‘Parody is a Game’

Far Cry 3, Repetition, Imitation, & Repetition

Since its release in 2012, the critical consensus surrounding Far Cry 3 has been one of mixed praise: on the one hand, it is an entertaining game; on the other hand, it falls thematically flat on its face as the colonial tropes, the tone-deaf treatment of rape, and the rote action hamstring the game’s attempts to make more serious points. When Jeffrey Yolahem, the game’s author, says in an interview with Rock Paper Shotgun that the inclusion of these de rigueur elements are part of an exaggerated satire of the player’s pursuit of entertainment in First-Person Shooters – “This game is about entertainment, and about how far will you go in these loops, and how much entertainment are you actually having from them” says Yolahem – we are nevertheless struck by an inability to distinguish the subject of satire from the satire itself. As John Walker’s reflection on his interview with Yolahem so aptly summarizes, “rather than making us aware of the horrors of the starving Irish when he says they should eat their babies, instead it too often felt like he was publishing baby recipe books to the very hungry.” Continue Reading

Villainy in the 21st Century

How Games Need to Re-Think Good and Evil

Kurtz (Heart of Darkness), the surveillance state (1984), Mr. Hyde (Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde), and the monster (Dr. Frakenstein): all are nuanced antagonistic forces that propel their respective narratives in order to address social and ethical issues. Compare that with an ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor, a planet approaching ecological disaster, an economy ever-reliant on dangerous loans and non-renewable resources, and you have to wonder: where are the quintessentially 21st century villains? Continue Reading

Ludic Topology

Serres, Linear Time, and the Ethics of Game Design

Recently my research has taken a turn towards Michel Serres and his complex, topological conceptions of space and time. In “Topologies: Michel Serres and the Shapes of Thought,” Steven Connor lucidly describes Serres’ work across a range of subjects and texts. In a subsection entitled “Ethics and Topology” Connor offers the following summary: “The reason for preferring a vision of topological time to a system of linear time is because the latter is founded on and sustained by violence. Linear time is formed out of the monotonous rhythm of argument, contradiction and murder.” What follows is an extension of this criticism to linearity in video games, especially those titles that seek to criticize the very mechanics of linear gameplay, such as Far Cry 3. The overarching claim here is that video games are not violent for their content but for their very structure, for their portrayal of time as successive, and inherently progressive… Continue Reading