Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Fou-Lu and the mystery of iniquity

I recently finished Breath of Fire 4 on the PS1 which had been my project for some time.

I wanted to play the game after noticing on a pretty large poll that the game's antagonist Fou-Lu, is considered one of the most "highly rated characters" across RPGS, in fact, he secures first place in that poll, with Vivi registering second.

What to make of Fou-Lu? Here is the summary for those who don't know about him. 7 facts about his character. Spoilers? Absolutely! But the game is about 20 years old now!

1) An incarnate dragon-god who comes to rule the world as its rightful emperor. Extremely powerful, great weapon, cool look, awesome magic.
2) His coming is foreknown by political powers who pursue him, jealous of their position, they attack him and attempt to kill him.
3) While his powers are still weak he is aided and supported and protected by a human women, to whom it seems he falls in love with.
4) A god who decides to just live out the human existence, who slots into the mundane, who loses the desire to rule and conquer the world, to put it under his subjection.
5) Eventually the political powers find him, they do their upmost again and again to kill him, they cannot, he is a dragon god! But in the end they turn him, they chase him from his village, I think they kill his girlfriend, and they cause him to grow hateful towards humans, for him to return to his first thought, that as god he ought to rule them, but now as one who is evil, destroying all humanity.
6) Fou-Lu is the 'other half' of the game's dull, non speaking, personality-less protagonist Ryu. The two must be fused into one (destiny, as always)
7) Eventually they meet up and fight it out, if you win the game, well Fou-Lu is destroyed, sucked into the dominant Ryu. If you get game-over presumably Ryu gets sucked into Fou-Lu but unfortunately we don't get to see the consequences from that one.

So, What to make of him?

Fou-Lou essentially grows to hate humanity because it's leaders have hated him, have rejected him as their god and rightful ruler. He allows this hatred to pervert him, to corrupt his goodness and the compassion for the greater part of humanity that he had developed.

He's interesting, and by far the most developed character of the otherwise mediocre game, but in terms of philosophy, profundity of thought- Fou-Lu is really nothing more than a typical revenge driven bad guy.

The highlight of his story is most definitely point (4), the period in which he strips himself of his greatness, of his power, and in humility sets about just living the mundane human existence and finding dignity in his humble farm work. There is something beautiful here, seeing a powerful dragon god choosing to put destructive powers to one side for the sake of helping a village and out of love for a woman who has saved his life.

But from then on, it goes down hill and we find nothing more than a revenge driven villain who has decided the best thing to do is to destroy absolutely everything. Nihilism. What will it gain? Nothing? Is it a reasonable choice? No, only a small group of humans has persecuted him. Is it a moral choice? Clearly no... to inflict great suffering indiscriminately, to destroy the world.....

Scratch and RPG villain and almost always you reach Kefka, deep down they are almost all Kefka with a different backstory.

In Kefka we find raw nihilism, someone who destroys simply for the sake of it, because he wills it. Kefka and all RPG villains are utterly incomprehensible, their actions never add up. And that is because of what theologians call "the mystery of iniquity".

The nature of evil is that it is dark, that the more you look and contemplate it the less "sense" it makes, they are dark, you don't get anything deep or rich out of contemplating them.

Often in our world, we hear evil or wicked people pathologised, or their evil rationalised in terms of some illness, as if they cannot help do this irrational and hurtful thing, typically we hear the guy is mentally ill or was abused as a child. This is the easy option, it makes you think you understand the criminal and what he has done. It is not the full truth though, the real truth is "the mystery of iniquity", the evil person has chosen to do evil, he has willed it, and that is the explanation, it is irrational, it is dark, it cannot be understood, that is what it means for something to be truly evil, for good to be tarnished, perverted, simply out of will. Try and get your head around it, you can't.

Divine truths, goodness, holiness, the dogmas of the faith, these on the contrary are mysteries of depth, the more you look at them, they more sense they make, the greater profundity they are shown to contain. They are light, you can gaze at them forever and always see more and rejoice more.

We shouldn't expect the 'greatest character' in RPG history to be aligned with evil, because ultimately evil is shallow, hollow, empty, ignoble, un-admirable, dis-edifying. There is no likeness of Christ, the true man, Who carries all perfections to their completion.

If there is greatness in any character it is due to his nearness to our Saviour and His virtues, this is even true of fictional characters. Christ must have the glory, all creatures must kneel before Him.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Without map or compass

In the original Legend of Zelda the Map and Compass are indispensable for surviving dungeons and reaching the boss. The map shows you the layout of the dungeon and the compass positions you in it.

In the pilgrimage of the Christian life, I think the map would be the teachings of Our Blessed Lord and saviour, preserved in the Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition of the Catholic Church that He founded- this constitutes the way to Eternal Life.

The compass I think would be the interior life, the daily life of prayer composed of mental prayer, examination of conscience and perhaps above all, the sacrament of confession. Through these powerful means we can discern where we are headed, how we stand with regards to that map, whether we are near the end of the dungeon, close to completing it, or perhaps down a dead end.

How tragic for the worldlings and for the followers of false religions, they have neither map nor compass- where will they end up? They can send Link a thousand times round the dungeon but without map or compass they have little chance of coming out alive.

Praise be Our God and Saviour Jesus Christ for providing us with the Map and Compass in His One True Church.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

In defense of Metal Gear for the NES

It's an old story, the MSX version of MG was fantastic but then apparently hopelessly ported to the NES in a short space of time and outside of the control and oversight of Kojima....

But you know what... I have played the MSX version, I've played through it, I've tried to complete it, but imho, for all the supposed inadequacies of the NES version, I actually prefer it.

I prefer the fact that you have to infiltrate the base at the beginning, that is fantastic! People love MGS3 for that reason and I think it is a great touch. In the MSX version.... meh.... you start out in the base already.... not very sneaky.

And as to the fact you don't fight Metal Gear? SO WHAT? Why should you? I actually thought it stupid in MGS that you actually fought Metal Gear, it is meant to be a mobile device that fires nukes.... not something designed for combat with a single man. It stands to reason that it makes more sense to destroy the computer that controls the thing and also the man who is operating it.... which is exactly what you do in MG Nes.... Imagine someone having a fight against an ICBM machine, that would be dumb, it wouldn't be an opponent... it would not be geared up to fight you, and you would be able to take it out easily.... so that's why it doesn't matter that you don't fight Metal Gear.

And above all.....

The MUSIC in the NES version is absolutely superior! The MSX music is painful, dull and something to mute as soon as you can. The NES music is fantastic! It is exciting, it is tense, it is an amazing score and whoever produced it should be proud of themselves.

I could write more on this, but I need to prepare to offer Holy Mass, which isn't in 5 mins, but in 30 mins by the way. Priests should prepare for Holy Mass properly.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

What does it profit a man...?

I was in my local Second Hand games store today, I'm not a collector of games, but I enjoy keeping an eye on how much things go for these days, and I like to see in real life a few of the old games I used to play and enjoy.

Anyway, as often happens on these trips, I was thrown back by the price of a few of the old games I saw, especially some very mediocre PS1 games, games being sold with a price tag WAAAAY beyond their quality! It's incredible! Star Ocean 2, £79! Ehrgeiz, £49! Then looking over to the SNES- Secret of Evermore, £79! And for the NES, Popeye, £79!

It got me thinking a little bit later about the value we put on things,

These games are expensive more because they are rare than because they are good, they are sought after, they have a value from their limited availability.

And then what about my immortal soul?

The crazy thing is, in God's point of view, my soul has a value of an inestimable amount, it was ransomed neither by gold or silver, but the blood of the lamb without stain.

So we are talking like a Stadium Events or something, really rare, super valuable.

And what am I willing to trade my soul in for?

Thank Almighty God for instituting the sacrament of confession....He didn't need to, it could have been a no refunds policy- you trade your soul in once, you've lost it. Praise the Mercy of Almighty God for confession, we can get that Stadium Events back even if we traded it in for Fifa 2000, we can come before Almighty God in humility, through His minister the Catholic Priest, a be restored once again with that precious soul, that soul of incomparable worth- My friends, keep it mint in box, so that when its true owner inspects it He finds it worthy of His collection.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Corpus Christi

Not about video games but about reality.

This morning, I held between my thumb and finger a small piece of bread, and with sacred words uttered in almost silence, I held Jesus Christ, my saviour, my Lord, Who loves me, Who knows me, the lot marked out for me.

I, chosen among thousands, His beloved.

What a privilege! A greater act than the creation of the universe, an intimacy even the angels do not possess. When I am tempted to hold other things, other people, other life options,
I look at Him, Who is hiding between my thumb and forefinger.

HE is Mine and I am His. And I realize that to exchange this for anything else, even the whole world, would be madness, would be folly to the utmost, because I am holding Him, my true end, my lasting good, the summum bonum.

O priest, all this is yours!

To turn away from this, is to turn away from Him.

-Fr. Mark Higginsx

Seeing with the eyes of faith.

In a world of playing video games how easy it is to get reality and non-reality mixed up.

Have you ever had that experience of having to remind yourself while sitting in front of the playstation- "you know, this isn't real! What I see on the screen is a myth, an illusion, something made of 1s and 0s."

At the same time as Catholics we often have to submit our minds to truths of faith that are hidden or experienced in a different way "Jesus, My Lord, you are real! What is see in the world is a myth, an illusion, compared to You, the pleasures of the senses are atoms and molecules, prizes and trophies are dust and smoke, but you are real, even though I see you only through the eyes of faith"

And then we come to the Holy Eucharist, the Lord Himself, not particles of bread and wine, but really Him.

To paraphrase Hunger Games

Video Games- not real

Truths of the the faith- real

Cloud Strife- not real

Jesus Christ- real

Playstation Trophies - not real

Heaven and hell- real

graphics and fmv sequences- not real

real presence of Jesus in Holy Communion- REAL.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Going beyond video games

I was recently in Loyola, on a brief pilgrimage to the birthplace of the holy founder of the Society of Jesus, St. Ignatius. While I was there I was able to take in the 'chapel of conversion' where Iñigo famously moved beyond the romantic and chivalrous works of fiction he so loved and found lasting happiness in the lives of the saints and of the saviour himself.

The works of fiction weren't evil, Iñigo wasn't reading trashy novels or pornography magazines, he was reading tales that were essentially about virtue, great human qualities, but ultimately forces solely directed to worldly ends, transient goods that pass and fade with the evening.

The hunger that they instilled in him for adventure, for limit experiences, for romance, these desires weren't bad, but they weren't an end in themselves, they prepared him for something greater, and when he found the thing that was the greatest, the One Who is the greatest, He was able to find the answer to the thirst that God had placed within Him, and which the novels ultimately had helped him appreciate.

So, with this in mind, I turn to computer games and I realise that the best a video game can ever be is a distraction from the mundane of this life which serves to remind me that life is about adventure, only the greatest adventure is the adventure of holiness, of striving for sanctity, of snatching souls from the fire and of desiring to traverse the whole world in order to bring great glory for Almighty God.

Ignatius put down the novels and He started living an adventure greater than anything he had found in them. Switch off the XBox, unplug the Playstation, shut down the Nintendo Switch. We might not be called to the same soaring heights of sanctity as Ignatius of Loyola but we can certainly learn from Him where true heroism lies and how the greatest of human virtues and talents and fantasies that we cultivate must be channeled towards the absolute and fundamental course in life- the Way of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 Fr Mark Higgins