Final Fantasy X is a videogame for the Playstation 2 that I was somewhat obsessed with as a kid. The copy I played on was my friend Lakita’s, her sharing it with me after she played it. Between the two of us, that game probably had over 400 hours on it (I played it twice, the second time for 100% completion). The game, a Japanese Role Playing Game, has a crazy plot that I’ll do my best to explain.
You play Tidus, an athlete with serious daddy issues due to the fact that his father, also an athlete and an alcoholic, seemingly abandons his family to never return. During one of the biggest games of your career, a monster attacks the technologically advanced metropolis you call home. One of your father’s friends, Auron, arrives just in time to defend you, but also to lead you to an inevitable conclusion – your consumption by the monster and your arrival to another world.
In this world, the same monster, Sin, is on the rampage, and he returns like an angry swarm of cicadas every ten years. In this world, your former home, Zanarkand, is known by all as the reason for the monster’s appearance, a punishment for an over-reliance on technology. In this world, technology and all those who use it are damned and damning the world for it, whereas a rejection of technology is upheld as the right thing to do by followers of the religion of Yu Yevon. As it has been for six hundred years, this process of destruction, death, and resurrection has created a society split in half by people who find technology use abhorrent, and others who see no fault in it, and this is where my regret begins.
The Crusaders, warriors of Yevon who refuse to use technology, and the ethnic group of the Al Bhed who use technology and are discriminated against because of it, come together suddenly in a sign of goodwill. Even though the Crusaders are excommunicated from Yevon for this decision, they are not alone, as church leaders assist in the effort as well. Sin is heading for another city, and both groups come together to defend the city from destruction. You and your party encounter this miraculous sight, and stay around to help out. It seems as if everyone has truly made amends for a cause greater than themselves. Here you meet Luzzu and Gatta.
Luzzu and Gatta are friends and Crusaders, but of very different ranks. Luzzu, higher ranking and a mentor to Gatta, is stationed at the frontlines of battle. Taking his role seriously, Luzzu tells his friend to stay back and remain in the role of preparation and communication between the lines. So when you encounter Gatta, he is frustrated and full of angst. He wants to prove his inexperience isn’t a hindrance, he wants to be a hero.
Your character’s own mentor, Auron, tells Gatta, “If you want to prove yourself, first you must complete the tasks you are given.”
At the time I played this game, I was young and angsty too. I related to how Gatta felt – stifled, put upon, and down. When you’re young, everyone tells you what you should be doing, and what to do. This lack of agency is necessary, people want the best for you and working your way up to something is the best way to learn. You’re aware of this when you’re young, and while initially I wanted to encourage Gatta to follow orders, I started to consider that maybe, Gatta could be a hero. Maybe him being on the frontlines would be that oh so special tipping point the battle needed. Maybe he could make something o himself. So when Gatta asks for your opinion, “What do you think I should do?” I told him, “Yeah, you should be out on the front lines.”
Gatta agrees with you, and immediately makes a run for the battlefield. You meet up with your party when you are ready, and then the battle begins.
Sin opens up with an incinerating shot that completely destroys the front lines in an instant. Entire lives, stories, and histories erased in a second. The first line of defense destroyed, Sin releases monsters to attack and kill those who remain. At that moment, 11 year-old me remembered the young man I sent to his death.
In the aftermath of the fight, your character awakes on the shore. Groggy from the impact of the explosions and subsequent destruction, you slowly search the coast for other survivors. You approach bodies and inspect them,
“Slightly warm, but no sign of breathing.”
“Staring at the sky, lifeless.“
“Instant, painless death.“
In the corner of your eye, however, you see him. Gatta, sitting on the ground with his back to the wall. You anticipate the worst, but hoping for the best, you reach out to him, “Gatta?”
He falls over with a heavy thud, lifeless. Dead.
And for what? Immediately, my mind was full of questions. Had I even considered his death a possibility? Why, out of all the fights against this monster was I so sure it would work this time? Why did I believe that this was different? Was it hope or wishful thinking?
And on top of all these thoughts, I thought again about the choice I made and why. In telling Gatta that he should go against orders and to his death, I had been trying to prove something to myself. I wanted someone to buck the system, I wanted him to win for us. I wanted me to win for us. I wanted youth to prevail. But it didn’t. I let my own pride get in the way. And now Gatta was dead.
In the aftermath of the battle, you find Luzzu trying his best to carry on. He doesn’t know why Gatta disobeyed orders, and your character chooses not to tell him. Instead, one of your friends who has also lost a friend to the war against Sin, tells Luzzu to take his time to cope and recover, then if he can, continue the fight, because he’s needed more than ever. And that’s it. The game carries on. That’s how it is in this world, you bury your dead. Then you carry on.
I remembered this moment the other day while watching a video about regrets while playing video games. Video games are stories you have a part in creating, and as a lover of them, I wish they got more respect in their ability to tell a story.
My decision said something about me. It’s the impatience that still dogs me today, my tendency towards impulsiveness, my lack of foresight, and the moral high horse I get on to explain my behavior. Would I make the same decision now? I don’t think so. The story plays out similarly, but with different implications of course, and the decision itself is based on my new perspective. This perspective shaped how I played then, and the regrets I have now.