When Games Matter is a weekly exploration by Drew Dixon of meaningful moments in games. Operating under the assumption that games do in fact matter, Drew seeks to highlight those moments that have much to say about who we are and the world we live in.

Far Cry 2 is set in a nameless African country that has been ravaged by Civil War. Your goal is to find and hunt down “The Jackal,” the man who armed both sides. The two militias fighting for control over the country are equally violent and reprehensible.  You do jobs for both sides–helping one get a foothold over another only to then turn and help the other retaliate.  Most everyone in FC2 hates you, it doesn’t matter who you are working for at the time–everyone you see outside a select few cease-fire zones will try to kill you.  The result is a continuous onslaught of dynamic, hair-raising battles with both militias.

Last week I wrote about how videogames tend to glorify violence as very few games confront the player with the consequences of their violent actions. However, Rowan Kaiser recently reflected on Far Cry 2, claiming that, far from glorifying violence, the player’s violent involvement in the world of FC2 has a different effect:

There is a famous quote, attributed to Gillo Pontecorvo, director of The Battle of Algiers, that no film can depict war without glorifying it. This may be the case with film. Yet, while Far Cry 2 may revel in the glories of personal combat, it also frustrates my conventional gaming desires to heroically succeed through proper application of violence. I am not simply watching characters fight in this futile war. I am a participant – I am the most important participant in this idiotic war. And I cannot help but be unhappy at seeing what horrors my killing wreaks. My friends are all dead – many by my hand. My allies, who helped me out of many a jam and perhaps deserve my loyalty, are just as dead – many by my hand. Far Cry 2‘s glorification of war and violence becomes something more thanks to its commitment to amorality. It becomes tragic.

The most frustrating aspect of FC2 is how it forces the player to do mission after mission that only serves to further embitter the militias against each other. And yet as I consider Kaiser’s reflections on the game, I have to admit that this also brilliant. FC2 is a game of non-stop survival, it rarely gives you the time to stop and consider your actions and the results are appropriately tragic.