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 games 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]