the artistry and psychology of gaming


Cleyra (Final Fantasy 9)

Cleyra (Final Fantasy 9)

There is a great deal of intrigue surrounding a world called Gaia. While it is a common name for planets, it has multiple parallel realities happening simultaneously. While some realities are similar, many are wildly different. Some are in the Iron Age, while others have reached much higher levels of technology than even our own world. Some rely on the power of steam, some on magic, and some suck the very life force out of the planet. There are even those that use remnants of fallen high-technology civilizations in conjunction with lower technology. One thing they all share, though, is the widespread use of both magic and large medieval weaponry.

The particular instance of which I would like to tell you today is a reality in which Gaia is covered in a substance known only as mist.  The residents of the planet know not the true nature of the mist, but it is harmful to one’s health and can cause freakish mutations in all living things.  I traveled through the thick of it – through swamps, forests, and caverns – and found myself in a low-lying coastal area.  Tucked into the mountains was a small kingdom known as Burmecia, where it never stops raining.  It was a beautiful place, but nothing could match the beauty of the nearby kingdom of Cleyra.  I’d almost decided not to enter, because it is surrounded by a massive perpetual sandstorm, but the winds had slowed a bit, so I began my approach.

The ground nearby was dirty; covered in sand, causing it to be a very dull color.  The trees nearby had been stripped of their leaves, and a giant skull marked the entrance.  I headed through the skull and along a walkway elevated above the roots of a massive tree.  Closer to the tree, there was not as much sand in the air, so colors were starting to become visible, making a lovely gradient in the ripples of the sand beneath me.  I made it to the trunk, pulling a lever to open the round door, and headed inside.  Within the tree, sand was everywhere; it was like a beach inside of a cave, with its rocks and stalagmites littered all about.  Light poured in at certain spots, creating a gorgeous cavern, and I headed onward, making my way to the top.

Not far in, I found a small tree inside of the tree; it had green leaves and a sign that I could not understand.  Sand cascaded in at certain spots and formed vortices on the floor at others.  I headed through an opening, which took me outside; out here, I could see the rust-colored sandstorm swirling about like a swiftly-moving late-Autumn sky.  The tree’s gnarled trunk gave me many places to climb, and so I made my way up to the next opening.  I eventually came to a rope bridge above a deep chasm; I crossed, marveling at the diversity this area, considering that it was the inside of a tree.

As I rounded a corner, I looked at the wall; it almost seemed as if patterns had been carved into it by an ancient civilization.  Shaking off the notion, I continued, noting that I was in what seemed to be a balcony of sorts.  I continued to walk and climb, eventually reaching a very unnatural-looking staircase; yet another sign of an impossible civilization.  This impossibility became a possibility not long afterwards, though, when I entered a small village at the top of the tree.  It was one of the most gorgeous things I’d ever seen, and easily the coziest village I’d ever discovered.

These Cleyrans lived in perfect harmony with nature, utilizing its powerful forces to create their society.  The sandstorm itself protected them from outsiders, and provided wind for them to generate power.  Another power source was a natural body of water, which was also for drinking, and had some lovely red mushrooms nearby.  Their structures were part of the tree itself, using the roots and cavities to form buildings and archways.  Their craftsmanship was as efficient as it was beautiful; their windmills had blades that resembled the wings of butterflies, and their gazeebos were all just a roof over a tangle of roots.  My favorite gazeebo is the one at the end of a branch, which extended out near the sandstorm.

At the tree’s very zenith, there were trees that bore dark red fruit just outside of the temple.  The temple itself was iridescent blue and purple with gold trim; I’d wondered just how they were able to find the materials to build such a thing.  It also stood higher than the top of the sandstorm, creating a lovely backdrop for its majestic structure.  Inside were windows of blue and cyan glass in ornate patterns not unlike four-leafed clovers.  Despite this, the light shining through them was the same color as it had been outside; somehow the glass’s color did not affect what came through it.  I’d decided to stay here a few days, and after that, I struck out for new adventures in the world of Gaia.

The idea of a civilization living in perfect harmony with nature is a fascinating one.  In our own society, such a thing is nearly inconceivable, because we are so far removed from the natural world.  It takes a great deal of ingenuity to work with nature, rather than just starting from scratch, and building everything exactly as you need it.  It’s an honest life; learning to live with the land in this way keeps your mind sharp and your awareness of its life at the forefront of your mind.  While you may never get the chance to live in such a place, if you get the opportunity to see one, spend some time there, getting a feel for the life that its inhabitants live, because you may learn a lot more than you would expect.

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