Saturday, January 15, 2022

Nier Automata and the existential search for meaning

 


So, I just finished Nier Automata. What a game! I'm not much for hack and slash gameplay, but Nier really got me converted. All of a sudden, I was 11 years old again, dodging attacks and countering, giving the screen full attention and allowing the thumbs to carry the entirety of my consciousness- or something like that!

Not only was the gameplay the kind of thing FFXV should have been and maybe was attempting, the story, the music, the graphical setting and the world itself were deeply compelling and engaging.

Unlike FFXV which, in many respects, (in the original form without Episode Ardyn and Dawn of the Future alternative re-telling) serves as a very faithful echo of philosophical and moral concepts supportive of Christianity, Nier's underlying philosophy is far more ambiguous.

But don't get me wrong, usually, in these instances, ambiguity denotes, perhaps, moral relativism or an atheological presentation of the divine, but here, perhaps Nier simply raises questions, it raises questions without necessarily even attempting, or being able to attempt a thorough answer.

The question is THE BIG ONE- does life have a purpose? Is life the kind of thing that has a meaning? Can you put a meaning on life if it lacks one?

Neir plays out this question within the context of androids who are in an endless war against machines, their hard wired telos is to destroy the machines and enable humanity to return to earth. Androids are hard-wired with this mission, and, conversely, machines are hard-wired (by their alien creators) to seek to destroy androids, and ultimately, humans.

But the war has gone on for millennia. Machines have evolved, some have broken free from 'the grid' and in evolving they have developed in new and surprising ways. Androids also, in the stalemate with the machines, have, through their consciousness (which the game has us believe that they most definitely possess) sought to find more meaning to life than an interminable war, some seek peace, some seek love, some seek substance abuse, some comradeship. Among the machines religions develop, kingdoms, cults, peace movements and also, of course, nihilistic destruction motivations.

So, what's interesting about all this?

Most definitely the game picks up from Nietzsche's death of god starting point. I'm not going to quote the passage, but essentially N is telling us that Christianity brought about a will to truth but the will to truth of Christianity actually, according to N, showed Christianity to be false and brought about secular enlightment democracies. According to N, the citizens of these secular democracies do not believe Christianity yet they haven't taken in the consequences of this, the dreadful, frightening, root-uplifting consequences of the death of god. The death of god means, suffering has no meaning, objective so called morality is just interpretation and power, life itself has no meaning. N says that the death of god, when it really comes home, will, unless something is done about it, lead to nihilistic despair.

N says among his audience there will be strong individuals capable of putting meaning on life and living by their own value system, and he writes for their benefit, to become great and to overcome the chains of Christian morality etc. etc.

so N gets many many things wrong, I'm doing a PhD on this guy at the moment, and I assure you, he gets more wrong than right. But he does diagnose something that Nier also recognises, that life, in actual fact demands meaning. For N, the worst kind of life is not the Christian but the life of 'the last man' a figure he says is without ideals, without recognition of beauty, concerned only with comfort, in many ways more animal than genuinely human.

The strong individual finds and chooses meaning for his life. Neir shows all the various attempts of this on behalf of machines and androids. The game, one after the next, shows that none of these attempts really satisfy the thirst for meaning, and that, ultimately, even when they do, the player knows that they are based on a lie.

So, given this outlook, why is the Catholic priest pleased with the game?

I guess for one, it makes the gamer reflect on his life, on the fact that life demands a meaning and even if you go out of your way to live absorbed in comfort and without ideals, even this is a deliberate and unhealthy negation from the fundamental quest for meaning.

Second, I enjoyed the canonical ending- on a twist on the jrpg trope, whilst you get a chance to kill 'god' god is the credits- those who invented the game and made the android world that was so hopelessly without true and lasting meaning. This was clever and reminded the player that the world of the androids and machine was a fiction and that the creators of that fiction were, in a sense, cruel and culpable.

third, I felt the game and the lack of definitive meaning that it offers actually exposes the ultimate truth that all created and invented meanings and false, it invites the player to see that in his or her own life. Fine, but that actually allows the player, perhaps, to investigate, whether, unlike in his world there is a meaning intrinsic to himself that is both intrinsic AND TRUE.

In the case of the androids, their inbuilt mission was actually kind of false, it was a meaning for the sake of meaning, they were inbuilt with the mission to restore earth to humans, even though, in fact humans were extinct millennia ago, the inbuilt desire was just a created ruse to try and fulfil the existential crisis of meaning. 

But maybe in our case and in our world that might not be the case, the difference, of course, is REVELATION. 

If a human had come to the androids and told them, thank you for fighting for us, we appreciate you, and we will reward you, what a different game and world it would have been.

That's our situation, Almighty God, Our Creator and Telos, Whose service our nature is ordered to, has in fact revealed Himself and has founded the Catholic Church as means to our salvation.

We are not androids or machines searching to place meaning on our lives, some invented meaning to fulfil an existential angst, we have REVEALTION.

N's big error was his starting error, that revelation had been disproved by early historical criticism. Ultimately the whole of N's philosophical rabbit hole began with this, had he known, as we do now, that the Gospels were not 3rd century inventions, he would not have embarked on the quest to create meaning for life. He would have known that the Life appeared among us, and that His grace offers us the transforming power of divinisation.











Friday, November 19, 2021

God and Gaming series on Word on Fire


 I just came across this trailer for a new series on Bishop Barron's channel, God and Gaming. It seems like the series will focus on interviewing individuals from the video game industry, perhaps creators, writers, programmers, producers.... 


The video clearly seems to be suggesting gaming as an avenue of the new evangelisation. I hope that doesn't mean they are going to be focusing on interviewing tiny indy developers who happen to be making uber catholic video games that are actually pretty crap. 

In Hollywood everyone knows there are a few actors, producers, directors and screenwriters who are catholic and who evangelise through their media as best as they can.

I wonder how possible this is through the video game industry...

Does like an amazing programmer decide, 'I'm going to program for 'I am Setsuna' because that has a wholesome pro catholic story, I refuse to program for Final Fantasy XIII because it doesn't' it would be interesting to hear if such a choice is even possible.

Because I love JRPGs its unlikely the show will feature any of my favourite developers, because they all seem to me to be Japanese 'spiritual not religious' character imbued in eastern philosophies. 

I would love to see a Catholic version of what they are doing on the Resonant Arc channel, I think the formula is perfect, there just needs to be objective truths of revelation underpinning the discussion and the sound principles of natural law as a point of reference. 


Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Xenogears Analysis podcasts

 

So, I've been listening to the analysis of Xenogears on Resonant Arc Youtube Channel. Actually, I've been listening to the Podcasts version of the show which suits me better for downloading and listening in the evenings at double speed.

Xenogears isn't my favourite RPG but I sometimes think it is the RPG that I wish was my favourite, it's an RPG I have played multiple times (but never actually completing), each time hoping "This time I am going to love it". It hasn't happened yet but this Podcast is certainly igniting within me that desire to jump in again and play through the game and finally complete the damn thing.

I have written about the game previously Catholic Video Gamers: Xenogears- Anti God or Anti Demiurge? and again, in that post I also comment on an earlier Resonant Arc video. I also suggest some 'Catholic' improvements to the plot of Xenogears!

Back to the podcast, I have really enjoyed how the presenters offer some insights from psychology and philosophy and even splashed of natural theology. Sure, don't expect lectures in the development of Nietzsche's thought on Eternal Recurrence of the same, or its contested nature within contemporary Nietszchean scholarship (which, in the main sees it not as an ontological theory of the universe but rather as an ethical test to see whether you are living as a genuine 'free spirit'). 

That's not the kind of depth we can expect in a podcast aiming at a general audience by guys who are clearly enthusiasts and intellectuals, but nonetheless men with busy lives who seem to be fiction writers and broadcasters rather than full time academics or 'professional philosophers'.

It also reminded me that essentially we shouldn't require or expect those analysing the plot and character development arks of Xenogears to actually have some research level qualification in existentialist philosophy and early twentieth century models of psychology-- because, don't forget, the writers of the script certainly weren't at some crazy academic level! That's evident by their mishandling of various theories and mishmashing of, for instance Jung and Freud in order to give us some kind of psychological explanation of Fei's behaviour. 

In the series so far I have really appreciated some of the Japanese translations being re-translated and the open acknowledgement of some of the poorer aspects of the story telling, like, for instance, the fact that many of the key elements in the narrative are known by multiple 'code words' which a first time or even a second or third time player will not immediately pick up on. Then there is the muffled comments and unfinished sentences which are meant to grip the player, but due to the over-use of this method, actually end up more often than not just confusing the player.

If you are interested in the plot of Xenogears, of understanding the plot and appreciating some of the subtleties of the games storytelling then do head on over and listen to the series, like I said at double speed it is more than manageable without missing anything.

As a tiny aside, I noticed at one point one of the presenters, Casen, by accident referred to Bishop Stone, one of the minor antagonists as 'Bishop Barron', so maybe he has been listening to some of the videos of the Bishop Robert Barron.... from what I can see, neither is Catholic, or at least a clued up and philosophically coherent Catholic, but their analysis is at least objective and they seem genuine seekers of the truth.

As a minor lament, both unfortunately feel the need to pander a little to the 'transgender' understanding, if it can be called 'understanding' of the human person (inasmuch as it is grounded not in biology or reason by polemic), making apologies for the fact that this game being both Japanese and of the 90s presents Male and Female as the only two genders... shock! Horror! 

Anyway, if anyone else has any other suggestions of podcasts/ youtubes grappling with serious attempts of philosophical analysis of video game narratives let me know in the comments.





Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Review of Final Fantasy XV from a Catholic perspective

 

Completely out of the blue I received a message or an email through from Ikkin, challenging me to take Final Fantasy XV seriously as THE most catholic of all the FF games. Up to that point my only acquaintance with the game was seeing my younger brother playing it a little and watching one of the Brotherhood Anime films. I was kind of put off by both things, the anime had made me initially think that the main character Noctis was shallow and uninspiring, whilst watching my brother play had put me off the gameplay mechanics as departing way too much from a traditional JRPG of the kind I know and love.

With Ikkin's e-mail however I thought, 'what the heck, I actually own a PS4 now (I had bought one to play FF7 Remake) what's to lose?', so I bought a copy of Royale edition and got stuck in. 

How did I find the game? In terms of the battle mechanics.... well, I was still disappointed, I really don't rate the battle system, there's too much button mashing, the magic crafting system is too cumbersome, there is too little control over the other party members to really get strategic, there are an incredible number of armour/ accessories to find and equip but only 2 slots to fill, and at the end the basic game is easily bested by just buying 100 of all curatives and eating a good meal beforehand.

In terms of more general gameplay, much more positive, I thought it was a huge improvement on the linearity of 13, the game was linear (as all rpgs with a fixed ending have to be) but it magically got the sweet spot of not feeling that way with tonnes of diversions along the way. The semi-open world was implemented even better than we see in the more recent FF7 remake, and the use of the car won me over to the idea of not having a world map, when previously I was attached to the old style of a big character walking over the zoomed out world. 

There is so much extra content in 15, SO MANY SIDEQUESTS. To begin with I thought this was a drawback, but over time I can appreciate that it just needs to be respected as 'optional' and 'not necessary' but there if you want a distraction for a while. Probably I lamented the fact that only some sidequests gave any meaningful character development, but when there are hundreds and hundreds of quests you can hardly expect this from developers.

Anyway, I've said enough on gamer stuff, these reviews are meant to be about deeper things, whether the game is a preparation for the Gospel, whether it can be said to support a Catholic worldview in terms of character, morality and theodicy. Do I find here a game that surpasses FFIV in terms of pro-Christian sentiment, or even Trigger, or Setsuna, games I have previously ranked highly under these items of analysis...?

Character and identity

A game based on sound philosophy ought to have a clear presentation of free will and it should make it clear that it is by the good and bad uses of free will that characters become good or evil. Furthermore, there should be at least some understanding of vocation, that characters are created with a calling, a telos, an end point, something they are designed for and which in some way reflects a virtue of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

In many ways FFXV shines in this area, especially when we look at the 'Chocobros' the main party members of the game, honestly, the game really shines here, the 3 supporting characters know that they have a vocation to assist Noctis, the true king, to fulfil his unique calling of firstly, recovering his throne and saving the kingdom, and then, as they grow in realisation of the true nature of the king's vocation, of assisting him to the very end in coming to be able to offer a sacrifice of his life in order to destroy the starscourge, to end the reign of darkness, the infiltration of demons in the world, and enable life and hope to be restored to Eos, the mythical world of this game.

Each of the 3 supporting characters does this in a different way, but each was absolute determination, each willing to sacrifice his life for the sake of Noctis, the true king, each knowing that his own meaning derives from this vocation being fulfilled and in no other way. The same can be said of Luna, the main female character, perhaps here to an even higher degree, of King Regis and virtually every supporting character on the side of good.

Noctis himself has been crafted masterly, we are again talking about a character who truly develops and grows into his vocation, in some ways like Cecil of FFIV, we see in Noctis some initial defiance and reluctance towards his kingly vocation but by the culmination of the 'canonical ending' of the game we find a grown man willing and able to accept the cost of kingship, of leadership, of being the self sacrificing saviour of Eos.

The FFXV main 4 characters are fleshed out, however, it must be said, this fleshing out comes at a price, to really understand each of their unique motivations, and the depth of their determination towards the telos they have received you have to spend a good number of hours both watching the anime, paying attention to various side quests off the main storyline and also purchasing their respective DLCs. Episode Ignis above all is a must purchase to get a grasp on 'specs' and truly appreciate what a true Christian knight he is. So one could argue here that FFIV or Chrono Trigger does a similar amount... with far less investment, but then, let's not forget the 16bit RPG characters leave much to the imagination, for good or ill, that's how it had to be. In the current generation there is a capacity to develop realistic fully fleshed individuals and so, I think almost necessarily, there is going to have to be more material on them and more investment needed to grasp it.


What isn't so great in terms of character and vocation and the use of free will to shape good or evil traits....? I think some of the stuff relating to the starscourge..... although if you hunt through lore you can come to the opinion that the scourge isn't inflicted by the gods, but is in itself a kind of natural evil, like a disease, but it is a disease that, if received, turns you into, according to the English translation "a deamon".... that's kind of problematic in the ordinary use of the word, as a demon usually means an evil being whereas the victims of the scourge to me, ought to be more correctly called zombies. But then there is Ardyn, a guy inflicted with the scourge, someone who has indeed sucked it up to a diabolical level, and yet he hasn't ended up as a zombie like all the others with the scourge, instead he is meant to be the main bad guy.... but given the fact that he is only 'evil' insofar as he has been poisoned, does that mean all his subsequent actions ought not to be truly ascribed to him as wicked acts, but sick acts of a man poisoned by the starscourge? There is some confusion here, and it is hard to discern from the in game lore exactly how culpable we can take Ardyn to be, whilst at the time time being told by the game that we ought to dislike him and see him as the main antagonist. I do dislike him and can see him as one of the most evil FF enemies ever formulated, but much of the fan community has taken Ardyn to be 'the true hero' of FFXV this is problematic and I will return to this later.  For now I will add there is something in the fact that Ardyn, once he has sucked up the scourge, he doesn't transform into a zombie, like we see with Ravus, rather it seems like Ardyn's evil will enables him to control the scourge and have dominion over it, a bit like sephiroth in 7 seems to have a malicious will so powerful that he can manipulate Jenova. Ardyn is evil, not just sick, he has become a monster through free will, he is not merely poisoned by the scourge, he is deliberately drunk with it.

Overall the presentation of character development and moral formation is good in FFXV the main characters are not all saints, there is some level of impurity in their mindset, but we don't actually see or hear of any of them in relations before marriage, they are focused on their mission. Noctis dies a virgin, as does Luna, and this for the game is just a matter of fact because sexual acts are not the greatest fulfilment in a life, they have a given purpose and a context and Noctis and Luna both realise that their calling has required this sacrifice of them. Neither of them becomes distracted by their passions but both overcome human inclinations to achieve greater good, indeed, the salvation of the world. Indeed, both Luna and Noctis accept the arranged marriage as a means to greater good, namely, peace, in spite of reservations from both of them. The game is a calling upwards to higher selfless motivations that each of us ought to replicate in our own lives. 






Episode Ardyn and the gods


I said earlier that the reception of the character Ardyn has been problematic, for a vocal group of fans on YouTube has come to the conclusion that Ardyn is the true hero of FFXV. If this is the case it radically damages the Catholicity of 15. In many ways this is THE issue on which the Catholicity of 15 stands or falls. According to this rival theory, which unfortunately has become an official rival theory through Ardyn's DLC and the Dawn of the Future Novel, the gods and above all Bahumut are the evil force in 15. They are the ones who are responsible for frustrating Ardyn's initial peaceful plan to heal the scourge in favour of the violent one of his brother, they are the ones who had Ardyn tortured, they are the ones who then arbitrarily declared that the blood of the chosen king would be needed to end the scourge- so many lives lost all due to the gods and as a response to this Ardyn decides- I will continue to suck the scourge up, so much so that I will become more powerful than the gods I will destroy the gods who have intervened too much in the world of Eos, and I will destroy the kings of Lucis in revenge for the evils they did to me. 

I personally don't think the 'non canonical ending' sits well with the entirety of the narrative, and I think furthermore it ignores and excuses the free will Ardyn had at every step of the way..... he is not the hard done by anti-hero, rather he ought to have realised the scourge was changing him into a monster, he ought to have stopped sucking it up. He ought to have realised that this plan was not going to work and that his brother's violent one (alongside the longer term ability of the oracle to genuinely heal others) was the only way to avoid even greater tragedy, namely what came to pass in and through him- the death of most people on Eos and the plunging of the world into demon infested darkness.

And the gods? 

This is a clincher, the rival interpretation wants us to see the gods like the demi-gods of FFXIII, giving arbitrary vocations to characters and forcing them to do their bidding regardless of their free will and their flourishing. But the point is, they don't need to be seen that way and the game doesn't really want them to be seen that way. The Astrals or gods, are clearly the guardians of Eos they are not out for themselves but beings there to enable the continued operation of the world-  electricity, transportation, safety from meteors falling.... 

And finally, the gods themselves don't seem to have control over the plan for the chosen king to stop the scourge, it seems to be something they have received.... in one of the lines of ingame lore we find "the gods await the coming of the chosen king", it isn't the gods making it all up, they seem to be better understood as angelic protector beings or embodiment of nature forces rather than a pantheon of deities, they want the good of humanity and they have discovered that this involves ending the scourge, that the scourge can't be sucked up a la Ardyn but rather the sacrifice of the life of the chosen king is for some reason capable of ending it. they do not know why, they just know it, and it works, light does return to the world and the darkness ends.

If you are willing to embrace the canonical lore of the game, and ignore the fanbase with its warped view of Ardyn and its cult of existential freedom then FFXV scores very high here.



Reality of Objective Moral laws.
Are the actions of characters that are wrong depicted as breaking some moral law, of pricking the conscience, or of harming themselves in some way?

Certainly the game shows Ardyn's actions as diabolically opposed to some kind of moral law, his murder of Luna, his takeover of Insomnia, his spreading of the endless night across EOS. We are meant to feel repulsed by him as the game continues through to its final chapters.

What about more generally... the weird thing is, its hard to think of too many delicts committed by any other character....the main characters have a few ups and downs in their relationships but I can't really recall a strong clash with basic Christian morality. One moment of relativism is a small amount of normalisation of pornography, I think one scene shows Gladio with an impure magazine and in another the main characters joke that a young boy, who seems to me about 12, would be hiding pornography in his 'secret cupboard' but that would be a normal and unobjectionable thing. So there are some problems in the area of purity. Although it cannot be said that the characters are depicted as being linked to impure relationships outside of marriage, they don't seem to be strongly acknowledging the importance of chastity... it's almost a chastity by necessity of their calling to guard the king (or be the king). But what can be said with some confidence is that all 4 characters end the game as virgins and I think this is great, the game's presentation shows that there are causes that require heroic self sacrifice, and that if you are purusing one of these causes then it is just obvious that a romantic or sexual relationship with someone else is going to be an unnecessary and unhelpful distraction. Furthermore the game's presentation of continence is positive, the 4 characters enjoy life, they enjoy friendship, they get so much from their relationships and from pursuing their goal that in all honesty women are not a major thought to them aside from the odd joke. Christ tells us that celibacy is higher than marriage and I think this game gives a very practical presentation of why that is. Even the marriage between Noctis and Luna is one that is founded on a bigger project- peace between nations, and the oracle's desire to help the king fulfil his mission in whatever way is necessary. The fact they do not have a gushing romantic relationship is not a disaster in the plot line! That is obvious to anyone who understands the nobility of a higher vocation and of following duty out of self sacrifice. Too many trolls online don't get this because they are trapped in the hedonism of a culture that worships the orgasm and thinks the highest form of love is sentimentalism. FFXV is an antidote to this mindset if you are able to take it.


Interior Struggle to pursue the good.
Definitely. Above all in Noctis coming to terms with his role of self sacrifice. We see it in Luna approaching her death without flinching. We see it in the DLC of Episode Ignis in the character of Ravus, and indeed, of Ignis, although in Ignis case there is little struggle, he is a man so trained in virtue that he follows the good at great damage to his own self without hesitation. It's really then in Noctis that we see the struggle to pursue a vocation, he has a couple of tantrums but eventually, with the help of his bros and with 10 years of silent meditation he is able to embrace what is called of him and to do so to the very end.

Divine Providence working through free will.
So there is definitely something of fate in FFXV, it seems to me that the promised King is an objective prophetic reality that neither men nor gods have control over but that it is a certainty that they both anticipate and long for. The King is meant to end the scourge, but that doesn't mean he can sit back and relax, no providence is achieved through free will and through heroic acts of free will- by Luna, by Regis, by Gladio, by Ignis and above all Noctis. 


Self Sacrifice for others
Here again is where the game shines again and again and again. The 3 supporting members of the brotherhood essentially live for Noct, in fact they are waaay better and reliable and faithful than Yuna's gang on her journey as summoner, Regis made great choices. They are completely dedicated to protect and defend Noct, they have reverence towards him and know that the whole world rests on him, or certainly at least their kingdom... and then as the game progresses, the whole world. Luna gives up her life to ensure that Noctis gets the ring that he needs to fulfil his calling and to ensure the support of the gods. Then, of course Noctis himself who comes to terms with and embraces the full consequences of what it means to be the true king- I think one of the characters says "Many were willing to give their lives for the sake of the king, now the king is called to give his life for the sake of the many." Again and again as a priest, a Catholic priest in the one true religion that Our Lord and Saviour founded, I am struck by aspects of Noct's calling and sacrifice. I realise in my own vocation the many people who gave so much to enable me to receive the sacred character of the priesthood, and I see in return that my life has to be spent in return, I have to welcome the fact that my life must be a sacrifice, "Welcome indeed is the heritage that falls to me".



Basic Christian Theodicy- Monotheism, Goodness of creation, understanding of eternal reward/punishment based on moral behaviour.
I think this could be an area where the game falls short a little. First of all there is polytheism. It could be that he 'gods' of this game are more like planetary defenders, angelic beings rather than divinities to be worshiped. All the same there is a tension, on a few occasions prayers are offered to these divinities, and they are referred to as 'divine' beings. It does seem as if perhaps Noct has found himself in a similar place to Aeneas in Virgi's Aeneid where the different deities have competing influences on his life and vocation and yet, just as with Aeneas, there is a 'fate' which even the gods are powerless against. Aeneas will found Rome, it is written, Jupiter sees it as a reality in the distance and informs Juno of this, much to her displeasure. Likewise the 'gods' of FFXV are not all powerful and there is clearly a force above them. I would like to think this is a true creator Who even created these lesser beings to rule and govern Eos for him, but maybe I am just reading too much into a mythology which unfortunately for all the DLC is not fully fleshed out. There are still many holes in the role of these divinities, their relationship to Eos, the crystal, the starscourge, fate, the promised king.... a Catholic can certainly put a monotheistic spin on it but I don't think it could be argued as canon. 


Additionally, if the game HAS to be taken as polytheistic I think I would point to a second problem.... it isn't polytheistic enough.... what I mean is the people of Eos do not seem to have any religious sense.... there are a few hints of exceptions, we hear  of a prayer vigil at the death of Luna, Ignis tells Noctis to make a prayer of thanksgiving after a victory, a few NPCs says 'may the stars protect you' or 'God speed'.... but for all the very real and evident role of the gods in the life of Eos the people seem particularly ungrateful! There are no temples, there are no festivities in honour of Titan who holds the meteor back, no rites of thanksgiving for the electricity that comes as a result of this meteor, no efforts to placate the angry Leviathan, no prayers in honour of Shiva who there cosomogony sees as the friend of mankind. This is problematic, it is the first precept of the natural law to worship God or gods as they are understood, and we ought to see this in any game that is giving us the building blocks of a Catholic worldview. 


When it comes to the 'goodness of creation' I think the game keeps this intact. The star scourge is clearly a defect ad extra, not part of the original plan and the aim is to restore creation to its original beauty, the final scene of the landscape of Eos seems to portray this well.

In terms of eternal reward of punishment..... again some problems here unfortunately. It isn't as bad as FFX where we have all the bad guys in heaven along with Tidus (who morally speaking was in mortal sin at the moment of his death also), but instead we have a kind of fuzzy reality. The end game shows a 'beyond'- Ardyn says to Noct, 'I will see you in the beyond' and to me it looks like they both go into eternity, they both die humanly speaking and then we have the final showdown between Noct and Ardyn in an eternal realm. Ardyn seems to be offered the opportunity to be purged from the scourge..... wow! An offer that shows the magnanimity of Noctis, he will allow even this fiend to be purged and to have life for the price of his own. Ardyn doesn't take it and so gets annihilated with the scourge, with the ring and.... according to my reading, with Noctis..... they all seem to fade into nothingness whilst in the eternal realm. That's how I read it, and that is disappointing, there should, there must, according to the very laws of the universe which we all feel and breath, and even our pagan ancestor's realised, there ought to be a blissful continuation for Noctis and an eternal punishment for Ardyn. the final scene of the wedding.... does this demonstrate this... maybe..... or maybe it is the last thought that is in Noct's mind as he is annihilated. I think as Catholics we can choose to say, 'yes he made it, he lives on and is happy with Luna', but how that is possible after he has just been annihilated seems tricky to me. 

Additional to the Noct/Ardyn showdown, there does seem to be some eternal continual existence of Luna and King Regis and the other kings, so there is some sense of eternal life. But it is clearly confused because the kings who enjoy eternal life and not saintly, so it is weird, very weird. So there is some confusion in the treating of eternity, reward and punishment and the place of the gods in FFXV. 



Conclusion

Ok, I began this game sceptical, unsure that it would live up to the hype with which it had been recommended to me. I was fortunate to play the game at completion, the Royal Edition, with all the DLC available at their appropriate points in the story. Many early players of the game were not so fortunate and I can't really share in that frustration, for me, story-wise, the game was coherent enough and felt polished, those who played the game at launch didn't all get this and only 5 years later were they in my position. 

What an adventure the game has been! Rarely as an adult do you play a game where you think, "wow, this has impacted me and will stay with me for a long time", and I have to say, I feel that about FFXV. With my whole heart I wish the battle system was better, this stops the game from being as great as it deserves to be in terms of gameplay and strategy and all the things that are so important to a good JRPG. 

The challenge is to realise the kind of game FFXV is meant to be. There are 2 key themes of the game 1) It is meant to be a story about struggle in pursuing your vocation and accepting what is demanded of you, even great acts of self sacrifice
2) It is meant to be a story of brotherhood, of friends supporting each other, of over-coming selfishness in the pursuit of the a shared mission which again, is given to them, not self created.

In both aspects there is an essence of 'accepting courageously your given vocation' and 'fulfilment through accomplishment of duty', any game or any story which purports to have a Catholic worldview will have these elements. Most FF games fail dreadfully in this way, they are all about escaping your vocation, disobeying the gods, killing the gods, and a bad of friends which really have no shared mission at all aside from what they have individually chosen.

FFXV is a great game from a Catholic perspective. But it isn't perfect for sure, there are issues with the episode Ardyn cult and then there are some issues with the Natural Theology of the game. Overall though, it presents a surprisingly uplifting and counter cultural narrative to so much that is on offer there. No homosexual perversion, much less fanservice than so many JRPGs, a worldview that values the essential rather than the existential- Aristotle rather than Nietzsche. I am grateful that I was introduced to this game and I hope to share some Catholic insights that I have drawn from it over the next months. 

May Almighty God, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin and St. Michael the Archangel, bless you, having persevered through this length analysis. I hope to hear comments in the box and by email.



Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Great analysis video of FF4

I really enjoyed watching Mr Gentleman's New Video on Final Fantasy IV, it stands at about 90 mins in length but is very worth watching, the author points out a lot of Christian elements in the game, many of which I averted to in my review of the game.

What I really like is his deep analysis of Cecil's character- how he points out that his relationship with Rosa cannot solve all his problems while he is piled up in sin and evil, something that a lot of modern media ignores- suggesting that if you add romance to your life all your problems go, FFIV shows the truth of the genuine human condition.

Also clever was his discovery that the 4 fiends are the names of demons in Dante's Inferno.

he does an amazing job dissecting the game, well worth watching.


Monday, July 6, 2020

Final Fantasy XV- THE Catholic FF?

I recently came across a Youtube Channel by Ikkin which has some awesome videos on the how FFXV can be seen as supporting the Catholic Faith.

I really love her videos because she offers a sophisticated analysis of the game in the same way that I attempt to do through the reviews in this blog.

If you have played FFXV or if you don't mind massive spoilers, check out her videos, she has a 3 part series on FFXV.

I hadn't even touched FFXV prior to Ikkin's reviews, but now I am getting engrossed in it so hope do to some more posts on this game once I have completed it.

I love how in her first video on FFXV she makes a general analysis on how so many FFs are anti Catholic in story pointing out the 2 worst culprits FFX and Tactics, she does it in a really amusing style that is brutally true. As I said, watch the whole thing if you don't mind spoilers:



Sunday, May 24, 2020

Drugs, alcohol, women, impurity, crime.... and video games?



I've noticed on a few conversion stories and also some sermons that I have watched recently that there it's becoming more and more usual for 'gaming' to be grouped in with all the 'pre-conversion' vices.

Priests, preachers, converts, this isn't fair!

Imagine a conversion testimony or a powerful sermon which condemned "Drugs, alcohol, women, impurity, crime and ... books"

Everyone would think, "you what?" 

Sure there are trashy books out there, basically pornographic literature, seedy novels with racy titles and a women (or man) with very little clothing on the front of it.... 

But that doesn't mean "books" as a medium, as a type of entertainment, are a pre-conversion vice.

Maybe you could say someone addicted to gambling video games, sure, a pre-conversion vice.... maybe someone who played video games 8 hours every day and did nothing else, a pre-conversion vice...... maybe someone who deliberately played games with impurity and outrageous and gratuitous violence in them, games that probably account for about 5% of all those in the top 100 sales of last year in video games, maybe that would be a pre-conversion vice.

But gaming as a whole.... no way, its not a pre-conversion vice, its simply a form of 'play', of healthy distraction, just like reading or nature watching or watching a sports game, or playing snooker.....

So be careful, more specific if you want to list gaming as your pre-conversion vice.... playing Tetris on the bus to work is hardly confession matter.