Book Review: Final Fantasy And Philosophy: The Ultimate Walkthrough

As a fond reader of books relating to philosophy and video games [1], and a fan of the Final Fantasy series of roleplaying games by SquareEnix, I thought this would be a lighthearted and enjoyable read, that even if it offered a great deal of foolishness would be at least somewhat entertaining. It is clear from reading the fourteen essays in this book by various contributors that the people who wrote these essays are genuinely fond of the game and also of considering every aspect of culture to be worthy of analysis and philosophical reflection, which, as far as it goes, is a tendency I personally share. It is also clear that the authors of the essays greatly enjoy an aspect of their generally unprofitable profession that earns them money and helps to pay off the college loans, and earn a line in one’s curriculum vitae, all of which is to be appreciated. All of these help make this book more enjoyable to read.

In terms of its content and structure, this is a game that explores several of the entries in the Final Fantasy series, focusing on those games that were released in the United States and generally disregarding related series. There are a couple of essays that reference Final Fantasy Tactics slightly, and none that deal with the Final Fantasy Legend series [2]. The fourteen essays are divided into several parts. The first three essays look at basic controls, dealing with Final Fantasy VII as a writerly text, where the player controls certain aspects of how the story progresses, looking at Final Fantasy VI’s antagonist Kefka as an example of the discourse of madness from Nietzsche and Foucault, and looking at the series as a whole as an example of good art using Hume’s writings about taste. The second part looks at the series as a reflection upon reality, comparing the lifestream to Lovelock’s Gaia theory, looking at environmental ethics, and examining the objectification of conscious life forms. Two essays look at abilities we never knew we had, like the relationship of Final Fantasy to the purpose of life and examining the question of responsibility and praise and the light warriors of Final Fantasy I. Three essays examine side quests of the enlightened, providing a discussion of Shinto and alien (read: Judeo-Christian) influences in Final Fantasy VII, then a plug for Marx’s views of materialism and Communism, and Final Fantasy X’s view of sin and a criticism of Christianity’s view of otherworldliness. The last three essays examine ways to make sure the game never ends, in looking at Cloud’s existential quest for authenticity in Final Fantasy VII, Vivi’s fear of death in Final Fantasy IX, and the question of identity and the referent aspects of naming with Cloud and Cid throughout the series.

Each of the essays when taken individually exhibit coherence, if not necessarily excellence. It is clear that these philosophers do not view the Final Fantasy universe as a source of wisdom or enlightenment, but rather they consider themselves to be fit judges for evaluating the series and seek to mine the series for elements that support their own particular worldviews, which are diverse but all humanistic in nature. What is particularly striking in reading this series is seeing the immense hostility that these various philosophers have towards biblical religion. In fact, more than half of the essays in the volume show immense criticism of some aspect of Christianity, and although they make wildly contradictory arguments against Christianity, they are unified by their hostility to God’s ways and to our Lord and Creator. It is worthwhile at least to note the immense scope of their discontent with God. Some of the essays decry the fact that Christianity exhibits a supposed slave mentality that is hostile to the domination and legitimacy of elites, which these philosophers see themselves as, even as they urge people to be a slave to their own drives and resistant to anything that would oppose those urges. Some essays oppose Christianity for its use of charity and kindness as a way of opening a society to domination and exploitation while promoting in its stead views of pseudoscientific pantheism or syncretistic Shintoism. Other essays view Christianity as entirely otherworldly and thus failing to support those who are called upon to create heaven on earth and to create their own meaning. Still other essays criticize the Bible for holding mankind responsible for our actions in the face of predestination and genetic programming. The end result is that while each author writes in defense of his or her own worldview, the resulting collection is a mishmash of contradictory incoherence. About the only thing these authors agree on is their hostility to God’s ways and their desire to be the captain of their own ship of folly. Ultimately, this book is more about the futile fantasies of philosophers to escape God’s rule than about the beauty and depth of the Final Fantasy series as a whole.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2016/01/12/book-review-philosophy-through-video-games/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2016/01/12/book-review-the-legend-of-zelda-and-philosophy-i-link-therefore-i-am/

[2] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2015/08/30/makai-toushi-sa-ga-reflection-on-a-retro-video-game/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/12/25/advent-children/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/09/25/forsan-et-haec-olim-meminisse-iuvabit/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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8 Responses to Book Review: Final Fantasy And Philosophy: The Ultimate Walkthrough

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