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Far Cry 4 avoids the 'white savior dudebro' pitfall

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In some ways, Far Cry 4 is a product of Far Cry 3's missteps.

"We don't create our games in a vacuum," C.J. Kershner, one of the script writers for the game, told me at a recent PlayStation event. "We were aware of the discussions happening about Far Cry 3. People identified some problems."

What sort of impact did that have on Far Cry 4, I asked.

"Our protagonist is not the white savior, not the dudebro," Kershner said. "He's not coming back to his hometown to help.

"Your basic objective is to fulfill your mother's last wishes, to scatter her ashes in her home country."

And that was one of the things that interested Kershner in the game.

"The thing that drew me most to the project was that the basic objective was human, very relatable," he said. "That feeling was sort of driven home during the game's production when my father died. So I had a very similar experience of scattering his ashes. It sort of deepened that connection for me."

In many ways, the story of Far Cry 4 is the story of a journey home. Ajay Ghale, the protagonist of Far Cry 4, was born in the fictional town region of Kyrat in Nepal's Himalayas, but fled during a civil war when he was very young and was then raised in America. Far Cry 4 is his first time back.

It's intriguing to me that a game known so well for it's open-world approach to violence, mayhem and just messing around, spends so much time pushing for narrative. Kershner seems to get that. And despite the developer's push for a more approachable story this time around, the narrative still came last in the pitch for Far Cry 4.

The gameplay is what drives the creation of new Far Cry games, he said. That then influences things like the sort of animals you want in the game and the type of setting. Those in turn lead to a location. Finally, a story is threaded through those choices.

So in the case of Far Cry 4, Kershner said, the game was inspired by the desire to feature elephants in a Far Cry title and deliver the game in a location with a lot of verticality. The result? Nepal.

"The story comes in parallel to that," he said. "What sort of story can we tell in that location? Because the location is a character in the game unto itself."

As a writer for an open-world, sandbox title like Far Cry 4, Kershner recognizes that while he helps to create a narrative and a goal for the character, the game is much more about the player's story.

"It's all about the player's story," he said. "We call it the anecdote factory.

"Does it bum me out that the player's story might outweight the character's? No. There's so much life and texture and color and richness in the open world that regardless of which of the two journeys you want to focus on, the character's or your own, you're going to enjoy the experience."