How Final Fantasy X Changed My Life After the 9/11 Tragedy

Yes, a video game can profoundly change your outlook on life.
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This is in honor of the Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster that launches this week, and a tribute to those who lost their lives in the 9/11 disaster. By the way, there are NO FFX story spoilers in this piece.

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If you were old enough, you remember where you were on the morning of September 11, 2001. You probably remember watching the TV with a mixture of horror, disgust and fear. For me, it made me physically nauseous. And in the days and weeks that followed, I was haunted by one question: Death… what does it mean?

When you’re confronted with mortality in such a raw and visceral way, you invariably have questions. Someone wakes up one day, goes to work, and less than an hour later, they’re voluntarily leaping to their end. How do you even comprehend something like that? It’s difficult for the human brain to compute.

It wasn’t fear; it was a philosophical struggle

Everyone has to die eventually. You, me, everyone. And yet, we can’t possibly even begin to understand it. That’s what was torturing me immediately after 9/11: We can’t possibly come to terms with “nothingness” so… what is it? What happens? This went well beyond the families and loved ones of the victims because in fact, in the long run, they’ll all die as well. In the longer run, the tragedy will be just another story in a history book. In the longest run, we’re all gone.

It was the biggest philosophical struggle of my life. And I felt I had to get past it. There was no chance of answering the question(s); I merely wanted to reach the point of acceptance. I wanted to achieve some sort of peace, which could only be attained if I either A. opted to hold to a certain belief (religious-wise), or B. came to terms with the questions and chose hope over fear.

And then came Final Fantasy X

Just a silly video game, right? It has no bearing on real-world catastrophes. Those seeking therapy after 9/11 probably never met a psychiatrist who recommended playing video games. I understood all that. I didn’t expect anything, either; I just started playing FFX as a way to forget my ongoing conundrum.

But then something happened. As the game progressed, I realized that some of the core concepts (Sin, the Fayth, etc.) tied in closely with my lingering questions. The story proposed the idea of time and the passing of souls, and how “death,” perhaps, is just a transport to another realm, another time, another reality. It’s often said that our perception is truth; whether it’s “real” or not is irrelevant to our brains. We believe it’s real and our bodies react as if it’s real…hence, it’s real.

The story in FFX wasn’t exactly beautifully written. If you put the script into a book, it probably wouldn’t even be published. However, that’s not the point. The point is that the theories tackled in the plot made me think about life, death and time (the impossible-to-understand trio for humans) on a completely different level.

It granted the freedom of theory, which in turn granted… intrigue

As it turns out, FFX gave me Option B as listed above. It made me see the questions as interesting, not intimidating and fearful. It gave me hope that when I die, when those close to me die, they’re not disappearing. I have no idea where, how, what, when, why; and that’s not frightening, anymore. The story in FFX made my mind more elastic; it grew to encompass outside possibilities. I suppose in business terms, it made me “think outside the box.”

The 9/11 tragedy will always be a tragedy, despite the fact that everything wanes with time. The key, I found, is to realize that death may be inevitable, but we know absolutely nothing about. The critical point is to view that complete ignorance in a hopeful way, rather than a fearful way. We automatically fear what we don’t understand, so we’re all afraid of death. But if we reverse things; if we turn the tables; if we examine what we don’t understand with curiosity, the entire world lightens.

In short, Final Fantasy X taught me that I shouldn’t be afraid. Being afraid of dying is a waste of time. I’m not looking forward to it, of course, but instead of blank fear, there’s philosophically filled intrigue. And that is a gift that never disappears.

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A gaming journalism veteran of 14 years, a confirmed gamer for over 30 years, and a lover of fine literature and ridiculously sweet desserts.