Racism, cognitive dissonance and gameplay vs story (spoilers)

#1 Posted by KoolAid (917 posts) -

This contains minor story spoilers!

I find the racism accusations in Far Cry 3 very interesting. I feel like some people read Jason's character as the super-powered white savior in a world of colored natives who are either evil pirates or helpless natives. And other people (myself included) read Jason as a clueless loser who aspires to be on the same level as the natives and spends the game growing to be more like them and less like a white loser.

Here's some evidence that Jason is a clueless loser who aspires to be one with the natives:

  • He starts the game very scared and unsure of himself
  • Dialogue says he doesn't know what he is doing.
  • Thinks skinning animals is gross.
  • One of the goals of the first half of the game is to be accepted by the tribe.
  • Jason needs to learn the tribe's ways to save his friends (the tattoo, path of the warrior etc. )
  • The entire gameplay loop involves growing, gaining skills and becoming more powerful. You even get experience points.

And here is some evidence that Jason is a white savior:

  • Despite being the biggest noob on the island, only Jason can stop Vaas and co. If the the Rakyats are the bad asses and Jason is trying to get on their level, then shouldn't the Rakyat already have the skills to stop Vaas?
  • From the beginning of the game, Jason can use any gun he picks up, from pistols to assault rifles to rocket lawn chairs.
  • He's also pretty damn good at sneaking behind people and running them through with a machete.
  • The natives sure need Jason to solve a lot of their problems for them. I'm looking at you, side quests.
  • Jason goes from trying to be a member of the tribe to "leader" pretty quickly. (I can see why Dennis is upset.)

Why is it that some folks read the story as dumb and slightly racist, while others read the story as well developed and not at all racist? I think it all adds up to an interesting case of cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance is a term that usually is used (in games) to describe how the game's story can stand in stark contrast the the gameplay, which results in some tension during the overall experience. The most common example in games is where the hero is presented as sympathetic or likeable despite murdering hundreds of people (Nathan Drake or Niko Bellic). This is because the story presents the hero as one way, and the gameplay presents him as another. But I mean, what are you going to do? Have GTA without killing people?

But in this case, it's a little different. The story presents Jason as helpless. But his actual skills are linked to ours as a player, through the gamepaly. Most of us are really good at FPS because we have been playing them a while, so once Jason gets a gun, we go to town and are able to kill a lot of enemies. But then we are confused why Jason (the character) is so good at shooting. But on the other hand, Far Cry 3 is really fun because the controls are so tight and easy to use. If they handicapped the player to make Jason feel like more of a loser at the beginning, would that have made a better game? The quests make the npcs look helpless, but I (the player) want to be the one that goes on adventures! Not the side characters! I want to be the one to beat Vaas, so of course I'm the one who should do it! I want to be the hero! So what then, tell a different story? Maybe this is the story they wanted to tell or they felt it was the best story to tell. So change the game? Maybe this was the funnest game they could make! ( It was pretty fun) A person could go mad trying to balance these two elements!

I felt Far Cry and Spec Ops had two interesting takes on cognitive dissonance. In Far Cry, the game is awesome and the story is... lukewarm. In Spec Ops, the story is awesome and the game is...meh. Here's hoping someone will make a game where story and gameplay really can work well together.

How do you guys feel? Did you think it was racist? Or that the story and the gameplay didn't add up? Or did you think the story was good?

This turned out a lot longer then I planed...

#2 Posted by hbkdx12 (779 posts) -

I understand the arguments on both sides of the aisle but at the end of the day, the story just didn't jive with me. 
 
The entire story i felt like jason was a loser (white or otherwise) and for the life of me couldn't understand (and kind of still don't really) why people were putting so much stock in him suggest that he was some kind of larger than life savior
 
i saw both endings (picked the save your friends on my playthrough) and they were both dull and uninspired. 
 
I feel like if they explained a lot of the mysticism and all the hippy dippy trips and stuff, it probably would've made a way better story.  
 
Before it was all over, i was truly expecting some kind of fight club-esque reveal where Vaas and hoyt don't really exist (hence why you fight them in some kind of mythical realm) and maybe that the whole tourist/getaway angle was all made up as well. it wouldn't have been original but it would have been more fulfilling. 
 
And going back to Jeff's concern in the QL about whether the devs "get it" with their characterization of the tourists, i can't say with any kind of authority that they do.

#3 Posted by Phoenix778m (243 posts) -

It's been awhile since I've played a FPS so I'm playing the character super realistic. Lol I do wish they still had gun jamming once in awhile. Those guns should be dirty with shit but fire fine all the time.

#4 Edited by Ghostiet (5252 posts) -

I have no idea how come cognitive dissonance has anything to do with FC3. Every game is directly connected to the skill of the player. And Jason, unlike most protagonists, actually has a pretty good justification for why he becomes so good at killing - he's naturally hot blooded and always lived in the shadow of his brothers. It shows in the drug-induced flashbacks and the patronizing way he is treated by his girlfriend. Hell, he says that at least a few times.

The story isn't racist. Sure, it's a "mighty whitey saves the poor tribe" story, but the big thing is that it subverts the most important part of that plot - it's not portrayed gloriously like it is in Avatar, where there are tons of unfortunate implications, especially during the ending. Here, Jason going native is portrayed extremely ambiguously and so are the Rakyat. The glorification of violence. Vaas's breakdown about Citra, where he begins to cry of all things - the "bad" ending basically states that what probably broke him was Citra wanting to mate with him. The entire character of Dennis, who was probably useful once but was quickly discarded by Citra after he couldn't handle Vaas, whom she obviously manipulated into deluding himself that they are lovers. Everyone getting freaked out about Jason's behavior.

But at the same time, the fact that Jason is going native is portrayed ambiguously when it comes to whether it's a good or bad thing. Sure, it is about breaking from insanity and succumbing deeper into it, but Jason is, after all, tapping into his natural character traits and for once is actually the king of the world throughout the game. Hell, the "bad" ending isn't exactly that bad, since it makes absolute sense due to the Rakyat's focus on power. Jason is dying at his absolute peak. The "good" ending is also ultimately pretty bleak - he sounds borderline broken in the final narration.

@hbkdx12 said:

The entire story i felt like jason was a loser (white or otherwise) and for the life of me couldn't understand (and kind of still don't really) why people were putting so much stock in him suggest that he was some kind of larger than life savior

It's stated several times throughout the story. He escaped from Vaas, which means that there must be something special to him and there's nothing the Rakyat value more than power. Later on, he apparently (to the natives) comes back from the dead after Vaas shoots him in the lighter. Pay attention to Dennis - he was groomed to be what Jason became, but he apparently couldn't handle the Vaas threat, so he wasn't deemed strong enough to even properly care about him.

@hbkdx12 said:

I feel like if they explained a lot of the mysticism and all the hippy dippy trips and stuff, it probably would've made a way better story.

The plot is heavily influenced by Alice in Wonderland. Explaining most of the trippy stuff would be terrible IMO, since the game's ambiguity is one of the strongest points. I liked the implication that the island itself is causing people to go crazy - pay attention how Willis is basically the only completely sane person (apart from some gung-ho jingoism) on the island apart from Jason's friends and he outright states that he never came out deeper into the land if he didn't have to.

I really can't understand people's beef with the plot of this game on an overall level. Technically I get it, since the last third is kind of a mess - Hoyt is a pretty terrible villain and killing Vaas is the high point of the game. Everything after that is a hangover, which in the end makes sense in the context of the game, since everything you do on the southern part of the island is essentially for the sake of doing it, but it could've been done better. And the complaints about the ending itself is something I can't get for the life of me. People beg all the time for plots that require you to think, portray stuff in a way that can be interpreted differently and end on a note that only implies some things and when they get exactly that, they complain. Similar thing happened with the ending of Sleeping Dogs, where there were legions of people who wanted to bring the entire ending and plot into a black and white morality choice.

said:

I felt Far Cry and Spec Ops had two interesting takes on cognitive dissonance. In Far Cry, the game is awesome and the story is... lukewarm. In Spec Ops, the story is awesome and the game is...meh. Here's hoping someone will make a game where story and gameplay really can work well together.

That's not cognitive dissonance. Or at least not in the context you are talking about.

#5 Posted by Tobiass (150 posts) -

Well, if that counts as racism then

Savages was the most racist movie this year

-white dudes destroy the biggest drug cartel in Mexico

That is the stupidest ending, god I hate that movie.

So much.

#6 Posted by Grumbel (910 posts) -

The biggest problem with Far Cry 3 isn't how Jason is portrayed, but how the natives are. Nothing wrong with Jason being there and doing hero stuff, but the natives are not only completely useless, they also are limited to like three lines of ever repeating audio and they seem to all have the same face. They never come to help you liberate an outpost, they only drive in after you have liberated it. They can't even manage to kill a tiger. They are nothing more then generic filler.
 
Far Cry 3 also introduces far to many new characters over the course of the story. Why does there need to be a CIA guy, that German guy and those other guys that help you over the course of the game? They feel completely unneeded and unfit as they add nothing to the core plot. Instead of constantly introducing new people they should have just stuck with whom they introduced at the start of the game. Why isn't Dennis used more? After the start of the game he pretty much disappears for most of the rest of the game. Citra never leaves her temple. Even Vaas, who is on the cover after all, only has like 10min of screen time and really doesn't do anything of importance. There where plenty of natives that they could have used more instead of introducing even more white guys that just happen to be on that island for some convoluted reason.

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