Why People Aren't Picking Up Some Of This Year's Games

Sometimes it seems as if the end-all-be-all metric we use to determine if we will purchase something is "fun." In actuality, there are things about a game that might make someone think twice about purchasing it — and they have nothing to do with how the game plays or how fun it is.

Recently I noticed a lot of talk on Twitter about Far Cry 3, and how some people didn't feel comfortable about how it depicted race. Some of these folks were declaring that they wouldn't purchase the game for that reason, though they admitted that the game otherwise looked good.

As you might know, the premise of Far Cry 3 sees a group of white kids partying on an island, when suddenly things turn bad — and that's not just because pirates take them captive.

John Walker delves into the issue of race a bit over at Rock, Paper, Shotgun.

Because Far Cry 3, well, it's a bit racist, isn't it?

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'.

Walker doesn't think the "spoilt rich white kids having their worlds fall apart" isn't a bad thing, and he talks about this a little between both of his pieces on Far Cry 3.

Still, this got me thinking: what does a game have to do to make someone reconsider buying it? Ideological things that trump fun, I mean.

I decided to ask Twitter. Here's what they said.

[View the story "When fun is not enough" on Storify]

And now I must ask you, dear Kotaku readers: what sorts of things will cause you to boycott a game, and why? Should this ideological stuff matter at all when you're making a purchase?


    I wouldn't boycott a game per se, but I wouldn't buy anything that I think I wouldn't enjoy or would make me feel uncomfortable playing it. It's just a personal choice. I still support the developer's right to make a game like that - it's just not for me.

    I have played FC3 for a fair few hours now and I think to boycott the game is a little far. I think people should let the developers tell a really awesome story without being branded racists. Unfortunately if your going a to base a story on humans there is most likely going to be race in it, GTA SA I would consider to be more racist than FC3

    I haven't picked up Far Cry 3 yet but that's cause I'm broke as right now and I only just picked up Halo 4 anyway :P

    I guess there are probably a bunch of things which might make me boycott a game. I'd say technical issues, like always-on DRM, are more likely to be the ones that matter to me though. *shrug* dunno, aside from Diablo 3 there aren't really any other cases I can think of where I've boycotted a game. Even then I'm only a casual Diablo fan so it didn't matter heaps to me anyway.

    This kind of thing annoys me. We're all so sensitive to everyone's feelings now that we're letting it get in the way of picking up games that have great stories in case someone has a fucking cry about how it portrays a certain type of race. (Sexism is generally excluded from this for rather obvious reasons.)

    How on Earth do we expect to be taken seriously when we're letting political correctness get in the way of great storytelling? Case in point: The "rape" in Tomb Raider.

    Last edited 06/12/12 11:49 am

      I think the issue is that it ISN'T great storytelling most of the time. It's a lazy trope that highlights writers and designers thinking of characters by their identifiers (e.g. as a woman or an ethnic group) instead of as individuals. When I find this sort of thing in a book, for example, that's usually a giant red flag that the book isn't going to be very good, because good storytelling doesn't need to rely on tired and outdated stereotypes. How much more interesting are characters that buck the stereotypes, or grow beyond them? When you start thinking of them by name instead of as 'that voodoo witch doctor guy' or 'the hot blonde chick'.

      It's a big neon sign of creative laziness. One that also has the negative drawback of reinforcing bad stereotypes. We can say 'it's just entertainment' but entertainment can have a pretty profound effect on culture and attitudes. When you're in the mass media business, you're expected to exercise a little bit of responsibility with the messages you're including.

        For some reason, no-one ever seems to argue that minstrel shows in the US were great entertainment ruined by political correctness.

    I'm not buying Far Cry 3 for different reasons.
    Basically because I loved Far Cry 2 and while I'm sure 3 will be superior in terms of gameplay, the content is just immature in comparison. Theres been this whole thing about games needing to be more mature recently....but it's like the big publishers think that "mature" means tits, torture, extreme violence and swearing, etc.
    Far Cry 2 made you feel as if your progress was having serious political implications as well as encouraged real exploration and I really enjoyed that. Less is more.

      the exploration in FC3 is much better. It's a much better game in many ways, including the writing.

        I'm sure it is, that's the reason I was interested in FC3 in the first place, but each new trailer they release turns me off more and more. The most recent trailer was the nail in the coffin for me with the announcement of the option to torture your opponent in multiplayer as well as the whole "F#cky f#cky, sucky sucky?" line.....just so completely unnecessary imo.

          You actually have the option to not play multiplayer. Beating your friends / opponents and rubbing it in their face is fun.
          And I thought that line was hilarious, despite it's crudeness.
          I think I'm in the opposite boat to you, I thought FC2 was rubbish it's core gameplay relied on repeditive missions going around the map doing the exact same stuff. With every trailer I feel more inclined to play it, it looks more and more exciting the number 2.

          Last edited 07/12/12 10:39 am

            Yeah I agree with you about FC2, the gameplay is very repetitive and stuff like respawning enemies just made it frustrating.

            I was just hoping that FC3 would have a similar atmosphere in terms of story and pacing. I'll most likely pick it up when its cheap

    Unnecessary region locking (looking at you, Persona 4 Arena)

    I tend to avoid games if they look like they're going to be studidly sexist. Like TERA for example. An action mmo sounds awesome, but I'm not buying a game that uses that sort of armour design to the extreme level TERA uses it.

    Nothing really.. if the game is good enough, I will buy it. I did avoid Ubisoft titles for a while and all that really means is that I won't just automatically buy every game they make.. but when they release something that is genuinely brilliant, like Far Cry 3, then I will buy it.. I'll still whinge and moan about their UPlay distribution system etc.. but I'll still buy it.

    So I guess all it means is that I will buy less of their games than I would have before..

    Last edited 06/12/12 12:02 pm

    I can't believe PETA hasn't had a whinge about Far Cry 3 yet.
    "OMG save the burning Dog's, SAVE THEM".

      Oh, don't be silly. This game's not significant enough for PETA to care.

        PETA aren't significant enough for me to care if they care.

        They cared enough to complain about the killing of dogs in CoD iirc

      Give them time. They're probably working on a parody game as we speak.

    If a creator and their personality becomes public it will form part of my decision making, e.g. Phil Fish completely put me off buying Fez, despite the fact that the game looked interesting. Conversely, Tim Schafer convinced me to give Brutal Legend a go, despite not really liking Metal or RTS's.

    I can be completely fickle as well, ignoring a game for the smallest of reasons, e.g. one of the Stacking trailers showing a character farting into an air vent. Farts/toilet humour isn't funny, no purchase, regardless of Schafer connection.

    Also QTE's. You put one of those in your game and there's no way in hell I'm buying it.

    I reckon you should play a game before you go calling it "racist", racism is a real-world problem and making a big deal about it being in a virtual world seems pretty dumb. It's just a game ffs, it is fictional. Racism is real, bitching and boycotting a game is just silly and immature. As for "hypersexualisation", I reckon people are hypersensitive about sh*t like that, the game is MA15 (I think?) if not R18. Moral of the story, it's just a game...

      The author of this article is an idiot.

      Yes there are many Islander characters in this game who give you lame quests.

      But that's simply a byproduct of most of the characters in the game being Islanders.

      Besides The Man in White, and the assorted villains, the only caucasians in the game are the drug addict doctor and your useless friends. What sort of quests do they give you?

      "Can you get a mushroom from a cave for me so I can do witchdoctor magic?"
      "Can you find me a wrench?"
      "Can you pretend I'm not the most annoying girlfriend ever?"

      Ok that last one isn't actually a quest. ;)

      But as you can see the quests you get from the generic white people are just as generic and bland as the generic quests given to you by the generic islander people, there's simply more Islanders to get bland quests from.

      The storyline itself has a couple of white guys as villains and quest givers but it also has some amazing Islanders as villains and questgivers.

      The author of this piece is trying to apply racism to what is simply the standard problem with most open world computer games. The bit characters are typically one-dimensional because all the work goes into the main characters. It has nothing to do with race.

      Racism isn't just about discrimination based on ethic background it's about a whole entrenched attitude of superiority/inferiority in our culture. Because of that and things that reaffirm it (like this game apparently does), racist attitudes keep going on and on waaaay past their use-by date.
      You still meet people who hold 1930's type antisemetic beliefs for instance, that have nothing to do with the modern Israel situation, it's just because people refuse to let this stuff die because it's all harmless and in "good fun".

    1) If the game is OBVIOUSLY trying to make money from ad ons rather than the game itself.. ie, microtransactions, pointless DLC and overpriced original game.
    2) A game that looks to short or to ling. Ie, Assasins creed I would never get to the end of, most mobile games would be over in an hour or two.
    3) Content that looks unappealing, and bad reviews (uninteresting gameplay shown)

    Having said all of that, I agree that story should come before political correctness. the afore mentioned attempted rape scene in the new tomb raider is way overblown... it happens in real life and should be addressed in popular media. As far as sexism etc, when girls all dress "appropriately" and men all act "correctly" in real life, media will change. If you want to stop depictions of rape and racism, put your efforts into changeing the real world.

    I don't really boycott often, but if there is one thing I boycott it is Sony Online Entertainment.

    Ruined Star Wars Galaxies and made some horrible design decision which ruined D.C. Universe before it ever had a chance. That game had some real potential.

    So basically, MMOs by SoE are a no no.

    I'm also against games with a 1 year release cycle like AC and CoD, FIFA not so much.

      You do realise that these games are actually worked on by seperate teams don't you? AC3 actually had a 3yr dev cycle, COD has 2 yr cycles. I hate this attitude. If the content is good, then why boycott the game? Now I will admit that AC:Revelations was the first AC game I didn't finish, but that was because of the length, and that I started to get board of that content at that time. I will be going back and finishing it when I have a lul as it were in my back catalogue. The other games, all amazing.

      Fifa, NBA, NHL, all are games that have multiple teams working on them, and have features planed years in advance. Once again, your argument is invalid about yearly releases.

      As for SOE, be thankful that they even exist. MMO's wouldn't be where they are if it wasn't for EverQuest, a SOE MMO.

        Because the content isn't good?

        If it was I would play them. But it's not. They deliberately delay features that one team could implement so they can cash drive the next year by offering a feature which was perfectly ready and suitable for the previous title.

        AC:1 maybe and CoD 4 maybe but otherwise I'm not interested in mediocre filler titles which are an obvious cash grab.

        FIFA I outlined as an exception, since sports games are easily updated year to year and it makes sense based on the season of the sport.

        Also, the acts of the past do not excuse the sins of the future. SoE may have been a major influence on the genre 10 years ago, this is no longer the case. I don't need to know which team is making the game to know that everything SoE has touched recently has gone to shit.

        So yeah, my argument is perfectly valid. U mad bro?

    I'm done with boycotts. I'm at the point where I'm so starved for time 'boycotting' a game is easy because my backlog is ridiculous. I don't boycott because if I game has a positive ratio of fun to time and money I'll pick it up. Some at release. Some in those crazy sales. Some never because the fun isn't there.

    I'm pissed off with myself for buying too many games, both retail and DD, early on in the generation.

    It means I'm now not buying games that deserve sales more. Simply because my library is too big, and I don't have that sort of money anymore.

    Going to learnt from that lesson for next gen.

      It's not your fault. It's the devs fault for putting us in drought all year and then at the end of it they decide to flood us with them all at once. I've also had to make a lot of sacrifices over the past couple of months.

    I'll tell you why I'm not picking up FC3: Because it appears to be yet another boring entry in a boring (and slightly overrated) series. Disaster on a tropical island... seriously, again? Yeah, not for me.

      Never played a Far Cry game before FC3. And I don't need to.

      This game is awesome.

    I'm not really going to let content sway me, unless I think the intention is to deliberately spread hate and/or misinformation. I didn't like the Hitman nu ad, but I don't think the developers were trying to brainwash people into hating women.

    I guess one thing is that I don't actually know how developers actually spend their money. Since I found out Orson Scott Card invests his money into anti-gay groups, I've taken to pirating and distributing his books. I hope he goes broke. I guess I'd act the same way if I found out a developer spent their money on fairly questionable things.

    I'd probably also boycott a game if I found out it was coded by slaves or something.

      Yeah these are pretty much the only reasons I would boycott a game and as far as I know it hasn't happened.

    I would hate to have something so far up my arse that it would make me view a game like this.

    people too often forget stereotypes exist for a reason, they often have a very strong basis in reality, be it rich white kids on vacation in exotic areas, or "natives" living simple lives more concerned about putting food on the table, stereo typing is not racist, also FC3 is a freakin awesome game

    Ironically the tribes in FarCry 3 are Maori who, historically speaking, invaded New Zealand and killed off (and ate) the native and peaceful Moriori.

    I can see the writers point but I don't think the game is particularly racist. What I do think though is this game invokes discussion about the issue and throws questions about Jason's (your) morals in certain situations. Morals about people rather than racial issues. It pushes buttons and provokes thought like an art piece in a gallery.

    Every historical conflict has involved race or religion, and it usually includes a stronger white race vs. an ethnic race. Why would this be any different? Do you think it should be?

    Would you feel it was a realistic and believable story if the Tribesmen were the dominant party and the white group were the underdogs?

    I think the terms 'racism' and 'sexism' are thrown around WAY too much lately and this really detracts from cases that are clearly and definitively prejudiced, which should hold serious weight. Trivialising these concerns with personal tantrum throwing is only hurting the cause.

      To go further into the quote, the locals DO NOT appear useless, they are fighting a war against the pirates and are doing pretty well, you are just helping them. If anything it could be seen as portraying the white people in the game as stupid, shallow and in need of guidance and teaching from the local population or more 'real' people as they are all so devoid of humanity. It's actually pretty amazing how the writer manages to flip his perspective around to suit his argument, it feels like he i stretching his premise incredibly thin just to support his point of view and ignoring anything that conflicts with it.

      It is IMPOSSIBLE to portray all people of all races/genders/sexual orientations etc all the time in a perfectly pc paradise where nothing that could offend someone ever happens. Simply IMPOSSIBLE. But this doesn't mean that just because all different facets of the human race aren't perfectly represented in a game/movie/book that it is then racist/sexist/prejudiced.

        Given the quests you get from white people in the game include stuff like "Find me a magic mushroom so I can turn it into medicine" or " Can you search this cave for a wrench?" and the like, I don't really see the author has a leg to stand on.

    Personal taste stuff notwithstanding... EA's Origin will stop me dead in my tracks. ME3, NFS Most Wanted, SWTOR, Battlefield 3 - I wanted all of those games, but bought none of them.

    tl;dr: Origin.

      Far Cry 3 = Ubisoft. Uplay.

      Which is neither Origin, nor owned by EA?

    For me it is region specific pricing for digital services
    Ideologically their isn't much that will stop me getting a game. I've watched films about holocaust death camps and read books about mass murderers. Why limit what games I play. They just have to be good

    I don't think I'd ever let something like perceived racism, sexism, transphobia and other PC things stop me from at least playing a game, unless it's KKK: Black-kill simulator: the game or something on those lines. Unless discrimination is the goal of the game, I don't really care.

    No, what has stopped me from playing games this year is:
    Internet: Can't download much with only 12GB a month.
    DRM: More than once have I considered buying a game, only to find out it's published by Ubisoft. Sorry, developers!
    Xbox Live Gold: Between this and their antiquated Points system, I honestly don't want to use my Xbox. Which is a shame, because I really want to play Halo 4, because Halo multiplayer has been the source of many good times.
    Australia Tax: Paying extra for games, whether it be in retail or Activision games on Steam, it's all bullshit. Yeah, there are lots of ways around it, importing, JB Hi-fi, getting Americans to gift you games on Steam and paying them on the side, but it's all a lot of effort.

    The biggest killers though are:
    Time!: There's only so many hours in the day and the ones I don't spend on busywork I don't want to waste on gaming. I often do, but I don't want to.
    Will!: Often, I just don't want to play games! I think I'm getting old.

    There are still games I look forward to, far on the horizon, but most games these days I just don't bat an eye towards.

    " but when you wield their tattoo-based magical powers then true greatness appears"

    "There’s a term for it. It’s “Noble Savage”. And it also falls under the remit of the “Magical Negro”. "

    What a load of crap. The writer shall now be know as spin jockey. Well done, you just twisted the facts so hard you believed yourself. If he wrote for money, I would not buy the dribble.

    The tattoo is a symbol of achievements, nothing about race.

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