Hello Destructoid! In this first blog entry, I've decided to write about fantasy. The theme of fantasy is strong in our world culture today - either with zombies, wizards, elves or gods. Many see those fantastic stories as a passage to another world, a way to explore the unknown through imagination - be it with his own or through the vision of creative and brilliant minds. But, after all, how does this transition between real and imaginary occur? How someone develops a true passion about fantasy? Everything has a beginning. With that in mind, hear my tale of how Final Fantasy VIII changed the life of this fantasy lover.
"What if everything you see is more than what you see — the person next to you is a warrior and the space that appears empty is a secret door to another world? What if something appears that shouldn't? You either dismiss it, or you accept that there is much more to the world than you think. Perhaps it is really a doorway, and if you choose to go inside, you'll find many unexpected things"
This quote, which was originally uttered by the legendary Shigeru Miyamoto, was used as an epigraph in the final research project I needed to finish my undergradute course. Ironically, the course I took had nothing to do with games or technology; quite the contrary, since I chose to study Languages and Literature. Even though many people looked at me with disapproving eyes, I decided to pay homage, on the last and most important step of my graduation, to the old passion I have for video games.
Now, when I think about what I did again, I'm certain that it could not be different in any way. After all, for more than 20 years, video games - whether you consider it an art, media, hobby or the cause of all the violence in the world - have been a part of my daily life. According to the principles of the brilliant mind behind Nintendo, I've fought alongside many warriors - some were noble and brave, others not so much; I've entered many secret doors and explored previously unthinkable worlds; above all, I accepted. I accepted that, fighting the banality of days, some people try to give us the unexpected. It's needless to say that such feat is not unique to video games - long before their existence, literature, cinema and other arts have transported millions of curious minds to other worlds. Nevertheless, time, in all its ruthlessness, waits for no one, and forces us to make some choices. As a result, today I write about games, not about films - an art form that enchants me with equal intensity. But, after all, why video games?
It happened on nineteen ninety nine. On that year, Final Fantasy VIII was released. Before 1999, the RPG genre definitely wasn't my favorite; at that time, fighting, sports and racing games had all my attention. Many of my friends tried to show me the greatness of RPGs, but I found it hard to believe that such weird, trite games could be interesting. "Lies," said I; "It looks like nothing happens in those games, what's the fun in that?"
Those were different times, when had absolutely zero interest in learning English. Thus, I decided to try Final Fantasy VIII in Japanese. After all, if you aren't going to understand something, it doesn't really matter in what language it is displayed. With that in mind, I jumped in. Eighty hours, four discs and some shameful glances at magazine walkthroughs later, mission accomplished: I had finished my first RPG.
The goal here is not to describe and evaluate game mechanics, character development, narrative, and other elements found in FFVIII. In fact, I simply want to address the experience as a whole. Therefore, even if it may sound too broaden, I can only say that Squall's saga against the impending evil was something that provided me, at first, a sense of discovery, which was a result of the immense amount of information, skills, characters and enemies that were presented in the game. After the discovery, I developed a deep relationship with everything that FFVIII had to offer me. I felt I was part of that world, as if there was a bit of me in the heroes, and much of them in me. Meanwhile, the fantasy became tangible, and discussing with friends how frustrating it was to be unable to defeat a giant cactus in the desert thrilled me in a way that seemed strangely natural. If someone who wasn't a gaming enthusiast happened to listen to one of these conversations, he would certainly call me a weirdo, and did notice a few stares with a mix of pity and contempt directed towards me. If there is still some kind of prejudice against gamers in our world today, when heroes, wizards and other fantastic beings dominate part of our culture, I can assure you that 15 years ago it was much worse. However, none of that mattered to me; in Final Fantasy VIII, I've discovered something unique, and suddenly I began to understand myself a little better.
Let me warn you beforehand: it is useless to say that FFVII is much better than FFVIII, since I haven't played it. I tried to, but due to some unknown reason, I was unable to keep playing. A feeling of self-disappointment surrounds that fact, alongside the other omissions in my gaming trajectory; that, however, shall be addressed another time. For now, I can proudly say that FFVIII is my favorite of the series.
Some months later, I've completed Squall's saga again, this time trying to learn a little bit of English in the process. On that second attempt, which lasted for 120 hours, I've managed to complete 100% of the game - a feat that I'm yet to repeat in any other game. Nothing against the completionists out there but, by my hands, only FFVIII had such an honor.
Now, after so many years, I clearly remember the SeeD test early in the game, the fights against Ifrit and Ultima Weapon, the attack animations of the GFs, the breathtaking music played during boss fights. A particularly pleasant memory refers to the glorious Triple Triad, which I like to call the best minigame of all time. That thing fascinated me, and looking all over the world for rare cards used to bring me a feeling of exploration that remains unmatched.
I also remember the ending sequence, the random imagery of people and places, Rinoa inviting Squall to dance; Laguna, the party, and the music in the background. I confess that I can't recall most of the story, but that's a good thing: even though I don't remember the plot, that ending sequence still moves me every time I watch it. Even without knowing why, the final embrace of the protagonists resonates till this very day in my memory. I've spent so much time in that world that I've ended up creating a romanticized recollection of everything that was experienced there; today, those memories seem to manifest unconsciously, emerging as simple, but poignant, impressions.
Final Fantasy changed everything. After that, I've played Xenogears, Valkyrie Profile, Star Ocean 2, Final Fantasy Tactics, as well as classics form past generations, like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI. With them, a growing passion for the genre was unveiled, a passion that reached its pinnacle when I was introduced to tabletop RPGs. Today, Dungeons and Dragons, in its gigantic complexity and completeness, is my favorite fantasy world.
More than offering hours of entertainment, all those experiences helped to shape the course of my life. Some people might see that as an overstatement, but, if that is the case, forgive me: you are mistaken. I'm no longer talking about video games, RPGs, or any other form of entertainment. Now, I'm trying to show how fantasy has contributed to the formation of my character and personality; how some friends I've made and the intrinsic consequences of any friendship only happened because of this passion. Others have chosen to enter the secret doors around them, and I've decided to be their ally.
The nearly two hundred hours spent in FFVIII shaped me. I dare not say that it is the best game ever made, or that it tells a remarkable story. I'm sure it doesn't. Yet, it's my game, and an important part of my life. Final Fantasy VIII introduced me to fantasy - the fantasy I needed so much. And, for that, I will be forever grateful.