The first thing you’re greeted with when you boot up a copy of Far Cry 3 is a Rorschach test, a swirl of grisly Australasian faces, and it may be the most appropriate intro to a game out there. This stealthy shooter about a clueless undergrad who must rescue his fellow Ivy League rejects––all of whom are more likely to have shot a liter of Patrón than anything more powerful than a BB rifle––is many different things to many different people. To the “smart” game blogger, it’s a travesty, a bastardization of the marvel that was Far Cry 2. To the ne’er-do-wells on NeoGAF and GameFAQs, it’s the gaming equivalent of a booty call, a fun time with a dumb story. According to its high-minded creators, it’s meta-commentary on our love affair with vicarious acts of violence (while, in reality, we’re sleeping cosily on the sofa at our mom’s apartment, terrified of large spiders). But to me it is something else entirely. It’s the game that refers to me by name, that feigns to toy with my depraved existentiality, that makes me consider from a quiet room my relationship with bears. (and something else?)
You see, Far Cry 3’s leading man and I are both named Jason. He’s Jason Brody. I’m Jason Johnson. This is weird for a number of reasons, but most of all because Far Cry 3 is a first-person shooter. As a result, the other characters are always speaking into the camera, to Jason B., calling him by name––my name! This caused slight confusion at first. There was a lot of me turning down the stereo and thinking, “Did that guy just say my name? Nah…” It reminded me of those embarrassing times where you sincerely believe someone is waving at you, and you wave back, half-heartedly (thinking, “I must be so HOTTTT in this tank top”), but soon realize they were waving to their hubby, who’s standing directly to your left. This is somehow even weirder when a computer does it. However, I soon got over my hangup with Che Guevara clones ordering me, by name, to put a banana clip in, say, a submachine gun, and rolled with it.
Except, Jason Brody isn’t an exact fit. While he is a true-blue Gen Y’er, I’m slightly older, a lot wiser, and hearing the term Gen Y makes me sick. However, the two of us share the single most magnificent name in any language (aside from the sacred letters of the tetragrammaton, naturally), so there must be some degree of fraternity. Being in this unique position, I thought I’d run the game’s cryptic social messages through the wash. Where would Jason B., a typecast of my peers and of myself, and Jason J., the real-life me, stand on crucial issues like sex, drugs, and casual sadism? As it turns out, pretty far apart.
Make It Bun Dem
There is no shortage of contraband in Ubisoft Montreal’s idyllic Never Never Land. So far, I’ve come across cocaine, psychedelic mushrooms, and ecstasy. Once, I found a meth pipe on a dead body. Also, you might have read about the internet-famous scene in which you’re tasked with torching a field of Afghani skunk. Let me say, Jason Brody, this is where our similarities end. This Jason would never raze a crop of the sticky-icky, not if it belonged to my worst enemy. I mean, isn’t blowing dossier how gang truces are made? I can imagine a happy resolution where the pirates and rebels agree over the peace pipe that it was all a huge misunderstanding, release the hostages, and decide to play frisbee golf instead. I doubt Brody would’ve been so brash if he wasn’t slamming syringes into his wrists twice a minute, à la BioShock, in a way that’s sure to leave gaping track marks. Personally, I’m scared of needles, and have only had a henna tattoo of a flower on my hand.
There is no way, not in a million years, that I’m getting to the end of Far Cry 3. It’s way too fun to track leopards through banana plants and jump Jeeps off cliffs into boulders for hours upon end. (Warning: This would constitute a SPOILER if anyone at all was invested in the story.) However, it’s no secret that there’s an outlandish sex scene near the end, in which Rihanna’s evil twin makes a human sacrifice of Jason B. while straddling his pelvis, should the player choose to shirk his girlfriend in the game’s trolley problem of a finale. Between this and the buccaneers you overhear bleating about a nasty, communal outbreak of gonorrhea, the moral is: Don’t sleep around. It’s a nice but antiquated Puritan ethos that, in reality, few young people follow, including moi. Though a decent way to live, the sentiment comes off as fatalistic, detached, and rather preachy.
Look, things happen. In fact, one of Brody’s female companions has an uncanny resemblance to a wonderful person I did plenty of cheating with. She cheated with me, I cheated on her, and she cheated on me. A lot of raw, messy emotions were exposed. So, when the doppelgänger of my fling turned up in the game, tattered and crying and calling my name, I lost it. I couldn’t stop laughing. I nearly toppled my beer. Generally, titters and yawns are my response to a video game’s attempts at emotionality (even in the ones that handle it with nuance, for instance, Tale of Tales’ Bientôt l’été). There seems to be no reliable way for game makers to capture the emotional weight of a deep sigh, much less the heartbreak, anxiety, and elevation that permeates every breath of an unfaithful relationship. Many efforts to convey anything real come out awkward and mechanical––and in the case of Far Cry 3, incredibly so. We end up with what amounts to a snuff scene, a real Peruvian bang and rub out, which is somehow supposed to teach us about the importance of being faithful, but only caused the internet to gawk.
One of the touted additions to Far Cry 3 is the ability to hunt and harvest game. You can flay wild dingo with an impressive Dundee blade, and Jason B. will respond with “Gross!” or “Eww…” And I digress. Watching the guts of a poor beast spill out its midsection is stomach-turning and, to me, sad. But my granddad was a sportsman who grew up on a farm, butchering hogs and cows and chickens. At the impressionable age of seven, I watched him “clean” a deer. After witnessing that, I never wanted to go hunting, and on the odd occasion when he’d swath me in camouflage and hunter’s orange and march me into the woods, I’d rustle the straw to scare off any wildlife around. Even so, I can’t say I walked away from Far Cry 3 bothered by the hunting tropes found within, as was the hope of its writers, who took inspiration from The Deer Hunter, the famous anti-war war film. It’s a fine movie, but I’ve also read Hemingway’s Green Hills of Africa, and it’s a good book. I get the feeling Jason Brody has seen a lot of movies, but doesn’t read much.
It’s not that I have it out for all the Jasons of the world. For instance, I generally respect the acting career of Jason Schwartzman. But Jason Brody is nothing more than a shiny wrapper for the morass and ills that some wowser of a shadow figure feels is wrong with society. In a weird way, J.B. reminds me of this one guy––when I was a webelo in scouts––who had the exact same name as I did. He was easily the most decorated scout at camp, an Eagle with palms and spangled medallions and a sash full of badges. The content of his mind conformed so completely with the scout’s oath and law that he probably dreamt about tying the bowline hitch. I couldn’t stand that guy.
About the Author:
Jason Johnson is a freelance writer. His work has appeared in Kill Screen, Gamasutra, Unwinnable, GameSetWatch, FingerGaming, WSJ Speakeasy, and The Guide to Classic Graphic Adventures. He owns 27 Sun Ra albums.
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