Gaming Inspirations III: Character Profile: Vivi Orunitia

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Gaming Inspirations I: Personal Party Composition
Gaming Inspirations II: Character Profile: Adelbert Steiner

“Stargazing in Madain Sari”, by anagnorisisdesign. Check her out at http://anagnorisisdesign.deviantart.com!

Hello, friends, and welcome to the second Character Profile of the Gaming Inspirations series!  “Gaming Inspirations” is a series of blog posts that puts into words how gaming has inspired me to shed my anxiety and its negative effects on my life.  Final Fantasy IX has provided incredible amounts of inspiration (probably because it’s the greatest game of all time), so I’m creating a profile for each of the main characters.  Each profile will examine their unique qualities and I will detail how, through physical action, I’m going to help myself lead the life I want to lead by incorporating those qualities.  Today’s profile is about the fan-favorite Black Mage, Vivi.

CHARACTER SUMMARY

Vivi is a Black Mage: he harnesses the powers of the elements to lay waste to his enemies.  In the beginning of the game, this fact is taken at face value; as in, “okay, there are beings in this world that don’t have faces and have giant glowy eyes and wear funky hats.  Cool.”  Soon, though, the tone changes: a factory is found that is filled with Vivi-looking dolls on an assembly line.  A bunch of other fuckery goes down, and it’s eventually revealed that Vivi’s body is no more than a shell, filled with a manufactured “soul” made outta Mist, which is basically the broken-down dregs of souls of people who’ve died.  As you can imagine, this causes a bit of an existential-angsty stir in Vivi’s psyche.  But with the help of the friends that he gains throughout the game, he learns what it is to truly be.

Then, he dies.  But at least he learned some good shit along the way!  Let’s examine!

QUALITIES

Inquisitive

Vivi: I don’t think I really understand what it means to live or to die. Where do we come from…? Do we go back there when we die…? If that’s what it means to live… I wonder where I came from… Where will I end up when I die…? Why am I shaking? What is it I’m feeling…?

Vivi’s around 9 years old, and he grew up in a cave.  It shows: he doesn’t seem knowledgeable about… well, much of anything, really.  But he’s always willing to learn, and isn’t afraid to ask questions, especially to those he admires and respects, like Zidane.  This becomes less of an asset when he learns more about what he’s made of and where he comes from, and it gets REALLY intense when he hears about the other Black Mages “stopping,” which, for all intents and purposes, is exactly like dying.  When he learns about this, and learns that his kind don’t tend to live very long… yeah, he freaks out a bit.  But can ya blame him?  Imagine being 9 years old, and someone walking up to you and saying “You’re not a person like me; you’re a shell full of the fragments of other peoples’ souls.  Oh, and you’re gonna die soon.”  I’d say “freaking the fuck out” and “asking some pretty uncomfortable questions about mortality and what it means to be alive” would be a pretty natural reaction.  Regardless of what pushed Vivi to ask these questions, the point is that he asked them, and that’s the sort of existential inquisitiveness that makes Vivi such a dynamic character.

Sense of Wonder

Along with his inquisitive nature, growing up in a cave seems to have given Vivi a sense of awe and appreciation for the outside world.  In the very beginning of the game, he’s seen wandering around Alexandria, and appears to be amazed at the airship he notices flying overhead, while everyone else keeps bustlin’ down the street, paying no heed.  The fear of imminent death put a bit of a damper on this throughout much of the game, but it’s still evident throughout, and especially in his heartbreaking speech at the end of the game.

Trust

 Steiner: “Master Vivi, why would those mages be the same as you? And why would it matter if they were?”
   Zidane: “Rusty’s right! You’re an individual, no matter what happens, Vivi!”

Vivi’s certainly a reserved character, but he tends to trust others quickly, and take their words to heart.  This is a great quality when he’s listening to Zidane tell him that he’s not a mindless automaton, that he deserves life and lives as fully as a normal human; it’s, uh, less great when he listens to Kuja tell him… the opposite.  Once again, this propensity to trust to a fault probably has something to do with being raised by a Qu in a fucking cave (Does anyone else find that backstory, uh, a little strange?).

You might be a little odd if this crazy-lookin’ bastard raised you, too.

Questions.  Cool.  Wonder.  Got it.  Trust.  Sure.  But how do I incorporate those into my life with physical action?

BY READING THE NEXT SECTION OF THIS POST, OF COURSE!

Inquisitiveness: Read a book.  Yes, the ones made out of actual paper.  (An e-reader that isn’t connected to the internet is also acceptable.)

In case you forgot what they looked like. Easy to do in today’s world.

A wizard ain’t shit without their spellbook.  Before this past July, I hadn’t read a book, cover-to-cover, in ages.  I read a lot on the internet and stuff, but that’s mostly, y’know, sports articles and stuff (not saying that that isn’t fulfilling; it’s just a different kind of reading).  But, on a whim, I decided to pick up the first A Series of Unfortunate Events book.  I read them when I was a kid, and thought, “hey, what the hell.”

Those books are incredible.  I read all thirteen of ’em within a month, and have been reading and writing more ever since.  You never know where or when inspiration will strike, which is why being like Vivi and always exploring the world around you, or the worlds in books, is very important.

Works of fiction, unlike car manuals or Buzzfeed articles about puppies, tend to delve deeper into the meaning of existence; they’re not beholden to the truth, so they don’t have to worry about being accurate in that sense.  The world is whatever the writer wants it to be, which allows them (and their readers) to examine deeper truths.  Vivi examines these existential questions throughout the game, and this is the inquisitiveness that reading can bring into your life.

Sense of Wonder: Try something you’ve never tried before.

If Vivi had lived in Quan’s Dwelling his entire life, he would’ve never gone on an epic adventure, sharing incredible experiences with new friends.  Just this morning, I went to a Zumba class.  First time ever.  I don’t dance.  I was the only dude in there.  I looked like an idiot, I’m sure.  But guess what?  It was a great workout, and I actually had a lot of fun.  I’ll definitely go again next week.

There’s always a transition period.  If you try something new, you’ll probably suck at it.  But guess what?  Sucking at stuff is valuable, too.  Which is better: loving what you do even though you suck, or being really good at something you hate?  Your new passion that tremendously improves your life could be five minutes away, waiting for you to discover it.

Trust: Ask questions.  Don’t be afraid to look stupid.

As I mentioned before, Vivi doesn’t seem to know much about the outside world – its social cues, its dynamics.  When he asks a question, it’s from a place of wanting to learn more, and that’s a noble place to be.

Personally, I’m terrified of asking questions – what if someone laughs at me for not knowing?  What if they think I’m stupid?

Vivi inspires me to answer these with another question:  Who cares?

Seriously, fuck it.  If you don’t know something, and you want to, ask!  If someone’s a dick about it, then fuck them!  It’s irrelevant!  Asking someone who knows is the quickest way to learn something new, and guess what?  When you ask, you learn.  Quest complete.  I had to do this when my new public-transport card didn’t work on the train in my new city (I’m from Vermont; public transport is barely a thing).  The person I asked on the train looked at me funny, but explained how the card worked, and guess what?  I’m not going to run into that mistake again.  I’m so glad I asked, and so glad I know.

One really, really cool thing about examining the qualities of these characters is realizing that they’re all connected: just like with the qualities detailed in my Steiner post, working on even one of these Vivi-like qualities will improve your chances of future success in all of them.  Maybe you’ll read a book and develop an interest in something you never would’ve expected, and you go to a meeting with like-minded people and meet the love of your life and BAM!  Your life changes in a completely unexpected way, and it’s all because you tried something new that one time.

Virtuous cycles are the shit.  Vivi’s the shit.  FFIX is the shit.  Hopefully I’ve been able to impart a bit of the inspiration that Vivi gives me to you.

Coming up on Thursday: another Character Profile!  I’m going to keep this one a surprise, though ;)

Stay classy, fair readers!

Gaming Inspirations II: Character Profile: Adelbert Steiner

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Another fantastic piece of fanart by Game-Art-HQ.com’s Fenrir the 2nd. Check out their Deviantart page at http://fenrir–the-2nd.deviantart.com/

Welcome to my first Character Profile, part of the Gaming Inspirations series, where I claw my way out of the deep, dark pit of crippling anxiety that leads to other fun stuff like “drinking too much” and “being generally unkind to my body and mind” by writing about the stuff I love and why it inspires me.  The format will consist of a summary of the character, their qualities (positive, negative, both), and how we can use these qualities to improve our lives in the physical world.  I’m going to start off by writing about the FFIX main character I feel most akin to: my homie, Adelbert Steiner.

 

CHARACTER SUMMARY

When I first played FFIX around 15 years ago, I was struck by how much of a dick Steiner was (the thought back then was probably more like “golly gee whiz, that old man’s a meanie!”.  Hell, I didn’t even know what a swear word was ’til I was a teenager).  For a disc and a half, he’s basically a mindless drone of the queen, doing anything he can to get Garnet back to Alexandria and to have Zidane’s head lopped off.  He redeems himself later, though, and over the years has become one of my favorite characters in the game, with whom I closely relate.

 

QUALITIES

 

Strong-Willed

When Steiner sets his mind on something, it’s really hard for him to shake it off, or for anyone else to convince him otherwise.  This can be a fantastic quality: for example, when Garnet runs off in the beginning of the game, and Steiner keeps his oath to protect the princess come hell or high water (it’s hard to imagine one of his dweeby-ass subordinates to stick with her that long).  It can also be… not so great, such as when it takes him a disc and a half to realize that the queen that he blindly takes orders from is batshit insane.

Exhibit A: A dweeby-ass subordinate. Poor guy.

 

Submissive to Authority

This may sound like a bad quality, but it’s not always.  When a good worker in a company listens to a good manager, for example, they tend to do good work that helps the company as a whole.  But I’d call that more “respectful of authority”; “submissive to authority” is more like “when a good worker sacrifices any shred of critical thinking that he might be capable of doing and listens to a batshit insane manager who wants to kill her daughter and start wars with the other nations of the Mist Continent just because ‘she’s the boss'”.  That’s when you run into trouble.

I have to say it one more time – “batshit insane”.  I love that phrase, and Queen Brahne fits it beautifully.

God help you if you scroll down here at night in a dark room. In unrelated news, you probably shouldn’t look behind you.

 

Strong as Fuck/Probably Pretty Hot

Seriously, though.  The guy hits like a roided-up freight train with a bad attitude.  I guess wearing that rusty-ass heavy armor all day has gotta pay off somehow.  Plus, he hooks up with Beatrix in the end, and she could probably choose anyone on Gaia (90% of whom would probably be too intimidated to say “no” anyway, but still), so he’s gotta be somewhat attractive, right?

Just look at those lashes!

Also, let’s not forget he gets a fucking Boba Fett mask when he trances. That’s sexy, and you know it.

 

Now, the trick of it – how can you incorporate these qualities into your life in a positive way?

You gotta be careful with this one – there’s a difference between being strong-willed/respecting authority, and being a stubborn prick.

Trust me, I know – *this* used to be my favorite book, and I never let anyone forget it.  Now, I wish they would.

I’m no psychiatrist, so I’m going to try and keep my advice to concrete actions that you can try to do to improve your life: for example, I’m trying to prove to myself that I can go to the gym before work at least four times a week.  So far, it’s been great: in the past seven days, I’ve gone to the gym four times before the crack of dawn.  And y’know what, I think it’s really helping create a virtuous cycle of positive effects that are helping my life.

On “gym days”, when I wake up two hours early, my body screams at me to go back to bed, that it’s not time to be awake yet, to keep pushing that snooze button, performing CPR on my laziness and squeezing every last second of close-eyedness I can out of my day.

I hear those screams.  I’m tempted to go back to sleep (my bed is comfy as fuck).  I then use the inspiration that Steiner has given me to tell my mind to kindly shut the fuck up, and I go get shredded.  I’ve set my mind on going to the gym, and I’ll be damned if anyone’s gonna stop me from doing what I want to do.

My will is exerting authority over my temporary physical discomfort, and it’s paying dividends: first, I feel accomplished before I’m normally even awake, which is just a badass feeling; I’m proving to myself that I can wake up even when I really, really, really don’t want to, to little ill effect; and hey, I’ve lost a couple pounds in the past week (plus, alcohol looks a lot less appetizing when you woke up early as fuck to lose fat).  Not bad, all told.  Every day I get up early makes the following day easier, and I’m finding myself… well, not wanting to go to the gym, but at least it’s less of an ordeal, and I’m showing myself I can suffer discomfort and come out the other end better for it.  Plus, losing a couple pounds will probably make me somewhat sexier.  Strong-Willed + Submissive to the Authority of My Own Willpower + HOT AS FUCK = Yay!

I’ve found a few techniques that have helped a lot:

  • PREPARE.  Steiner doesn’t go anywhere without his armor and sword, because he know’s he’ll need it.  Get your shit together so you can wake up ready for battle.  Fill a bag with everything you need: gym clothes, sneakers, whatever.  I put a big-ass water bottle in the fridge overnight so it’s cold as shit when I need it the next morning.  If you listen to music at the gym/while you’re running/etc., have that shit on hand immediately when you wake up so you can start rockin’ out.  It’ll help keep you awake for those crucial first minutes.
  • GO TO BED EARLY.  You can’t protect the princess (or keep many knightly oaths) if you’re falling asleep standing up.  Submit to the authority of your better judgment.  Waking up at 5 is a lot easier when you go to bed at 10 than at midnight.  I’m not gonna lie, it’s hard: I’ve been tossing and turning, cuz my body isn’t used to it, but eventually, you do get to bed.  Be patient with yourself.  I’ve cut down significantly on my nighttime video-game-playing, which kinda sucks, but is totally worth it.  (Please if you find a way around this tell me and I’ll love you forever)
  • HAVE FAITH IN YOURSELF.  Steiner’s confidence that he’s doing the right thing is his greatest source of strength – it’s a lot easier to fight for something when you know that you’re fighting for a good cause.  Seriously, it does get easier every day.  Even if you fuck up and hit that snooze button one morning, stay confident.  Stay focused.  You’ll get ’em next time.  If you’ve got time, exercise after work.  If not, hit the hay early and hit it hard tomorrow.
  • REST.  Related to going to bed early.  Rest is good.  Today was a rest day for me.  Don’t burn yourself out.

If you guys have any other techniques, let me know.  This is what Steiner has inspired me to do – become that strong-willed beast you can be!

Such bad, many ass, wow

Up next, I’ll tell you what that glorious Black Mage, Vivi, has taught me.

 

See ya Sunday!

What I’m Reading: I finished As You Wish, the Princess Bride memoir written by Cary Elwes (the actor who played Westley) last week.  Seriously, it’s a must-read if you like the Princess Bride.  I loved it.  

I’ve now picked up Felicia Day’s memoir, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), which is surprisingly inspiring and as hilarious as she is.  I went to the live podcast/book signing when it released a few weeks back.  She’s a super-inspiring human being.  Check out her book by clicking the image below!

Gaming Inspirations I: Personal Party Composition

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Another great FFIX Fanart – this one’s by Do0dlebugdebz on Deviantart (http://do0dlebugdebz.deviantart.com/).

In games, and RPGs in particular, balance is important.  It can certainly be fun to have a party of four raging barbarians in D&D, smashing everything in your path, but if you run into a caster who flies out of your smashing-reach and starts pelting you with fireballs, you’re gonna have a bad time.  It’s all about diminishing returns – each barbarian you add to the party after the first is going to have less of an effect than the last, because they’re not bringing anything new to the party.  The more diversified a party is, the less likely it is that they’ll run into a situation in which they are at a disadvantage.

In Final Fantasy IX, the first four permanent party members constitute the classic RPG party: a thief (Zidane), a warrior (Steiner),  a wizard (Vivi), and a healer (Garnet).  All have their own strengths, allowing the party to flourish in nearly every situation.

It’s this diversity that I’m trying to bring into my own life.  Committing to being very good at one thing, while an improvement, is not optimal.  It’s more constructive to invest energy in multiple disciplines, to become a well-rounded individual, so you’re ready for whatever life throws at you.

The next eight posts in the Gaming Inspirations series will be profiles for each of the main characters in Final Fantasy IX, what qualities they bring to the party, and how you can use the lessons that they provide to improve the quality of your life.

See ya Thursday!

What I’m reading: As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride.  It’s SO good.  A must-read for any Princess Bride fan! Click the image below to go to the Amazon page:

Updates and Changes (And How To Support This Site FOR FREEEEEEE)

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Grieverjoe's

Grieverjoe’s “The Skies Over Alexandria”. Beautiful FFIX Fanart.  Check him out at grieverjoe.deviantart.com.

Hi everybody!

So, exciting news – I’ve officially moved to a new city!  It’s been busy and hectic and bananas, but it’s all starting to settle down now, and it feels great.  I might be able to start writing again soon!  Yay!

Speaking of writing, I gotta talk about some changes – I haven’t been updating this blog like I used to, and I’m going to change that.  Recently, I’ve been feeling pretty unhappy.  Uninspired.  Sluggish.  Guilty about feeling all of these things, because I’m aware that I probably have it better than 95% of people on Earth, and having that guilt compound my unhappiness, temper my inspiration, and add to my sluggishness.  It’s a vicious cycle that I’m committed to breaking out of, and I’m going to use FinalFantasyIX.com to help me succeed.

Starting this Sunday, I’ll be releasing two blog posts a week, Sundays and Thursdays, in a series (uncreatively) called “Gaming Inspirations”.  Video games, and FFIX in particular, have been huge in the development of my personal philosophies; by writing a few posts a week, I’m going to put in writing how they’ve done so, and hopefully that will spur me into more effectively applying these philosophies in my life.  Maybe it’ll help you too, who knows!

Now that that’s outta the way, I’d like to mention my Amazon Affiliate Link.  It’s a way you can support FinalFantasyIX.com, free of charge, just by shopping at Amazon.  When you shop through FinalFantasyIX.com’s affiliate link, Amazon will give a small percentage of whatever you buy to help support this site.  If you like shopping on Amazon as much as I do, bookmark the link, and follow that bookmark when you shop, and you’ll be supporting this site!  For free!  Simple as that!  :)

Love you guys!  See ya Sunday!

Happy Birthday, Final Fantasy IX

Man, I can’t believe it’s been 15 years.  I still remember the hot summer day when my buddy told me about this new game he picked up: Final Fantasy IX.

“It’s supposed to have good graphics,” he told me, which I still believe is in the running for “understatement of the century”.

From the first few notes of “The Place I’ll Return To Someday”, I had a feeling this game was gonna be good.

The rest is history.

Oh, by the way, I haven’t completely forgotten this blog; speaking of “The Place I’ll Return To Someday”, I’ve got a blog post cookin’ that deals with that song specifically, and why it’s so damn awesome.

Stay tuned.

The XP Rat Race, and Why I’m Starting to Fall in Love with Single-Player Games Again

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Hey Y’all, been a while!  You’re looking beautiful as ever ;)

Thought I’d give you a little bit of an update on my gaming life:  of course, as soon as I started recording FFIX LP eps, I saw that Legend of Dragoon was on the PlayStation Store.  So, naturally, I abandoned the LP and started playing.

I finished last night, and I’m slowly realizing that I’m turning back into a single-player gamer again.

I’ve played a lot of WoW in my day.  I’ve played 931 hours (hours.  That’s almost 39 days) of Team Fortress 2.  I’ve played almost 450 hours of Awesomenauts.  And y’know what?  I wouldn’t trade that time in for the world.  I’ve had an awesome time playing those games, preferably with friends, but also just flying solo.  For the most part, it’s been really, really fun.

However, after finishing LoD last night, I’ve figured out what has kept me going for those hundreds of hours in multiplayer games, and why I think that single-player, at least for me, is the smarter, healthier, less-time-consuming way to go.

It’s no secret that multiplayer game developers want you to get addicted to their games:  I’m sure most large sellers of…  well, anything, are doing everything they can to manipulate human psychology into making people buy what they sell.  That’s not inherently a bad thing;  it’s just the easiest way to sell stuff.  This addiction is extremely valuable, especially in the case of multiplayer games that never end, and especially if there’s a monthly fee attached to a game.  If the devs can keep coming up with new and exciting ways to keep you, the player, pushing the “reward” button, then bam, they’ve got what’s likely to be a loyal customer.

Recently, however, I’ve been feeling like there’s something…  missing.

After one of my classic rage-uninstalls of Awesomenauts (something I’ve done countless times), I began to think ahead:  what’s my end-game?  What’s the point of playing all these Awesomenauts matches, and being so pissy when I lose?  Say I get to the top of the heap, become numero uno in the entire world.  What then?

The answer?

Nothing.

There’s no point.  Of course there’s no point.  I’ll get to the top, probably feel really excited for a moment, drink four or five Miller High Lifes (nah, I’ll go Heady Topper.  This is a special occasion), and plummet right back down the leaderboards.  Even in the best-case scenario, I’ll be #1 at the end of a season, then have to start right back from square one.

I’m being needlessly negative here – of course, I love playing Awesomenauts.  It’s a great game.  It’s really fun, especially with my friends, and fun is a totally legit reason to play any game in and of itself.  If you’re enjoying it, that’s the point of the game.  Good job.

I digress.  Getting back to Legend of Dragoon.

I beat it last night, and seeing that “The End” screen gave me a sense of satisfaction unlike anything I’ve experienced in Awesomenauts or TF2.  My total play time was about 51 hours, and I accomplished every goal I set for myself in the game:  got a bunch of super-dank weapons;  leveled my party to almost-godlike proportions;  kicked the final boss’ ass (and the optional superboss, to boot).  I did everything I wanted to do in the game, and at the end…  That was it.  There are no leaderboards to climb, no rankings to compare myself to my friends.  It was a personal journey, one with a beginning and an end, and now it’s over.

When I play Awesomenauts or TF2, I look at the characters less as “characters in a game, each with their own personality, and trying to accomplish a goal”, and more as stat blocks:  anonymous avatars whose abilities will, hopefully, allow me to crush the opposing team’s anonymous avatars.  There is nothing wrong with this.  The personal connections I feel to the characters in single-player RPGs is certainly stronger.  I root for them to achieve their hopes, their dreams, their goals;  I am with them through times of happiness and sorrow, and feel empathy for them.  This is because I feel like we’ve been on a journey together:  it’s not a 20-minute match that can simply be restarted again and again.  Both the characters and the player grow and learn throughout the process of playing an RPG, and when the journey is over, there’s a sense of finality that, while playing these multiplayer games, I forgot I was searching for.

Of course, I have since reinstalled Awesomenauts.  I fully intend to keep playing it.  It’s fun as shit.  But I don’t think I’m going to be quite as… intense about it.  I’m out of the XP Rat Race, the endless quest for higher standing.  It brings me passing, hyperactive joy, but not happiness.  Not satisfaction.

I had forgotten where to find that feeling, the reason I fell in love with games in the first place.  Thanks to Legend of Dragoon, I’ve found it again.

Fun Times in a New FFIX Playthrough

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I think this is the first time this has ever happened (to me, at least).

I started a new game, and, as always, attempted to steal the Mage Masher from Baku (Or “The Masked Man”) at the beginning of the game.

In this battle, Baku has 3 items to steal:  A Potion (100% steal rate), a Wrist (25% steal rate), and the Mage Masher (6.25% steal rate).

I stole all 3 in only 3 steal attempts.  It was absurd.

If you do the probability on that, that has a 

1.00 * 0.25 * .0625 = .015625 = 1.5625% chance of happening.

Pretty wild, man.

Don’t believe me?  Luckily for you, you’ll be able to see for yourself, because I recorded it and will be posting it online soon.  And then I’ll post the rest of this playthrough, because I’m finally getting back on the Let’s Play horse.

#FFIXBLP is back, baby.

(…  That stands for “FFIX Blog Let’s Play”, and I just made it up now.  Tell your friends.)

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