Nondescript region of concernOctober 24, 2008
Far Cry 2 looks absolutely gorgeous and I am tempted to upgrade my PC to take advantage of the visual orgasm. Now with that out of the way, I want to talk about the plot of the game. No, I won’t delve into the specifics of its mercenary structure or parallelisms into Heart of Darkness. I want to address an issue that I believe a lot of war games have: the nondescript, nonspecific, undisclosed location of the game’s setting. Far Cry 2 takes place in an unstable African state. That may suffice for a typical action game, but if the developer intended to place a greater effort into the story-which they have spoken that it was a major concern-then I don’t believe having a nondescript location helps their efforts.
Now, a fair argument can be made that this just isn’t necessary. Africa is simply enough. The player does not need any more specifics for an FPS “action game.” But I believe, that this mentality hinders the genre to grow because it takes away from what could be a very mature narrative and the impression gamers have with playing this genre. What this mindset does do is boils it down to basically a dumb-action movie. But action movies can be very stimulating-look at the Terminator series or even the Bourne series. There is no reason that video games need to be dumbed-down to the player. I even find it slightly offensive that Africa can be considered a setting that is representational of all the regions in the continent. No one would set a game simply in Europe with a single environmental backdrop and expect it to represent the entire continent. It is absolutely ludicrous.
This is highly controversial in the case of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare where it is set in an unnamed Middle East country. What the hell is that? Now before I go further, I do want to give credit that the game does have an amazingly well constructed narrative and simply one of the most memorable gaming moments of last year. But I don’t believe the game went far enough in its responsibility for depicting the consequences of modern warfare. For a game set in modern warfare, the reality of it is totally disassociated when players can bomb areas from a computer screen within the game. It is both beautiful and shocking in the amount of time, care, and detail Infinity Ward put into the game. And though I applaud COD4 as a great game, I wish they gave the player the benefit of the doubt that they can process their actions with a specific setting that purveys much more social and political intertext than simply placing it in the Middle East.
And now we come to the topic of censorship. I am sure if COD4 were to set it in a specific nation there would be huge uproar. But I believe that is a very ignorant sentiment from dissenters. By not placing the game more grounding into the current reality, players have an easier time to disconnect with it. If COD4 were set in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan (which it might as well be) I believe the narrative would become much stronger and have a larger impact on the player.
But do not confuse my intentions to have all games become overly serious. Video games are entertainment and they are an escape. Grand Theft Auto would not be what it is today if it didn’t give the player the ability for free reign. Game narratives are not required to present the players with social conniptions or epiphanies. However, they should try to push the medium in some facet whether it is narrative, game play, design, or simply perfection of certain mechanics. All I am saying is it would be nice to know where the hell and who the hell I am taking head shots at.