If you spend as much time as I do immersed in fantasy worlds, chances are they’re going to start rubbing off on you. Final Fantasy games are full of complex systems, compelling characters, and outrageous plot twists. Not too dissimilar to real life, actually. It’s impossible not to learn a thing or two along the way. So, here are five of the biggest life lessons I’ve taken away from the Final Fantasy game series.
You Need to Level Up if you Want to Succeed
Nothing is more frustrating than grinding. Fighting the same battles over and over and over (and over) is mind-numbing, and saps your will to carry on. You know why you’re doing it — you want to be strong enough to stand a chance against Ultima Weapon — but the act of doing it begins to blot out the goal, and all you can see are endless hours of the same fights over and over (and over).
But being prepared for new challenges is imperative if you want to succeed. And not just in RPGs. If I want to, for example, become a better coder, I need to invest the time in repetitive lessons, researching, employing trial and error and banging my head against a particularly troublesome problem until I’ve solved it. RPGs acknowledge that sometimes the act of improving is less fun than the goal, and that’s okay. It’s supposed to be difficult. Keep at it, and one day you’ll be on the other side of it, better than you were before.
Leave no Stone Unturned — There’s Treasure Everywhere
I have pretty severe FOMO. Traipsing through Final Fantasy dungeons is stressful because I’m terrified I’ll miss some great new gear or a magic spell or even an optional boss fight. I backtrack after every fork to ensure I leave no path unexplored. It can turn a 40-hour game into a 60-hour game.
Now, I’ve never gone treasure hunting in real life (unless you count a brief fascination with geocaching in the mid-’00s, and I don’t). But the lesson stands: being thorough brings rewards. Doing the bare minimum on, say, a project for work might not lose you your job, but it keeps that raise or promotion out of reach. Explore every angle. You could find something pretty remarkable.
People Aren’t Always What They Seem, for Better and Worse
Finding out Cloud wasn’t really who he said he was in Final Fantasy VII blew my teenage mind, and learning the truth about Tidus in Final Fantasy X was heartbreaking. We live for those revelations. They subvert our expectations and create memorable stories.
People rarely reveal themselves to be fake ex-Soldiers or summoned dreams of a dying planet (right? I’m still a little fuzzy on FFX). In reality, we’re often surprised by the people around us because we make quick judgments about them based on little information. Sometimes the person we think is boring ends up being really cool, just a little shy. Sometimes the person we think is exciting and fun actually has no control over their lives and they may drag us down with them. We need to be open to learning about people. Their stories are much more complex than we can imagine.
It’s Okay to Sweat the Details
The first time I played Final Fantasy VI (or III, as it was known then), I barely survived. I did the requisite level grinding and learned every magic spell I could, but the last dungeon was still incredibly hard. I recently played it again as an adult, now equipped with a much better understanding of all the crazy, game-breaking details in the game’s systems. Let me tell you — this time, Kefka was a pushover.
Learning everything you can about something you’re passionate about is the key to experiencing it fully. Don’t settle for surface-level knowledge, when pushing further will make your life much easier in the long run. Whether it’s deepening your understanding of a hobby or learning a new skill, there’s good stuff buried in the details. Check it out.
Don’t Rush to the End — Enjoy the Little Moments
One of my favorite sequences in Final Fantasy VII is the flashback showing Zack and Cloud’s escape from Nibelheim. It’s crazy to think a lot of players never even saw it. Squaresoft hid a compelling piece of backstory in an optional, out-of-the-way location.
Final Fantasy games are full of moments like that. The latter half of Final Fantasy VI is open-ended, and most of it is technically optional, but all the interesting character development happens there. The conversations between the four friends in Final Fantasy XV can be easy to ignore, but they teach us so much about the world and the characters themselves. In Final Fantasy IV, you can learn about the fates of some of your favorite characters (and gain some awesome new stuff) just by going off the beaten path.
Enjoy the little moments. The small conversations with loved ones that don’t seem to be about much. The aimless road trips with the windows rolled down and the wind in your hair. The quiet evenings at home. We’re always in a hurry to get to the “Next Big Thing” in our lives, we miss moments of personal growth, moments to recharge, moments to reconnect. Slow down a little and enjoy the ride.
Never let anyone tell you games can’t teach you anything. If you know what to look for, you’ll find new ways to grow. And you’ll have a great time doing it.