My life fell apart this year. There’s not really a better way to say it. I lost the most precious things imaginable to me, including a lot of my self identity. Sorry to be such a downer. If you’ve been reading this blog since it’s genesis, you know I’ve tried a variety of treatments. A few weeks ago, I found one in an unexpected place: Final Fantasy. While any entry in the beloved series was not the first video game I loved – like many kids of my generation that was Ocarina of Time – it was the series that left the biggest impression on me. In fourth grade I was hard core about Final Fantasy IX. It’s funny now, because the game has a lot of themes that are quite complex for even a mature nine year old. The story is full of existential crises, love, death, friendship, and the meaning of life. I replayed this game, and am working through others. Surprisingly, it’s helping me.
I also realized that Final Fantasy may have actually been a big influence on my love of art. Creative pursuits and high culture have always been a part of my life, but I never sought out art or art history materials until at least middle school. So my first true “art book” was probably The Art of Final Fantasy IX. It’s truly astounding to see the detail the creators put into every background, non player character, and monster. I was drawing all the time after I got that book! Amano remains one of my favorite artists to this day.
With all the bad rap that video games get, most of the Final Fantasy stories are full of good role models. From dark knight Cecil Harvey who becomes a force of light to save the world to Princess Garnet, who goes through trauma after trauma, only to put aside her sorrow to think about her subjects and friends. The games are damn smart, too! VI has an opera for Bahamut’s sake! Two characters from IX fall in love in what amounts to a comedy of errors in true Shakespearan fashion.
Don’t get me started on the music! I’m convinced part of my appreciation for beautiful and layered composition comes from my gaming past. “Theme of Love” and “Aria di Mezzo Carattere” bring me to tears. Nobuo Uematsu’s gorgeous scores brought the places and characters fans love to life.
I realize I’m having a total sapfest right now. But great games really can touch lives. And even Final Fantasy characters get depressed, which is a bit of realism anyone with psychiatric pain can appreciate. I believe the great RPGs will always have a special mark on my (our?) generation. Do you remember the first time the ending screen appeared after completing a game you loved? It’s a type of bittersweet that’s hard to come by, and that I wouldn’t trade.