I think some Final Fantasy fans want to feel validated as the heroes int heir respective games. Such as in TV Tropes’ discussion of the “Heroic Mime”…
All too often in video games, it seems like designers feel that the best way to get players to relate to the main character is to have said character have absolutely no character at all. Even though you can’t say a word, it seems like every NPC around you instantly understands what you need…
Sometimes players project themselves onto the “silent protagonist”, who function as blank slates. But later, games started incorporating playable characters with identifiable traits. Players began projecting themselves onto them still. But this time with muted personalities, just enough so that players could identify with the characters. These characters were still heroes in the traditional sense. Maybe of them could still flatter the player when s/he so happened to project.
Then, the late 90’s started to happen. More characters were less about the ideal tradition of heroics, and more so flawed human beings with issues. We started to meet more disturbed Final Fantasy characters. Final Fantasy VII, VIII and XIII all had soldiers that weren’t necessarily good people. In Final Fantasy X, Tidus was a “whiny-baby”. Players identified with these characters, even if many weren’t adventurers, orphans, rebels or soldiers.
So there’s something more right?
Yes, I think so. I think gamers want to project themselves on someone well balanced to bolster up their own self-esteem. But don’t we all do this, when we pick friends and even college roommates?
Consider a 2014 study of college roommates: Researchers studied more than 100 pairs of newly assigned freshman roommates at move-in, and then again three and six months later. They examined, among other things, the students’ symptoms of depression and their tendency to ruminate—their propensity to get tangled up in their feelings and to obsess about the causes and consequences of not feeling well.
Sure enough, students who lived with a ruminating roommate also developed the tendency, which greatly increased their own risk of depression. To be clear, the depressive symptoms themselves weren’t contagious, but the thinking styles were. After six months, freshmen who “caught” a ruminative way of thinking from their roommates had twice as many depressive symptoms as those who didn’t pick up the thinking style.
What does this mean for fans of Final Fantasy? Some end up taking on characteristics of the main characters. They start thinking about themselves in ways they may not like, becoming antagonistic and start brooding. They become argumentative, spiteful, whiny, snarky, cold.
But this can be good, right?
We have to at least acknowledge our shadow functions in other to move past it. This gives the players a chance to work through their own issues and clarify it with themselves in story format. Novels are great for this, video games can be the new novels. Except many gamers don’t make this far. Or, they don’t analyze the story in such a way. Thus, they stay stuck in. They hate the characters who they projected themselves onto. And to stop from hating this about themselves, they hate the game and turn away.
Maybe some of these gamers, susceptible to depressive tendencies, might not like the more edgy characters.
Maybe some of these gamers without these tendencies still might not want to fall into depression with them.
But some have played Final Fantasy games to work through their depression all the same.