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Love, loneliness, and companionship in our Fragile Dreams

4:00 PM on 04.15.2010 // Andrew Kauz

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Thank you for being here.

No, I don't mean here, reading this post. I mean here, in this place, in this life, among all of the others who sojourn here. If you find this sentiment strange, I wouldn't be surprised. It's perhaps an awkward statement, ambiguous and simplistic, yet it's one I don't believe I'll ever forget.

Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon, the recent Wii release from Tri-Crescendo, is a hugely frustrating game, mostly because it should have been so much better. Yet it's also a game that I feel a deep need to champion, either because or in spite of its mediocrity. For even the most mediocre of games can affect us deeply, and quite frankly, Fragile Dreams almost instantaneously caused a paradigm shift in my understanding of relationships, both platonic and romantic, and I fully believe that it has the power to do the same to you. 

Fragile Dreams is, at its core, a game about loneliness and relationships. Sure, there's a plot to destroy the world, but, from a narrative standpoint, it is merely a device used to explore the themes that the game's writers had in mind. The main character, Seto, really has only one goal in mind: an end to his loneliness and a true companion.

From the beginning of the game to the end, Seto runs the gamut of possible companions that we, as a modern society, find ourselves interacting with. The game begins with the death of Seto's grandfather, effectively ending the only human relationship that Seto has ever had. The cessation of Seto's only familial relationship spurs on exactly what it does for all of us: the search for a new brand of companionship.

Seto soon comes to a startling realization: everyone is gone. Everyone. Humans seem to be entirely extinct, and even animals seem in short supply. An entire world is open in front of him, simply waiting to be explored, yet there is no one with which to explore it. So, utterly alone, he sets out after the only other human he has ever seen: a silver-haired, nameless girl.

Yet his quest is arduous, and filled with a variety of attempts at other types of relationships. The first contact Seto has after he departs is with a speaking robotic backpack named Personal Frame. They travel together briefly, with Seto forming a strong bond with this robotic personality, sharing meaningful conversation; however, Seto never once relents, continuing his progress forward. Soon, as Personal Frame's battery dies, Seto is forced to move forward, once again in utter solitude.

More companions follow: Crow, a boy with a strange interpretation of friendship; Sai, the ghost of a woman; and Chiyo, the ghost of a young girl. None of these relationships enjoys any permanence, and none is compelling enough (despite the very strong emotions that Seto feels for the entities involved) to dissuade Seto from continuing his search for the silver-haired girl. Essentially, each relationship represents the many types of companionship we enjoy: Personal Frame, the machine, seems to represent the relationships we form and maintain via telephone, Internet, etc.; Crow seems to represent platonic love (or friendship, though of the strongest variety), and both Sai and Chiyo seem to represent memory for those departed and our emotional connections to those memories.

The game does not cheapen any of these companions. The emotions tied to these relationships are strong and genuine, and the emotions are permanent, though the relationships themselves are fleeting. And none has the power to make Seto forget about the one relationship he has ever understood: true, endless companionship. Love.

But why? Why does Seto have such a strong desire for this companionship? Anyone who has ever felt loneliness will recognize Seto's desire for a body to share his experiences with. While a bit of game grafitti states "It's easier now that everyone is gone," Seto simply wanders the world, taking in the beauty yet having no one to share that beauty with, and no warmth by his side in the ever-frigid world. It's not a unique sentiment; Into the Wild's Christopher McCandless concluded at the end of his life "Happiness only real when shared." This seems to be the sentiment that drives Seto forward.

And, eventually, Seto realizes his dream. Catching up to the silver-haired girl, he, for the first time, feels a sense of real love. Sure, it's not the developed love story that you'd get from a Nicholas Sparks novel, but it's far more real: boy finds girl he likes, boy chases after girl he likes, boy fights for girl he likes, boy gets girl he likes. It's the archetype of a romantic relationship. And though even this relationship has an expiration date, it is worth the journey. The game ends as this relationship begins, and while we see nothing more than a hint of the future of these people together as they set out to look for other survivors, we don't need to. Seto has found the warmth he always sought, and now has the eager ear to hear his thoughts.

The game's interested not only in the formation of these relationships, but also in how we express them. Reciprocation becomes the element that sets apart all of the relationships: a machine can listen to Seto's thoughts, but can offer neither warmth nor human interpretations of the world and everything in it.

What truly separates us humans in our ability to form relationships is not the emotions themselves, but the emotions paired with our ability to express them. While the game's antagonist believes that speech is an entirely ineffective means of communication, the ultimate conclusion of the game is that relationships of all kinds cannot succeed without vocal expression of those relationships.

I've always been of the mind that the strongest human relationships transcend words, that it's not possible to truly put them into words. And even after playing Fragile Dreams, I still believe this, and I think the game does as well. The most brilliant scientists in the world attempt to give all humans the ability to understand these connections without words, and it's a noble pursuit, but one that ends in epic failure.

Even if words are lacking in their ability to represent our true feelings toward the people who we roam this often lonely world with us, we alone as human possess the ability to at least try. Love will never properly be put into words by even the greatest poet in our species's history or future, but we must try, whether it is a sonnet from Shakespeare or a middle-school boy stumbling over his words when faced with his first crush. We must try.

So, with renewed vigor, I will try. Words will never express my feelings for the people that I love, but I will try. And it is for this reason that I will enthusiastically champion Fragile Dreams. This game made me the villain, and with no judgment or condescension, it rehabilitated me.

So, I love you.

Thank you for being here.

Andrew Kauz,
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