Video Game Feels

So, it’s time for a fun post. Taking a break from the pain, outrage, and all that. I’m going to unpack some feelings I’ve got about a character from a video game. No, not those kinds of feelings. See, a while back, there was a Twitter list-meme floating around that asked for specific opinions from a list of thirty numbered items. Early in the list, one of the entries was something to the effect of ‘A character from a video game that you idenitify with, or wish you were more like’. My mind flipped through a variety of options before landing on a characater from my favorite game of all time — Squaresoft’s 1995 RPG, Chrono Trigger.

Specifically, I chose princess Nadia of Guardia, perhaps better known as Marle — the fake name she presents to hide her royal heritage from the game’s primary protagonist, Crono. She’s one of only two playable characters in Chrono Trigger who uses a false name as a means of deception; the other is the wizard Janus, who’s framed as a villain under the moniker Magus. There’s probably some symbolic takeaway in the deception about her true identity when she first enters the story, but while it’s probably a piece of it, there’s a lot of other factors that go into it.

First and foremost, there’s Nadia’s role in the party. While she’s not a particularly skilled combatant, she’s far and away the best healer in the group. It might sound chesesy, but that’s basically the role I’ve always seen myself in. It manifests very differently, of course, since I don’t have the benefit of magic bestowed by some strange-looking creature that exists in the space outside of time. Maybe someday. Until then, I’m doing what I can here in the real world by supporting my friends, offering an ear to vent to, and doing my best to ensure that the ones closest to me are as healthy and happy as I can make them. Maybe it’s a stretch of an analogy, but it’s still a piece of how I’ve long seen myself as the result of whatever lenses it is I view that through.

I also feel there’s plenty within Nadia’s story that’s worth examining. She’s a princess in a video game, but — even back in 1995 — she breaks many of the established rules and expectations that typically carries. Now, it’s not as if she never needs saving — but who doesn’t? Moreover, the one time she needs to be “rescued” isn’t about her being overpowered by a villain or otherwise caputred. Rather, Nadia simply ceases existing when the time travel goes a little sideways and her ancestor is in peril. Once the timeline is patched up, though, she returns with a great and fierce personality that not only keeps her interesting, but drives the story of the game.

When the crew who saved her ancestor, Queen Leene, return to their own time period, Crono is arrested for kidnapping and sent to prison. He escapes soon enough, and finds himself fleeing from the castle pursued by guards. Nadia enters the scene, attempting to call off the pursuit. Obidient to her royal authority, the guards stop and kneel; that’s when Nadia’s father enters and rescinds her order. She pleads briefly, but he doesn’t budge. Nadia, without hesitation, throws her fancy dress to the ground — her preferred jumpsuit already on underneath — and tells her father, the king, that a title doesn’t mean she’s not also human, and that she refuses to accept the so-called societal norm and behave a “proper” princess. As they flee together, the party soon finds themselves in the distant future.

Nadia’s next important piece comes after the party has just learned of the end of the civilized world. As Crono and his scientifically-minded friend Lucca stare in stunned silence, Nadia immediately reacts to the footage of their world being scorched and nearly all life destroyed. She collapses to the ground briefly, then stands up and begins yelling in defiance and demanding that the others step up with her and prevent the disaster by using their newfound ability to travel through time. Insisting there must be something that they can do stop the coming apocalypse, she essentially creates the game’s central story.

It’s all of these things, really, that come together to create this character, and to create the connection that I’ve managed to form. You’ve got a strong-willed healer who rejects society’s rules, stands up to the leader of her country (who, again, is also her father) and plays a vital role in Chrono Trigger‘s story. She’s a pivotal and important piece of the entire game, and offers a set of skills that easily support any other two party members and can turn the tide in the toughest battles. She’s unafraid to be who she is, whatever other costs that may bring — and, in the end, may even reconcile with her father in an optional side story that brings her back to the castle, and ends with both of them learning to accept each other more completely.

Maybe it’s silly to have a connection with a video game character, but I don’t really care. Games, like books or films or many other things, are designed to do a lot of things beyond just entertaining us. These worlds, when well crafted, are meant to make us feel things. Rage, sadness, happiness, a full range of emotion can be constructed from a story done right. Yes, it’s important to maintain a fantasy/reality separation, but there’s aboslutely no way you’ll convince me that emotions matter less, or are less important, just because they’re influenced by fiction. That’s nonsense, and these experiences still shape the people that we are the same as any other emotional event.

I guess what I’m really saying here is that, even though it was some dumb throw-away meme from social media, I’ve ended up thinking a whole lot about this. I think that says enough about the subject as is, but I really wanted to use this space to just sort of chronicle my mental journey. I started this blog as a place for me to just dump whatever things were stirring up my brain at the moment; lately, that’s been a lot harder since there’s just so much. But I can still use writing as a way to slow myself down, focus in on one thing, and unload a bit of the burden. Like I said, I like to think of myself as a healer, but I’ve been doing this long enough that I know you can’t take care of anyone if you’re not tending to yourself as well.

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