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Running head: FAR CRY PRIMAL IN THE LUDOLOGY VS NARRATOLOGY DEBATE 1

Far Cry Primal in the Ludology Versus Narratology Debate

Jeremy Bowne

Arizona State University

Partial Thesis for Master’s in Game Programming “Video Game Designer”


(part 1/100 January of 2016)
FAR CRY PRIMAL IN THE LUDOLOGY VS NARRATOLOGY DEBATE 2

Abstract

This paper shows where the video game Far Cry Primal stands in the ludology versus

narratology debate. Using different sources, and playing the game itself, the reader can come to

the same conclusion: narratology is dominant in this game. Some of the sources are from internet

forums with opinions, not facts (tomorrowfragrance, 2016). The research conducted for this

paper suggests that narratology theory, in certain circumstances, can be more applicable to

games with certain feature sets.

Keywords: ludology, narratology, theory


FAR CRY PRIMAL IN THE LUDOLOGY VS NARRATOLOGY DEBATE 3

Far Cry Primal in the Ludology Versus Narratology Debate

One would think that a first person shooter wouldn’t need any kind of narrative

whatsoever, and that just running around and killing enemies would be enough. Far Cry Primal

breaks out of this mold. Although Far Cry Primal would be nothing without having some aspects

of both theories, narratology and ludology; this is a war, and narratology seems to be the way it

is leaning. Between its narrative-style gameplay, ancient themed storyline, and character

development this particular game case might be a battle that narratology has won.

Far Cry Primal was released on March 1, 2016 (IGN, 2016) to quite a bit of fanfare. The

concept of entire Far Cry series is within its storyline attribute, and Primal is no different.

According to Mathew Tyler-Jones, he states “For my studies of course, wherein I’m looking to

learn about how a particular sort of ‘open world’ games use narrative, I tend towards the

narrativist viewpoint”, (Tyler-Jones, 2013) which implies that open world games can have

narratology viewpoints. Although Primal appears to be an open-world game, it seems as though

the designers decided that players weren’t smart enough to figure out where to go next. Primal

forces the player into whatever direction it wants by limiting the advancement of side quests or

upgrades, unless certain main-story objectives are complete. This can be seen as the weakest

aspect of the game to many, but since it is so reliant on storyline, it is a necessary evil. The

trickle-down effect from this forces the game to be single player. Multiplayer is non-existent

because developers did not want to disrupt the user experience (Dealessandri, 2016). With online

play removed, there was more room for the developers to entertain its audience: the audience

being the player. Far Cry Primal tells a story in a different way, “Games should be understood as

novel forms of narrative” (Johnson).


FAR CRY PRIMAL IN THE LUDOLOGY VS NARRATOLOGY DEBATE 4

The storyline itself takes place in 10,000 B.C, which tugs on the heartstrings of

narratology by using cultural artifacts to influence the experience (Bal, 1994). The Far Cry

Primal story is its backbone. “All the challenges and objectives can be tied into the story, which

means the game will flow more easily from objective to objective. The story adds backbone to

the game, which might otherwise just be a series of unconnected challenges” (Habgood, Nielsen,

& Rijks, 2010). Included within the plot, there is two competing factions, the Wenja, and the

Udam. Good versus evil. The main villain, Ull, is also included: he can be characterized as the

“bad guy”. Humans see cannibalism as socially abnormal and unaccepted, (Gale Group, 2002).

The enemies are constantly eating human flesh, and killing villagers that the player befriended;

which are just some of the reasons the player feels the need to find out what is going on and kill

Ull. Another cultural artifact example are the mythological aspects within the story. The playable

avatar has a pseudo-magical ability to tame animals. Shaman and witchdoctors are in the village

camp and can give strange concoctions which generate visions. All of this gives the player some

aspects that can be related to in one way or another, a familiarity. The quests and tribulations

within the storyline run parallel to the players own history and knowledge. This brings a personal

connection to the in-game characters and the way the emotions of the player are manipulated.

The character development within the Far Cry Primal landscape brings in a “human

connection”, for which a narrative of this type needs (Johnson). A good story, movie, or game

should have characters that can bring out emotions (the-artiface.com, 2016). The characters in

the game have flaws that have influenced people playing the game, a technique achieved by

emotion manipulation (tomorrowfragrance, 2016). Anger and frustration vibes are pulsed

digitally through clever tricks made possible by the game designers. At one point, Ull comes to

the village and slaughters most of the men, and takes captive the women and children to be eaten
FAR CRY PRIMAL IN THE LUDOLOGY VS NARRATOLOGY DEBATE 5

later. This hatred of the villain gives the player a satisfaction when the game is complete, Ull is

dead, and the village is able to prosper.

Far Cry Primal is game that seems written by someone who loves narratology, and was

trying to prove that it is the winner of this “war”. FPS games have become worn out and the

developers of this game decided to use the entertainment qualities of watching a movie,

combined with interactive gameplay. They failed on the interactive gameplay, but excelled in the

story of the game, which is apparent in the forceful application of the narrative. The game uses a

good setup of mythological and social attributes to immerse the player throughout the time

played. This setup is benefited by the movie studio quality special effects, directing, writing, and

script. The rules regarding the gameplay don’t require any level of skill except to move a mouse

and follow a dot on the map to find the next quest. Being so highly reliant on its narrative, and

still being playable, Far Cry Primal has shown that a game can be made without caring much

about what the ludology theory implies.


FAR CRY PRIMAL IN THE LUDOLOGY VS NARRATOLOGY DEBATE 6

References
Bal, M. (1994). Narratology. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Dealessandri, M. (2016, February 11). The Big Game: Far Cry Primal. Retrieved from
mcvuk.com: http://www.mcvuk.com/news/read/the-big-game-far-cry-primal/0162445
Gale Group. (2002). Macmillan Encyclopedia of Death and Dying. Macmillan Reference.
Retrieved from encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences-and-
law/anthropology-and-archaeology/customs-and-artifacts/cannibalism
Habgood, J., Nielsen, N., & Rijks, M. (2010). The Game Maker’s Companion: Game
Development: The Journey Continues. New York, NY: APress.
IGN. (2016, February 28). Far Cry Primal (PC). Retrieved from IGN:
http://www.ign.com/games/far-cry-primal/pc-20044001
Johnson, B. (n.d.). Ludology vs. Narratology. Retrieved from Canvas:
https://learn.maricopa.edu/courses/938141/pages/3-dot-1-ludology-vs-narratology
the-artiface.com. (2016, July 18). Emotionally Investing in Games and Their Characters.
Retrieved from the-artiface.com: http://the-artifice.com/emotionally-investing-games-
characters/
tomorrowfragrance. (2016, March 17). Is This Game Really That Bad? (Far Cry Primal).
Retrieved from reddit.com:
https://www.reddit.com/r/farcry/comments/4au3u0/is_this_game_really_that_bad_far_cr
y_primal/
Tyler-Jones, M. (2013, May 4). Ludology vs. Narratology. Retrieved from The Interpretation
Game: https://memetechnology.org/2013/05/04/ludology-vs-narratology/