Vaas Montenegro: Villain or Simply Misunderstood?
“Did I ever tell you what the definition of insanity is?”
Can you still remember your first video game villain that you despise? I can still remember being annoyed by those pesky ghosts that I used to play in Pacman. How about the [SPOILER ALERT] betrayal at the hands of Big Smoke in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas? Those are some examples of villains that gamers tend to hate because they allow us to be challenged and “git gud” at the game that we are playing.
It should be said that villains in video games play an essential role in immersing us in the gaming experience. With their captivating and compelling presence, they become the enemy we are tasked to overcome, adding excitement and challenge to the gameplay. But, let’s ask the penultimate question first: what is a villain and how does it influence how can it make or break a particular video game franchise?
In describing a video game’s villain, it often refers to such characters as those who annoy or obstruct the player’s actions by creating obstacles, and conflict in-game. Nevertheless, having an antagonist in mind is not the sole characteristic of a video game villain. What is an ideal video game villain? The villains whom we remember are very special indeed, not common. Often these traits consist of an interesting history, exciting reasons why they act as they do, and strong charisma and appearance. In addition, such individuals as it were are characterized by special skills that make the game difficult, thrilling, and more exciting.
Now, we must ask ourselves, what are examples of multifaceted villains, that go beyond our black-and-white understanding of good-versus-evil: The Joker from Batman: Arkham Knight, Dutch van Der Linde in Red Dead Redemption 2, even Thanos from Avengers (I know, I have to put it out there even if this guy is not in any video game universe). These villains are not simply one-dimensional embodiments of evil; instead; they possess intricate personalities and multifaceted motivations that make them much more compelling and memorable. They go far deeper and how the media fleshed out their motivations was enough for the consumers to be engrossed (and even at some point, agree that they were right all along).
I think what sets apart the villains of the Far Cry franchise from the rest of your stereotypical villains is their motivation and goals, which I think distinguishes an excellent video game villain from an average one. Their motivations are often complex and deeply rooted, contributing to their outstanding depiction. Unlike villains in other video game franchises, Far Cry villains possess goals that are not solely focused on power or dominance (I mean that’s one dimension of their master plan), but those are often driven by personal ideologies or twisted philosophies.
Also, Far Cry villains have undeniably become iconic figures in the gaming industry, largely due to their likeability and relatability. These villains are larger-than-life characters that stand out not only in the Far Cry franchise but also in the gaming world as a whole. From the enigmatic and morally complex Jackal to the charismatic and power-hungry Anton Castillo, each villain possesses unique qualities that make them unforgettable. They possess a certain kind of charm that draws players in and allows them to connect with these characters on a deep level.
Moreover, dare I say, the franchise was able to flesh out their humanity and their flaws in such a way that draws the players into why they do the things that they are doing. In this way, I think that Far Cry villains transcend typical video game characters and become one-of-a-kind people that players can encounter in any gaming franchise.
Another key reason why I think the villains from the Far Cry franchise stand out from those in other video game franchises is their strong connection with the protagonist. Villains in the Far Cry game series differ significantly from ordinary villains because they tend not to be cold or aloof but appear friendly characters that interact meaningfully with the player. Far Cry villains frequently get to know the players personally. They achieve familiarity with the audiences by invoking the strong emotions that are evident in love or hatred when a boundary between them is ignored. It gives a more appealing narrative of the story and brings about improved gaming altogether. Moreover, the relationship between hero and villain makes the game riskier as it enhances the sense of investment and finally makes the game more interesting to remember forever.
Other notable villains that I admire in the franchise include Pagan Min, the self-proclaimed king of Kyrat, a fictional Himalayan country. I think what sets him apart as an excellent video game villain is his charismatic and unpredictable nature (like Vaas). He is a complex character, filled with contradictions, which adds that layer of depth to his character development. His flamboyant style, including his extravagant outfit and his personality, make him visually striking and instantly recognizable. Furthermore, I would like to say that that his dark sense of humor, often delivering witty and sarcastic remarks makes him all the more intriguing and terrifying.
The other one would be Joseph Seed, the main antagonist of Far Cry 5. As with Vaas and Pagan Mind, his charismatic and manipulative personality, coupled with his unwavering belief in his cause, makes him an even more intriguing and formidable opponent for the player. Unlike other video game villains who may rely on brute strength or cliché evil motives, Joseph Seed stands out due to his complex character development. His religious fanaticism and the cult that he leads, known as Eden’s Gate, adds a unique layer to his villainy, as he genuinely believes he is doing the “right thing”. This nuanced portrayal not only creates a compelling narrative but also challenges players morally, forcing them to question their own beliefs.
Why I think Vaas Montenegro is the best villain in any video game
Let us dive deep into the meat of my discussion: Why I think that Vaas Montenegro is, arguably, the best villain in any video game franchise out there…so far.
First, for those of you who are not yet aware who is Vaas Montenegro: He is introduced in Far Cry 3 as the primary antagonist and serves as the main foil to the game’s protagonist, Jason Brody. Vaas is a charismatic, unpredictable, and sadistic leader of a group of pirates on the fictional Rook Islands.
Vaas mesmerizes us at first sight, starting with his mad laughter, bursts of violence, and the unclear ideas that make him appear frighteningly unpredictable. This way he is presented as a hero who embraces the chaos and violence in his nihilistic worldview. He is the dark side of mankind incarnate; the personification of the sin which is in every individual. On a deeper look though, Vaas is not just a one-dimensional villain. In this light, he acts with an agenda to erase the trauma that has haunted him throughout his life.
One of the key aspects that make him arguably the best video game villain in history is the depth of his philosophies. Throughout Far Cry 3, he presents a unique and complex outlook on life that adds a layer of intrigue to his character. His infamous monologue on the definition of insanity perfectly encapsulates the essence of his twisted perspective. According to him, insanity is repeating the same actions over and over again and expecting different results (which I think originally came from Albert Einstein).
This philosophy not only epitomizes his behavior but also serves as a reflection of the player’s actions themselves, highlighting the blurred lines between good and evil in the game. Furthermore, Vaas catalyzes self-exploration and introspection, forcing players to question their motivations and actions within the game’s narrative. On a deeper level, it can be argued that Vaas is not simply a villain, but a protagonist deeply misunderstood. His actions and violent demeanor could be seen as an echo of his inner child trying to escape from his traumatic past and the amount of abuse that he suffered at such a young age. In this sense, he becomes a sympathetic character, one that has been driven to madness by external influences.
In analyzing his philosophies, it becomes evident that his actions are a manifestation of his inner child desperately seeking escape. Vaas’s volatile and unpredictable behavior could be seen as a result of deep-rooted insecurities and emotional damage. His constant need for power and control can be understood as a desperate attempt to regain a sense of agency and freedom that was denied to him during his early years. This perspective forces us to question whether Vaas should truly be labeled as the villain, or if he is simply misunderstood.
So, if Vaas is not the villain, who is? Citra Talugmai, the leader of the Rakyat tribe, Vaas’s sister.
It is evident that in this game Citra Talugmai is an equally complex character who plays the role of Rakyat tribe’s leader and becomes an indispensable ally to Jason Brody. However, upon closer examination, it becomes evident that her manipulative nature and cunning personality make her the true antagonist of the game. Citra’s actions and beliefs are rooted in her deep desire for power and control, which leads her to exploit and ultimately destroy Vaas Montenegro’s life. In stark contrast to Vaas’ inner child trying to break free from the prison within his mind, Citra’s deliberate manipulation of Vaas’s vulnerable state reveals her as the authority figure responsible for his mental and emotional destruction.
While initially presenting herself as a powerful and alluring figure, it becomes quite evident that Citra is using her sexuality and manipulation as a means to control and dominate those around her (*ahem* Dennis *ahem*). She preys on Vaas’ vulnerabilities and damaged psyche, further exploiting his inner turmoil for her gain.
To summarize my points in this discussion, I think that the importance of an excellent video game villain cannot be simply understated. A well-crafted antagonist is crucial for creating an immersive gaming experience and driving the narrative forward. A compelling villain serves to challenge the player, forcing them to think strategically and make tough decisions. Moreover, a memorable villain can leave a lasting impact on players, sparking discussions and debates long after the game has been completed. The Far Cry franchise stands out among other video game franchises in this regard. Through expert storytelling, complex character development, and unique traits, villains from the Far Cry franchise bring a level of depth and complexity that sets them apart from villains in other games. By subverting traditional archetypes and delving into themes of morality, power, and control, villains in this franchise offer an experience that is both intellectually stimulating and emotionally engaging, enhancing the overall gaming experience for players.
It is undeniably fascinating when one comes to know Vaas on a much deeper level. Despite his terrifying and sadistic actions, he possesses traits that are relatable to the human experience. His inner conflict and psychological vulnerability make him a unique and complex figure. His monologues throughout the game enable the player to experience something that could only be fleshed out in rare instances in any video game franchise: connecting with the villain. He tells us that he was raised in a dysfunctional family, where he embodies the consequences of a traumatic upbringing and the impact it could have on an individual’s psyche.
Vaas’ constant struggle to establish his own identity and agency while enduring the abuses of his environment highlights the paradoxical nature of humanity. Furthermore, his charisma and persuasive nature draw the players into his twisted world, pulling us and making us question our morality. His character serves as a mirror of the darkness that resides within each one of us, which, in the end, challenges our notions of what is right and what is wrong.
Similarly, he provides an example of such an enemy who defies traditional meanings of morality as being the opposite of evil. Vaas presents a character that is deeper than a simplified portrayal of a traditional video game villain. However, could one say that Vass is not an antagonist after all? Throughout the game players gradually peel back the various layers of Vaas’ tortured soul, which helps validate the argument that he is a misjudged man whose life has been one of sadness and desolation. It is through such an exploration of his inner workings that questions are raised about what constitutes a villain, bringing into question the fine line that separates a hero and a villain. Lastly, Far Cry 3’s portrayal of complex interactions between Citra Talugmai and Vaas Montenegro illustrates how the art of developing a video game villain defies conventional storytelling norms.
After all, the world is on a diagonal and Vaas is the balancing point.
“Did I ever tell you what the definition of insanity is?”
I’m not a pessimist, I’m a realist.