Death is the ultimate embodiment of The Unknown. Our earthly limitations bind us to a level of ignorance about almost every facet of life. Video games, though, allow us to explore beyond those limitations.
And so it’s a testament to the potential of the human mind that we’re able to overcome The Unknown in the most weird and wonderful ways. In video game terms, it could be said that our imaginations are the ultimate exploit.
At the age of eight, death was a distant idea. It was almost mythical. Like a great many things, it was something that didn’t – wouldn’t – happen to me. With the advent of Final Fantasy VII, however, that changed.
Aeris’ was my first glimpse at loss. By that age, we had likely all lost ‘things’ – but this was different. This thing, to an eight year old, was a human being, albeit one starved greatly of pixels and polygons. It was also one that I, and many others, were incredibly fond of.
Death wasn’t new to video games. In fact, we’re a medium in which death is merely a mechanic. It seemed, that it wasn’t death as such that made Aeris’ demise so sad – it was the evitablity of it. We even had spells and items dedicated to resurrecting the fallen.
We escaped a would-be prison city, fought through thick and thin and would eventually go on to save the world. Yet, despite all that, we couldn’t stop Aeris’ death. That, from my perspective, is how Final Fantasy VII changed my view – it taught me that death, in itself, doesn’t have to be sad.
But that senseless, mindless, death in the face of misguided motivations – also known as Sephiroth – is.
Final Fantasy VII’s portrayal of such a subjective topic compelled me to overcome my ignorance of death. Square’s efforts taught me that the end of life could be seen as merely part of an on-going cycle – it made what might be seen as such a tragic inevitability appear to be a little less tragic. From the perspective of a young, impressionable mind, it seemed that everybody was merely taking their turn.
And that the end of theirs simply meant the beginning of another. In the language of Final Fantasy X, it meant the start of a ‘new story’ elsewhere.
How many of us are frightened by the notion of dying at a ripe old age, with a fulfilled and satisfied life behind us? It’s the idea of dying young, like Aeris – of us being wasted – that perhaps terrifies us the most.
And like the seminal series’ many heroes, it seems important to be the best people we can be in a world that, ostensibly, doesn’t always want to do the same. If all we do is better the life of just a single person before we ‘fade’, then that’s a mission worth embarking on.
Even if we do have to disc swap every now and then.