A few decades ago the masses believed video games were a waste of time for lackadaisical youths to pacify themselves while ignoring their responsibilities as both kids and young adults. As more and more people started understanding the benefits of gaming so too did the perception of what a video game is and, most importantly, the benefits gaming can bestow on a person’s life changed. Hi, my name is James Bullock and I am a gamer who has spent the better part of his existence testing the laws of physics, exploring the vastness of a world ruined, and been a champion inside various arenas courtesy of digitized worlds both driven by reality and created through pure unbelievable ingenuity unlike anything seen by human eyes. And as a gamer I’ve discovered something else video games provide: life lessons. Today I examine the game that truly made me a fan of RPGs (more than likely I’m not the only one), “Final Fantasy VII”
Give Them Their Follows While They Can Still Smell Them (“Final Fantasy VII”)
During the fall season of explaining why I “needed” a Playstation to make my Christmas 1997 special, I had a chance to pick up a copy of “Game Informer” magazine that featured a complete, spoiler-filled walkthrough of Squaresoft’s latest role-playing game entitled “Final Fantasy VII”. In reading the magazine article for this game I didn’t own, I exposed my fragile little mind to a genre of gaming I truly didn’t know existed because my local video stores either didn’t have role playing games available to rent or they were always rented out. Even though the marketing and magazines had made a significant initial impact on me, when I planned a Playstation-centric Christmas list that year, my mind had completely forgotten about “Final Fantasy VII” (shame on me, I know).
It would take a year of playing the games Playstation ranging from epic (“Tekken 3”, “Twisted Metal 2”, “WCW vs. The World”) and terrible (“Mortal Kombat Mythologies”, “Star Wars: Masters of Teras Kasi”, “Bubsy 3D”) and the opening of a video store not three minutes away from my house (in driving time) before “Final Fantasy VII” popped onto my radar again. Coming from school not long after the “Video 2000” store’s opening did I have a chance to rent “Final Fantasy VII”. For the next couple of days, I spent as much time as I could playing this wondrous game before having to return it; declaring to myself if there could only be one present under the Christmas tree for me that year (1998), “Final Fantasy VII” would be that present. And thankfully it was meant to be.
Remember that spoiler-filled walkthrough courtesy of “Game Informer”? Yeah, everything but the final battle (you know what one I’m referring to) was spoiled in it including the death of Aerith/Aeris. Playing the game without a care in the world and not using the aforementioned guide to help me along, I didn’t realize that as I unknowingly worked toward the end of disc one that my time with everyone’s favorite flower girl was coming to an end. Without copious amounts of grinding I hadn’t achieved her fourth-level Limit Break. I had Cloud deny that Aerith was his girlfriend when he escorted her home. I even chose Tifa to go on the Golden Saucer date with Cloud (because of her personality, of course). When Aerith trekked on to the Forgotten City on her own to stop Sephiroth it finally hit me what the magazine said about her leaving the party permanently. I had run out of time and there was no going back (even my Gameshark wasn’t a reasonable option because I didn’t want to corrupt my save, let alone the other saves on said card). Watching Cloud let Aerith’s lifeless body descend into the lake inside the Forgotten City broke my heart a little because I realized that the most positive part of our ragtag crew who could make everything feel better in & out of battle was no longer with us.
Why didn’t I say she was my girlfriend? Why did I not follow through on the promise of giving her that special date? Why didn’t I bring her into the GI fight in Cosmo Canyon so she could use a Cure spell and make the fight end a lot quicker (I had the hardest time with that battle during my first playthrough)? Aerith’s death was a grim reminder just how quickly someone you care about can leave this world without warning.
As the years progressed that also included a couple of more playthroughs across the subsequent console generations, I faced the fact of what I learned thanks to Aerith’s death is just as important in real life as it is playing “Final Fantasy VII”: appreciate those who you love while they’re here – let them know it, show it, tell them just how much they mean to you before they can’t hear, see, or experience it anymore. Remember to give those you love the literal & figurative flowers they deserve while they live.
Have you learned any major life lessons from playing “Final Fantasy VII” or any video game for that matter? Leave them in the comments below or email me at email@example.com, and, as always, thanks for reading.