As promised, I’m back to talk about religion in Final Fantasy X. (I apologize in advance for what will inevitably be a wall of text.) In order to do so, however, I am going to spoil the shit out of major plot details, so anyone who hasn’t played it and is waiting for the HD port should consider this their warning to stop reading. Anyone who wants to see my list of shame can look below the big line that I put in separating FFX talk and other talk.
I feel as if religion is the scaffolding for the rest of the game to be built with; the Yevon faith provides the vocabulary and the tone for the rest of the game. The story itself is ostensibly the story of a pilgrimage (and in some cases, a kilgrimage, [I'm so sorry]) to Zanarkand as a way to atone for the sins of a society. The summoners in the Yevon faith are tasked with various spiritual and metaphysical duties, and the party in FFX is tasked with delivering Yuna safely to a point at which she can summon an aeon and defeat Sin, which has been wreaking havoc on Spira. Again, this isn’t news to those of you who have played it, but I wanted to recap in case it’s been a while or in case you don’t give a shit and just want to read my post.
The reason I point to FFX as an interesting example is because it deals with both the metaphysical aspects of the religion as well as the relevant cultural issues that are mentioned in the article Tolkoto linked. While religion does inform the culture of Spira, it is also something that is directly provable in some ways. Summoners are able to perform Sendings as well as summon Aeons. (If anyone is interested in following a tangent, Aeon has Platonic and Judeo-Christian connotations of eternal ideas and eternal life. I’m sure there’s a Wikipedia page or something.) The Faith manifests itself as a tangible thing, and it doesn’t cast believers as simpletons or naive, although Yuna arguably is.
The power of belief plays a large role in how the narrative of the game plays out. The “twist” that everyone sees coming is that Yuna will be forced to sacrifice herself to save the planet from Sin. I probably don’t need to spell out the allegory here, but I think the game is interesting for more reasons than this incredibly obvious and blunt metaphor.
Yuna’s faith is discussed in depth, and this is one of the few games I can think of where we’re given a window in to the world of a deeply religious person whose faith informs the vast majority of their decisions. Not only does it focus on her own faith but also the type of social pressure that is exerted upon someone of her status. Yevon, and the accumulation of knowledge of Yevon furthers the party’s quest, is central to the narrative of the game. The numerous temples that the party visits during the pilgrimage and the other priests (including Seymour, of course) all shape our perception of both Yuna’s quest as well as Yuna’s notion of the pilgrimage. While she starts out hopeful, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep her spirits up, as she accumulated enough knowledge of the inner working of the faith, the way she previously viewed her role in Spira’s society eventually begins to conflict with how she feels her role will play out. Not only that, Yuna discovers that she has her own personality outside of her social role. She is not a faceless head of a religious organization, which is a rarity in these types of games. (In fact, the eternal Gaian and Messian conflict of the SMT series, is nowhere to be found. There are zealots in FFX, but they are not zealots for black and white reasons.)
Indeed, I think one of the central conceits of the game is that the social pressures Yuna faces and her religious calling often differ in both scope and tone. The transition from faithful servant to an architect of deicide unfolds as Yuna realizes not that her faith is fake, but that her faith allows others to treat her like a servant and a means to an end. (We can extend this metaphor even further if we look at the way the summoners, particularly Seymour, use their Aeons.) Yuna’s faith is always placed in this dual bind between metaphysics and social pressures, which is something I imagine other people of faith deal with, and it’s one of the reasons I think this game provides a bit more nuanced perspective on some things than is immediately obvious.
I may have some more thoughts on this topic, actually, but those are my most basic thoughts for now.
I’m definitely in to participate in The Feenwager Challenge. My list of games that I have sitting around unfinished is truly shameful. I’m currently on the home stretch of Nier, but the rest of these haven’t been played much. I’m not bothering to list stuff like Gears of War, Lego Harry Potter, or Halo Reach, because I only play those co-op with my girlfriend. Also, I’m all ears if someone has suggestions as to what I should play next. For what it’s worth, it’s easier to play console stuff than PC stuff.
Final Fantasy XIII
Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time
Resonance of Fate
Little Big Planet
Perfect Dark (I have beaten it, but not on the hardest difficulty)
Puzzle Quest 2
PC (There’s way too much here as it is, so I’m not listing all of the Indie Bundle stuff)
Beneath a Steel Sky
All 3 Deus Ex games.
Fallout: New Vegas
The Longest Journey
The Penumbra series
Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines
The PC list is heavily truncated, as there are a ton of smaller or Indie games I could list.
Now, if you want to see something really bad, I could list all of the books I’ve bought but haven’t read. One of my goals this year is to read all of them. (It’s not shameful because there are hundreds of unread books, but mostly because I have seriously amazing shit like The Master and Margarita and Blood Meridian sitting around unfinished.