Wrapped in Nietzsche and Gun Violence, Will Far Cry 3 Make It Under the Tree for Christmas?

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If the success of past Ubisoft games written by Jeffrey Yohalem are any indication, millions of people will be spending Christmas afternoon sitting in front of their X-boxes playing Far Cry 3, or wishing they could. The game, after all, was released on December 4 and has garnered solid critical reviews and an impressive Metacritic score. But in the wake of the shooting massacre at Sandy Hook, Ubisoft – like Etzio from the company’s other recent giant success, the Assassins’ Creed series — seems to be positioned atop a medieval tower, looking down at a pile of hay, wondering if it will survive the jump.

The reason is that, in order to save his friends, Jason Brody, the player’s avatar in Far Cry 3, has to shoot his way through hundreds of island pirates, wild animals, and human traffickers. And with all the sadness and scenes of horror on the news, American gift-givers may have decided to give more tranquil gifts this year, choosing presents far removed from gun play, and images of blood and death.

Complicating this dynamic, however, is an insistence by writer Jeffrey Yohalem that the game actually critiques meaningless violence and behavior — and even the meaninglessness of playing some video games. It remains to be seen if video game players will want to do all the shooting to get to the critique. Sandy Hook has hit the country hard. (Ubisoft declined to comment for this story.)

(MORE: Far Cry 3 Review: Entertainment For a  Price)

Whether or not players appreciate the critique, the game is not for children. Your character is surrounded by ample swearing, sex, and violence, including skinning bloody animals and permission from the bad guy that you can have your way with the caged natives — as long as you don’t “damage the merchandise.” All this should quickly tip the player off that the designers wrote the game for adults. As such, it has a complex adult message that doesn’t allow a player at the end to necessarily describe the game as having been “fun” — just as, say, Apocalypse Now, a distant cousin of the game, couldn’t be described as a “fun flick.” FC3 is a smart contribution to the trend in “games,” like those in the Medal of Honor franchise, that turn away from vapid amusement and try to say something more and even create a self-refential postmodern experience.

While the game never breaks the fourth wall or asks the player why he or she is spending 30 hours to play it, the main character is asked to account for how he has gone about the mission to save his friends, distracted by megalomania and the gorgeously rendered scenery. The tuned-in player might ask himself these kinds of questions as well.

At the same time, events like the shooting at Sandy Hook may make players put down the controller and donate their video game dollars instead. Chad Boeninger, a reference librarian and father of four, whose Ohio State University business blog frequently features articles about the video game industry, said the events in Newtown, Connecticut, made him take a night off from virtual shooting. “On Friday, I came home with every intention of cracking open a couple of cold ones and playing Call of Duty Black Ops 2, but I couldn’t with any good conscience play anything with a gun,” Boeninger said. But, as the video game industry hoped, he has taken up his virtual semi-automatic “a couple of times since then.”

(MOREFar Cry 3 Writer Says Critics Got It All Wrong)

The writers of Far Cry 3 wrapped the game in Nitzchean philosophy paper, with Alice in Wonderland bows, so players who spend the time to think about the game will likely be both rewarded and educated. But must this be done with all that shooting?

Game Stop could not be reached for a comment about pre-Christmas sales, so we will have to wait to see how consumers decide whether they want to enact the screen-deaths that need to be enacted in order to meet the rich characters and learn the nuanced story Yohalem has written. Perhaps in the future Ubisoft will take off the brakes, tasking him with writing a story without all the killing. Given his creative, sophisticated and adult mind, he’d be up to the task.

6 comments
potarto72
potarto72

Why does our society tend to blame violence on the shooting in video games, when the shooting in films and books is commonly just as bad or worse? When a violent movie is released, you don't hear people linking it back to Sandy Hook and Columbine.

Oh, and *Ezio.

Ta'irLaNier
Ta'irLaNier

I am glad someone said it, MichaelBaeza Comment, but I would like to address a golden Lie here, assumed my most. That Lie is that those of us on this continent are apart of a "Whole Community". The 300 Million So Called Americans, are connected only in a retail and commercial sense. Some groups may have community, but this Idea that we are all connected and apart of the same narrative is Forced and a Lie. I meet few whom think and behave like I do, and most of the Public I find distasteful and Decadent. What happens To others does not dictate my behavior, my Morals Do. That is to say, My Value system. Either it is sound or unsound, I, Trying to ensure its soundness. I play video Games, and Have Far cry, which causes me to adventure and explore more then shoot. I would never take the lives of a Non-Aggressor, But capable and willing, to defend myself with a Firearm. More so, 30,000 somewhat death by gun a Year in a population of 300million. 57 Percent of that is suicide. Ask yourself writer, Who taught them to hate themselves, to the point of suicide. That psychological weapon, is far more significant then a gun. The Gun is a Tool, Only as good or Bad as the wielder. It is wrong for any life to be taken needlessly. But will you write an article about drone killings done by this government that have killed hundreds of Innocence? Or is it the, Care for your so called Own, Mentality. I live on this continent, Born here, and in continuation. But I am not apart of your mythical community. Your Nation/State artificial lines. News is designed for scripting. Never talking about the principles or deeper ideas. This population is over medicated, prone to Drunkenness, Academically trained to be absurdest and anti-man. One fact for you, out of all the shooters, how many were schooled and groomed b your so called Society? Just about all of them. The weapons are in the schools, and they are not  made of metal, but comprised of Ideas. Ideas that lead to a Product that feels incomplete and incompetent, so the craziest of the Crazies, are now lashing back and provoked by your teachings of Nihilism. I was fortunate to stay away from your schools, and Happy and healthy because of such, nt mere absence of a thing, but having learned my worth as a Divine creature. Don't look to the Games for understanding, look to the schools. You people are imprisoning your children's minds, sapping them from the opportunity of developing self respect, teaching them they are at the whims of others. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves.

MichaelBaeza
MichaelBaeza like.author.displayName 1 Like

The idea of people opting not to give violent video games because of the school shooting tragedy is a non sequitur. If video games caused people to be violent then Canadians and Japanese societies would be just as violent as America because they play the same video games we do.  Clearly this is not the case.  American society is violent for a plethora of reasons, too numerous to name here, that have nothing to do with gaming.  In fact 1970s Detroit was among the most violent places in 20th century America which one cannot blame on video games the uptick in murders could have possibly been connected to Asteroids and Pac Man.

MicahKelber
MicahKelber

Hi Michael,  I certainly tried to avoid the question of causation here.  What I am addressing is whether people will want to stop seeing the images in their screens (images they "create" by playing the game), since they are seeing them on the news and (some) in their dreams.  It's an aesthetic/market question, not a causation or correlation question.  To weigh in on the causation question, I would say that playing these games, coupled with other things, may increase a tendency towards believing that violence is an option to resolve conflicts.  But there is a long road between that and causation.      

MichaelBaeza
MichaelBaeza

I had some trepidation when I commented because you didn't explicity state the causation angle.  I see now that my presumption that you were implying it was incorrect.  I'm very pleased that you, as the writer of the article, addressed my argument.  I used to write editorials for the Lansing State Journal Community Voices column (a non payed stint in 2001) and I would like to become a writer myself. 

As far as the violence question goes, I'm currently reading a book by Steven Pinker titled "The Better Angels of  Our Nature, Why Violence has Declined."  According to his book the rate of violent crime does not correlate with any of the most obvious apparent causes.  Violent crime rates actually dropped in the 1990s even as rap music and video games became more violent.  I'm not saying that these things have no effect but it is difficult to measure cause and effect of any one factor when there are a multitide of things going on in our society at any given time.  That aside though, I think the vast majority of people who play violent video games are astute enough to realize the difference between gaming and real life and I doubt there will be much, if any, dropoff in this type of gaming, even in the wake of the school shooting tragedy.