Implications

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.

Cecil

Yes, they are the same character. I never liked this style of FF art, but here is Cecil looking very spiky on one side, and very feminine on the other. Are those pouty-lips? Seriously?

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About jubilare

Just another tree in the proverbial forest. Look! I have leaves! View all posts by jubilare

8 responses to “Implications

  • Colleen

    Just now getting to this. Discussion tomorrow?

  • Raewyn Hewitt

    I think I’ve played the wrong video games over the years. Sadly my game of choice at the moment (and it was because my kids love it) is Plants v Zombies – and it is the only game I have any kudos with in our house – sadly it hasn’t really inspired anything in a writing sense (but did turn me into a bit of a zombie and thus avoid writing for a few months…).

    However I can see why you’ve been inspired, and I love the idea of a character (or even ourselves) facing the darker side of their fallen self. Lots of fodder here. – And I like the coffee analogy too. I think so many things meld into my writing, big life concepts, experiences, conversations, books, movies – strangely I find a lot of inspiration during the sermons at church too. Probably because the good book deals with the most basic of human impulses.

    So many stories, so little time!

    • jubilare

      A lot of people have, in my opinion. ;) The Final Fantasy series, though, as well as several others, have quite the reputation among gamers. They got more complex and interesting, too, as the series progressed. I’ve played plants vs. zombies. I find games like that addictive, (I am not allowing myself to have a smart-phone because the games might eat my life) but not immersive. For a game to really fire my imagination, I have to be able to sink into it as into a good book. For some people, sinking into games is difficult, though, if not impossible. The medium, itself, stands in their way.

      It is a potent image, isn’t it? When I remembered this game, it was like a big piece of the story I am writing fell into place, and I realized that the game had been a small but clear influence on the tale from the start. Just like you, my inspiration is always a mass of threads, some of which I can trace, and some of which I can’t. It doesn’t seem strange to me, at all, for a sermon to provide inspiration.

      Yeah… tell me about it. :\

      • Stephanie Orges

        I’m one of those to whom the medium stands in the way. I remember watching friends play Prince of Persia (pre-movie) and just wanting to skip to the cut scenes. I did play Roller Coaster Tycoon, in which you can change the names and appearances of your guests – I would turn nine of them into the Fellowship of the Ring. So I’d get messages like “Aragorn thinks Roller Coaster 3 is too expensive.” I miss that game, actually. I still have a copy I am sometimes tempted to load onto my computer, but I know then I’d get even less writing done!
        I also refuse to get a smart phone. : )
        Love the coffee analogy!

        • jubilare

          I have other friends, too, for whom the medium itself is a barrier. I’m not sure why it jives with my imagination, but it does. When my muse needs food, nine times out of ten the right video game will get the juices flowing. And it isn’t even the games themselves that are good muse-food for me. It’s the frame of mind I go into when I play them. :)
          And yeah… smart phone would be disastrous for me. Anne is only allowed to have dumb phones by her own decree!
          ^_^ great, isn’t it? The prof who said it is a great guy, too.

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