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!
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. 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. 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!
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!!
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!⚡
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