"So I don't know, maybe you're dead, maybe not. Maybe you'll find these stupid tapes and do whatever the hell you wanted to do with them. Or maybe the interview is over. Wasted words, wasted life. Maybe I'll see you soon."
(If you're just joining, here are part one and part two of this series)
I had wanted to go out in a blaze of glory, surrounded by explosions and a ring of fallen militiamen. To go down fighting, the proverbial last stand. Instead, it was quiet, quick and anonymous. It was so sudden, I didn't even get a screenshot. Andre fell without any ceremony at all. His body was likely dumped in the desert for the buzzards or thrown in a truck with those he killed, ready for smuggling C4 or whatever else Mbantuwe had in mind.
I got sloppy, just like Paul. Despite a few close calls, I had only required one buddy rescue and that was due to a nasty fall. Perhaps that was an omen, but instead I continued to ignore the few instant-death perils present in Far Cry 2.
After the unfortunate incident with the king's gold and Paul's death, I quickly headed back to Mike's to find another buddy. There the infamous Michele asked me to retrieve a briefcase of her intelligence, stolen by one of the factions and stashed at the railyard. I headed north and stopped into a safehouse on the way, to ensure Josip had my back. But that proved an unnecessary caution. Despite the viciousness of the firefight at the railyard, I got away clean without needing Josip's help. I returned the briefcase to Michele and took another mission from the UFLL.
They wanted the Occidental Growers Company razed. I accepted, but to my surprise, Josip called me as I was leaving. He had some mad scheme involving chemical defoliant and an old prop plane, but as I'd never lost a main buddy before, I wasn't sure if I needed to complete this mission to "promote" Josip and have Michele replace him as my rescue buddy. I went along, secured the defoliant and made it to the airfield without any problems.
Now, getting from the airfield to the OGC is a long and awkward trip no matter what route you take. In retrospect, I should have just headed west to the bus station, gone to Pala and drove east from there. Had I done that, Andre would still be alive. Instead I drove east, looking to clear scout more checkpoints and perhaps find some diamonds. I ended up ditching my jeep to go after a diamond case and then following a semi-hidden switchback path into the rear of a guard post. I easily dispatched the three militia, but as I did (as is often the case), an assault truck tore up the road.
Feeling brazen, I threw a grenade in the truck's path. But it advanced too quickly and passed the grenade, bearing down on me. I moved lazily to the side, opening fire on the truck's gunner. But at the last second, the truck veered sharp to the left, the direction I was dodging. It clipped me by just a hair, but that was enough. Andre fell to the ground and I was staring at the game over screen. Andre was run down like an indecisive squirrel crossing the interstate. And the face of his killer does not impress:
(To be fair, I had completely forgotten being hit by a car is an instant kill, or I certainly wouldn't have been as brazen)
I was sorely tempted to reload, saying such a death "didn't count" because it wasn't fair. But it's never really fair, is it? Andre's abrupt end was actually pretty affecting. I was shocked that things had come to such a sudden halt, and my feelings of (over) confidence were largely at fault. But as I laid in bed, still reeling a little bit, I couldn't help but think about how quickly the end can come sometimes. A gas leak, another driver nods off at the wheel, crosses the median and hits you head on or you just slip on the ice and hit your head; sometimes, you don't get to say when. I held my fiancée a little tighter as I fell asleep that night.
I thought I would be fine without a buddy for such a short time, with Josip being occupied with the mission and Michele not yet my rescue buddy. I ended up reminded most harshly that, without them, even small accidents can prove fatal. I forgot that unless you've got someone watching your back in Far Cry 2, you don't get to choose your time. In life, you don't even get that. Memento mori indeed.
This isn't necessarily big, dramatic life & death things either. I wasn't expecting to lose my first job in the industry, but it did happen. And suddenly, without warning. Sometimes, that's just how things are.
That a game could make me reflect on something like this is further evidence that games are not mere diversions or amusements. Even though I had to change the context of how the game was played a bit, it was able to affect and significantly so. Plus, isn't it the hallmark of a great work that it can be examined and utilized in many contexts and produce different interpretations?
I'm not going to say I felt some amazing landmark moment, but it was significant. I almost felt a little shame saying so, but I'm doing everything I can to throw those feelings overboard. If my aspirations as a game designer include emotionally affecting others through games, I have to seek out and embrace existing games that can do the same to me. Especially ones that do so without merely replicating the emotions evoked by linear narratives in other media.
I'm actually really tempted to do this again, even though I'm currently working on about three other games. This little taste of FC2 was not enough to satisfy, even if I have to play the first four-five hours again. It's dynamic enough to stay engaging and in writing this, I've come to appreciate this little experiment even more. So my thanks to Ben Abraham for proposing it, and to Michel McBride for joining as well. Bonne chance lads, may you make it further than Andre.
I've got Wednesday off for Canada Day, and I'm not sure I'll be able to stay away. I probably won't write about it in as much depth, maybe a quick synopsis when that run eventually comes to its end. This really was an excellent experience and I'd encourage you to try the same with FC2 or another game of your choice (but I'll admit that the buddy rescues make this a far more tenable proposition in FC2 than in other games).