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When A Video Game Becomes More Than Entertainment

by David Lloyd - August 21, 2019, 12:40 pm PDT
Total comments: 2

The Final Fantasy VIII release announcement brought back a flood of memories.

We all have that coming of age story that we can never forget. At some point between our late teens and early twenties, some form of media comes along and speaks to our individual experiences. It could be a novel that understands your pain and lets you know you’re not alone. Maybe you discover a band whose emotion you can feel in their music and keeps you company during the bad and the good. My story is about Final Fantasy VIII. A video game that I discovered at the crossroads of my life and helped shape the person who I am today.

I’ve been a gamer ever since Santa was kind enough to bring me a Nintendo for Christmas at a young age. I was a pretty independent child, and video games were a terrific medium to connect with my family. On weekends, I bonded with my much younger cousins at their house playing NHL Stanley Cup on their Super Nintendo. Sundays at Grandma’s were always fun because she had an Atari with all the best classics. I had an especially close family, and video games at times could both be a way to bond, or at other times, escape when needed.

After graduating from high school, all of my friends left my hometown to attend college or university. I was one of the very few that remained at home, living with my parents while working on my degree. Staying home was never an issue, but I became distant with my family while I longed to start the next phase of my life. Luckily, the one thing that kept my much younger brother and I close was our love for video games. With my friends gone, we spent hours together on our Nintendo 64 and PlayStation, endlessly trying to one-up each other in proximity mine GoldenEye matches.

It was during this time that Final Fantasy VIII entered our lives. It hit me like a freight train, everything about it just spoke to what I was going through and feeling. Squall seemed just like me. He was the loner trying to get through school, unconcerned with making friends or building relationships. He was strong and stubborn, but in the end he understood that needed his friends and family to succeed. My brother and I spent countless hours playing it together. We enjoyed finding ways to break the battle system and became way too excited when we discovered a Guardian Force. It was one of the last games I would play with my brother before moving on to the next phase in my life, when I would go on my first date with the woman that would eventually become my wife.

My wife and I knew each other from high school, but it was during our second year of university that we began dating. The time I used to spend playing video games, I was now spending talking to my wife online while she attended school in another city. I, of course was still playing Final Fantasy VIII at this point, but my relationship with my brother wasn’t the same. By the end of second year I couldn’t stand being away from my future wife, so on a whim I left my family behind and transferred to the school where she was attending. I don’t regret my decision, but I do lament leaving my brother while he was at such a young age.

Final Fantasy VIII is more than a game to me. It’s the last memory I have living at home with my family, it’s what came with me when I moved to a strange new city. It was there when I had to leave my brother, but it was also there when I began living with my wife. Its themes and aesthetics left a lasting impression on my soul. On more than one occasion my wife has had to talk me out of buying a leather jacket with a fur collar.

Final Fantasy VIII may not be the greatest game ever made, but it was there when I needed it. My brother and I may be living in different cities with wives and children of our own, but our bond remains strong because of our connection to video games. We could go weeks without talking, but we never have a shortage of new announcements to discuss or old memories to reminisce over. When Final Fantasy VIII finally makes it way to Switch in September, I know two guys who are going to feel like kids again.

Did you have a coming of age title that you hold dear to this day? Let us know in the comments below what it was and what it means to you.

Talkback

ClexYoshiAugust 21, 2019

so, without even reading the article, (by the way, don't worry, I will.) I thought I'd share my own Final Fantasy VIII memories, unspoiled by whatever prose Mr. Lloyd has written up. I find that I talk a lot about Final Fantasy VIII these days, what with the Eden-based raids in Final Fantasy XIV having such great music remixes and having to... talk to folks who like this stuff about Final Fantasy VIII.


Up to that point, I was the kid with the N64 while my friends all had Playstations. I had discovered Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy Tactics this way, told my cousin, and he told me that "It was time" and he gave me a copy of Final Fantasy on NES. once I played through and beat FF1, he let me borrow Final Fantasy VI (which... I still have that cartridge because he gave away his NES before I had a chance to return FF6!). I played Final Fantasy VII myself through the PC version on my dad's PC, but... I was still dancing around having a playstation. I was still going to my friend's house and playing FFT, still playing Brave Fencer Musashi with them and checking out that TOTALLY SWEET Final Fantasy VIII demo disc it came with!


Then it happened. Christmas, 1998. Dad got me a playstation wtih NCAA March Madness '99, and...! Final Fantasy VIII! all my friends had been playing it of course, but now was my chance to set aside my gameboy obsession and play the new Final Fantasy...!


only... something went way over my head. I distinctly remember making it to right before the lunatic pandora and having difficulty with some of the side content before I gave up. I'd LONG stopped understanding what the plot was even about, and I really didn't feel particularly attached or endeared to any of the characters besides maybe like... Laguna and his friends? they seemed way cooler and more heroic than the characters you actually played as in my mind...


And I never really finished out the rest of the game. I eventually got a bunch of other FF games for my Playstation (I was the only one of my friends who bothered with Final Fantasy IX, as all my friends didn't like the art style or something...), and for a time, Final Fantasy 8 was that one that just... kinda confused me with all the crazy crafting and junctioning and such. I think FF8 might have actually been the first video game I played with a crafting system in it.


Jump forward to the late oughts. I'm an edgy college kid, Planet Gamecube is NintendoWorldReport, and the rise of Youtube is happening on a large scale. a crop of individuals making entertaining video reviews of games spread like a rash in the wake of the Angry Video Game Nerd. I'm talkin' folks like Armake21, BlackbusterCritic, and... most importantly, Noah Antweiler, known by his moniker The Spoony One. Now... I could go into a massive essay on the mental breakdown of Spoony and how his star fizzled when he was one fo the brightest and funniest dudes pioneering the Youtube boom, but that'd be beyond the scope of this.What was important was his multi-part magnum opus where he ripped into Final Fantasy 8 and called it out for how awful and damaging to the Final Fantasy brand the game was!


At the time, it beggared belief. at this point, 10 years had hazed over my FF8 memories and he was... reminding me of parts of the game that were particularly unfun, so I sat down with it for my second and final time... and I was astonished at how poorly it panned out. I still didn't understand the story, but that was because FF8 is such a weird fever dream of a JRPG plotline that it makes me laugh out loud. even being more on top of the game systems and understanding the game better, it commits sins that I could not forgive, and suddenly I bashed on FF8. hard. I still kinda do to this day.



I think when I had my REAL understanding of what FF8 was, however, was in 2015. a Zoomer friend of mine is going back and checking out Final Fantasy games. I'm jaded at this point. Final Fantasy XIII had broken me and cemented the idea that Square-Enix internally had lost all their talent and were too busy sniffing bath salts to put out compelling games, and it took external teams like Sillicon Studio and Eidos to keep them afloat and remind them of what good, fun games looked like. in an attempt to educate this friend on the rise of Squaresoft, I had him playing through FF games sequentially, and we finally made it to FF8...


... and we had a blast. granted, not because we legitimately were enjoying the game on it's own merits, no. My friend was... riffing on it? he was laughing at some of the dumb, DUMB stuff that happens. we were naming the GFs silly names, I think we named Angelo something very lewd that made fun attack names like Anal Rush, Anal Recovery, Anal Reverse, Anal Search, and my personal favorite, Anal Cannon (spoilered for offensive language) and laughed at how silly some fo the game's setpieces are and how poorly the narrative and characters play out. I recognized that Final Fantasy 8 wanted to do new and ambitious things and carve it's own path with all the crazy money put into it... but you know what else was like that?


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That's when it clicked. Final Fantasy VIII is a hilarious game for all the wrong reasons, and for that, I can't hate it. it is a caliber of Kusoge all in it's own. It tries SO hard to be a love story, a story of an introverted individual finding his heart and learning to accept friendship while battling against the most inconvenient form of time travel ever concieved. It is a game of insane shared amnesia and dumb coincidences. it is a game where the best way to play it is to not kill monsters, but to turn them into cards to turn into items to turn into spells to junction your stats. It is a game where casting the cure spell lowers your maximum HP and that the meta in battle is to mash the triangle button until you get a limit command rather than wasting your time on any other type of attack.

BeautifulShyAugust 21, 2019

I have a bit of history with Final Fantasy 8 which delves into my history as a gamer in general as well.
So I have been a Nintendo gamer for most of my life and as I entered the PlayStation/ N64 and Sega Saturn era that still remained the same. I remember saving up my money and one night on a whim going to my local Target and purchasing a N64 before Xmas 1996 and bringing it home and I sneak back in and hide it in the closet. 200 bucks is a lot of money for me back then and I was supposed to be using my money responsibly. Well my mom found out maybe a month later and  she was upset but figured if I was going to spend money I should get the most bang for my buck. So pawn shops and smaller stores is where I would get my N64 games. After some time I had friends coming over and we would play and I would go over to their house and play their playstation.  I remember one time I had to go out to March AFB to renew my military ID cards since I am a child of my dad who was in the military.

So I do that and when I get back I notice that the N64 in my room was missing with all my games so I had OOT, Turok 2, Mario Kart 64, WWF No Mercy, NBA Courtside, and one other fighting game among others.  The thing you had to know about where I was living is that it was an apartment complex and to get to my apartment I had to go through the laundry room and our place was 3 garages convered into a two bedroom 1 bath apartment and then in the back was sliding glass doors and then we had a little area and then a wooden fence and then the backyard area for the whole complex so we had folks in the backyard area and in the laundry room playing and doing laundry and the fact that the sliding glass doors didn't really lock it opened the apartment to theft unfortunately.  So yeah my N64 was taken and I think I would rebuy a N64 2 more times and after the third theft I was all "screw it for whatever reason the N64 was a good way to make money off of with pawn shops so I think I took all the N64 games I had left and went to a place called Glady's Arcade in San Bernardino and got myself a PlayStation for the first time in my life.

I think I got Final Fantasy 8 at Software Ect at the Inland Center Mall along with Smackdown and the FF8 strategy guide. I think it was the Brady one.  At this point it is 1999. I think it was before the Dreamcast and Gamecube came out.  So yeah I at first started playing it a few days after getting it after playing Smackdown. 

I remember it being interesting with the setup of being in a sort of military school and going on missions on the surface. I did like the characters and they started growing on me and their struggles like Selfie, Rinoa and Squall. It was just kinda funny them go from one experience to another and figure out how to get out of situations which usually entailed just fighting out of it but in other instances it was just trying to make the most out of a bad situation.  When I initially played it I mainly was a draw player but later got into the refinement but it was just using my strategy guide to figure out which spells I wanted. Never really delved into Triple Triad aside from collecting cards but I the different rules confused me. I did beat it eventually after a few months but it was a chore at the time.   

Last year I streamed the Steam version and played through it and I thoughly enjoyed it. I think the only thing I was frustrated with was the battle with Omega Weapon.  I think I might of been over leveled. Omega grew in stats with me as I leveled up. The story this time around while the same as I remember it was a bit more exciting since I could put different elements of the story to better context than I could the first time I played the game. There is lots of threads that are over here that go with elements that are over here and so forth.  I would say that the story is a team of people working to better the world but at the same time trying to protect their own and change peoples minds on some things to put it in the broadest terms so as to not spoil things.



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