this seems that at times it won't matter what strategy you use, you'll end up losing and having to restart. Seems more trial and error than tactical.
Barry Kelly avatarBarry Kelly
How's everyone finding XCOM 2? My first campaign isn't going well, half a dozen deaths so far and a sea of hospitalised vets in the roster :(
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
Just tried the SFV kiosk demo. Impressions: Charlie is weird now. Chun Li now down-to-forwards her signature kick. Ryu, Ryu never changes. How to V-Trigger? Hah, Capcom does not explain such things! Needs more Rathalos and Feylines.
Ckarasu avatarCkarasu
For anyone wondering: Digimon Cyber Sleuth is pretty good. A bit easy, so play on hard mode for challenge, but it's like playing Final Fantasy 10, but with Digimon. You can even get Black Wargreymon if you buy it this month. Clearly, the best Digimon.
CoilWhine avatarCoilWhine
I bought Bloodborne and $30 in PSN moolah to top off my Playstation shopping spree.
ChrisHannard avatarChrisHannard
I just made a thing of beauty.
Fuzunga avatarFuzunga
Nordic just saved a bunch of games from being delisted. Some pretty good ones! [url]http://www.nordicgames.at/index.php/article/galactic_ip_rescue_operation_aka_new_franchises_acquired[/url]
Atleastimhousebroken avatarAtleastimhousebroken
Weird brutal death metal song about Majora's Mask (Reminds me of Gorguts)! My life is complete! Lyrics in comments. https://profoundlorerecords.bandcamp.com/track/tales-of-the-majora-mythos-part-1
Dreamweaver avatarDreamweaver
I SWEAR the Goddess is trolling me. I HATE having dreams where everything's finally okay with my life, only to wake up and realize it's all been a delusional lie. I'm starting to think this is a sign that maybe I should just keep sleeping forever... T^T
jak2364 avatarjak2364
It's taking every ounce of power within me to act like a responsible adult and save for this instead of using a credit card to get it now. http://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B00VRCLHYS/ Everyone, tell me bad things about it.
gajknight avatargajknight
My cat touched my dick.
ScionVyse avatarScionVyse
Oh boy, extra damage weren't Ike's only buffs this patch. They also made his n-air combo better, made his Fsmash better (sourspot damage and angle buffs) and increased the range of his f-air. Ike may be tied with Sheik for best f-air in the game now. :D
Voodoome avatarVoodoome
What's your guys thoughts on repros? I ran into these a couple years ago at a con and I just couldn't resist. I know there are some repro makers out there that reproduce official US releases, and that's wrong, but if a game was never released here?
Niwannabe avatarNiwannabe
There's people who defend WB putting season passes in LEGO games. Real talk for a sec, there is literally no reason a season pass should even exist, let alone in a LEGO game of all things. Preordering DLC is pointless. I'm saltier than I need to be.
more quickposts


Contest!


Seriously

Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme


Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo



Back to Top


We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -