Far Cry 3 Isn't Racist. You Just Didn't Get It.

Don't get me wrong, I loved Far Cry 3. It's a magical game. But at the same time, the further I got through the game's story, the more uncomfortable it made me feel.

Yeah, there's the racist stuff, but also just the sense that, oh dear, one of the best game's of the year is actually being made worse by its story, which is sabotaging all the good will the more open-ended sections of the game had built up.

Reaction to this has been so bizarrely unanimous amongst those who have played the game that you'd think the writers and designers behind it would be saying "OK, lesson learned!", but nope, they're defending their decisions to the death.

In a long and constantly fascinating interview on Rock, Paper, Shotgun, John Walker chats with Jeffrey Yohalem, the game's author, about people's concerns, and how the developers went about putting the game's story together.

It's well worth a read, but the one thing that struck me most was the dismissive manner in which Yohalem shrugs off complaints about the game's lack of message, or even allegations it's a wee bit racist. He says there's subversion to be found in the writing, that the entire game is a commentary on things like old-fashioned Western racism, the "noble savage", and that the reason people aren't seeing that is because they're not looking hard enough.

Um, no. If your audience isn't getting the message, even those looking for it, then it's your delivery that's failed, not the mind of the audience. He says Far Cry 3 subverts with things like obvious tropes (like "dumb" natives), but... presents nothing but obvious tropes, assuming some simplistic naming conventions (the island is called "rook" because you're being played, etc) make it all OK, which they don't.

I understand the team, and Yohalem in particular, had something to say with Far Cry 3. They just didn't say it very well. Hopefully, instead of trying (and not doing a very good job) to defend their decisions, they can learn some lessons, apply them, and maybe steer Far Cry's narrative a little closer back towards where it was with Far Cry 2, and a little further away from... whatever the hell Far Cry 3's mix of tribalism, romance and insanity resulted in.

Far Cry 3′s Jeffrey Yohalem On Racism, Torture And Satire [Rock, Paper, Shotgun]


Comments

    To quote FPS Doug if I may

    "I just wanna shoot people! Like...a lot of people!"

    whatever the hell Far Cry 3‘s mix of tribalism, romance and insanity resulted in.

    You mean my Game of the year?

    brb getting Sarkeesian

    Jokes aside, this is what I hate about gaming. Thanks largely to Anita Sarkeesian, you can't have a game without it being labelled "sexist" or "racist" now, and oftentimes it's for the smallest, most irrelevant thing being taken out of context. Either these people who jump up and down know they got scammed by Sarkeesian (6 months since funding ended and not a single Tropes video- all she has done is fly to places and talk about the big bad 4chan trolls) and try to justify giving her their money, or they're just overly sensitive and will complain about anything, like the tampon ads that got a number of complaints for the word "vagina".

    Seriously, do people actually play video games for enjoyment anymore?

    /rant

    Last edited 21/12/12 8:49 am

      People want games to be treated like art, but they don't want them to be evaluated like art.
      If I paint something highly offensive or racially degrading, do I have the right to say "chill out idiot, just enjoy the painting"?

        Yes.

        You also have the right to not like it, to downright hate it, to want to see every scrap of - what is from your perspective "so-called art" - erased from existence.

        You can also say "hey man, you don't get the point of the painting"
        And then there's also the fact that people that want games treated like art are not necessarily the same people....
        Or they could be like me where they go "wow, yes, this game is art" and yet don't expect that label to be applied to every game.
        It's like, well... it's like if you looked at the Mona Lisa and said yes, this is art. Then looked at a crude drawing on the toilet door and started evaluating it and what kind of message the artist was trying to convey, terrible brush work but....

    Kotaku has become a nest for PC activists and every time I read bullshit like this, articles about Tomb Raider games being sexist, some idiotic woman complaining about a man at an expo assuming she wasn't a gamer etc... etc... I wonder why the hell people feel compelled to constantly make controversy of EVERYTHING.

    Just stfu and play games.

      Except by all accounts Far Cry 3 is very close to being racist, which is making people uncomfortable.

      btw, Happy End of the world day!

        man, people are making end of the world jokes like there's no tomorrow

      Maybe some people feel uncomfortable about this stuff, so does that mean their concerns should be ignored? Why should sexist/racist/homophobic/etc content be ignored just because it's in a video game? It's an incredibly immature way of thinking especially given the size of the video game market. These questions are being asked because a lot of these issues weren't as prevelant for a large part of video game history (but don't get me wrong, there certainly has been plenty of issues in the past.) Growing up with games like Donkey kong Country, Sonic and Mario, I wasn't exposed to the same sorts of themes and narratives we see today, so this discussion wasn't as necessary. Now we have plots involving race relations, sexual identity and gender issues. If they're not being addressed properly then of course people will be upset or have criticisms.
      Are we supposed to just sit back and not care? You can have you opinions, but so can everyone else.

    There are times in our lives when we look back on our past and mentally bash ourselves for being so clueless and stupid back then. I'm afraid when it comes to your lack of understanding with Far Cry 3's underlying themes you too will experience this same reaction sometime in your future.

    Go back and read what Jeffrey Yohalem said about gamers in an "abusive relationship". It seems from your comments that you prefer to be abused Luke. It's simpler for you, you don't need to think. You don't want to think.

    Far Cry 3 was all about symbolism, this island doesn't really exist, it was like Wonderland, The Matrix and the like. It was a means of getting some important views across when you looked beyond the obvious and used your critical thinking abilities.

    Actually i think it tells us something very important that so many people like yourself did not recognise that. And it's because of that there is so much misunderstanding and conflict in life.

      You know the way you just phrased all of that and your insistency that everyone who disagrees with you is clueless and stupid just makes me think you're seeing things that aren't there. Because honestly, the smugness of your post mocking people for "not getting it" is just screaming that you're the one not getting it.

      I highly doubt Far Cry 3 was all about the symbolism or that the writers were trying to get you to think that the island didn't exist. I think you have way to much free time on your hands and not a lot of that critical thinking ability you seem to think you alone have.

        Try using the link to the Jeffrey Yohalem interview found at the bottom of Luke's article. This isn't me making up anything or seeing things that are not there. The game was constructed with that very goal in mind. A little more research might be of use to you.

          I still have no clue what you're talking about. At no point in the interview is Jeffrey saying or implying that the island doesn't exist.

            :D Then here's another hint.
            "Rook"
            Check the interview again. :)

              And? The interview says the point of that is that everyone is using you as a playing piece. From his own words. I don't get how the name of the island is proof that the island doesn't exist.

                "Parable" - look up meaning and if you still don't understand than im afraid you are not ready to. ;)

                  I know the definition and you're still reaching and seeing things that aren't there. At no point in the interview is he implying or hinting that the story is anything but what is presented. So I understand the point you're making, it's just wrong. No different from people who think "Horton Hears a Who" is about Abortion or that Clark Kent is Superman's critique on the human race.

                  You're not as smart or clever as you think you are, the fact that you're being so smug in telling people that you understand more than them makes it all too clear.

      If the island was an imaginary construct, that might explain how they got tapirs, crocodiles, cassowaries, tigers, pathers, dingoes, monkeys and bears all in this same small ecosystem.

      Or it could just be lazy or opportunistic game design.

      If the vast majority of people 'don't get it' its a failure of delivery, not a failure of the audience.

    *SPOILERS*
    This was my take, having not read much how anyone else interpreted the story:
    The game was about how some nerdy kid becomes superpowered to protect what he loves... and then abandons all that for the powers he has now earned. At the end he is again faced with a choice, more stark this time than staying on the island - lose his powers or his friends.

    This commentary feels like it is self-referential to these types of games. It is not making any great arguments about feminism or the natives. It is about the demographic that heavily plays these games. It is, at a deep level, about the choice to spend time leveling up instead of choosing your loved ones. There is a further message in the endings based on the final choice. The endings remind you that the loved ones were not just a device to justify the violence, they were what the kid was fighting for. The other choice is a nerd wet dream interrupted by a nasty surprise. The game is not going to forgive you for not getting the moral.

    In the middle, though, he loses himself in the violence, just as we lose ourselves in the game. The journey you take with the character is part of the experience. All the work you have put in is threatened in the final choice. The primary goal of the game for many players is placed at odds with the protagonists initial goals.

    So the final choice is: let the protagonist be human and live; or let him have the careless evil of a computer game character and throw away his loved ones for power. The same kind of evil we do because we know that computer characters aren't real and we can run down as many as we want racing across Liberty City. The same kind of evil that all the violence perpetrated by Brodie on the Island represented. You have to choose if if he is a real character or a shell for your ambitions.

    I think i may be deeper than people who are attempting to interpret it through their own political lens might find.

    "Reaction to this has been so bizarrely unanimous amongst those who have played the game that you’d think the writers and designers behind it would be saying “OK, lesson learned!”, but nope, they’re defending their decisions to the death."

    And why shouldn't they? Although to be honest I don't understand why they actually feel the need to "defend" their decisions at all. It's their story, and if that's the story they wanted to tell then good on them. Don't like it? Fine, go write a story of your own that you DO like. If you paid your money for the game then you're absolutely entitled to your opinion of it, but that doesn't mean they're under any obligation to change it to pander to the complaints of others, nor to take any of that feedback into account when writing their next game. I'm sure we've all read books where we didn't like something or other about the story. That doesn't mean the writer is under any obligation to release a new edition of the book with the bits that we didn't like changed to suit our own preferences. Nor is the writer under any obligation whatsoever to write something that we'll like better when he writes his next book.

      good point. I feel the same whenever someone doesnt like a movie, or any other piece of art. You don't like it..so what? Nobody should ever have to defend their own art.

      However, this is a product that is to be sold, en masse, so if poor execution hurts sales perhaps management might like to ask a few "please explains" of their own.

      I think the point was that rather than acknowledge that some people had a problem, the author is denying that the problem existed at all and borderline insulting people for not getting it.

      THere's a line between defending your decision and coming across as being dismissive.

      Yes, he has no obligation to change his writing style or preferences based off what the haters say, but he was very dismissive of what is a very real gripe with the presentation of ideas.

        I don't think the author should have to 'defend' anything, no one is forced to play it, it's a choice. It is what it is so if someone doesn't like it that's their opinion and they're entitled to it, but he shouldn't have to justify his creativity to anyone.

    I may be so blindingly racist that I don't understand why this is being called racist. :( Can someone explain in extremely simple english why this is so?

      Some people think that depicting simple natives as uncouth or primitive, is somehow racist, even if it is an accurate and common fact among many of the worlds peoples. Sometimes stereotypes are accurate and that sits uncomfortably with a lot of bleeding hearts.

      I was more concerned with the (spoiler) female-on-male rape scene. I don't remember the protagonist consenting, considering he was in an altered state of consciousness at the time.

        Stereotypes have to come from somewhere, so i'm not sure why people get so up in arms over them, they aren't meant to be accurate, more of a generalisation. That in itself isn't 'racist' because it's not meant to imply that ALL people are like that, just the MAJORITY, and unfortunately the majority makes the biggest impression to those not inside the group.

        If anything it is the fault of the group that stereotypes exist, those who buy into the stereotype and perpetuate it are particularly at fault. Stereotypes are not created and then forced on a group, they are created by the majority of the group and is the image that is projected to the world, that is then used as a symbol.

          you are right. If a stereotype did not contain an ounce of truth, there would be no big deal. Imagine if someone said group X is known for fighting dragons. Nobody would give a shit because it is obviously not true. Stereotyping is like holding up a mirror to the group in question and saying "this is what you are known for". People don't like that kind of reality check.

      Basically, a White guy with no formal training shows up, and all the natives need you to go and solve their problems with them. The issue being that some of these problems a normal person could fix by themselves, so it makes the natives look like they can't take care of themselves and need a white guy to fix their problems for them (or something to that effect).

      That wasn't the intent of the writer, but it's coming across that way to some people. There's also some unfortunate implications behind the tattoos given to you, but I'll let someone else explain that.

        Except that's not really what happens.

        The way you've written it makes it seem 'racist' because you've conveniently left out details that don't agree with your chosen point of view. That is just inflammatory, and doesn't help the discussion in any meaningful way. In fact by presenting your subjective opinion as fact to someone else who doesn't know the full story you are helping to insure this divide over such a trivial issue continues, instead of being resolved.

          Dude, I haven't played the game, don't care about the game, and I'm just repeating what others have said. You know better? Then you answer the damn question.

            You haven't played the game?! Then you don't have any right to even comment. :)

            Everything you say is pure conjecture based on 3rd party opinions and no experience of your own but your own preconceived bias.

            You're just trolling and proving how foolish you are :D

            It has been entertaining though.

              Again, I'm not commenting on the game, I'm commenting on what other people are saying about the game.

              And again, you're smugness, emoticons and proclaiming your brilliance just shows that you're just making shit up (the island not existing) to try and feel smarter than you are.

                Now, now, don't get upset. Just post your next comment :D

                  There is no evidence that the island in the game isn't real within the confines of the game. Your use of the word "parable" is wrong in this instance as there is no evidence that htis is a story within a story, which is what a parable is. Unless you're saying the entire game itself is a parable to explain why the island isn't real, in which I have to say "no shit."

                  Emoticons for serious discussions are stupid.

            So you're trolling then? Spouting off like you know everything and haven't even played the game and just repeating what other people have said? That's not any way to have a meaningful and fruitful discussion.

            You should at least play the game, failing that read the last article about this (http://www.kotaku.com.au/2012/12/why-people-arent-picking-up-some-of-this-years-games/), the comments were much more interesting than the article itself and cover a lot of different factors to do with the discussion.

              People need to learn what the fuck trolling is.

              At no point did I claim to be saying what the game was saying, I was even clear I was repeating others arguements. And at no point was I saying the game was racist, I was commenting on thigns outside of the game, such as people's reactions and the author's tone. To say I can't have a meaningful conversation on that without playing the game is like saying I can't say that a doctor is incompetent for using a sledgehammer to perform surgiers because I'm not a trained doctor.

                I was trying to be helpful but whatever. Go back to school and learn how to read and write properly.

                  So much for not looking for a fight. Why don't you take some of your own advice then and learn some manners.

        I don't see how that's any different to something like the Elder Scrolls games. The natives stand around like idiots asking you to go and kill the rats in their basement or retrieve some piece of junk from another house across town. These are also things that a normal person could fix by themselves. But nobody complains because of the way it makes white people look like they can't look after themselves and need a (potentially, depending on how you created your character) black guy to come and fix their problems.

        It's exactly the same thing, but it just happens that Far Cry 3 is set on a fairly anarchic island in the Asia - Pacific region, so the local idiots need to look at least a little bit like they actually belong there rather than just transplanting the white idiots from the Elder Scrolls.

          It's not really, but it's just rubbed people the wrong way I guess. Keep in mind I'm just repeating what I've heard others say, don't jump down my throat Roh.

            I'm not here to pick fights, im here for an intelligent discussion. This is the interwebs though so hopefully i'm not being overly optimistic...

              If you're not here to pick fights, then why did you call me a troll? Because that's picking a fight.

                Read it again, it was a question.

                  "Are you trolling?" is not a question, it's "your argument is invalid so go fuck yourself." Nobody on the internet says "are you trolling" as an honest to god question.

      since I asked the idiotic question I'll reply to myself and (mostly) avoid all the bickering below.

      a) shaokin has every right to respond to my question. Just because he hasn't played the game doesn't mean he can't comment on what others have said (and hell, this might even give him a more objective view on the matter!) and he definitely wasn't trolling. In fact he was probably the only one who bothered to answer my question.

      b) Personally I don't find anything about the story racist. The way I saw it was the islanders have been (in a sense) enslaved by Hoyt and Vaas and had been in a slump for some time. You hear them say it "We will clear the island of pirates, Citra promised us!" To me this sounds like Citra has been promising her people something she doesn't command the power to do, and as such her own people, the Rakyat, have lost faith and are unable to use their own abilities for this reason. We've seen the civilians and the Rakyat around the islands - they're obviously all skilled warriors living in harsh conditions. As I said in another topic I don't see Jason as swooping in to save a bunch of "ooga booga spear chuckers" - the way I view it is that Jason is an out sider. As such he hasn't been crushed the way the locals have. He's not necessarily brave or skilled, he's mostly stupid. Several other characters say that both Hoyt and Vaas are untouchable, and the locals have come to believe this. Jasons rise to power have nothing to do with him being white, but have everything to do with his own personal journey, and then Citra using this sort of ... unwrought, unbridled rage and sense of revenge to give her own people a hero to look up to where perhaps she couldn't and where no one else in the tribe was willing to rise up and take the spot of the hero. Couple that with their belief in drugs and magic and you end up very much with Jason taking on the role of the mythical hero who has risen up to save their people. The fact that he's white is completely incidental. The fact that he is "unskilled" and can somehow weild guns and take on an entire pirate and mercenary army is suspension of belief - it's this way because Far Cry 3 is a shooter. If Jason couldn't use guns very well it'd be a pretty boring game wouldn't it?

    The problem that I see with a lot of this 'critical analysis' (I use the term extremely loosely, it's more akin to subjective opinion) is that people are trying so hard and digging so deep into things to try and find something to justify their opinions they are losing sight of the REAL issues. This in turn trivialises the broader, more immediate and serious concerns of prejudice and discrimination in society as a whole, further diluting the discussion and bogging down the process of combating it with insignificant and superfluous concerns.

    Like the boy who cried wolf, the more trivial bs that gets thrown around, the more the overall problem becomes skewed and thus seems insignificant, but unfortunately its prevalence remains.

    Sick of Kotaku writers. Seems like a breeding ground for greeny-feminist-do gooders. far Cry 3 is a fictional story. The developers aren't fueled by 'hate' which is what racism is all about. I don't think people get the definition of racism anymore. Kotaku, go watch Blazing Saddles. And while you're at it, have a good laugh.

    i didnt see any racism

      Not suprising, the people seeing it are the ones who are sensitive to it to begin with.

      At worst, the game is racially insensitive/tried to handle a delicate matter (depictions of people of native origin and their cultures) and failed in their delivery.

    You know you're in trouble when Kotaku starts lecturing you on how to write.

    Racist.. pretty strong word really.. I think the word gets thrown around way too readily.. it's a game.. a fictional story.. if we reacted like this to every work of fiction we'd have nothing to read, watch, listen to that was thought provoking.. heck even franchises like Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars, Star Trek (etc) explore the topic..

    The fact that no one on the island can tie a knot properly. :L

    I'm glad he was dismissive in the interview. He doesnt feel the need to justify some made up BS about racism or whatever else the media is pulling out of its ass. Honestly, this site really is becoming the Foxnews of gaming lately.

    Reading iwnto things far too much and seeing what you want to see doesnt exactly justify imaginary accusations of racism.

      Seeing as the interview was with a different site, how is it this site that is becoming the Fox News of gaming?

      No, the game isn't racist, there's no intent. But people are seeing it as being racially insensitive and him being dismissive of it isn't helping. All it would have taken is a "we didn't intend it to be taken that way, and we didn't make it to be taken that way, but people will see what they want to see." That is how you handled it.

        How can you know with so much certainty if the game is racist or not shaoken? You have already admitted you didn't play it........ how did you put it?

        "Dude, I haven't played the game, don't care about the game"

        I'd say you care about the game enough to endlessly comment here about it, even though you have no means of speaking with authority from playing it to completion or at all for that matter. :D

        That my friend are the actions of a troll. ;p

          Again, using words you don't know the meaning off.

          The game isn't racist because the developers are not racist and the writer did not intend for it to be racist.

          Also, there's this wonderful thing called Youtube Banefire. Where people put up Let's Plays of Video Games, allowing those who have not played the game to see the entire game being played. Did you think about that while you were patting yourself on the back for being so smart?

            What? you really think i'm smart? Gee thanks...you're nice :D

              BTW, how many hours did you watch the game being played on youtube to decide you didn't care about the game?

              It's logical to say you cared enough to watch so much of the game.........wouldn't you say? :D

                I watched enough of it to see that there was nothing gameplay wise that interested me, and that this so-called cries of racism were just over-reactions.

    Lol because Kotaku perpetuates this trash. Luke and Patricia are the worst. They're either sitting in their own world, writing about nonsensical crap or perpetuating Foxnews style sensationalism.

    And again, the developers are under no obligation to justify anything to people who look for things to whinge about and be offended by. The fact this even needs to be said is evidence that even gamers themselves have become melodramatic and bitchy about everything as though they're on PMS.

    The thing that I really hate about the FC3 story is that you can't escape through the cut scenes - other games let you press ESC to skip cut scenes. Not FC3 - you're forced to sit through them.

    Many cut scenes in FC3 require you to randomly press keys at odd moments. This means that if you have no choice but to sit there and wait for the key press events to occur. You can't just walk away and let them run out otherwise the mission will fail and loop.

    I'm not clever enough to understand stories. Just give me a way to skip over them so I can get back into the action.

    Didn't see anything racist in FC3. As someone pointed out above, the quests are no different to the kind you'd find in Skyrim or any other roleplaying game. Race is only a factor for people who make it a factor and read into it what isn't there to begin with.

    "Um, no. If your audience isn’t getting the message, even those looking for it, then it’s your delivery that’s failed, not the mind of the audience."

    That's all well and good, Luke, except for the fact that plenty of the audience did get the message. It's not the delivery that failed, it might be you.

    i have no idea what you are talking about, one of the best games i have ever played.
    and the transition form a wimpy rich kid to a tribal wartier they couldn't have done it any better

    Having just finished FC3, I just wanted to say somewhere that I liked the story, and have no idea what all the fuss was about. It wasn't amazing, but it was pretty good.

    I will say however that I took my time through the game, completing every achievement by the end, which diluted my intake of the story to regularly spaced intervals. If I'd just raced through the main plot then I probably would have found it more annoying.

    I've been through the pacific - lots of it - and much of the game seemed humorously accurate to me - but maybe I'm just a racist. Excuse me now, I'm off to shoot some natives.

    Yet Django unchained is perfectly fine and even got nominated for an academy award! Anti racist - anti white.

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