the artistry and psychology of gaming


World of Ruin (Final Fantasy 6)

World of Ruin (Final Fantasy 6)

I once visited a world both before and after an absolute catastrophe.  During my first visit, the world was undergoing a tumultuous rebellion.  A large empire had neglected their history lessons, and were on the verge of reviving an ancient force that had caused a great war previously, and thus had been sealed away.  The world was on the depressing side, visually; it reminded me a lot of the mountains near where I grew up.  Most would call it pretty, but I’d call it dull and lifeless; a portent of a dying planet.  As it turned out, I had no idea…

Upon my return, I was horrified to find that the empire had not only found that force, but also that a rogue agent had intentionally abused it to completely rearrange the landscape.  Entire mountains were torn asunder and sank into the ocean in the chaos that ensued.  Needless to say, many towns were destroyed and many people died.  Those who survived – particularly those in rural areas – had a rough time continuing to do so; not only were food and supplies scarce, but this cataclysm had also released horrific demons, who now roamed the world.  Even the skies were no longer safe, as now a massive flying demon, capable of ending someone’s life merely by looking at them, terrorized the clouds; he was difficult to track, as a permanent layer of detritus floated in the sky, much like after a large meteor hits a planet.  After something like this, there was no going back, but the landscape had transformed into something that was oddly beautiful, as horrible as I felt to feel that way amidst such destruction.

The landscape was now quite different in many ways, but the most notable was that it was bathed in perpetual sunset – a perfect metaphor for a dying world – since the debris in the air tainted the sunlight.  The artificial sunset cast its glow on the land, but it was the oceans that made the landscape glorious.  At first glance, they appear to be almost purple in color, but upon closer inspection, one notices that it reflects the dull, indescribable color of the sky, but has little flecks of amber and red sparkling within it.  Grass became a lot less common, replaced by wastelands choked out by detritus, and while it isn’t inherently pretty, it has a sort of allure to it, stemming from how much it is out of the ordinary.  It is all quite unlike anything I’d seen before, and once the horror and deep sadness I’d first felt had faded into numbness, I was able to appreciate it aesthetically.

I set out to explore the world, despite its newfound dangers.  I wandered the wastelands – endless stretches of dirt, rocks, and dead trees – as though they were some sort of grimy desert.  Their big, open skies gave me a chance to stare upward and ponder how long it would take for the air to clear as I traveled.  I traveled through actual deserts – their sand dunes giving a faint golden hue to the distant horizon – taking care to tighten my clothing in order to keep out the sand.  I wondered if the duration of the filtered sunlight would cause these to spread due to the dearth of sustainable vegetation.  I crawled through deep forests – perhaps the most special of all, due to their amber color from the shaded sunlight – leaves crunching beneath my shoes as I walked.  I marveled at how such dense woodlands could still exist after such events had transpired.  This withered landscape was the first I’d ever seen destroyed, at least to this extent, and really put me into a pensive mood; I’d decided to visit places I’d known before the world’s transformation, to see how they had changed.

Figaro Castle was just fine; the kingdom had likely submerged when disaster struck, in order to avoid the worst of it.  Doma Castle – now on an island by itself – had faired relatively well, though its inhabitants had been fatally poisoned long before the world had ended, so it was still empty.  However, with the imperial soldiers gone, I was able to roam its halls, and couldn’t help this haunting feeling that someone was watching me.  Narshe was now completely entrenched by mountains; many of its inhabitants had died in the avalanche, and wild beasts now roamed its streets.  There were a few new buildings that had been erected as well.  There was a coliseum to the north of Kohlingen, where people would wager rare items and battle powerful monsters for better ones.  There were also two towers that had been built.  The first was surrounded entirely by mountains, and was devoted to the loyal followers of Kefka, the man who had caused this destruction.  Whether they worshipped him out of admiration or fear was anyone’s guess, but there was a weird atmosphere there that gave me a headache and made me unable to focus, so I left quickly.  The other tower could not be entered from the bottom because it was constructed from pieces of the imperial ruins.  Chunks of buildings and factories could be seen sticking out from its walls, and Kefka himself stood at its zenith, raining destruction when someone angered him, or merely when he became bored, which didn’t take much.

This poisoned landscape was long etched into my mind; it made me grow up a lot faster than I ordinarily might have.  I’d realized later that this wasn’t just a temporary stop on the road to a happy ending; this world had been changed forever.  The skies might clear, and the vegetation might grow back some day, but that planet’s inhabitants would have to live with certain features in this new world forever.  While it left quite a visual impression upon me, what really stuck with me was the attitude in the hearts and minds of the people.  Instead of eternally mourning the loss of the world that they had known, they shifted their focuses to survival and making the best of what had to be the worst situation I had ever known.  It then hit me: positive and negative are just words that we attach to different aspects of our life; positive wasn’t something that had to insatiably pursued, and negative wasn’t something that had to be eternally escaped.  Life is just life, and the more we remove ourselves from the concept of chasing pleasure, and the more we steadfastly endure our suffering, the more we are able to get a clear perspective, and realize what really matters most in life.

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