gamesVSlife: Final Fantasy VII changed my perspective on death
posted on 07.20.12 at 11:38 AM EDT by (@admeady)
"Nothing is certain but death and disc swapping."

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.

  • whiteferrero

    what!? aeris dies??????????????????
    i’m pretty sure that didn’t happen in my childhood. (in denial)

    so anyway, i guess the topic here is games that changed you or your values.
    Let me think on this.

    • Adam Meadows

      Ahem – we’re still waiting for your answer.

      • whiteferrero

        oops. i totally forgot about this. >,< Hmm, i guess it would be FF6. In FF6, we see so many emotions interplaying with the story. From Celes conviction to finding her lost friends, to Locke's everlasting love for Rachel, to Cyan's heavy importance on family and honor, and a whole host of others, like brotherhood (Sab and Edg), purpose (Terra) etc. etc. etc. It really opened my mind about the different things in the world. XD

        • Adam Meadows

          And not to mention Terra’s theme! Amazing stuff.

  • BBeaMak

    R.I.P Aeris T__T The best healer I’ve ever had in a video game.

  • xMCXx

    And that, children, is why Final Fantasy VII is awesome.

  • zakou

    Spoiler!! Lol jk

  • hush404

    I love that you guys are including more personal writtings on various subjects contained within the world of gaming. It makes for a nice break from the usual “Hey someone announced this, this rumor is floating around and these sales were made” kind of news.

    • http://gematsu.com/ Zero

      And we will have many more of them, if I have anything to say about it. Who knows, perhaps I will even write up something soon. ^^

  • http://www.iune.forumotion.com rynvie

    That was a surprisingly awesome, and touching post. I’m really happy to have read that. I never comment, but I feel this deserved my time to say thanks for.

    • Adam Meadows

      Thanks! If any of you ever have ideas for posts – things you’d like covering – let me know.

  • LustEnvy

    One of my fave articles on Gematsu. Thank you. Aeris’s death… man, I was reeling for days. Final Fantasy VII may be love/hate to a lot of you, but it’s a special mythological world near and dear to my heart. I felt connected to everyone in AVALANCHE, and her death, just came out of nowhere. I couldn’t believe it.

  • Kobracon

    Great article. Shame I never experienced any of this because I was attracted to the man with the Gunblade rather than Popeye with a giant sword as a young child and thus only played FF7 when I was a teen and Aeris’ death had LONG been spoiled by friends and the internet.

    But the closest emotional death I can honestly think of was the (seemingly) death of Nanako in Persona 4. I remember that moment like it was yesterday. The little cousin you’ve watching over and help for the majority of the game and has become your little sister, lying on the hospital bed and barely conscious…Then when that heart monitor made that all too familiar long beep…..I felt numb. Time just stopped.

    I couldn’t believe it. And soon after my sorrow turned to rage just like the main characters. I wanted to see the villain burn with all my heart. To this day, no game has reached me as emotionally as Persona 4 and is one of the reasons I hold Persona 4 as one of the best RPGs of all time.

  • http://gematsu.com/ Zero

    Great article, Adam. I hope we see many more like this!

    Death is quite a topic to discuss. Some fear death, others don’t fear death. I think when we are young, we kinda get this feeling of invincibility. Nothing bad is going to happen to me! Why would it?

    It’s just something we end up telling ourselves, perhaps it has much to do with not understanding death. I remember playing Final Fantasy 7 quite vividly.

    I was also a youngster when I first played the game. I think I stopped early in the game and ended up revisiting it later. It was probably less of a choice, and more of a demand by my guardians at the time. (Stop playing those games all day and go outside!)

    I remember picking it back up the next summer or so, and playing it all the way to the scene where she dies. I remember saying things like, Why can’t I revive her with a phoenix down?! I just felt so helpless. I started the game over, no joke. I made sure to use her in my party more. I knew what was coming…

    It kinda makes you think. I wish we could have this chance in real life sometimes. To press restart and get back even a few days with a loved one who has passed away.

    I remember reaching the point where she dies again and it still making me cry. I think it does every time I replay the game. It just has a special effect on me, and it always will. I finally played the game and completed it. That wasn’t enough for me though. I searched gaming magazines, talked with friends, I refused to believe she couldn’t be brought back to life.

    There was all sorts of rumors floating around back then. And I finally caved in and bought a gameshark. Just so I could bring her back to life in the game. It wasn’t the same though. It was glitchy quite often, it was like the game was telling me, you have to let her go. She was truly meant to die.

    Did it help me understand death better? I think it did… I think it helped me kinda realize how fragile life can be. And that you can’t bring the dead back to life.

    For those who would like to learn more about the rumors involved in bringing her back to life. Gametrailers put a pretty good video together about it, it’s part of their pop fiction series. I tried just about every one of the rumors, including the most popular one they mention in the video. I recommend fans give it a watch.

    Check it out in the link below if you like.

    http://www.gametrailers.com/full-episodes/6e5hv2/pop-fiction-episode-5–reviving-aeris

  • Darkknightskiy

    Fantastic article one of the best ive seen on a gaming site in a long time