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The Essence of an Idea

Looking at a thread on the Final Fantasy XV message board. It really got me thinking about what Final Fantasy is.

So this isn’t a post saying what Final Fantasy is or is not. What it is about, really, is what a person thinks Final Fantasy is and why that matters. Or why what you think of Assassin’s Creed or Mario Party or Dark Souls matters.

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One day you heard about Final Fantasy. Maybe you rented a game as a kid because the box looked interesting or maybe you read an article about one in a gaming magazine or a friend let you borrow one. But you first got introduced to what the game was. Over time you have had an ongoing relationship with Final Fantasy, filled with primary (your own) and secondary (others’) experiences. Everything you know about Final Fantasy though comes from these two sets of data.

Or everything you know about Smash Bros or whatever other thing we could look at.

Looking at this stuff means we start doing epistemology. Epistemology sounds, as a study of how we know what we know, more interesting than what it is, a series of never ending logical problems about how the world actually functions.

What I find more interesting about epistemology is how we look at things after learning more about epistemology. Namely how we reexamine the philosophies me might have thought we believed. Also though it gives us some understanding of those never-ending threads about “why Final Fantasy was before/is now/in the future will be better.” When we look at how we know something there is a huge difference in opinions on what we actually know and this leads to the huge divide in what Final Fantasy is.

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For you it’s one thing, maybe having a primary experience of playing the games in the late ‘90s and maybe I see it as something from the late ‘80s. Maybe you experience it as a teenager and I experience it as an adult, maybe you were in the Midwest maybe I was in Japan; eventually we all bring so much of ourselves into the experience, because we bring in so many first-hand, primary experience, we lose sight of a larger essence.

We get stuck in how Final Fantasy fits into our story.

But then the question becomes what about trying to make our understanding of Final Fantasy be based on a larger discussion, maybe the canon as a whole or something solid like finances and accolades and dates and history. The problem is even without our own experiences we still change all this data to mean something else. Of note might be the pragmatist who only cares about truth so much as it works properly. Pragmatists look at some knowledge, like whether God exists, and argue it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t have a foothold in decision making. Before pragmatism there’s all this debate over experiences and belief, after pragmatism that all goes out the window.

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What I like about pragmatism is it sort of gives us this clear break between real stuff and everything else. Not real stuff like saying God doesn’t exist but real stuff that we can quantify and hold to something. I mean there’s all this stuff a person could say about Mark Twain or Abraham Lincoln but you say they’re both born in 2289 and you have something that’s not true.There’s a point where we’re on this boat in the sea of ideas and at a certain point it becomes less connected with facts in a pragmatic sense but eventually you run into the beach and that’s where something flase exists.

So what Final Fantasy is exists in that middle period that’s nebulous and the period with real answers. Final Fantasy is a property owned by Square Enix, there are dozens of games but less than 20 main series titles: these are all facts about the series. But there’s this huge other series of data points that don’t fit in that bubble that also make up what Final Fantasy is.

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That’s what creates the message board comments. What we think of as a Final Fantasy game can be so fractured, what makes an RPG is also similarly fractured. What makes a good game? When we see these threads get huge it’s only partially because people are idiots who want to argue about dumb stuff. It’s also partially because this stuff doesn’t have a clear answer for everyone.

I have my idea of what makes a good Final Fantasy game (Final Fantasy Tactics 2: this time we dancefight!) you have yours. What’s interesting is that all this stuff exists in a place where it’s all correct. Kind of anyways.

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There’s validity in our own interpretations of what Final Fantasy is. The question to really ponder is what does our debate-this endless comment thread-what does this debate accomplish? Does it cement an interpretation? Does it exist to give us a voice even in essentially an unimportant way?

Again we find ourelves with no clear answer.

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