To preface my aesthetic experience, I will say that, though a growing number of people believe video games have been or are becoming art, many people still consider video games the same way they still consider comic books, TV shows, and Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) too “low” to be art. Yes, there might be a good cartoonist, guest star, or clever Photoshop-ist, but they are just that. They are good, but they aren’t artists.

final-fantasy-x-logo.jpgWhen I first started playing, video games were nothing more than interactive entertainment. They were lots of fun, but basic and depth was expressed through a story filtered through graphics that couldn’t give it its due. I think it’s completely fair to say that a large percentage of the games produced were shallow and frustrated attempts at the ideas developers had. In December 2001, Final Fantasy X (FFX) for the PS2 came out. In Fall 2003, I first laid hands on the PS2 and FFX.

Here is a thought experiment to understand the art of FFX: a blank world with people and no history. What would it take to make that world like Earth today? Religion? War? Government? History? Then would that world be comparable? FFX fills these requirements with astounding humanity through story and an entire, mostly visual, cultures. However, there are subtleties that require an education of some caliber to understand. For instance, one of the great swords has a move named after Bushido, the code of the samurai. The summons, called aeons, mirror gods, goddesses, myths, and legends from around the world. If indeed, as many claim, having history behind the strokes of a painting makes it worth more, then most certainly histories behind the histories of the models in a video game are worth something.

When people talk about video games with contempt, they usually cite its attempted realism against it – that is, it fails not because of vision, but because of hardware. This claim, though a bit superficial, has its merit. Generally people do not take giant strides and go no where, fight enemies through a system of hit points, or have places where they cannot go (see: pre-rendered). However, it takes time, as with any art medium, to find a stride where portrayed subjects are mastered (compare early cave paintings to Roman art). For video games, the vision is intact, but the tools to give these visions life are waiting on their own type of mastery. In Final Fantasy X, though the gameplay itself has many unrealistic characteristics, the cinemas are works of meticulous art. From the intro to the end, each cinema (around 50) displays in high detail what the regular gameplay often cannot (character model details, etc.). But what does this all mean in terms of realization and application?

 

Final Fantasy X - Yuna and Tidus The cinemas are art. Though I try not to admit it, I can be quite the elitist. So it means something personal to say, “This is not art, but Art.” Traditionally, art with a capital “A” meant something old, under glass, and only seen in reproduction (or in France). However, Final Fantasy X helped me to realize that this may indeed mean something is classic, but some of the best art ever made, visions just as grandiose as Da Vinci’s or Michelangelo’s, are being drawn/designed/divined as I write. Final Fantasy X changed the lenses I was looking through. “Does <name> have perfect form for it to be called art?” Well, honestly, perfect form is <name>’s vision – there can be no such thing as defined creativity. FFX pushed me into the fresh air from the stuffy faux-aristocratic tastes I had nurtured for so long.

I am, if nothing else, a mediocre historian, but I certainly enjoy learning about the past. However, being on the assimiliation end instead of the manufacturing end of history often feels stale. With Final Fantasy X, there was a sense of undiscovered anthropology. It is the historian’s dream to be able to stumble upon a new civilization. Unsurprisingly, this had a huge effect on how I read into things. I found myself starting to pay more attention, catching the off-the-radar references and reading more on what those references meant for the creator’s vision. When seen this way, everything becomes multi-dimensional.

So yes, a typical “born-again” liberal-artsy person’s admittance to at one point being less than such. But more than that, my experience with Final Fantasy X changed my thought trajectory in art for the next four years (and counting). I hope my readers are willing to believe for a moment that it really isn’t bad for a video game to change my approach to media. No one jeers when someone says that about a painting, now do they?

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