Far Cry 2 is one hell of a weird thing. How was this game even made?
I’ve never more thoroughly examined a videogame morality choice than the one presented halfway through Far Cry 2, where you’re presented with two options: save a church filled with innocent children or defend a bar with a bunch of nameless, kill ‘em all mercenaries.
Easy, right? I play my videogames like most folks I’ve talked to, Han Solo-style. Yeah, I want to dabble in being a bad-ass once or twice, but push comes to shove, I’ll always be the good guy. Since I almost never play through a game a second time, the evil path is one I don’t travel very often. I’ve been trying to change that mentality, however. Games are presenting more interesting reactions to good/bad behavior and I’m always limiting myself to having one half of the experience. In Fable II, I was an asshole. Bad dude. Every time I made a morally reprehensible decision, of course, I still felt bad about it, since videogame morality decisions are usually meant to be a reflection of the player’s internal compass and the design crafted to provide you with good and bad choices during the game.
And that’s where Far Cry 2’s choice is profoundly interesting: you are a fucking bad person. No matter which mission you accept in Far Cry 2, you will be doing bad things. There is no way to walk the good path in Far Cry 2. One faction is trying to screw over the other, often at the expense of the civilians. One mission even has you blowing up a communication tower that’s allowing the other faction to broadcast their message to the civilians. What good person does that? It’s just a game, though, right? You didn’t make the decision to be a bad person, the mission design allowed no other choice!
Suddenly, you’ve given agency. My cursor hovered over the church for almost a full minute—it’s my gut reaction to the choice between good and evil—before examining my character’s actions. My guy, like I said, is a bad person. At no point has this individual shown any sympathy to the plight of the African people, except to shuffle travel papers in pursuit of malaria medicine. If there were another option, one that didn’t involve helping people, my guy would have picked that one, no question. Why would I suddenly decide to save some children? The game’s asking me if I’d like to project my own morality onto this positively immoral character, even though it would break the character narrative.
I sided with the mercenaries. We were overrun. Most died. I fell off a truck in the desert and went back to work, helping royally screw up Africa at the expense of its dying, naive populous. Far Cry 2 never showed me a cinema of dying children, there was no attempt to make me feel bad for that decision.
This choice, introduced with little fan fare, Far Cry 2, finally made me take a look at what kind of character I am. Isn’t that what morality choices should really be doing? Good and evil is too easy.