We’re pairing 8-bit music thematically, rather than based entirely on series. You can find this track and more Tater-Tot Tunes on YouTube! Stop by and jam to some great tunes.
Normal Happenings is proud to present The Characters That Define Us, a year long collaboration of 52+ incredible bloggers!
“Don’t have negative thoughts. Remember your mantra.”
In the first of two pieces scheduled for today, we’re proud to have joining us the enigmatic GG from Hungrygoriya! This person of mystery is a seriously talented writer, as made obvious by their blog, and we’re so glad they’re joining us for another collab.
After finishing here, you will love their amazing piece on Faxandu for The Games The Define Us.
This piece is phenomenal, and we know you’ll enjoy. Let’s begin.
“Do not stand at my grave and weep. I am not there, I do not sleep.”
– Mary Elizabeth Frye
I can still remember the morning after she died very clearly. As I sat up in bed and turned to put both feet on the cold hardwood floor, I wondered how I was going to be able to get on with my day. And if I somehow made it through that, how was I going to get through the rest of my life? I was in my teens at the time and my entire world had been turned completely upside down and shaken out. My perspectives on death, dying, and loss were all sharply defined by then, and that tremendous feeling of sadness and abandonment became a tangible burden that I reluctantly picked up and have dragged along behind me every single day since. I can look back across the past 18 years and see the path I’ve walked, the earth scored with the struggles of carrying those crippling emotions. And when I look directly behind me even at this moment, they’re still there lingering.
In many of the games I’ve played by this point in my life, I’ve seen many kinds of heroes out there. There are the ones that have faced tragedy but have risen up to fight and conquer the evil that has ruined their lives, and there are ones that are deeply troubled and rough around the edges, but undergo a positive transformation over the course of the game’s story and come out better for it after the adventure is over. They get vengeance, they get better. They make movement in their lives and grow out from the experiences that set their stories into motion.
I could never relate to any of these people. In those darkest moments in my life after her death, I felt paralyzed and unmovable. I wasn’t going to take up a cause and go change the world because I was too busy trying to pick up the broken pieces of my life and cram them back together again to form something remotely livable. And then came Final Fantasy IX. I had gotten a PS2 for my 16th birthday the following year with a copy of Final Fantasy X, and playing through that game was a great escape. It caused me to not only fall head over heels in love with the Final Fantasy series, but also turn-based RPGs as a genre from that point forward. Final Fantasy IX was a no-brainer purchase for me, and I was soon underway on a brand new quest with Zidane and friends that changed how I think about my life and my place within it.
Most of the characters in Final Fantasy IX fit snugly into a cliche hero stereotype, but Vivi Ornitier, a quiet, child-like black mage, doesn’t. When he’s first introduced in the game, Vivi is clumsy, shy, and unassuming but reluctantly goes along with the group of heroes to help them. Although he’s clearly in his own head a lot, eventually we’re let in on what vexes him: his own existence. He’s a sentient being that was created, not born, and he struggles immensely with whether or not he belongs as a part of his world. He feels connected but isolated and is constantly questioning what it means to be alive and what it means to truly live.
I related to Vivi almost instantly and saw many clear glimpses of myself in his character during the group’s first visit to Black Mage Village where Vivi finally runs into more mages like himself. Here, Vivi and a few others congregate near a cemetery, and he learns that people of his kind eventually “stop”. They no longer speak or move, and then they are buried under the ground. During these conversations, Vivi also learns that their life-span is approximately one year from when they “become aware”, which they equate to being born. This understandably instills a lot of anxiety and dread in Vivi, leading to his constant internal battle; fearing the inevitable, but trying to sidestep those feelings and enjoy life for what it is while it lasts. His story is sweet and sad, and completely relatable for someone like me that that feels the throbbing void that mortality leaves in its wake on a daily basis.
I connected most with Vivi not only for his very direct dealings on the topic of death and dying, but also his fluctuating acceptance of his eventual demise. There are moments in this game when he’s courageous and driven while searching for answers, and there are others where he is humbled about his reality, knowing that he’ll go out long before any of the others around him into the unknown, or perhaps into nothingness. His struggle to reach acceptance comes to fruition by the game’s ending, making the lessons he learns in Black Mage Village especially meaningful.
“The joy of living with them far outweighs the fear of death. Isn’t it the same for you? Traveling with your friends gives your life meaning.”
– Black Mage No. 288
I think to a certain extent, we all trod forward in life with the fear of dying one day gnashing its teeth in the darkest corners of our consciousness. Seeing those fears and insecurities captured in a video game character was something really important to me back then and continues to be even now almost two decades later. Living vicariously through someone like Vivi, who rose up and walked through his short life with hope as his compass gave me hope. That I could someday make it out of the dredges of grief, that I would feel happy again, and that the numbness might fade. Most importantly, it sprouted hopes of one day being able to feel present in the moments I’m living rather than dwelling on an unwavering past. Whether we like it or not, life continues on with or without us, whether we’re present or not, and Vivi Orniter, our reluctant hero, did a great job of teaching that to me when I needed it most.
“What to do when I felt lonely… that was the only thing you couldn’t teach me. But we need to figure out the answer for ourselves.”
– Vivi Ornitier
Adventure Map! *FINISHING UP!*