Mom, I dedicate this rambling post to you and your valiant war against video-games during my youth. If it had not been for your efforts, my brother and I might have spent so much time playing that we would have lost the ability to step back and appreciate what we played.
A virtual cookie to anyone who knows instantly who these men are.
The above images come from the game Final Fantasy IV (yes, there is much irony in that name). I suspect that my first encounter with this game came in the mid 1990’s, but I forget.
What I do not forget is the impression it left on me.
The dialog was simplistic, even childish, the graphics left most of the work to the player’s imagination, and the plot was linear. In some ways, this simplicity was better food for the imagination (or maybe just to my developing imagination) than the intricate and complete worlds of current games. There was elbow-room for creative translation.
Despite its relative simplicity, Final Fantasy IV was complex for its time. It told a story through which a myriad of characters moved. There were interactions and character-arcs which evoked emotional reactions and some that even fascinated me. Friendship, guilt, doubt, bravery, sacrifice, loss, love, betrayal, and difficult choices ran throughout.
This post is concerned with a single event in this game, one of many, that has stuck with me over the years. I think it unlikely that any reader who has not already played this game will choose to do so because of my post, but even so, Spoilers Follow. You have been warned.
The main protagonist of Final Fantasy IV is Cecil Harvey (his name cracks me up, I can’t help it!). He begins the story as a Dark Knight, a warrior so focused on destruction that his most powerful attack not only does massive damage to his enemies, but harms him as well. It is mentioned that the training of Dark Knights often causes trainees to lose their minds.
In the course of the story it becomes clear that, as a Dark Knight, Cecil will be unable to defeat the enemies threatening his world (Final Fantasy games are always rather apocalyptic, it becomes charming after a while). The implication is that, as a destroyer only, he is unable to be a protector.
There is nothing too revolutionary about what happens next. In the annals of fiction this arc is well-worn, and yet my encounter with this game’s version changed my perspective a little. Cecil is sent to Mt. Ordeals (allegorical much?) in order to purify him and redeem him from the atrocities in his past.
The moment that spurred me to make this post is the one where Cecil literally faces himself. Cecil the Dark Knight steps out of a mirror and attacks Cecil the emerging Paladin.
This battle has been mulling in my head lately in connection to a story of my own. There are many kinds of enemies and challenges in the lives of real human beings and I find within myself one of the most insidious and dangerous of all. Being a Christian, I have no intention of belittling the danger of our Enemy with a capital “E,” but the enemy I find within myself is a tool Satan may use, a manifestation of the corruption that has befallen creation.
The me that is mine enemy is dangerous because she knows exactly where the pressure-points are. She knows my sins and my temptations, she knows what frightens me, draws me, weakens me and what has the potential to destroy me. She is most dangerous when I fail to notice her because, after all, she is me.
If only it were as simple as a game and I could pull her out and face her once and for all. But life is not so simple, nor should it be. This is a prolonged war, one of the few in which it is appropriate to say “God is on my side.”
This post is in danger of becoming massive because the thoughts I have on this subject are too many to name. I am working through a puzzle, and I imagine I will continue to do so for a long time. It helps to see some of the thought-process in print, though.
I recently discovered the implications of Final Fantasy IV bleeding into a story I am writing. Who is my protagonist really up against? Sure, she has no shortage of enemies without, but what of her enemy within? What does struggling with that enemy entail? Also, if, in this fictional world, one wishes to test the caliber of a person’s character, how would one go about it?
One of my professors likens the human creative process to a coffee-maker. We shovel in beans (art, music, literature, life, nature etc.) and see what drips out later. I think his observation is astute. For better or for worse, the video-games of my childhood are nestled among the various other beans in my mind creating a very strange and ever-changing blend of coffee. Here is hoping it turns out to be drinkable.
For the amusement of those who are familiar with the characters of the story I am writing, the heroine of Final Fantasy IV is named Rosa Farrell. I did not remember this fact until today. Thankfully, she has little in common with my Rosa, though I have to wonder if my subconscious is playing with me when it comes to the name.