I’m not a fan of the first-person shooter.
That wasn’t always the case. A short time after the death of the LAN party, back in the early days of Xbox Live, I was promised connection--that my Xbox and I could almost magically play with the rest of humanity in a world of science fiction. Not since the day the comet known as Sega Channel entered and burned up in our atmosphere had we connected through play on our televisions. Instead, there I was playing games largely by myself or splitscreen with the neighborhood gang for most of my formative years.
With the introduction of Xbox Live, I entered a world of pricks. I hated it. I went from cream of the crap--the No. 1 best boy, the videogame-captain-genius, the big fish in our small town--to crap of the crap, the worst and most bumbly backward loser in a cruel, cruel onslaught of baby-voiced douchebags, drowning at spawn points and on fewer occasions than I previously gave credit to the slowest of slow cable internet KBps of the early 'oughts.
The world has changed a lot since then. While a select few shooters have managed to push the genre forward in terms of storytelling and world building (see: Valve and Irrational), we seem to have homogenized the shooter, with Call of Duty and similar offerings being slowly transformed into yearly offerings that only sports game publishers had previously gotten away with.
The "shooter"--the first-person shooter (FPS), in particular--has come to represent the abhorrent videogame “lowest common denominator”; the genre that makes the most money by inviting many, many new souls to Pleasure Island while the hardcore gaming incumbent, already transformed into donkeys, twiddle their thumb-hooves or move on to the masochistic “gamer’s game” of Dark Souls and other no-man’s lands of high fantasy dragon shit that just wasn’t cool until HBO picked up Game of Thrones for a second season.
Who wouldn't want to take shots of sambuca with these prize tools?
Enter Far Cry 3, the dark horse of 2012--and quite possibly of 2013, too.
I could not be more disdainful of a game’s premise. You play as Jason Brody, a privileged, snot-nosed frat-grad hailing from Santa Monica or some other place where you can still wear cargo shorts and where white people keep the tags on their hats. Brody has apparently internalized the death of his father in his post-undergrad year into a post-colonial romp through south Asia, exploits in a bizarro world of extreme sports with his bros, which apparently includes both his college friends and actual brothers.
Now, the magic of videogames is being able to transport you into another world. Oftentimes that is a world of fantasy--we become the cowboys or space marine or mythical hero or gangster villain that appeals to us, that somehow represents our super-ego or some such bullshit. Far Cry 3’s magic is in its ability to transport the player to a world where grown men go to Singapore and exclusively order shots of sambuca. Needless to say, videogames typically require a steep suspension of disbelief.
Anyway, everyone gets kidnapped by white slave traffickers on some fictional island. It's a cacophonous, politically-incorrect caricature of various Pacific cultures, and it's up to Jason Brody to ditch his emotional baggage and become the man that fate and circumstance require him to be. Of course, this requires fulfilling ancient tribal prophecies, recovering jungle artifacts, abundantly using hallucinogens, acquiring magical skill-imbuing tribal tattoos, healing the souls of twenty dead Japanese WWII soldiers clutching letters to their long since dead kin or lovers, and skinning endangered animals to make wallets and ammo pouches. Oh, and killing hundreds and hundreds of people.
This is a game I would have every intention of never playing. If you had told me any of this premise ahead of time, I would have gotten on my indie high horse and sneered safely in the arms of my anti-Ebertian, post-gamer ideals. And yet it moves.