• "It should be pointed out, however, that physics is not the only systemic toy upon which fun games can be built. Probability fields, such as those forged by the colours, numbers and suits in a deck of cards, and the stochastic patterns that emerge from mixing those cards up, are another well-known toy upon which many great games are built. In fact, there is a literal infinity of foundational systemic toys upon which meaningful games can be built, yet for the most part, the game industry focuses on building baseline game engines that simulate one single toy that is proven to only be marginally fun: physical reality."
  • "Film and television are in many ways a technological enhancement and hybridization of older broadcast media, such as the novel, the play, or the album, but they are still fundamentally part of the broadcast culture paradigm. Games, I believe, are not part of the same paradigm. Games belong to a different paradigm that includes the oral tradition of storytelling, improvisational music, sport, dance, philosophical debate, improv theatre, and parlour games (among many other cultural forms)." A tiny fragment of a great post from Clint (which is really, really wanting to make me return to Far Cry 2 soon).
  • "SoI think it's not unreasonable to read that the article is presenting the stance that the evolution of the status of games from 'toys and entertainment' to 'art' is fundamentally linked to the idea of authorship coming from the singular creative vision of an individual. For the record, I strongly disagree with this stance – and furthermore, I feel it is treacherous ground in which to plant the 'games are henceforth art' flag, as I suspect it is ground that will quickly be lost to (or surrendered by) the first generation of artists who even attempt to question it (in fact – for those of us 'in the know' it has been and continues to be, questioned all the time)."
  • "…sometimes I fear our endless preoccupation with making the case for video games is self-defeating. It feels defensive and, at its worst, produces a kind of micro-culture obsession with analysis: a 24/7 bloggo-Twitter tilling and re-tilling of the same small plot of dirt. In this self-absorbed environment, each new game's worth is measured by its ability to move the needle on emergent narrative, artistic expression, genre refinement…or whatever criterion we're applying this week to prove games matter to people already convinced." Yes. Not the reason I've been taking a break from writing about it, but something that plays on my mind before I put fingers to keyboard.
  • "Ultimately, when I reject narrative techniques in favor of ludic ones, what I am really saying is that I reject traditional authorship. I reject the notion that what I think you will find emotionally engaging and compelling – and then build and deliver to you to consume – is innately superior to what you think is emotionally compelling. By extension, I reject the idea that I can make you feel the loss of a friend in a more compelling way by authoring an irreversible system than you could make yourself feel by playing with a system wherein a friend can be both dead and alive simultaneously and wherein his very existence can be in flux based on your playful whim… This discussion is not about how to make a game more meaningful. It is about how games mean." Yep, I still want to marry Clint Hocking.


Far Cry 2 is a difficult game to write about; difficult because it’s an experience that doesn’t coalesce in individual moments or fragments. Whilst there are many memorable moments I can point to – the dynamic, emergent gunfights that characterise the gameplay, the starkness of the major plot beats – it is the player’s overall experience of the game that is its greatest strength.

And isn’t that how things should be? For a game that revels in the open world that it’s set in – a fictitious African country that covers desert and mountain, swamps and savannah – it only seems appropriate that it be a game about the impact of a world on a character, rather than that character’s interactions with the world. Far Cry 2 takes the mechanics of its open-world shooting experience, and works out how to wrap them into a much larger narrative without losing the coherence of the player’s actions.

Far Cry’s references to Conrad (and, in particular, Heart of Darkness) are well-documented already, but I think to focus on the words used, the plot the game follows and the references within the game so explicitly isn’t necessarily useful. What struck me was not the game’s similarity to Conrad; it its much broader, deeper appropriation of literary techniques – whilst using them in an inherently gamelike manner – as a way to tell stories.

(Before we go on: there are likely to be what you might call “spoilers” ahead, so there’s a break in the text for those of you viewing on the web. I don’t see how we can talk meaningfully about this game without talking about specifics, so if you’ve not finished it and really care about this kind of thing, look away now.)

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