"Mr. 288 told me that I understand what it means to live and to die. . . . But it’s only because I thought stopping was different from dying . . . I don’t think I really understand what it means to live and to die. Where do we come from . . . ? Do we go back there when we die . . . ? If that’s what it means to live . . . I wonder where I came from . . . ? Where will I end up when I die? Why am I shaking? What is this that I’m feeling . . . ?"
—Vivi Orunitia, Final Fantasy IX
A massive fan of the Final Fantasy series and philosophy so was avidly excited about reading this. The beginning of Final Fantasy and philosophy: The Ultimate Walkthrough focuses on Final Fantasy 7 a major favourite and cult classic, a great story and RPG system, that exploded onto the gaming scene in 1997. (What with mastering material, breeding chocobos to get to the gold one, a compelling villain and detailed characters, secret bosses called weapons, most or all with their unique stories, and the sub-games within a game is still worth playing and experiencing today...)
So the beginning part of the book explore FF7 and the world of Gaia... It talks us through signifiers, meanings and an apt title A Malboro by Any Other Name: The Role of Identification in Interpreting Signifiers... So an example from this part: By “produce,” I don’t mean that players have to physically build the world of Gaia in FFVII; the game developers have already done that for them. As Henry Jenkins has noted, game designers become “narrative architects” who design and build game spaces in which players can experience narratives.4 “Produce” means that players experience the fictional world by investing preset aspects (limited sets of signifiers) with meanings of their own. These meanings are focused through the identification process. Signifiers are contained within places (Midgar, Wutai, the Northern Crater), objects (potions, materia, weapons), or other characters or monsters (Marlene, Sephiroth, Chocobos), but how players interpret the signifiers within these game elements and the sort of text they will produce through them are dependent on how players identify with the game’s playable characters. So just about how players may identify with things/people/places on the game and either relate to or think of them. A good opener and beginning for sure...
So other things the collaborative authors write about are the spin offs such as Crisis Core and Dirge of Cerberus generally focusing on the backstory they provide and the mechanics.
The next chapter KEFKA, NIETZSCHE, FOUCAULT: MADNESS AND NIHILISM IN FINAL FANTASY VI gets more interesting when it comes to philosophy and using those lenses to examine Final Fantasy 6... So first mentioned is Franz Kafka (1883-1924) who was and is known in his books for unusual views of people and the world. In other words somewhat warped but interesting. Ironically the main antagonist of FF6 is called Kefka Palazzo and his main drive/purpose in the game is to eradicate all life. Why? Well he shows sadistic enjoyment when resorting to killing and also magicite, he was used as a test subject, as had an effect on his personality.
So they then explore is Kefka rational? Through the lens of Michel Foucault (1926-1984), a French philosopher who's first work appropriately fitting here, Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason, explores medieval madness and its continual study, although I think the issue of rationality concerning Kefka is that he is rational, he is in control and has a choice, yet the magitite has given him some vision or knowledge regarding an apocalyptic goal regarding existence. Also his enjoyment and pleasure when it comes to things of a sadistic knowledge do not make him irrational. He is quite radical and extreme in his purpose (also thinks he is superior to others with narcissist and murderous tendencies) and objective while taking a great pleasure from doing so signifying no loss of control.
"In the eighteenth century, the dawn of the Age of Enlightenment was heralded as the solution to all of humanity’s problems. Foucault contended that nothing was more of a threat to humanity at this time than those who refused to employ reason—madness became the very antithesis of reason. Philosophers such as Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) even went so far as to provide us with purely rational justifications for morality. So, naturally, those whose capacities for reason were flawed came to be viewed as morally corrupt..."
The main motivations for Kefka is absolute power, knowledge and godhood, thus the writers accuse him of being arational - "not contrary to reason but outside the domain of reason entirely."
Obviously Kefka later on adopts a nihilistic view of existence which the heroes of FF6 attempt to convince him life does have meaning and worth according to them.
What a character. Kefka seems to personify exactly the sort of nihilistic, cynical, life-is-meaningless attitude that people might associate with, well, with philosophers! Existentialist philosophers, to be precise. This, however, would be a gross oversimplification. The existentialist movement represented by writers such as Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881), Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), and Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980) more accurately expresses a belief that while life may lack an objective purpose, we are each born into the world with the ability to decide for ourselves what is meaningful. Nietzsche, in fact, recognized the potential dangers of a nihilistic outlook, particularly in a world that rejects God. Yet he also saw in this the potential for an even greater justification for existence than philosophers had given before.
I think the closing part sums it up quite well for <i>FF6</i> and exploring the motivations driving the characters:
Was Kefka truly mad? Or did he cause a change for the better in the world? At the conclusion of the game, amid the various happily-ever-afters and credits, we find a party of characters who have learned a great deal about themselves and how to live in the world. Although they may have lived satisfactory lives before, they were unenlightened and questioned nothing. The struggle against Kefka brought them face-to-face with the negative influence of magic—of religion, control, and authority—and tasked them with learning to live without it. Perhaps some may think that an ideal world is one in which the gods of magic remained frozen, or where a benevolent ruler usurped their power and handed down a new meaning that would bring us peace, prosperity, and purpose. If what Nietzsche said has the ring of truth, however, then Kefka’s rise and fall represent the best possible situation. In the end, a world without magic is not entirely blissful, it is not utopian, but neither should we expect it to be. Our Heroes will struggle in this new world, but their biggest struggle will also be the most rewarding, for it is the banner under which philosophers have always served: the struggle to find meaning itself when none is given.
So anyway briefly other chapters JUDGING THE ART OF VIDEO GAMES: HUME AND THE STANDARD OF TASTE</i>, <i>PART TWO: PLAYING THE GAME-BUT WHAT IF IT’S NOT A GAME? and environmentalism in real life learning a lesson from FF7 (Mako similar to fossil fuels?), further explored in GAIA AND ENVIRONMENTAL ETHICS IN THE SPIRITS WITHIN regarding the sci-fi FF film based on the game series....
Enjoyed the Virtue Ethics: Aristotle, Aeris, and Sephiroth and from my quote at the beginning enjoyed the later parts about Vivi from FF9: Stopping’s Effect on Subjective Values: Morality, Knowledge, and the Value of Life explores his character and how he determines what is good or evil: Vivi focuses on a sort of moral life and existence while asking many deep questions concerning life in a very philosophical way.
Worth a read whether they are looking at ancient philosophers like Epicurus (and his pursuit of happiness + view of death not being a negative.) or game characters like the issue of Cloud's identity (his quest to validate his existence, define himself and prove himself or find out who he really is.) the book at times makes very thought provoking comparisons and examinations from either an existentialist lens or environmental or ethical ones. A very good introduction to the world of philosophy and how it can be used to view the world of Final Fantasy.
"While “going green” is certainly all the rage these days, why would Sakaguchi Hironobu and Kitase Yoshinori, the game’s designers, create characters who rage against the energy infrastructure on which a video game depends? Though the game’s imagined world ultimately reflects ecological concerns in the real world, it does not simply reject all notions of technological development. Instead, it evokes Shinto spirituality in the digital landscape of the game in order to encourage a symbiotic relationship between real-world human technology and the natural world."
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