June 17, 2015
Final Fantasy VII: An excerpt from DEATH BY VIDEO GAME
by Simon Parkin
Final Fantasy VII, the Japanese adventure game in which I found refuge during my teenage years, gained notoriety because it kills off one of its main characters midway through the story. This was, at the time, an unprecedented act in video games. Losing a fictional character whom you care about often stings, but in a video game, the characters you control carry more than mere emotional investment.
They are also graphical representations of invested effort—these are the avatars into which you have poured your time and energy, which have grown in power and competence thanks to your service and dedication leading them to victory. When Aeris dies in Final Fantasy VII the wound is doubly deep: the game’s writers are taking away not only a character with whom you identify and about whom you care, but also an asset that you have carefully nurtured in your route to victory.
Even before the game’s release in the West in 1997, importers of the Japanese version reported Aeris’s death and rumours began to spread that there was a way to bring the character back to life.
Read the rest in Death By Video Game—available for purchase here, at your neighborhood independent bookstore, at Barnes & Noble, or at Amazon.
Simon Parkin is a journalist whose writing has appeared in the New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, the Guardian, ESPN, and a number of other publications. DEATH BY VIDEO GAME is his first book.