Gaming Inspirations III: Character Profile: Vivi Orunitia

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Gaming Inspirations I: Personal Party Composition
Gaming Inspirations II: Character Profile: Adelbert Steiner

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Hello, friends, and welcome to the second Character Profile of the Gaming Inspirations series!  “Gaming Inspirations” is a series of blog posts that puts into words how gaming has inspired me to shed my anxiety and its negative effects on my life.  Final Fantasy IX has provided incredible amounts of inspiration (probably because it’s the greatest game of all time), so I’m creating a profile for each of the main characters.  Each profile will examine their unique qualities and I will detail how, through physical action, I’m going to help myself lead the life I want to lead by incorporating those qualities.  Today’s profile is about the fan-favorite Black Mage, Vivi.

CHARACTER SUMMARY

Vivi is a Black Mage: he harnesses the powers of the elements to lay waste to his enemies.  In the beginning of the game, this fact is taken at face value; as in, “okay, there are beings in this world that don’t have faces and have giant glowy eyes and wear funky hats.  Cool.”  Soon, though, the tone changes: a factory is found that is filled with Vivi-looking dolls on an assembly line.  A bunch of other fuckery goes down, and it’s eventually revealed that Vivi’s body is no more than a shell, filled with a manufactured “soul” made outta Mist, which is basically the broken-down dregs of souls of people who’ve died.  As you can imagine, this causes a bit of an existential-angsty stir in Vivi’s psyche.  But with the help of the friends that he gains throughout the game, he learns what it is to truly be.

Then, he dies.  But at least he learned some good shit along the way!  Let’s examine!

QUALITIES

Inquisitive

Vivi: I don’t think I really understand what it means to live or to die. Where do we come from…? Do we go back there when we die…? If that’s what it means to live… I wonder where I came from… Where will I end up when I die…? Why am I shaking? What is it I’m feeling…?

Vivi’s around 9 years old, and he grew up in a cave.  It shows: he doesn’t seem knowledgeable about… well, much of anything, really.  But he’s always willing to learn, and isn’t afraid to ask questions, especially to those he admires and respects, like Zidane.  This becomes less of an asset when he learns more about what he’s made of and where he comes from, and it gets REALLY intense when he hears about the other Black Mages “stopping,” which, for all intents and purposes, is exactly like dying.  When he learns about this, and learns that his kind don’t tend to live very long… yeah, he freaks out a bit.  But can ya blame him?  Imagine being 9 years old, and someone walking up to you and saying “You’re not a person like me; you’re a shell full of the fragments of other peoples’ souls.  Oh, and you’re gonna die soon.”  I’d say “freaking the fuck out” and “asking some pretty uncomfortable questions about mortality and what it means to be alive” would be a pretty natural reaction.  Regardless of what pushed Vivi to ask these questions, the point is that he asked them, and that’s the sort of existential inquisitiveness that makes Vivi such a dynamic character.

Sense of Wonder

Along with his inquisitive nature, growing up in a cave seems to have given Vivi a sense of awe and appreciation for the outside world.  In the very beginning of the game, he’s seen wandering around Alexandria, and appears to be amazed at the airship he notices flying overhead, while everyone else keeps bustlin’ down the street, paying no heed.  The fear of imminent death put a bit of a damper on this throughout much of the game, but it’s still evident throughout, and especially in his heartbreaking speech at the end of the game.

Trust

 Steiner: “Master Vivi, why would those mages be the same as you? And why would it matter if they were?”
   Zidane: “Rusty’s right! You’re an individual, no matter what happens, Vivi!”

Vivi’s certainly a reserved character, but he tends to trust others quickly, and take their words to heart.  This is a great quality when he’s listening to Zidane tell him that he’s not a mindless automaton, that he deserves life and lives as fully as a normal human; it’s, uh, less great when he listens to Kuja tell him… the opposite.  Once again, this propensity to trust to a fault probably has something to do with being raised by a Qu in a fucking cave (Does anyone else find that backstory, uh, a little strange?).

You might be a little odd if this crazy-lookin’ bastard raised you, too.

Questions.  Cool.  Wonder.  Got it.  Trust.  Sure.  But how do I incorporate those into my life with physical action?

BY READING THE NEXT SECTION OF THIS POST, OF COURSE!

Inquisitiveness: Read a book.  Yes, the ones made out of actual paper.  (An e-reader that isn’t connected to the internet is also acceptable.)

In case you forgot what they looked like. Easy to do in today’s world.

A wizard ain’t shit without their spellbook.  Before this past July, I hadn’t read a book, cover-to-cover, in ages.  I read a lot on the internet and stuff, but that’s mostly, y’know, sports articles and stuff (not saying that that isn’t fulfilling; it’s just a different kind of reading).  But, on a whim, I decided to pick up the first A Series of Unfortunate Events book.  I read them when I was a kid, and thought, “hey, what the hell.”

Those books are incredible.  I read all thirteen of ’em within a month, and have been reading and writing more ever since.  You never know where or when inspiration will strike, which is why being like Vivi and always exploring the world around you, or the worlds in books, is very important.

Works of fiction, unlike car manuals or Buzzfeed articles about puppies, tend to delve deeper into the meaning of existence; they’re not beholden to the truth, so they don’t have to worry about being accurate in that sense.  The world is whatever the writer wants it to be, which allows them (and their readers) to examine deeper truths.  Vivi examines these existential questions throughout the game, and this is the inquisitiveness that reading can bring into your life.

Sense of Wonder: Try something you’ve never tried before.

If Vivi had lived in Quan’s Dwelling his entire life, he would’ve never gone on an epic adventure, sharing incredible experiences with new friends.  Just this morning, I went to a Zumba class.  First time ever.  I don’t dance.  I was the only dude in there.  I looked like an idiot, I’m sure.  But guess what?  It was a great workout, and I actually had a lot of fun.  I’ll definitely go again next week.

There’s always a transition period.  If you try something new, you’ll probably suck at it.  But guess what?  Sucking at stuff is valuable, too.  Which is better: loving what you do even though you suck, or being really good at something you hate?  Your new passion that tremendously improves your life could be five minutes away, waiting for you to discover it.

Trust: Ask questions.  Don’t be afraid to look stupid.

As I mentioned before, Vivi doesn’t seem to know much about the outside world – its social cues, its dynamics.  When he asks a question, it’s from a place of wanting to learn more, and that’s a noble place to be.

Personally, I’m terrified of asking questions – what if someone laughs at me for not knowing?  What if they think I’m stupid?

Vivi inspires me to answer these with another question:  Who cares?

Seriously, fuck it.  If you don’t know something, and you want to, ask!  If someone’s a dick about it, then fuck them!  It’s irrelevant!  Asking someone who knows is the quickest way to learn something new, and guess what?  When you ask, you learn.  Quest complete.  I had to do this when my new public-transport card didn’t work on the train in my new city (I’m from Vermont; public transport is barely a thing).  The person I asked on the train looked at me funny, but explained how the card worked, and guess what?  I’m not going to run into that mistake again.  I’m so glad I asked, and so glad I know.

One really, really cool thing about examining the qualities of these characters is realizing that they’re all connected: just like with the qualities detailed in my Steiner post, working on even one of these Vivi-like qualities will improve your chances of future success in all of them.  Maybe you’ll read a book and develop an interest in something you never would’ve expected, and you go to a meeting with like-minded people and meet the love of your life and BAM!  Your life changes in a completely unexpected way, and it’s all because you tried something new that one time.

Virtuous cycles are the shit.  Vivi’s the shit.  FFIX is the shit.  Hopefully I’ve been able to impart a bit of the inspiration that Vivi gives me to you.

Coming up on Thursday: another Character Profile!  I’m going to keep this one a surprise, though 😉

Stay classy, fair readers!

FFIXBlog Presents: FFIXSwag

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If there’s one time in my life that I take a selfie, it’s gonna be with a bitchin’ FFIX shirt on.  Thanks to TeeFury for sending me this mega-sweet shirt 😀

Necron: The Really, Truly, Seriously Most Underrated Villain in All of Final Fantasy

Hi Everybody!

I was thinking about the feedback that I got from the Kuja post, and I was amazed by the response;  I’m glad I got people to look a little further into the character of Kuja, and see that he wasn’t all pomp and flair, and could actually stand on his own as a great Final Fantasy villain.

That said, I was just talking with a buddy of mine, and we were talking about the end of FFIX.  We are both huge IX fans, and the subject turned to the final boss, Necron.

“Yeah, the less said about Necron, the better,”  he said.  “He was definitely just thrown in there.”

Now, I think this was the first time we had truly disagreed on something FFIX-related.

“Wait, what?  What are you talking about?”  I sputtered, and we proceeded to have a heated debate about Necron’s purpose for a few minutes.

After these few minutes, my friend said, “y’know, I think this would make a great blog post.”

SO HERE I AM!  😀

Anyway, here goes:

Yeah.  Necron.  Gets shit on by pretty much everybody, right?  You may think he’s one or more of the following:  useless;  never referenced;  no purpose in the game?

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Let me begin, like I did with my Kuja post, by saying that I don’t expect to turn you into a huge Necron fan.  I’m just trying to give you a bit of my perspective on why I think he’s fantastic.  Maybe I’ll even get you thinking that there is a bit more to him than you previously thought.  That’d be great.

From what I’ve read, it seems like Necron may be mentioned once or twice throughout the game, but these claims seem shaky at best.  My question is, how is one supposed to know of the existence of an entity that exists outside of normal spacetime?  This, of course, is kind of a flimsy excuse for making a final boss, but, in Pixar’s “22 Rules of Storytelling“,  #19 says “Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great;  coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.”  Again, not saying that this is a great excuse to just throw a final boss into the mix, but this is the perspective with which I look at the final battle.

I’ve read that Necron is “summoned” by Kuja’s hate and fear.  I have a different perspective.

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Kuja, right after he casts Ultima.

Now, here’s what I see in the above gif:

–  The main characters disappear.  The only time you see that in-game thus far is when someone or something dies.

–  The Crystal is no longer behind Kuja.

So, here’s what I’m thinking:

–  When Kuja casts Ultima, it destroys the Crystal.  The Crystal’s destruction is what prompts Necron to come start kickin’ ass, not just Kuja’s massive amounts of butthurt.

–  The heroes were the first people to die after the destruction of the Crystal, which is why they’re in this weird quasi-death-realm thing.

–  When Necron is defeated, the crystal is restored due to the “nothingness-vacuum” caused by his absence.  Because Necron is the personification of oblivion/nothingness, when he is defeated, he’s gotta be replaced by… somethingright?

Huh.  Weird.  Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that Necron made… some sort of sense existing, at least.  He’s also a great foil for…  well, every protagonist in the game.

These characters have been through hell.  Homelands have been laid to waste.  Family members, loved ones, and thousands more have been slaughtered, many of which were at the hands of Garnet’s own mother, gone mad with greed.  Freya’s lover, Sir Fratley, who she has been searching for for years, has no memory of their past.  Eiko’s family was dead or missing.  Steiner and Amarant’s most long-standing philosophies, one of blind loyalty to another, and one of blind loyalty to self, that had kept them alive through the most dire of circumstances, are dissolved before their eyes;  the same thing happens with Vivi and Zidane, except instead of their philosophies, they face an even more harrowing question:  the status of their humanity itself.

I don’t think Necron is a useless, no-purpose final boss.  Quite the contrary – I think he’s the linchpin of the game, the story, and the transcendent theme of Final Fantasy IX.  Without Necron, the game would cease to have the exact quality which I think makes it the greatest video game in history:  the absolute, against-all-odds, blindingly-bright love of life itself that finally answers the great question that each of our protagonists face when they are staring down the seductive peace of utter oblivion:  “is life worth the pain it brings?”.  Each of the characters above have fan-fucking-tastic reasons to say, “Hey, nothingness sounds pretty great, compared to the shitstorm that I’ve been through!”.

Not one of them does.

After everything they’ve been through, each and every one chooses life.

I think this has a two-pronged effect.  If thought of in this manner, the choice shows more starkly than ever before the fortitude of the heroes, as well as making Kuja slightly more sympathetic and less villainous.  He’s just scared, guys.  He’s been dealt much the same hand as Zidane, and he’s scared.  He doesn’t want to die;  more importantly, he doesn’t want the fear of death.  Who can be blamed for trying to escape fear?  Not that Kuja went about it the right way or anything, but still, he was misguided and scared, and I can’t blame him for that.

Maybe Necron could have been referenced more in-game;  maybe he should have been somehow hinted at, if only for the player’s knowledge;  maybe it’s not an original idea.  But Necron is the character who poses, once and for all, this final question to the protagonists of Final Fantasy IX, providing the single most intense experience I have ever felt from a piece of media in my life.  I was 11 when I experienced this;  it was the first time I had encountered such a question, and Zidane’s response left me in tears.

“I’m gonna live!”.

I can’t call that useless.

And the Winner is…

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VIVI FOR VICTORY!

Vivi himself lost against Pokemon Trainer Red (which I think is quite silly), but congratulations to the artist who sent in the “Vivi for Victory” poster!  It’s cute, clever, and deserving of its victory, I think.

Well done!

 

Let the “Vote For Vivi” Contest Begin (EDITED: NEW ENTRY)!

Hey Y’all,

I’ve received two entries for the “Vote for Vivi” contest.  One of these two lucky contestants is going to walk away with a copy of The Art of Final Fantasy IX!  To vote, simply comment either here or on the Facebook, Tumblr, or Twitter pages (or email your vote to me) as to which one you like best!

Entry A:  How do you prove that you exist?

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Entry B:  Black Mage

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Entry C:  Vote Vivi  (Yeah, I added a picture past the deadline.  Sue me.)

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In the interest of fairness, I will not be participating, merely counting the votes.  Votes will be accepted until Vivi’s next Character Battle begins, on September 8th.

Best of luck to all contestants!  Let’s get this started!

Campaign Poster Contest Update/Vivi Cosplay

Hey Y’all,

In my efforts to receive entries for the “Vivi Campaign Poster Contest”, I have received…  well, no entries (as of yet).  As such, I thought I’d sweeten the deal a little bit – the winner of the contest will receive a copy of “The Art of Final Fantasy IX”, a Yoshitaka Amano art book!

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So you know, it’ll probably be used. But I’ll get a really nice used one. Cuz new, it’s $70, and I can’t afford that :p

So, that’s exciting.  Email me your submissions by 11:59 pm Wednesday, 9/4 (or later, I’m not that picky), and the voting can begin!  (You can also submit via Facebook or Twitter).

In other news, one of my readers sent along some great pictures of their Vivi cosplay that they did recently.  Thanks for sending the pics along – the costume is great! 😀

If only there were awesome places in Vermont where I could go cosplay Vivi, that’d be awesome…  Ah well, guess I gotta go to Montreal or Boston :/

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Anyway, yeah, have a super day, guys and gals!  The contest is still very much alive!

Vivi Campaign Poster Contest

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Hey Y’all,

Since yesterday’s come-from-behind, crazy-upset victory over Mario and Ganondorf in GameFAQs’ “Character Battle IX”, I’ve had an idea brewing in my head.  He had a great victory, but I want more.  As crazy as it may sound, how great would it be for a character from Final Fantasy IX to win the ninth Character Battle?

Needless to say, chances are slim – Link is still in the running, and he’s won many of the character battles in the past, not to mention Sephiroth and the dreaded Tetris “L-Block”.  If Vivi’s gonna win, he’s gonna need some help.

That’s where you come in.

For the next five days (ending at 11:59 pm on Wednesday, September 4th), I’ll be accepting submissions artwork that encourages votes for Vivi.  At that time (possibly the following morning, as I have to get to work), I’ll post these pieces of art to this blog, and people will be able to vote on their favorite campaign posters for the next few days, either on this page, the Facebook profile (FFIXBlog) or on Twitter (@FFIXBlog).

When the Character Battle with Vivi in it begins (the next one is on Sunday, Sept. 8), I’ll tally the votes and declare the winner!

The winner will receive either a copy of FFIX, a FFIX poster, or anything FFIX-related that they can think of (given that it’s in the $10-$30 price range…  I can’t afford much more, but if people donate, the prizes can become much larger!).

Didn’t win?  Don’t worry!  Every time that Vivi moves into the next round, I will begin to accept submissions again, and the contest will recur until he loses.  That means if he gets to the finals, there will be three chances to win!

I think this could be a lot of fun.  I’d love to see some great FFIX artwork come out of this!

To enter, simply email your poster as an attachment to Zidane@finalfantasyix.com, with “Vote for Vivi”, along with the title of your work, in the subject line.

Artists…  Start your pencils!  Vote for Vivi!  And, most importantly, have fun!

VIVIIIIIIII!!!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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EDIT:  I’m running a 5-day “Vote Vivi” campaign poster contest!  Check it out, draw Vivi, win free stuff!

Hey Y’all,

In case ya didn’t know, GameFAQs is running another one of their “Character Battles”, a place where video games’ greatest characters duke it out for your vote.  Unfortunately, Zidane was taken down by Squirtle (pffffffft), but Vivi pulled a HUGE upset over Mario and Ganondorf the other day.  Here’s the map of the vote breakdown, with blue being a Mario country, Green for Vivi, and Red for Ganondorf:

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Fuck yeah, Russia. You know what’s good.

As you can see, Europe and southeast Asia were big supporters of the Vivi cause, which is great.  However, it’s not like Vivi won a landslide victory – out of about 40,000 votes cast in this character battle, Vivi beat out mario by 0.18%… or 74 votes.  Intense.

Vivi had a great victory, but he’s got a long way to go before he claims that crown, and there are still some other big names (Sephiroth, Link, Pokemon Trainer Red) in the running.

But you know what?  I’m feelin’ it.  It’s Character Battle IX, after all;  maybe it’s time that a character from the greatest game of all time stood up against the everyday, run-of-the-mill winners… and took them down.

He’s already beat Mario, one of the most iconic video game characters ever.

Let’s band together and show the world what Vivi can do.

Vivi’s next battle is on September 8th.  He’ll be facing the winners of the battles between Squall, Amaterasu, Missingno, and Wario, Pokémon Trainer Red, Urdnot Wrex.  If he wins that, he’ll be in the “Final Nine”,  with only one Battle keeping him from the Final.

All right, guys.  If y’all know any Vivi fans out there, let them know.

Let’s do this.

Robots are People, Too

I’ve talked with a bunch of friends recently about consciousness.  I’ve been reading Ray Kurzweil’s book, The Age of Spiritual Machines, and I found a quote to be very interesting:

 

Are computers thinking, or are they just calculating?  Conversely, are human beings thinking, or are they just calculating?  The human brain presumably follows the laws of physics, so it must be a machine, albeit a very complex one.  Is there an inherent difference between human thinking and machine thinking?  To pose the question another way, once computers are as complex as the human brain, and can match the human brain in subtlety and complexity of thought, are we to consider them conscious? (Kurzweil 5-6)

 

Every person I asked had a similar first reaction:

 

“No.  Of course they’re not conscious.  They’re a computer.”

 

Granted, this was my first reaction, too.  A computer’s a giant calculator, and I’m a human.  However, after a few beers and an hour’s conversation or so, my friends weren’t so sure.  What really was the difference between a human and a computer with the cognitive complexity of a human?

 

I was the first to speak up in favor of computers being conscious.

 

“I mean, look at Vivi,”  I said.  “He’s got passions;  he questions his existence;  he makes friends; he has feelings, at least of a sort.  How is he not conscious?”

 

Unfortunately, my FFIX fandom betrayed me.  It was easy to see that my emotional connection with Vivi due to my love for the character was clouding my judgement concerning his consciousness.  (Sorry, Vivi.  Did my best.)

 

First, we had to decide what “conscious” meant, for the purposes of our discussion.

 

“I think that consciousness is the ability to tap into the consciousness of the collective – to perceive, to have an ‘antenna’ that connects you to the rest of the universe,”  my roommate, Patrick, proposed.  This sparked a discussion on which beings or things would have this “antenna”, and which would not.  Are we, as humans, the only thing with this “antenna”?  If so, why?  Was it something that was given to us specifically?  If so, since we presumably follow the laws of physics, why is it that we are the only beings with this “antenna”?  Is it beyond science?  Eventually, we came to the conclusion that while people do sometimes have an odd feeling of purpose that could approach a feeling of divinity, there was no evidence to support such claims.

 

I’m sure I’ll write more about this discussion at some point, because I found it fascinating.  What do you guys think?  What is consciousness?  Is Vivi “conscious”?  What do you think of Kurzweil’s quote?

 

For now, I’ll leave y’all with Arthur C. Clarke’s three laws of technology, as well as a great quote from Gregory Vlastos.

 

The Three Laws of Technology:

 

–  When a scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right.  When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

 

–  The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

 

–  Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

“A machine is as distinctively and brilliantly and expressively human as a violin sonata or a theorem in Euclid”  – Gregory Vlastos