Pick an entry in the series to read your favorite character’s essay:
Gaming Inspirations I: Personal Party Composition
Gaming Inspirations II: Character Profile: Adelbert Steiner
Gaming Inspirations III: Character Profile: Vivi Orunitia
Gaming Inspirations IV: Character Profile: Amarant Coral
Gaming Inspirations V: Interview with Joe Zieja
Gaming Inspirations VI: Character Profile: Garnet til Alexandros XVII
Gaming Inspirations VII: Character Profile: Eiko Carol
Gaming Inspirations VIII: Character Profile: Quina Quen
Gaming Inspirations IX: Character Profile: Freya Crescent
Gaming Inspirations IX: Character Profile: Zidane Tribal
Well, here we are. The final Gaming Inspirations Character Profile. Honestly, I can’t believe I’ve made it this far – I’m not known for finishing things I start. I guess that’s what happens when you really care about a project you’re undertaking, though; it’s a lot less work and a lot more fun when you actually give a hoot!
Naturally, I saved the best for last: my favorite character in media, the cheeky rogue, the monkey-tailed thief and protagonist of the greatest game of all time, Zidane Tribal.
The reason Zidane is the absolute goddamn best is simple: he’s the linchpin, without whom everything falls apart. This is common in terms of plot: having an event in the beginning of the story that unifies the main players isn’t exactly an innovation. Zidane unifies much more than that: the story, the party, the entire FFIX universe rides on the existence of this one character. He is the messiah of the game, the only piece of the puzzle that, if removed, utterly dooms the universe and, if included, ensures the triumph of existence over nothingness.
Now, what makes him so special? Why does everything else fall apart when he’s not around?
The answer is in his Character Quality, a quality without which all endeavors are doomed to failure:
Now, before I get skewered on the pitchforks of Internet Atheists, let me define this oft-maligned word: I’m not saying that Zidane loves the Sweet Baby Jesus. All I’m saying is that Zidane is 100% sure things will work out without having 100% proof that this is true. My favorite band, Cloud Cult (whose new single, “No Hell“, is incredible and ties in pretty well with this, so I recommend a listen, especially while reading the rest of this post), has a line that defines it better than I ever could:
Hell is the fear of pain,
and Heaven is the faith that things will be okay.
– Cloud Cult, “Lights Inside My Head”
This is all I’m trying to say when I say “Faith” – knowing something to be true without having solid evidence that it is.
The word “apocalypse” comes from the Greek apokaluptein, meaning “to uncover” or “to reveal”. As we’ve seen throughout these Character Profiles, every main character in FFIX is tasked with enduring their own personal revelations. Some are relatively innocuous (Quina: “Shit, there’s way more dank food out there than I thought there was!”), and some are more “apocalyptic” in line with the definition we use today (Freya: “I’ve been searching for my love for 5 years and he doesn’t remember me”; Steiner: “I have to abandon the code I’ve stuck by for my entire life because the person I swore allegiance to is fucking insane”; Vivi: “I’m a machine, what if my experiences/thoughts/etc. are completely fake and automated”). Through faith, Zidane helps to assuage the existential fears of the party, helping them take comfort in knowing that everything was going to work out.
One of the most profound moments in FFIX takes place in Pandemonium. It has just been revealed to Zidane that he is no more than a machine with a soul stuffed inside (sound familiar?), destined to bring death and destruction to all of Gaia. For a good ten, fifteen minutes of game time, Zidane himself loses his faith and slips into despair. This adds a fantastic layer of emotional complexity to the character – it shows that he isn’t some Platonic “form” of Faith; he’s not this perfect being unable to lose heart once in a while. This makes his faith in his friends throughout the game all the more impressive.
ANYWAY, so he slips into despair. Gettin’ mad emo for a hot minute. But then, he finds something unusual:
His friends refuse to leave his side.
Zidane provided faith for them throughout the game, and when he fell, his friends were there to reflect his faith back at him. Zidane sees this, and his faith is restored.
Through saving his friends with his faith, Zidane saved himself, as well.
Ffffffffffffffffffffffuuuuuck that’s incredible. My mind and my feels implode (in the best possible way) whenever I think about it.
At the end of the game, the characters have a simple choice to make: either embrace life, with all its ups and downs, praise and blame, gain and loss, pleasure and pain, fame and disrepute… Or just say “fuck it” and choose oblivion, opting for nothingness out of the fear of inevitable pain. By the time the party got to that point, though, the decision was made: bolstered and rejuvenated by their faith, there was only one response that the party could ever have:
I’m gonna live.
Having faith that things will work out is one of the most important lessons that people in this world can learn. It’s the engine that drives people to push beyond their limits, to reach untold heights, to do the impossible. It’s taking every punch that life throws at you and getting up off the ground, because even though you know another punch will inevitably come, everything will be all right. You, me, your friends, your enemies, your guardians, your rivals, and anyone else you encounter is a survivor in a game where no one gets out alive, and they are worthy of your respect. Everyone has endured pain, and even their simple decision to choose existence over oblivion is a testament to their incorporation of faith.
I’ve got one little activity that can help you to incorporate Zidane’s ultimate unifying quality into your life: first, write a list of things you want to do. It doesn’t matter how silly or outrageous they are: this is a personal exercise. Next to each of these, write a task that you could do, right now, to get one step closer to that ultimate goal.
Next, I want you to do that little, tiny task.
After that’s done, write another, and do that task tomorrow. Do it again the next day. And the day after.
If you screw up, no worries – you’re made of tougher stuff than letting a little failure get you down. Wake up the next day and repeat the exercise.
I guarantee that, within a month, you’ll be closer to that goal than you ever dreamed you’d be.
Through incorporating all of the qualities that we’ve learned from Steiner, Vivi, Amarant, Dagger, Eiko, Quina, Freya, you can do anything you damn well please. With these qualities (and a little faith), nothing can stop you.
The party is now complete. Thanks for sticking with me through this adventure. You are an incredible being, and I’m so happy you’re taking part in this incarnation.
Get out there and show the world what you can do.