Villainy so heroic
Like Bonnie Tyler, I too was holding out for a hero ‘til the end of the night. However, after seeing the opening scene in Far Cry 3, my feelings have changed. Seeing spoiled rich kids partying it up at the hottest clubs, cracking jokes about American Express Black Cards while Paper Planes by M.I.A. serves as the theme song to the montage made me dislike Jason Brody and his group before the game really started.
Once Vaas, the one I am actually supposed to dislike for selling my friends off to slavery, started talking, I did something I rarely do in a video game. I sided with the bad guy. At this point, a thought creeped into my head: “Why can’t I play as Vaas?” Delving further into the reaches of my mind, another question came up: “Is there a video game in existence that actually lets you play as the villain?”
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that there does not seem to be a single video game that fully envelops the feeling of being a genuinely evil person. Sure, there have been plenty of games that offer up that anti-hero role, some that even let you choose what type of person you want to be in the games’ universe. However, I can’t remember a single experience that truly puts you in the role of a miscreant.
A couple did stand out in my mind as coming close though.
Even with the freedom of being a total asshole and being the proverbial villain, Infamous never made it feel like I was in that role. No matter how terrible of a person I ended up being within the confines of the game, I never felt hated enough. If I was truly evil, why would my best friend Zeke still want to be around me? Why wasn’t everything and everyone including Zeke trying harder to stop my evil ways? Why didn’t I have a fluffy white cat to stroke while sitting in an expensive office chair?
Then you have a game like Saints Row The Third where the developers stylize the violence in such an over-the-top fashion that being the leader of a vicious gang is far from your mind. Even when you are busy taking out rival gangs, innocent bystanders or the special police task force whose sole purpose is to eradicate you, these vile acts are rewarded with comedic presentations. How can anyone have time for thoughts of portraying villainy when skydiving from a helicopter onto a high rise building with Power by Kanye West playing?
So how does Ubisoft Montreal manage to make the antagonist of Far Cry 3 so much more interesting that I didn’t have a care in the world for Jason and his friends’ plight? Maybe this all stems from Michael Mando. He not only motion-caps and voices Vaas, but helped redesign and recreate Vaas to fit his vision of the character. The charisma that Mando puts into Vaas is so intense and believable it makes me wonder why this kind of attention wasn’t given to the character that gamers have to assume the role of the entirety of the game.
Maybe this can all be contributed to my utter dislike for spoiled rich kids. In case you were wondering, no, I wasn’t traumatized as a youth by Richie Rich. No matter how much charisma and charm Ubisoft could have put into the Brody Bunch, as long as the fact that the only worries previous to being captured were what celebrity parties to choose from on the same night, I couldn’t care less.
I could possibly be looking at this whole situation the wrong way. Instead of Jason and his friends being the victims, you might say that the real victim here is Vaas. With so much attention and detail put into Vaas, wouldn’t it be more interesting to play as him? Running around the island trying to stop some trust fund baby from ruining your operation while spouting psychotic quips and funny one-liners sounds more interesting to me. Instead, we have to listen to Jason complain with disgust as he skins a boar. There’s no Gucci or Prada store on this island buddy. If you want that bigger ammo belt and wallet, you have to get your well-manicured fingers dirty.
If Vaas actually did end up the protagonist in Far Cry 3 though, the atmosphere would end up cartoonishly stylized with comedic tones or use some sort of moral system. Neither of those options seem to work in pulling the emotional strings that could make one feel like an evildoer. Video game developers are not ready to offer up the role of a playable villain such as Vaas for fear of backlash from society at large. Sure, we get a taste of being a vile piece of trash in Modern Warfare 2’s ‘No Russian’ mission, but Infinity Ward gives the option of not shooting any of the innocent, defenseless people in the airport thus giving an out for the developers when confronted with the despicable act programmed in their game.
One thing’s for sure, if there ever comes a point in time where we in the gaming community can handle playing a true villain without the stigma of being looked upon with disdain in real life for enjoying the experience, maybe we can look back on Vaas as a template to use. Wouldn’t hurt to have Michael Mando on speed dial for consultation either.