The Importance of Imaginary Idols

Hi again, internet!

No, this isn’t the awesome Athena. It’s a me, LightningEllen, writing my debut post for the prestigious AmbiGaming website. Some of you out there in the WordPress community may remember I had my own blog and stuff, and then sorta disappeared from everywhere suddenly. Well, I’m not going to talk about any of that here, but just wanted to say I miss everyone a lot and I love you guys! I am very, very honored for the opportunity to type some words here on the Goddess of Wisdom’s website. Awesome.

Back to this post, video games have always had a special place in my heart. They are, like, the thing that takes up the vast majority of my free time, and I love the way they just take me away from life’s problems. In my old age I’ve come to appreciate connections with characters and deep storylines just as much, if not more than, fun gameplay mechanics and pretty graphics (Pretty does not necessarily mean ultra high-def super 3D, either. That’s a whole other post worth of stuff to tangent off into, though). And sure, video game characters aren’t real people per se, but our feelings for them are real and that’s something special!

Personally, I can connect a video game to every painful event I’ve faced and can credit a video game character with helping me cross just about every silly obstacle life as thrown at me over the years (a big reason why I loved the big coping project AmbiGaming completed last year). I’m an only child with some, um, problems connecting with humans in the real world. When I stop and think about it, video game characters have been like the supportive network of family and friends I’ve needed, and I take no shame in looking up to some of them like idols.

Idols are definitely important. Having someone to look up to and inspire you to become something greater, especially when you aren’t feeling so great about yourself, is, well, a great thing! I’ve noticed it’s very socially acceptable to proclaim a sports star, actor/actress, musician, or someone generally famous as your hero or shero. Heck, imaginary idols are usually understandable by others too… IF they are characters from a book, TV show, or movie. If you tell a non gamer you idolize a video game character, chances are you are going to get a really strange look in return. Trust me, I know.

Case in point: Lightning Farron, the pink-haired protagonist of Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XIII trilogy. It’s hard to describe exactly what happened, but during a time when I was suffering alone with constant panic attacks, a whole lot of self-loathing thoughts, and an overwhelming fear of life’s ultimate Game Over screen, I zoned out of my emotional chaos and just randomly started playing Final Fantasy XIII: a game I knew nothing about beforehand and had found in the discount bin at a store months prior. Not exactly sure why I decided to give the game a spin then, but Maker, am I glad I did!

Imaginary Idols 1
Did I ever!

From the moment I first saw Lightning Farron fighting her way off the Purge train, I was instantly drawn into her story (and away from my own personal train wreck). She looked so strong and so powerful, but as her story went on, I quickly discovered she was quite the opposite. After witnessing Lightning continuously shut away all of her friends and even threaten her own little sister, it was clear to me that she was silently struggling alone with a chaotic mess of feelings. She wasn’t strong or powerful at all. She was weak, unneeded by anyone, and at the mercy of her own feelz; all just like me.Β So why do I idolize this severely flawed woman and hail her as my shero?

Lightning kept moving forward, no matter what happened to her, how awful she felt about herself, or how hopeless her life seemed. As her journey went on, the cracks in her cranky exterior started revealing the big vulnerable heart she tried so hard to hide from her unforgiving world. Lightning would do absolutely anything to protect the people she cares about, even though she has no idea how to interact with them in a healthy way. Over the course of three amazing games, Lightning learned from her mistakes and helped save the world with her friends, by finally accepting she needed those friends to help save her first. I won’t ruin anything, but thinking about the ending scenes of Lightning Returns still makes me a little choked up.

In short, I grew alongside Lightning’s character as she grew throughout the FFXIII trilogy. It’s a special experience I’d never thought a video game series could give me. In a way, Lightning Farron turned into the overprotective big sister I’ve always wanted. Sure, I know she’s not real, but she is an inspiring force who has helped me become someone greater.Β Now whenever I feel stressed, depressed, hopeless, worthless, and helpless, I just have to look at the pink-haired warrior goddess, and I suddenly find the strength to keep fighting for a better future, no matter how bad things get. There’s no question I still have some issues to deal with, but at least Lightning has given me a permanent spark of hope; an essential weapon in my never-ending war against me. If all that made no sense, Lightning is so important to me I recently got a huge tattoo of her on my arm. That should say a lot!

LightningEllen's Tattoo
Proud to say it, that’s my arm! Credit to Amber Thorpe of Adept Tattoos in Halifax, NS, Canada for drawing this masterpiece on my arm, relatively painlessly with lots of tiny needles, and a ton of different coloured inks.

I have no shame when it comes to showing off my fancy arm ink (obviously) so you better believe I was showing it off at work once it was done. All the responses were pretty much “Hey! That looks really cool!”, which says a lot for the great state of tattoo acceptance in today’s society. However, I remember when I told one person that the woman on my arm was a video game character, I got a little eye roll with a “Oh, those…” type of response. Tis true. Even in this day and age, a lot of non gamers still grossly misunderstand the whole video games a relevant medium thing. I can guarantee you if I would have told that person Lightning was from a movie, book, or TV show, I would’ve got a “That’s great! She must mean a lot to you” type of response instead.

And that’s the major point I want to make with this post: video game characters are valid imaginary idols, and all idols, whether real or imaginary, can be a very important source of stability and inspiration in someone’s life.

No video game character will ever replace Lightning in my cranky gamer heart, but I have definitely been inspired by a few other video game idols, for various reasons. Link, the Hero of Time Ocarina of Time version, for inspiring me with his unrelenting courage in the face of mass Hyrule destruction. Hellblade’s Senua for teaching me that it’s not a curse, but a gift, to perceive reality in a different way. Aloy for showing me how important it is to just let go of past pain and forgive those who have wronged you. Samus for highlighting that solo badasses are solo badasses no matter what gender they are (Note: Other M never happened in my mind). And I can’t forget Bowser, the King Koopa who always dusts off failure and goes right back after that princess.

I’m currently playing through the Mass Effect series, and I have to say my Shepard is certainly a candidate for official induction onto my imaginary idol list. I’ll know for sure soon as I’m 10 hours into Mass Effect 3 at the moment. Woot! Fun random fact: Liara T’Soni and my shero Lightning Farron have the same voice actress, Ali Hillis. OMG!!

Imaginary Idols 2
The evolution of Commander Ellen Shepard. The coolest characters come in trilogies, eh?

In conclusion, don’t be ashamed if a video game character has a special place in your heart. And if any non gamers are reading this, please stop dismissing video game characters as an irrelevant collection of pixels that people control on a screen whenever they’re bored or something. Strength undoubtedly comes from within us all, and when a real or imaginary idol helps you feel strong, that’s a good thing! BUT it really is okay not to be okay. Trying to push away painful emotions instead of accepting them or reaching out for help leaves you broken, hollow, and alone, no matter how many idols you have. I know that round-trip all too well, my friends. It takes the most strength to admit when you need help, and even more than that to actually go seek it out.

What about you, internet? Have any real or imaginary idols you want to talk about? Any thoughts on my thoughts? I’m new here but I’m pretty sure there’s a comment section thingy down below!

⚑Thanks for reading!⚑
~ LightningEllen

You can totally help the Goddess of Wisdom’s Video Game Relevancy Crusade by supporting AmbiGaming on Patreon. You know, only if you wanted to, of course!


52 thoughts on “The Importance of Imaginary Idols

  1. Hey LE! Glad to hear your words, and hope you’ll resurrect your blog from the Lazarus Pit in the near future. Video game heroes can absolutely be idols, I still identify closely with the Chrono Trigger cast, Vivi from FFIX, Link as well. Glad to hear Lightning’s story has helped you through your own trials and tribulations – I’ve been through the panic phase as well. Take good care of yourself!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I’m very grateful Athena is letting me babble on her website while I sort myself out, haha. Chrono Trigger and FFIX are games I really need to make time for soon. I’ve heard lots of good stories about Vivi!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent points here! Video game characters can be just as relatable and well-written as characters from novels or films, and are just as capable of teaching us lessons. I know for me, characters like Link and Mega Man were my childhood heroes more than stereotypical superheroes like Superman, and their stories are much more likely to inspire or move me.
    Also, I’m always glad to see a shout-out for my man Bowser! 😁

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you! True story. I’m glad you’ve found some cool characters that inspire you too. I would definitely like to see video game characters get more respect in mainstream culture. Change happens slowly.

      Bowser is just awesome. No question about that πŸ˜€

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Welcome back. It’s good to know you’re still going strong!

    I very much agree. Inspiring figures don’t actually have to be real. I appreciate that seeing someone in real life rise again after genuine struggles is probably more effective, having an inspirational fictional figure can have just as strong an impact on someone. Inspiration is where you find it!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks! I never go down without a fight first, haha.

      That’s a good point! Real life heroes definitely have the advantage of being, well, real. But yeah, you never know when inspiration is going to strike someone πŸ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

  4. “don’t be ashamed if a video game character has a special place in your heart” …spoken like a true LightningEllen! Welcome back and it’s good to see you back in electric action, my friend. I hope you’re doing well and know that a lot of us wish you the best!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. So glad to be reading you again!

    Um…it is very interesting how fictional heroes and, I want to say, role models, get to be second tier. And yes, video-game characters are the most disregarded. I wonder if it is something about the newness of the medium or about preconceptions regarding the depth a videogame can achieve.

    Lightning is awesome. I have yet to play the two sequels to FFXIII, but like you said, she is admirable because of her struggle and not despite it.

    I know what you mean about getting the “oh, those” kind of response. Except I got it from books. Some years ago, reading A Great and Terrible Beauty got me out of a funk and gave me four chracters I could admire and learn from, despite the fact I was a grown adult and the characters were teenagers in a YA novel*. I soon learned saying you admire characters from a YA novel gets you the side-eye amongst certain type of people. :/

    *I am not very fond of the YA label in general, but it is what it is.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks! I really missed babbling on the internet, haha.

      I hope more people see the value in video game characters someday. Games have come a long way in the story department.

      I’m glad you appreciate Lightning’s awesomeness! Hm. I might have to check out that book. As long as something is special to you, that’s all that matters. People will judge you for just about everything, unfortunately. 😦

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, hopefully it is as good as I remember and I do not have my nostalgia googles on. 😁

        At least once you realise people will judge others for just about anything, you also figure it is not your problem, but theirs.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. Now I truly understand the Lightning love and I can see why she inspires you

    Your love and respect for Lightning makes you stronger and it really shows in your words

    Also that is an awesome tattoo
    I’m glad you are okay

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I was a bit concerned when everything just disappeared. Happy to run into you again around these parts again.

    Role models are very important in all walks of life. Hell, people even recognize this, and try to work that into kids media. That’s why you get GI Joe telling you not to do the cool drugs, Mr. T telling you to drink your milk, stay in school, and also not do the cool drugs, and both Sonic and Spider-man having weird and creepy segments talking about what to do if somebody touches your naughty bits. Because that resonates with people. In a lot of ways, we can be closer to a well-done fictional character than we can to many others in our lives. Sure, they won’t be as multi-faceted, but they also come with a lot less baggage, so in a lot of cases, it can be easier to feel a connection there, and use them as a role model.

    And yeah, of course, as you get older a lot of people think you’re supposed to get more boring and grounded and less passionate about the cool stuff in your life, so not everybody understands this sort of role modelling, and people are crazy judgmental about the things they don’t understand. But they can go screw. I was formed in a lot of ways by emulating myself after the heroes I see and play as. And as I become better and better to impact my world, everyone’s a lot better off for my emulation there. Even if they would be judging it if they knew the truth.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yep. I just sorta disappeared in a flash… sorry. Thanks! I hope things have been going good for you!

      You said it!! People being idiots about stuff that they don’t personally relate to is very annoying… I’m glad you’ve found a lot of cool heroes to see and play as. Never underestimate the power of video games πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Yay Light! You’re back! You were greatly missed! I hope everything is OK and that things are getting better for you :D.

    I really enjoyed this piece, not only from your standpoint on how Lightning helped you in your darkest times, but also how you highlight that it’s perfectly acceptable to idolize and look up to video game characters as role models. I mean, for myself I look up to both Cloud and Link; Cloud because he reminds me of me when I was growing up and Link because he represents the person that I’m trying to become right now.

    Again, welcome back :D! And your tattoo is so boss! I think I mentioned it before, but I might as well remind you again of how amazing it looks :P.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw! Thanks! I missed everyone a lot and I’m honored that Athena is letting me write for her website πŸ˜€

      I remember reading about how important Cloud was to you on your website! Never underestimate the power of Final Fantasy Protagonists, right? Link is also very awesome.

      Thank you! I… just can’t stop talking about my tattoo, haha. All the best, my friend.

      Like

  9. Welcome back! Having a video game hero has the same effect that playing video games do, it allows you to feel accepted. You can identify with themes in a character and be able to see yourself making it through the obstacles, as your character has. The crazy thing is that this is probably why I love villains so much. They’re flawed, not perfect but no matter what they work towards their goals. It’s an uplifting thing to see… I just don’t take it to heart because you know, they’re still villains haha. Great post!

    -Luna πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks! πŸ™‚ Accepted! Yup, that’s the word I was looking for. You’re right about villains. If you overlook the evilness, a lot of them actually have great qualities to admire πŸ€”

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Wow! Welcome back, we all missed you! I hope everything is ACE okay and that things are getting better and improving since the last time we spoke πŸ™‚ . I really enjoyed this piece because I could relate in many ways, I would say maybe 70% of the heroes I look up to are fictional. The heroes I look up to the most are Sgt. Baker ( Hero of the Brothers in Arms games because of what he goes through in those three games, he’s so well-written.) , Master Chief, and some others. Video game characters can indeed be as real as a character from a book or film given that those characters are well-written. Excellent post and welcome back! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, dude! I missed the blogging community a lot πŸ™‚ Also, I’m really enjoying your E3 posts! Can’t believe it’s that time of year again… haha.

      Those are great heroes to look up to. I’ve only played the first Halo game but Master Chief is definitely a badass 😎

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Master Chief is definitely a badass although Halo isn’t my favorite franchise. Thanks so much, I can’t believe it’s that time of year again, such an exciting time! Can’t wait to actually get my hands on with some of the games this week and weekend ( BATTLEFIELD V & FALLOUT 76, excited!) ( I should really go and buy a laptop so I can find some time to write while I’m over there. HMMMM.) Sgt. Baker is one of my favorite characters within gaming as a whole, he is so well written and Gearbox made him a character that you can somewhat relate to in the private moments of Hell’s Highway. I think that’s one of my favorite aspects of gaming as a whole, getting to know the characters on a personal scale and see what makes them who they are.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. You should definitely buy that laptop so you can write more things! Sgt. Baker sounds really badass too! Yup! It’s so true. A special connection with a character can really make a great game so much more awesome. πŸ™‚

          Liked by 1 person

  11. 1. Welcome back! I missed you and your writing so much!
    2. Oh god – so many heroes and heroines, we will just have to correspond about them. But one that is currently jumping out at me, especially as a father – Kratos. It sounds ridiculous, but playing him in the first trilogy of God of War games, and their associated side games, even as a more simplified character, an avatar of anger and pain, or raging against the gods and fate…I related. I was going through a period in my life when I felt a lot of seething anger and resentment, when I felt like I had to push back against a lot of things stacked against me, and just as it did Kratos, it cost me a lot, and it left me scarred. Now playing through the latest God of War, as an older and wiser father with an older and wiser Kratos guiding his son, it’s almost haunting what a reflection it is in how far we’ve both come.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I missed you a lot too, my evil bro πŸ™‚

      Definitely! I haven’t played a God of War game yet… and I need to fix that soon. Wow. That’s quite a powerful connection to Kratos you have there! I’m glad you found him πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Welcome back! I truly feel like relating to characters in games gives you a “living” lens through which to view yourself objectively. This has happened to me a few times, but especially with Vivi in FFIX. I don’t think I’ve ever related to another character quite so strongly. Seeing that scared and shy part of myself embodied in a cute little mage really got me to thinking I might need to talk to someone about all of those doom and gloom feelings around what it means to be alive and to exist. It’s sad that game characters are written off as fluff. They’re written better than many television or movie characters as far as I’m concerned. I’m glad you found someone you related to and to model after.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! πŸ™‚ I love the “living lens” description you used. I keep hearing awesome things about Vivi and I’m glad the little mage helped you. Also, I can’t believe I still haven’t played IX yet… Soon-ish!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I connected and still connect so much better with imaginary people than real ones most of the time. There’s this awesome article I have saved that elaborates on just what you said: even though the characters aren’t real, your feelings about them are. They activate the same pathways in the brain that any other emotions would do, so science is on your side, yay!

    I think there’s much to be said about falling in love with flawed characters. Something I’m, um, pretty familiar with myself. Especially ones that put up a front and act aloof, but then have that one thing that breaks them. I’ve BEEN there before. I’ll be coasting along just fine (or seemingly), but then the last straw hits and I’m a gigantic mess. It’s why that certain scene in FFVII really resonates with me. I get that feel. I also HATE being lied to, grrrr. But loving flawed characters means that even though you’re connected with someone fictional, you still like characters who are more realistic. No one is completely perfect, and it’s really empowering seeing someone who looks like they have it all together not have it all together at all. It’s like they use the same coping mechanisms that you do (or something similar), and watching them struggle and get through hardship gives you hope that you can to πŸ™‚

    Glad to see you writing again!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yay! Science rules πŸ˜€

      Everything you said is awesome and I’m glad you understand! I think Lightning gave me desperately needed coping mechanisms, and for that I will be eternally grateful for her character.

      Thank you. It was very kind of the Goddess of Wisdom to let me babble on her amazing website. Oh and my website was merely an illusion and never actually existed… honestly. Haha. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

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