There’s been a lot of debate lately about whether certain video games are, in fact, video games. Games like The Walking Dead or Dys4ia or Dear Esther or Proteus have each been accused of not really being games – sometimes even by people that like them. The argument is usually something along the lines of “they’re neat experiences but I don’t know if I’d call them games.”
But here’s the thing – what constitutes a game is notoriously difficult to pin down. Much like defining “art” it turns out that defining “games” is largely contextual and it’s extremely hard to come up with just one concrete, universal definition. If you cast your net too wide you start including things that are pretty definitively not games – if I just say ‘games are interactive systems’ and leave it at that, I’ve suddenly declared traffic patterns, governments, and dead-end jobs as ‘games.’ But if I say that games are, “interactive software used for fun” where does that leave card games or sports or board games or even – as i’ve mentioned before – games that aren’t traditionally fun like Dark Souls or Amnesia?
I’m going to try something slightly different with this one: I’m going to post the script under the cut. There are a few changes – a bunch of complaining about how stupid things got was cut because it got a little too SJW-y without an egregious enough reason, and a few other minor differences where things flowed better/ran long. But people have asked for these before, and I figure this works as well as any other way to get them out to people.
Note: Up until this point I’ve tried to keep the discussion more or less spoiler free, but at this point I’m going to be talking about the whole game. Consider yourself Spoiler Warned.
Far Cry 3 is a game that wants to ‘about’ something very, very much – but it’s not really sure how to go about doing that. Some games do so almost entirely through narrative, like Spec Ops: The Line. Other games use mechanics as a metaphor, like Lim. Far Cry 3 doesn’t seem particularly interested in either – the narrative is a pretty straightforward revenge tale and the mechanics have largely moved away from having any inherent thematic content. Instead the game tries to use bits and pieces of every bit of itself to give a vague impression of what it wants to discuss – and in so doing is pretty ineffectual overall.
So last time I spent most of the article whining that Far Cry 3 wasn’t Far Cry 2. And while that’s true, it’s not like the game is without merit. So I figured I’d spend part of this miniseries talking about what the game does well. To that end, I’ve attached the gameplay video above. What I love about this clip is that it’s 100% genuine – this wasn’t me setting up a planned event; this wasn’t take 43 of a series of attacks on this same base; this isn’t a highly edited and cobbled together “best of” compilation. It’s just me recording the taking of one random outpost (and a few humorous bits shortly thereafter).
And yet, aside from its stop-and-go pacing, it feels a bit like a promo video, doesn’t it? It highlights a variety of weapons and deployables, shows off unpredictable animal AI and the fact that enemy AI will call for reinforcements, and demonstrates several of the “we’re sticking to the first person perspective” tricks like the roll out of the car… it feels like a trailer trying to show off features. It’s a testament to the utility of the tools they’ve provided the player – every one of them useful in some capacity, and every one of them is interesting in some capacity.
A few weeks back I did a short series of three write-ups on Far Cry 3 for Shamus Young’s Twenty Sided. They did well enough over there, but I figured I’d post them here for posterity’s sake.
I’ll be delving in to Far Cry 3 in the next few days, but before I go too deep into the thematic stuff I thought I’d talk about how the game compares to – and at times goes to great lengths to distance itself from – its predecessor.
While I’ve said my piece on Far Cry 2 already, it’s worth reiterating that it’s sort of a challenging game. I don’t mean that it’s challenging in terms of raw game difficulty, I mean that it challenges players trying to engage with the game itself. It’s a game where the center cannot hold – Ben Abraham has rightly pointed out that its mechanics all tie closely to themes of entropy and decay. Guns break down over time, fire spreads and consumes foliage, cleared checkpoints are repopulated, friends betray you, the political situation continues to rip the country apart, and even your own body is under siege by disease. The player is never really in complete control of his or her situation and whatever gains they make are always eroded and undone. Part of this is to encourage the creation of memorable emergent situations, but there’s a serious thematic subtext there as well.