In Far Cry 3, a stalling man-boy graduates from "first-world problems" to real-world problems.
You may know some people like Jason Brody. Jason recently graduated from college, and he's a little aimless. He's bored and seeks sensation. He spends money he doesn't seem to have on things he doesn't seem to need. He drinks and takes drugs and has meaningless sex. Though he can barely express himself, verbally, culturally, or morally, we sense that he has some kind of nebulous potential that he does not know how to fulfill.
Brody, the hero of Ubisoft's commendable new shooting game Far Cry 3, is unmistakably a Millennial, that subject of a thousand unsatisfying think pieces in a hundred magazines. I am a Millennial. We have: soaring self esteem that shatters on the beach break of employment; no chance in the global job market; great debt; no religion; a robust social media presence; access to a baffling array of subcultures; no idea when to get married; an unacceptably extended adolescence; the tatters of the American dream clasped like a talisman to our overprivileged breasts; a rotting Earth. Or so you've heard.
The game begins with a montage of Jason and friends flitting dilettantishly about some Southeast Asian sin den, in the manner of good, debauched Millennials. Soon, in the manner of good, debauched Millennials who are unlucky enough to be fictional, Jason and friends are kidnapped by some coked-up pirates and prepped for sale into white slavery. So much for Millennial anomie! Plunged, you are, from the most dizzying, Lena Dunham-ish heights of First World Problematics, like, Mai Tai or Pina Colada?, to that lowest and most pressing of human dilemmas: How to get free?
Because we are in video-game land, the answer is: very easily, thanks. Within the first 10 minutes of the game you have emerged from captivity, minus one older brother and your bourgeoisie illusions, into the great tropical wilderness of Rook Island. Your nominal mission is to rescue your friends from assorted dastards. Your real mission is to shed so many accumulated years of decadent American exceptionalism and emerge the way we used to make 'em: murderous and mean, clever and resourceful, a real genuine cuss.
Rook Island is technically in the South Pacific, but it is really a surreal microcosm of the "Third World" as seen by the "First World." There is a vaguely Maori warrior tribe of which you eventually become the leader (and from which you, in the game's best joke, receive tribal tattoos), but you take instructions from a Liberian hipster, and your tormentor speaks with a Mexican accent, and his sister (and your lover) looks like she's from the Horn of Africa. Basically everyone here is a shade of black and brown save you and your friends (and two incidental villains). Some people are complaining the game is racist and Orientalist and sexist and a lot of other -ists. Well, so are we Millenials in large part, and the game is about us and the way we see everyone else.
When Jason first arrives on the island, he can't compete. He lacks the ruthlessness, the selfishness, the singularity of purpose that one needs nowadays to succeed in the world. He is soft, American. He has to learn the desperate secrets and necessary ingenuity of the darker world before he can reclaim his rightful place on top of it. I half expected a level set in a Dell call center. At one crucial point in the game, you actually dig your way up from the bottom of a mass grave of brown corpses.