"What is the most life-changing game you've ever played?" That's an easy question for me to answer: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3. This game is at the very top of the list I made of the Top Ten Favorite Videogames for good reason: I remember always wanting to play it, always wanting to see what happens next in the story, and I became so engrossed in it that you would think I was addicted to it. Seriously, I used to be huddled up in my room, playing it with the lights turned off, staring at the screen with my jaw hanging open and drool seeping out the corner of my mouth for hours in a single day because I was just that into it (I still do that, but mostly when I watch porn).
However, there is a somber side to the story, and in a way, it's a bit tough for me to admit to you fine fellows of Destructoid. If you read the Top Ten blog I linked to above, you probably saw a small snippet of it, but to reiterate: I didn't have many friends for most of my life, so I was mostly self-contained in my own little world; I was pretty much the exaggerated stereotype "gamer" who would sit in his room devoid of sunlight playing videogames. When I went to high school, a lot of people didn't play videogames outside of things like Call of Duty and Halo, and even though I love to play that as well, we couldn't really connect because they were the type of gamers to mostly play multiplayer matches whenever they weren't too busy getting high: they wouldn't even entertain the idea of playing the campaign because they didn't care about setpieces and such as much as they did the numbers on the scoreboard (disclaimer: I got nothing against these types of gamers; I just can't connect to them).
It's not that I don't enjoy the occassional deathmatch, but not 24/7.
Because I also had virtually no interest in almost anything else, I also couldn't really connect with people in general, so for a good chunk of school, whenever it's lunchtime or whatever, I mostly sit in the corner somewhere doing my homework: might as well get it over with so I could devote more time to playing videogames at home, and that money to buy new videogames gotta come from somewhere. As you would imagine, I got lonely pretty quick; I suppose I shouldn't complain, since my school isn't exactly friendly and I wasn't ever really getting picked on despite what a target I seem to be (I even had police officers tell me that I have "that" type of face)... but that might be because a lot of people suspected that I might go crazy one day and bite someone's nose off or something. Regardless, all I could think about when I'm at school is getting home as fast as I can, wrap up any homework I didn't finish, and just sit in front of a television and let reality fade away like the bad dream that it felt like.
When I first read a preview of Persona 3 from a magazine, I knew that I was going to like it. Since I didn't really have a good source of income, I had to be picky with what games I bought, but from the mere premise of the game, I had to try it out for myself. When I bought the game and popped it in after drooled over its stylish character designs and fancy box art (FES is an insult in comparison), the first ten minutes already snagged me in and never let me go: I would play as a student transferring over to a new high school, but when weird things happen, from the moon turning a sickly green and people magically turn into standing coffins, to a fellow student taking out a gun not to aim it at me, but at the temple of her head, it appears that this isn't just some "slice-of-life" videogame that the words "school simulator" would make it out to be. However, things really escaladed when the first full moon appears, as it climaxes with me taking a gun to my head and pulling the trigger, releasing the badass Persona Orpheus inside.
Tell me: do you wanna ride tonight? Then tell me: do you wanna die tonight?
As much as I love Orpheus (not so much Thanatos), I loved the main character even more: I love his design, whether it's his blue hair or his headphones... but the idea that this is supposed to be me, whom I get to dictate not only his name, but what he says, makes me feel like I get to be him. This was even more important to me than playing as Ein in Riviera: the Promised Land because, while I got to choose what Ein says to his harem party, I didn't really feel like I was him... whereas for Decker Young (the name I gave to him because I absolutely hate my real name), not only is he enough of a blank state that I could insert myself into him (...), but I guess we're a lot alike: he doesn't talk much, mostly just going along what others are doing (even nodding his head from time to time) and since he's new to the school, he doesn't have any friends... though that quickly changes when he becomes close with Junpei, the typical slacker, and Yukari, the most popular girl in class (though my preference lies elsewhere).
As soon as I "became" Decker, I started to live out the high school life that I didn't really get a chance to experience, at least outside of studying and taking tests: I quickly made friends with the other kids in class, I joined afterschool club activites, played MMOs (I had, and still have, a shoddy computer incapable of running Runescape), and slain many monsters in many hallways stained with blood... wait, what? Yeah, so it isn't your average high-school experience, because this game also incorporates, if you hadn't figured it out already, urban fantasy, which is pretty much my favorite type of fantasy (besides fetishes): every night at midnight, there's an hour that only an exclusive bunch can experience known as the Dark Hour, and while people are protected in their conjured coffins, the few people who aren't are either hunted down or in danger of being hunted down. So, mixing in with a Power Ranger-esque "sense of duty", not only were you concerned with the daily grind of school, but you also had bigger problems to tackle in the world, even if it makes the former less desirable to dedicate yourself to.
Maybe I'm too tired from saving the world from certain doom?
Unforunately, that line of thinking kind of carried over to the real world. In some ways, it kind of opened my eyes when I made the realization that, hey: the world is in danger; why the hell am I stuck here studying? As hard as I tried in (real world) school to make and keep that A/B honor roll, I never really cared much about it in the grand scheme of things: at that point in my life, I didn't even know whether I was going to college, much less what I wanted to do in the future. When it came to prioritizing my time in the videogame, I wanted to spend less time making good grades and more time hanging out with my friends, especially when each of them are dear to me: hell, even logging into the MMO in-game to talk to "Maya" felt more important to me than school because at least I was making friends (maybe it's because I got a thing for hot teachers, but damn is that one of my favorite Social Links: that confession at the end is just frickin' priceless). In the mirrored real world, I just wanted to play more videogames because, well, it's the same thing: I get to learn about new characters and their stories, and they mean more to me than A's.
I think that's why the ending of this game (as in, big fucking spoiler inbound... though it is essential to the blog) really gets to me: the main character sacrifices himself to save the world, albeit in one of the coolest ways possible. Decker Young had to die in the game... and I kind of wanted to die in the real world. See, I don't have much direction in life, and since I've been rather lonely, I never really got to experience life: yes, many people would kill to live as long as I have, but if you spend most of your day playing videogames, shutting yourself away from the world, are you really alive? Sure, if you "waste" time doing something that you enjoy, then you aren't "wasting" time... but with the clock ticking and no motivation to make something out of myself, what was I really ever going to get out of life: a 9-to-5 job where all I do is work and play videogames? I can't even hold down a part-time job because of the type of person (you could pretty much guess) I am, and obviously I'm not gonna survive long without money. At least Decker died for his friends: if I died, no one would miss me, and those who do would have a pretty hard time coming up with a eulogy, considering how little I interacted with others.
One of the greatest videogame endings I've ever seen: truly magicial.
Yeah, that took a turn for the dark, didn't it? I've been this way for quite some time, and in a way, I never truly healed, even to this day: even though I was granted a scholarship for my good grades that pays a majority of my college tuition, I not only "lost" the scholarship by not going for 3 years (instead, all I did was work at a restaurant, which was a pretty soul-deafening experience)... but even now I'm "wasting" my parent's money by taking a bunch of classes I don't "technically" need just so I feel like I have a goal to work towards (I need 30 elective hours, but seeing as I don't have a major, I just chose any that sounds good, like computer programming). I don't like to talk about this, and even as I type, I'm trying to look past how pathetic I am (it wasn't even a full-time job!). Right now, you are probably thinking about how negative an influence Persona 3 has on me, and in a sense, you'd be right... but it is what it has also given me that, in a way, brought me back to life. You see, it isn't the graphics, the gameplay, or the (admittedly awesome) school simulator that made the game stand so much to me...
It was the narrative: all the characters you meet, the premise of the story, the Social Links, the plot twists... everything stood out and amazed me. Even though I "slacked" in those years after high school, I never stopped gaming (though, in a morbid kind of way, I kind of "had" to keep playing, considering that I had some nasty thoughts I needed to block out), and with every videogame with interesting characters and stories that I got to experience, I found myself so engrossed... no, so enchanted by it, that... that I want to make some of my own as well: I want to write videogames, create my own characters and set up my own stories that hopefully not only captures the player's attention... but to also inspire them. In some ways, Persona 3 really opens up everything my eyes eats: when I look back to older videogames I've played like Tales of Symphonia and even television shows like Boy Meets World (which taught me life lessons that are still engraved in my heart today), I feel like I can better appreciate them because I enjoyed Persona 3's cast of characters and their problems.
Burn my Dread
Unforunately, I have to admit that I really didn't want to write this blog, and I really didn't want to publish it either, especially having said what I just did: as resolute as I sound, if I fail, and considering the circumstances, realistically, chances are that I will fail... then everything might just be for naught. I only wanted to publish this if I actually managed to succeed so I could tell the world what I've been through; I don't really know why I'm writing it now: maybe it's the timing of Chris Carter's article, since it was published shortly after my "Top Ten Favorite Videogames" blog and I wanted to go in-depth for this particular game... or maybe it's that I needed to get it out of my system. Like I said, I've been pretty lonely for most of my life, so I never even found a person to talk to about all of this: it's not like this is the first time I've said these words; it's just the first time someone else listened.
However, maybe it's because I'm naive, or maybe because I'm too optimistic for my own good... but I really hope that everything does turn out alright in the end: much like how Masami Iwasawa in the anime Angel Beats became a musician after being "brought back to life" by music, I hope to one day do the same, but with stories instead. After all, one reason I chose my Dtoid handle as Dreamweaver is not just because I had dreams that I wanted to create...
But to also become the inspiration to allow others to conjure up their own.
- "Petals dance for our valediction and synchronize to your frozen pulsation...
Swirling wind sings for our reunion and 9.8 is my acceleration." - Mili
I also used to write blogs about videogame themed doujinshi (yes, really). There aren't many written yet, but the few that are written can be seen here. If you enjoy these, feel free to message me on any recommendations, suggestions, or if one of the images I've chosen is too naughty. :P