Five Things I Learned from Far Cry 3's Vaas Montenegro
I Hate to Admit It....
.....but I miss Vaas. I killed him last night and I miss him terribly today. I even printed out the picture above so that I can tape it to my wall.
For those of us who are not as familiar with the second antagonist of Far Cry 3, Ubisoft's latest installment in their open-world franchise, here is a brief summation.
Vaas Montenegro was once what appeared to be a "good guy". He was the local hero for the native tribe that calls Rook Island (where Far Cry 3's story takes place) home and generally walked the straight and narrow. Enter his lovely but incredibly manipulative sister Citra, who through whatever power she seemed to possess, gradually seized power of the island and of the native Rakyat, who revere her as a warrior goddess. Vaas eventually fell out of favor and sought love and acceptance from a growing band of pirates that were moving in on Citra's land. Through the ministrations of his new mentor, Hoyt, Vaas became a terrifying, psychotic, drug-addicted menace hellbent on destroying the island, rock by rock.
I have to admit that during the beginning of Far Cry 3, I was so scared of Vaas and his crew that I almost stopped playing the game. Thinking that he was all around me, watching me being eaten alive by the local wildlife through the palm fronds was enough to make me more nervous than not, and I came close to calling it quits after saving my second friend.
But this is where learning from Vaas, lord of the under-jungle, came into play.
"Did I ever tell you what the definition of insanity is? Insanity is doing the exact same [sic] thing, over and over again, expecting [sic] to change. That is crazy; but the first time somebody told me that...I don't know. I thought they were [sic] me, so boom — I shot him.
"The thing is, he was right. And then I started seeing: everywhere I looked, everywhere I looked, all these [sic], everywhere I looked, doing the exact same [sic] thing... over and over and over and over again thinking, "This time, it's gonna be different; no, no, no, no, no, please... This time it's gonna be different."
"...I am sorry, I don't like the way you are looking at me... Okay, do you have a [sic] problem in your head? Do you think I am [sic] you? Do you think I am lying? [sic] you! Okay? [sic] YOU! It's okay, man. I'm gonna chill, hermano. I'm gonna chill.The thing is...alright, the thing is- I killed you once already..and it's not like I am [sic] crazy. It's okay... It's like water under the bridge.
Did I ever tell you the definition... of insanity?"
Don't Know the Jungle- BE the Jungle
I am convinced that this entire game was about how the stuff inside of all of us either makes or breaks us. Vaas embraced this more than even the main protagonist, Jason, who started out as kind of a wimp and then just stayed a wimp. But Vaas was thrown to the jungle, and therefore he became the jungle.
The jungle with its wild, vast, mostly undiscovered thickness and danger was most likely a brilliant learning ground for a terrorist in the making. Vaas probably already had a lot of instruction under his belt before the fall of his hero status, but only when he went bad did he truly begin embracing what the jungle is all about- survival.
Vaas was clearly a survivor. From the scars on his face and head to the way he commands his men, it is obvious that the road through the jungle has not been easy for him. Yet at some point, he mastered it and bent it to his will. Enough to scare the crap out of a pretty seasoned gamer chick.
I admired this about him; he really was a part of the jungle. Whenever I would set on the path towards my next inevitable run-in with him, I would make Jason jog a little bit and then stop. Look around. Keep going. Stop again. Learn the ways of the animals who want to make a meal out of your face. Blend into the surroundings in order to stay alive. There are things that Jason and even Vaas had to learn before making it a day in the wilderness.
It sounds cliché, but the savage nature of a person who was once the opposite of a savage makes one wonder about the transformation. What exactly was in the jungle that turned Vaas into Vaas? In order to survive in your environment, you must be your environment. Simple enough.
Be Crazier Than the Crazy Around You
Vaas was highly prone to nonsensical rants that scared the pants off of everyone around them as they tried to figure out just what the heck he was talking about. The insanity quote from above was one of his favorites, and he recited it several times throughout the game.
Yes, Vaas was crazy. Legitimately insane, psychotic, whatever-you-want-to-call-it crazy. But the degree of his insanity still puzzles me. Was he just simply nuts? Or was he on to something that the rest of us- and the people in his quote- struggle everyday to see?
In the quote, Vaas condemns the tediousness of daily activity. He references having to watch people, day by day, perform the same tasks while expecting different results. This has nothing to do with trying to accomplish a goal; rather, Vaas is flabbergasted by the reality that people actually live like that. Walking the same path today as you did yesterday and all that jazz.
Whereas the quotation is inherently insane, it provides insight into Vaas's mentality. And whereas everything he does is crazy and people literally quake in fear when they see him, there is purpose behind what he does. After falling out of favor and being cast into the jungle, Vaas found a way to contribute to what he considers a higher cause, and to find purpose in doing it.
So, in other words. No matter if everyone around you thinks that what you're doing is crazy, find purpose in it. Thanks, Vaas buddy.
Never Give Up, Never Surrender!
Vaas tried four times to kill Jason in the game. Four separate times. He shot him in the chest, tied a cinder block to his feet and kicked him off a cliff, stabbed him in the stomach, and set him and his two friends on fire.
Yet, during the incident with the cinder block, Vaas seemed so calm while he explained to me yet again about the definition of insanity. It didn't appear to bother him much that Jason had survived all of his previous attempts to murder him (minus the stabbing, which happened later). In fact, he almost seemed genuinely happy to see him!
There was one thing about Vaas that never changed- that little guy was persistent. He never shied away from an opportunity to kill me and he did it in style. The cinder block was pretty terrifying as I watched an unfortunate Rakyat warrior meet the same fate that I was supposed to only seconds prior. And then, at the bottom of the lake where we were both sent to die, I saw his lifeless body chained to the cinder block that wasn't going anywhere.
The last time that Vaas tried to kill me was minutes before I killed him. He said some pretty nasty things to me during this interlude and I tried hard not to take it personally. But what he said seemed true at the time, and it almost seemed as if he was trying to do me a favor for refusing to die. He alluded to the manipulative nature of his sister, and then offered to shoot me.
Take What You Want, When You Want It
As I stated above, Jason was a wimp when the game began. He and his friends were too preoccupied with drinking and getting high to realize that hey! maybe skydiving over an unknown island isn't such a great idea, guys!
Anyway, Jason was pretty worthless in the beginning. But as the game went on, his experiences began to shape him into a warrior worthy of Vaas's attention, which he eventually got a lot of.
At first, I didn't really know what to do in order to survive the harrowing ordeals presented by Rook Island. I had a terrible gun, no medicine, zero transportation, and an almost innate ability to attract every carnivorous animal walking around in my personal space. So I started thinking like Jason was endangered, and I began by taking things.
The thing about Far Cry 3 is that there is only one rule- no killing of the civilians that populate the area. It would be terrible to murder them since their propensity to die is almost higher than Jason's is anyway. But everything else is on-limits. So you need a car? Take that guy's as he's trying to skin dinner for his family. Need medicine? Chop down all of the plants in your immediate area so that no one else can make any after you!
Of course, you can't really apply this rule in it's full meaning in real life. The reality of it is better left in the video game world. However, the theory of taking what you need when you need it can be applied to some situations that we might experience on a daily basis. Most of us- like Jason- are hesitant to take what we need lest we be viewed by others as greedy, or selfish. But the more successful people- like Vaas- are able to build an empire off of things that don't belong to them. Which pair of shoes would you rather fill?
Oh, I'm just kidding about this one. Please don't steal anything, but do stand up for yourself to a degree.
We Are All Vaas
Perhaps the most important lesson of all- we are all Vaas.
Here is a character who began as the hero before falling down the slippery slope of immorality and spiritual decline. Here is someone who stopped fostering his good side and started feeding his dark side.
I don't mean to sound drab or dreary, but Vaas existed to prove one thing- each of us could very easily become him. A person hellbent on the destruction of all those around him, someone who uses people and takes their things, someone who doesn't care about the consequences of his behavior. Someone who had just about enough he could take of being ignored, forgotten, mistreated, and laughed at. Someone who kills just to do it.
Vaas represented the primitive nature that all of us possessed before law and morality phased it out. Our former selves that could survive in the jungle and take what was needed without fear of consequence. He simply reverted back to this time in order to survive on his own, and he succeeded in doing this so well that he was able to command others to do his bidding- murdering, stealing, scaring, stalking. There is no law on Rook Island, and the first to die are usually those who still try to follow the law. And so Vaas represents the lawlessness, the corruption, and the evil that rests quietly in all of us (except his is essentially bursting out of him, screaming for attention).
Yes, we all possess a darker, less attractive side. And whereas it might not be a psychotic, vicious, homicidal maniac like Vaas Montenegro, I can promise you that it's there.
So which side will you feed?