Hello all! So last time, I tried to explain why I liked the Persona series more than the mainline SMT series, and I tried to do something more academic than what I usually do. I miss writing college essays, I guess. But I realized that I didn’t really talk that much about why, personally, Persona has touched my life more than SMT has. I’d like to rectify that.
I first heard of Persona in 2008, in my junior year of high school. I was a lucky kid: I had gotten accepted into a public boarding school for gifted kids focusing on Science and Mathematics. It was my dream from third grade on to be accepted there, like getting that owl for Hogwarts or finding the eponymous wardrobe to Narnia. But, when I got there, I realized that it meant starting over socially: making new friends, forming new bonds, etc.
In the first half of that school year, I did not do that well in meeting people. I knew my roommates, and I knew some people from group classwork assignments, but friends were just not really popping up like I would have liked. Then I bought Persona 4 in December. It was exam time, and everyone was stressed out because, despite all the perks of going to a school like I went to, whoo, were those exams hard! I think it might have been this that made people congregate in the lounge area of my dorm as much as they did at the time: the need to de-stress. Students couldn’t have personal TVs in their rooms, so I played Persona 4 in the lounge, and had no choice but to allow people to watch as I befriended Yosuke, Chie, Teddie and the others, and as I awkwardly romanced Yukiko towards the end of the game (in retrospect, I maybe played too much of the game given how immediate the exams were). My dorm-mates became invested in the game, and we started scheduling times to enjoy it together. It was a true bonding experience, like what the game emphasized in its social links, and it was the catalyst for my first step into the society of my new school. I later played Persona 3, and have ongoing playthroughs of Persona 1, Persona 2: IS, and Persona 2: EP saved on my Vita, and have loved them all.
Flash forward to now. As I talked about before, things have not been so great since that high school experience, or at least since my time as an undergraduate. I live in Virginia now, a state that I have found out is steeped in antiquated bureaucracy that makes it hard to get anything done, let alone get a teaching license. I’ve applied to job after job, each time getting to the interview and reference-calling point, only to be told that “We went with another candidate” each time. The problem? I have no teaching license yet, and my past with my master’s program and my abusive mentor teacher makes it hard to use my teaching experience as an asset when applying for teaching positions. Meanwhile, I can’t find a full time job with a bachelor’s in Linguistics and Latin, even though I live only an hour by train from Washington D.C. To tell you the truth, despite so many other parts of my life being so great (having a partner who loves me, having a roof over my head, and even a cat that greets me at the door when I come home) I’ve gotten pretty depressed in the last year, like so many other recent or relatively-recent college grads involved in the job search.
Amidst this depression, I have once again (like I did with Majora’s Mask during the last stages of my grad school experience) turned to my favorite hobby: video games. And the game of choice for me this time is Persona 4: Golden. I bought the Golden version of the game when it came out (ah, the joys of actually having money), but never got around to playing it. I don’t usually replay games, especially 80-hour long RPGs, and when I do it usually takes years before I’ll consider it. But something lately has called me to the game, and I’m heeding the call.
This time, the game is on a portable, so it’s a much more individual experience than the first time I played it. I don’t have friends sitting around me, helping me make dialogue choices or rooting for me in the game’s lengthy dungeons. Instead, it’s just me, tired from my barista job, and a cat, sitting on a couch in a living room. But, that’s okay, and it’s okay because the game is excellent. It’s everything I remember it being: exciting, dramatic, funny, and, best of all, engaging. More than anything though, I think the game is helpful. It’s helping me to put things into perspective. Things are rough right now in terms of my goals and my finances, but they could be worse. Interacting with the game’s many social link characters, I’m reminded how everyone has struggles, and I’m not alone in mine. I’m reminded about how important it is to try and connect to other people, even if you don’t have the energy to put forth much of an effort.
Persona 4 is a game that, anime cliche or not, reminds us about the importance of friendship, about the importance of bonding with other people. I’ve recently found another way to gain teaching licensure, and I’ve even started a GoFundMe to help me afford it (ask me in the comments if you’d like to know more), something I wouldn’t have done before. I’ve realized that I can’t face my past and attain my goals without help. I’ve realized that to get to something that will have meaning for me, I have to find my strength in the people around me. Persona 4 and the other Persona games are important to me for this reason: the game has helped me before, and it is helping me so much again, right now.