Game Theory: Why Final Fantasy is Anti-Religion

 Pages 1 2 3 NEXT
 

Why Final Fantasy is Anti-Religion

Final Fantasy games feature a lot of religious symbolism. But if you look closely, those references to religion actually form a very interesting pattern; the Final Fantasy games are actually against organized religion...and even the concept of God himself.

Watch Video

To me, it comes across as "human being" are flawed. They are not perfect.
Which means you need to be careful when listening to what other people say to you. You are not ever entirely sure if what they're saying is sincere, or if they're a person who is partially corrupted.

I think the use of religious imagery creates an impact. Religious imagery has been designed to be impactful, and it carries a lot of associations. Therefore, the use of its assets in other media is a quick way to stir a reaction, even if the person playing/watching/what ever is 100% hardcore atheistic.

Basically: "be careful; blind faith is dangerous" and "religious imagery carries impact".

There's a way to present a theory that everyone figured out years ago without coming across as infuriatingly, intolerably smug. Let me know when you figure it out.

Raika:
There's a way to present a theory that everyone figured out years ago without coming across as infuriatingly, intolerably smug. Let me know when you figure it out.

Pretty much this, I made the "Screw Churches" connection when I'd played through both FFX and FF Tactics, and figured the most likely reason for that plotline was because they wanted the player fighting the biggest, most powerful evil they could for most climactic impact. What has more magical superpower for an exciting final battle than a god-like entity? Some of the optional bosses, but we're probably not supposed to pay too much attention to that.

Not that it matters to me, I've been a fan of deicide since God of War.

If you want to watch the original upload. here's a year old link :D

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLhiWw3pzQk

Stupid Western concept of Religion. Most Religions outside of Western Judao-Islamic-Christian religions don't have a concept of "Our god is the one and most perfect god there is". FF6 was a good example of Christianity vs Japanese Spirit worship. Unless you're going to claim that Spirit Worship isn't religious the claim that it's Anti Religious is clearly false. The expert explained it right Game Theory got it wrong, and Game Theory clearly didn't understand the experts explanation.

Under Game Theory's logic you'd have to conclude the Norse Religion was Anti Religion because Odin as one of the most untrustworthy figures to the point of being called Odin Oath-Breaker. However, the Norse Religion is a religion and can't exactly be Anti Itself. Clearly having evil manipulative creator gods doesn't make you anti-religion. In fact, given the trace record it's almost a prerequisite.

Why Final Fantasy is Anti-Religion? Maybe because it's from the least religious country on Earth?

This seems like an overrated focus on one particular game, that actually fits pretty well into it's cultural standards. It would be more difficult to find an anime, manga, visual novel, light novel, or JRPG, that approves of organized religion, than one that disapproves of it.

Alterego-X:
Why Final Fantasy is Anti-Religion? Maybe because it's from the least religious country on Earth?

I didn't know Final Fantasy was from Norway!

Eh anti-religious video games, no surprise there. Most video game creators tend to be of a liberal descent in regards to things like religion and politics, well... good video game makers and no that isn't an accusation, it's an observation, all I care about is good gaming. :)

I defer to John Green on this one:

"You should not seek truth in fiction, you are doing a disservice to the fiction"

It's just a game series that finds some of it's material from very rich sources of ideas.

But, I never thought about it that way, so clearly my opinion is biased (as are all opinions). It makes some good points but it kind of comes off more like the folly of man in deciding the fate of the world to me. In most of them, it's about a flawed person becoming an almighty god. But, good vid, keep them coming.

I really don't like the game theorist, like someone said they present valid opinions, but they act so smug like their the first ones who figured it out and everyone else was in the dark.

I still watched their videos on youtube because they were bearable, but then there was this episode where they talked about pasta sauce, I was literally screaming JIM STERLING OUR LORD AND SAVIOR at my computer screen, especially because Jim presented it in a much better fashion at a much earlier date, and didn't get half the views that they did, then i never watched their videos again.

To quote Invoker: They believe themselves to be a beacon of knowledge blazing out across a black sea of ignorance.

Or it could all be, you know, a work of fiction. With no connection whatsoever to any religion or stance for/against it

1) Um, yeah. If you could tone the smug down just a little, that would be fantastic.

2) Was this episode considered more a teaser? It told FF fans things they'd known for years, but then you just hit a list of things that were dabbling in the genuinely interesting/new as potential future topics. Frustrating! ;p

My vote is for any/all of those topics, please, especially if you can just tone the smug down a hair.

Alterego-X:
Why Final Fantasy is Anti-Religion? Maybe because it's from the least religious country on Earth?

Japan enjoys full religious freedom based on Article 20 of its Constitution. Upper estimates suggest that 84-96 percent of the Japanese population subscribe to Buddhism or Shinto

From wikipedia.

An interesting video, now that I think about it, I can't think of that many videogames that have had much positive to say about large-scale organised religions.

Sigh... why is this old, mildly comedic and informative at times but otherwise tedious and mean-spirited parody show being picked up this long after its original youtube uploading? I follow that this has gone on for a few weeks or so, but the point remains, why this and why here? Jim and Yahtzee had to at least make new material when they signed on...

EDIT: how much does the Escapist pay for re-uploads of old content? If it's as much as the OC contributors get, they should really fight for a better contract.

What gets under my skin is that "Nuke the Church" is the only plot we ever seem to get.

I mean is it too much to ask for a Good monotheistic religion in a game?

Raika:
There's a way to present a theory that everyone figured out years ago without coming across as infuriatingly, intolerably smug. Let me know when you figure it out.

To be fair, this video is originally from the beginning of 2013. I'm not sure why it's "new content" here. MattPat has a fairly lengthy series doing basically this for various topics (like Pokemon and evolution, Mario and communism, sexualization of Smite deities, etc, etc, etc).

medv4380:
Stupid Western concept of Religion. Most Religions outside of Western Judao-Islamic-Christian religions don't have a concept of "Our god is the one and most perfect god there is". FF6 was a good example of Christianity vs Japanese Spirit worship. Unless you're going to claim that Spirit Worship isn't religious the claim that it's Anti Religious is clearly false. The expert explained it right Game Theory got it wrong, and Game Theory clearly didn't understand the experts explanation.

Under Game Theory's logic you'd have to conclude the Norse Religion was Anti Religion because Odin as one of the most untrustworthy figures to the point of being called Odin Oath-Breaker. However, the Norse Religion is a religion and can't exactly be Anti Itself. Clearly having evil manipulative creator gods doesn't make you anti-religion. In fact, given the trace record it's almost a prerequisite.

Judaism, islam, and Christianity are middle-eastern religions. Catholicism and all of its spawn are western. I don't mean to nitpick, but misspeech tends to beget misinformation VERY easily here on the webz.

seiler88:
What gets under my skin is that "Nuke the Church" is the only plot we ever seem to get.

I mean is it too much to ask for a Good monotheistic religion in a game?

But Father Evans clearly is a man of healing and light and totally doesn't have a secret torture dungeon where his knights drag heretics...

If you can name the game, I owe you a cookie. Not that I can give it to you.

Eh, i recommend replaying the game or maybe reading a transcript or something before creating an episode like this. The story was completely butchered.
Most important: in the actual story in the game, Yevon, the organized religion, and Yevon the god-like summoner have actually nothing much to do with one another. Sin was created by Yevon as a last effort super-weapon in a war between two cities (Zanarkand & Bevelle) that his side (Zanarkand) was losing. And Sin serves both as a weapon and as a way to keep the civilization intact, since the people that died for it live on in some sort of dream world inside.
The Yevon church on the other hand was created by the other side in the war (Bevelle), after they realized that they had technically won (their opponents all being dead) but they had left that unstoppable superweapon rampaging around. It is quite an important revelation in the story when the immense irony is revealed that the city of Bevelle, home of the Yevon church, was actually the side using technology in the war, and was forced to adopt the methods of their opponents (summoning) to survive even after they had won the war.
So the first 3 minutes of the video are pretty much dead wrong.
While the church of Yevon is displayed as very corrupt, that's not surprising, they're the all-round bad guy in the story. The overall tone however is much less one of anti-religion than of anti-war, or rather anti-human hubris, with the game telling multiple storylines where the theme is that human lust for power/wealth/advancement etc. is what leads to their downfall.

Next time when attempting to analyse a storyline, make sure you've actually paid attention when watching it first.

Nieroshai:

medv4380:
Stupid Western concept of Religion. Most Religions outside of Western Judao-Islamic-Christian religions don't have a concept of "Our god is the one and most perfect god there is". FF6 was a good example of Christianity vs Japanese Spirit worship. Unless you're going to claim that Spirit Worship isn't religious the claim that it's Anti Religious is clearly false. The expert explained it right Game Theory got it wrong, and Game Theory clearly didn't understand the experts explanation.

Under Game Theory's logic you'd have to conclude the Norse Religion was Anti Religion because Odin as one of the most untrustworthy figures to the point of being called Odin Oath-Breaker. However, the Norse Religion is a religion and can't exactly be Anti Itself. Clearly having evil manipulative creator gods doesn't make you anti-religion. In fact, given the trace record it's almost a prerequisite.

Judaism, islam, and Christianity are middle-eastern religions. Catholicism and all of its spawn are western. I don't mean to nitpick, but misspeech tends to beget misinformation VERY easily here on the webz.

Maybe you should bother to look up what are Western Religions before you claim to nitpick. Or would you have preferred the Abrahamic reference?

sir neillios:

[quote]Japan enjoys full religious freedom based on Article 20 of its Constitution. Upper estimates suggest that 84-96 percent of the Japanese population subscribe to Buddhism or Shinto

I'm talking about degrees of religious practice here. On "How important is religion in your life" questions, Japan is dragging in the negative top 10. (although atm I can't find the one where it was exactly negative #1).

Shinto is pretty much a series of folk traditions and superstitions with no binding creed, holy book, or chuch hierarchy. And the Japanese branch of buddhism is known as "funeral Buddhism", because that's the only thing people want from it.

seiler88:
What gets under my skin is that "Nuke the Church" is the only plot we ever seem to get.

I mean is it too much to ask for a Good monotheistic religion in a game?

You're right, and they're still doing it even in the most recent Final Fantasy games.

I will say, however, that the FF13 games do approach it in an interesting manner. Despite all its flaws, I do like the story of the FF13 Trilogy.

I always took it as finding your own way and following ancient traditions out of a sense of duty will only end up screwing you in a lot of games with religion as the enemy.
There are a lot of good yevonites in FFX, and its not the religious people that are causing the shit but rather the ones who figure they can manipulate the world using religion.

It's not just the Final Fantasy games; the Breath of Fire series has the same overtones when dealing their religion. A lot of Japanese games in particular like to use a syncretic hodgepodge of belief systems in their games reflecting a variety of faiths and values. These are almost all universally negative. I mean look Bayonetta and Devil May Cry; Oooh press X to torture Angels. Oh and kill God while you're at it. Even El-Shaddai, a game rife with Biblical over and undertones had a rather dim view of God's orderings of the world, his Angels, and their interactions with human beings. Even though God was ostensibly the force of good, he was at best an uncaring, uninvolved force until it came time to wipe out evil in the world. And who guides the player (Enoch) though his adventures killing Nephilim and fallen Angels alike? Why that would be Lucifer, oh I'm sorry Lucifel... you're so clever over there.

Personally, I find it rather tiresome and an easy out for a weak plot. While at the beginning the concept of "What you thought was good, isn't good but bad." was novel, the premise now is running thin. Every time I come across a game that that has that theme, especially using a church-like setting, I get bored quickly. I groan and roll my eyes, sometimes saying "Really?"; "That's right up there with taking on The Man."

I think some very important points are being missed here. One thing you need to understand is that in most cases you are dealing with false gods who are either creating or co-opting a mythology for their own ends. Kefka was semi-omnipotent but he was a mortal who gained power. "Final Fantasy X" was based loosely around Roger Zelazny's "Lord Of Light" where the church was developed using high technology, with the stated goal of preventing the advancement of technology "until people were ready for it" (which would never come or be accepted due to the status quo serving the controlling elite). In the case of "Final Fantasy X" in particular it should be noted that there actually WAS an apocalypse caused by high technology and the current social order was created to prevent that from happening again.

One thing that should be noted is that in Final Fantasy, ultimately the REAL divine beings play some role in the downfall of the pretenders. This can be as subtle as using white magic, invoking "holy" abilities which for whatever reason the so called "god" isn't granting and thus can't shut down to prevent them from being used against him. Indeed so called White, or Holy magic (oftentimes with a spell called "Holy") is usually required to be used, and used correctly, to defeat a lot of the final battles. But more so than that, consider in the "damning" "Final Fantasy X" Tidus himself pretty much doesn't exist, he's a creation of The Fayth with the specific goal of throwing down the order being talked about here. You more or less have the equivalent of god, turning on the pope, with Tidus being a manifestation of power (sort of like one can argue Jesus as an extension of god). Later games in the series deal with the question of the soul, as the series which is inspired by Lord Of Light uses the same basic technology including a sort of "soul battery" where the spirits of the dead are stored (in Lord Of Light they go futher with it though, tying it to a brain transfer technology that reincarnates people into different bodies, in Lord Of Light the pretenders have assumed the guise of Hindu deities... think of it as transhumanism being exploited in the guise of religion), one of the later plot threads deals specifically with the question as to whether the Tidus you knew (rather than the very different man he was based on) actually had a soul or was merely an extension of divine power... a power which had moved on and left humanity to it's own devices.

In "Final Fantasy 7" the religious connotations are among the most obvious. I think probably more people of my generation learned what "Sepiroth", "Jenovah", and about things like the "Tree Of Life" due to being interested in that game than from any other source. However in this game it's important to note that ALL of this is turned on it's head in the last act. Basically you have "Holy" (God/Good) being invoked to protect earth from Meteor (The Devil/Evil, also sort of based on the mythology of Tiamat and the actual meteor), but it happens too late because humanity had basically turned it's back on religion, and indeed the bad guys were sucking up the very power, running a literal power company, that would eventually be needed to save everyone. What's more the acts of man to save itself, via things like trying to fire a missile at Meteor, fail... basically the real "God" everyone has forsaken is the only answer. The ending of the game pretty much has Holy stepping in to try and save the world, but it's pointed out that due to the stupidity of humanity it's too late, and the devestation is massive. The ending of the game makes it questionable who survived and who did not. Indeed, while contradicted by sequels, it could be argued that originally humanity was deemed unworthy and was pretty much erased, and Red's people inherited the earth. Of course "Advent Children" defined things a little differently, but it should be noted that it literally involves the hero finding peace by briefly visiting heaven before being sent back to the mortal plane.

Now granted, different games have different overall logics behind them, but I do not think you can argue any kind of real "universal" message behind the series. Unless of course it's basically that organized religion and the mechinations [SP] of man take us away from the divine and the actual truth. It seems most accurate to say that it's anti-organized religion, as they tend to produce false gods. In "Final Fantasy 7" though it seems that the message has religions connotations but ultimately seems to be anti-corporate, and perhaps anti-technology. On a lot of levels it's like that "Insane Clown Posse" song "Miracles" that people laugh about, where the song is pretty much saying is that science is irrelevant since everything we're seeing is actually a miracle created by god and thus the "why" doesn't much matter. In the case of "Final Fantasy 7" this is literally true because the technology is being powered by energy vampired out of the divine force holding the planet together.

That said it's probably true that some of the games do have the message mentioned. I did not play the portable game mentioned, but it does seem like it could be a giant mind screw as well, the whole "video game character, confronted with the fact that he's a character in a video game" schtick.

Now, if you want to get into a game that has more of the message being talked about here, the series to look at would probably be "Shin Megami Tensei" in that one they even spell out what your doing in some titles. Of course it can also be argued that the divine forces in that game are portrayed as genuine, your just elevated by some means to eventually play at their level. I mean in some games like Nocturne the world pretty much ended. In the "Persona" spin off it seems to use a sort of logic similar to DC's "Sandman" where gods and such are very powerful, but the actual real powers are primordial universal forces like death which exist far beyond that level. Hence the whole "Memento Mori" thing in "Persona 3", basically when even gods can die your time as a very mortal being is of course going to be limited, no matter how powerful you become, and what you do in the course of the story (which gets pretty crazy) at the end death still takes you (even if he's kind of your friend).

Alterego-X:
Why Final Fantasy is Anti-Religion? Maybe because it's from the least religious country on Earth?

This seems like an overrated focus on one particular game, that actually fits pretty well into it's cultural standards. It would be more difficult to find an anime, manga, visual novel, light novel, or JRPG, that approves of organized religion, than one that disapproves of it.

I always thought it was a cultural thing. It's not that Japan is anti-religion or anti-Christian, rather the wave of Portuguese Catholic missionaries engaged in a variety of conspiracies that undermined Japans national sovereignty and/or society. Picking a few key parts from a lengthy wiki article:

Economic Activities

Their officially recognized commercial activity was a fixed-amount entry into the Portuguese silk trade between Macau and Nagasaki. They financed to a certain amount the trade association in Macau, which purchased raw silk in Canton and sold it in Nagasaki. They did not confine their commercial activity to the official silk market but expanded into unauthorized markets. For the Macau-Nagasaki trade, they dealt in silk fabrics, gold, musk and other goods including military supplies and slavery. Sometimes, they even got involved in Spanish trade, prohibited by the kings of Spain and Portugal, and antagonized the Portuguese traders.

It was mainly procurators who brokered Portuguese trade. They resided in Macau and Nagasaki, and accepted purchase commitments by Japanese customers such as the shogunate daimyo and wealthy merchants. By brokerage, the Jesuits could expect not only rebates but also favorable treatment from the authorities. For this reason, the office of procurator became an important post amongst the Jesuits in Japan. Although trade activities by the Jesuits ate into Portuguese trade interests, procurators continued their brokerage utilizing the authority of the Catholic Church. At the same time, Portuguese merchants required the assistance of procurators who were familiar with Japanese customs, since they established no permanent trading post in Japan. Probably the most notable procurator was Joćo Rodrigues, who approached Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu and even participated in the administration of Nagasaki.

Such commercial activities were contrary to the idea of honorable poverty that the priests held. But some Jesuits at this time placed the expansion of the society's influence before this ideal. Mendicant orders fiercely accused the Jesuits of being corrupt and even considered their activity as the primary reason for Japan's ban on Catholicism. Mendicant orders themselves were not necessarily uninvolved in commercial activities.

Military activities

Many daimyos converted to Christianity in order to gain more favorable access to saltpeter, used to make gunpowder. Between 1553 and 1620, eighty-six daimyos were officially baptized, and many more were sympathetic to the Christians.[13]

The Jesuits provided various kinds of support including military support to Kirishitan daimyo when they were threatened by non-Kirishitan daimyo. Most notable was their support of Omura Sumitada and Arima Harunobu, who fought against the anti-Catholic Ryuzoji clan. In the 1580s, Valignano believed in the effectiveness of military action and fortified Nagasaki and Mogi. In 1585, Gaspar Coelho asked the Spanish Philippines to send a fleet but the plan was rejected due to the shortness of its military capability. Christians Protasio Arima and Paulo Okamoto were named as principals in an assassination plot to murder the magistrate in charge of the Shogunate's most important port city of Nagasaki.

So what you typically see in Japanese video games is a fantastical recreation of the countries actual experience with the Portuguese Jesuits. They preached 'honourable poverty' while they themselves got rich off trade. They gave advanced weapons to warlords in exchange for religious conversion. That left a unique mark on Japanese culture, one that's still echoing today in their works of fiction. I really doubt it's meant to be spiteful or 'anti' anything.

seiler88:
What gets under my skin is that "Nuke the Church" is the only plot we ever seem to get.

I mean is it too much to ask for a Good monotheistic religion in a game?

Kind of, yes.

From a game design standpoint, having a benevolent omnipotent being obviously presents some balancing problems. If there is only one God, and that God is on the players side, how do you present the player with a challenge? Your obvious options are to have the God not intervene (In which case you have to answer the question 'why am I working for him?') or to arbitrarily limit his powers or come up with some reason why he can't just give you the victory immediately. Neither of those answers make much sense unless you dilute the God's power to the point where you aren't discussing a God anymore though.

The obvious answer to this conundrum is of course to add a second powerful being on the same level so that you aren't just pitting one player plus an all-powerful deity against a foe that must (by definition) be weaker. Instead you're pitting the player and their God against an evil God and its followers. Introducing that second god removes the 'monotheistic' part of the clause though.

Most of the ways to involve only a single God and not have that God be overpowered tend to feel like varying degrees of BS. Unless you're intentionally trying to make a game based on a real religion, there's just no reason to not add a second opposing version of the deity to balance things out.

Religion in Final Fantasy is not something hidden... its actually pretty obvious. Not sure why anyone needs a video to point this out. Also, this is a positive aspect of the game series. Its more Anti-Corruption. Of course the corrupt religious organization portrayed in the games is the enemy. Makes sense to me.

basically, this video was utterly pointless. Its about the same as if you made a video pointing out that there is music in Rock Band games.

"Some of these claims may be shocking."

Um. Not really. The Final Fantasy community has been aware of this since... forever.

That said, the situation is a little bit more nuanced than "religion is evil." Final Fantasy is anti-dogma and pro spirituality. Hence why the Cetra and the lifestream are presented as good in FF7, as a counter balance to Sephiroth, who is evil. I think the central theme is more about thinking for yourself, and nt having blind faith in an institution or an individual.

In fact, most of the villains in question have more in common with Satan than God. Typically a mortal, like Kefka or Sephiroth, attempts to rise to Godhood through some third party. As a result of their own hubris, they are defeated. Essentially they have a literal God complex. Then there's the symbolism in game like Kingdom Hearts, which is, if anything, pro spirituality. The Kingdom keys used by Sora and Mickey are literally the keys to the kingdom of heaven in the Catholic Church. The door to Kingdom Hearts is heaven, a realm of light and power. Sora and company are essentially the keepers of this power, while the villains typically try to gain this power in order to ascend to Godhood. The central theme is always people trying to gain power they were never supposed to have. The anti-dogma message is still present, but there's more to it than religion=evil.

I don't think that Final Fantasy is against organized religion as a whole. It seems to be more anti-Christian since the main antagonists after Kefka are obsessed with becoming god. Ironically, it's considered a sin for mortals to call themselves god, or worship false idols in Christianity. I don't see what the big deal is, Final Fantasy isn't the only game that's against "religion". SMT does the same thing, but in a more subtle manner. It takes some really brass balls to suggest that the Abrahamic gods may or may not be evil.

It's fiction versus fiction. There's no reason to be upset, unless you're a Fundie.

seiler88:
What gets under my skin is that "Nuke the Church" is the only plot we ever seem to get. I mean is it too much to ask for a Good monotheistic religion in a game?

Yeah, I think so. We can't get one in the real world either. Religion is about power, and power gets abused.

Maybe Unitarians, but they're not really even monotheistic - that's your own personal choice.

Final Fantasy Legend wasn't actually a Final Fantasy game; it was part of the SaGa series. They renamed it for marketing purposes when they localized it.

Final Fantasy seems to have no problem with crystal worship in the purest form. Animism. The crystals seem to be the one good spiritual force in their universe.

Occasionally you get one corrupted by the bad guys, or the crystal religion goes overboard, but it's quite clear overall that unless you've got the crystals there, pure and keeping everything in balance, the whole world goes to hell. You can't even take them away or everything collapses.

Of course the crystals don't really have a personality or much agency - which is the best way for something with that much power to be.

Final fantasy never struck me as anti religious, just anti western religions.

At least it's not as bad as shin megami tensei, the second game has you killing the Christian god because he's trying to kill everybody with a giant death beam, and this is after he caused a nuclear war and flooded Tokyo.

 Pages 1 2 3 NEXT

Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
or
Username:  
Password:  
  
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
or
Register for a free account here