Crash log of the Singularity

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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later. Support Elizabeth on Patreon.


  1. Adam Riggio
    May 12, 2015 @ 2:42 am

    "Cecil is an accomplished warrior and military commander when the story starts, and the story is not so much his becoming a hero as his awakening to the moral implications of his actions and the realization that he’s supporting and committing crimes against humanity, his transformation from a dark knight to a paladin, and his eventual redemption of his long lost (in both a practical and spiritual sense) brother."

    I'm one of your regular readers who was never much of a gamer myself, and who found the Final Fantasy series quite unappealing for all the timesinking reasons you describe. I only ever played this at other people's houses and it felt so tedious 20 minutes at a time because it took so long for things to happen.

    However, I do want to make a suggestion based on your summary of the plot, that this storyline is essentially a modern Japanese story that touches on probably their most definitive cultural narrative in the contemporary era: war guilt.

    Cecil is a proud warrior doing what his country wants until he realizes that his warrior life is actually horrifying, so he finds a way to live as a warrior for justice. I suspect that the general cultural inability to do this at a national scale and a magnitude required to actually balance out Japanese war crimes during their Imperialist era is the main reason why they admit to so little guilt. There is no reckoning, as there is in German culture and government with the terror of the Holocaust. I suspect that this has to do with the deep sense of honour and responsibility that is already ingrained in Japanese culture. Executives will commit suicide or resign in disgrace over actions and mistakes that a similarly positioned Western businessman would simply get a smaller bonus over, or perhaps be forced to go work for a different company. Where shame is so powerful, it's difficult to match your actions to the scale of the truly shameful.

    At least that's my speculation based on a few comments about Final Fantasy 2/4 and news stories about the Yasukuni shrine.


  2. Neo Tuxedo
    May 12, 2015 @ 8:20 am

    There is a world where my brother lives, and where he got Final Fantasy II at Toy Works and not at Stop & Shop, and I am terrified it is the only world in which salvation exists.

    I think it has a good chance of existing in the world where you had to decide whether to write about the SNES Final Fantasy II or its SNES-CD re-release as Final Fantasy IV, or indeed whether one of those entries would preclude the other. I can't guarantee it, though, as Player Two Start is still a work in progress and I'm not its writer:


  3. elvwood
    May 12, 2015 @ 9:37 am

    We went to Bristol Zoo for my daughter's fourth birthday. After seeing the okapis, she decided that the thing she really wanted to get with the £10 she'd been given by friends was a realistic cuddly okapi. Could she even get more non-standard and specific?!! We were dreading the time in the shop at the end.

    When we go there, what did she find? A realistic cuddly okapi for £9.99. It took a while for us to pick up our jaws.

    Thank you, Phil, for this particular part of the ritual. I am sure that our luck was the result.

    (Oh, for those of you coming in late to whom this post seems a random non-sequitur: it's all because of <redacted>)


  4. encyclops
    May 12, 2015 @ 10:32 am

    Pretty much all of my gaming during this period of time was on our Mac Plus, so Deja Vu kinda blew my mind when it came out. I loved adventure games but was never quite smart enough to solve many of them without needing at least one or two hints, so I was probably unjustifiably proud of having finished Deja Vu on my own. Something about the atmosphere enchanted me, too, and I was thrilled when Uninvited and Shadowgate came out (harder, longer, but just as enthralling).

    Of course, I can see where Deja Vu would be a real drag to play on a console, even if you were as into noir and adventure games as I was, and $14 in 90s money might have been a bit steep for the playtime and replay value you'd get.

    I didn't buy most of my games in stores. I borrowed them from the library.


  5. Daru
    May 13, 2015 @ 11:27 pm

    "It’s a story of redemption and self-improvement. It is a story of becoming a king instead of becoming anything so banal as a “hero.” It is, of course, easy to situate this plot in terms of Japanese history or culture if we want to, but it seems presumptuous to. What is more important is simply that this isn’t something that comes out of the culture that we’re analyzing it in the context of. That it’s not the story we usually tell. That it’s an alternative."

    Like it Phil. Good that there are stories out there exploring things other than the 'hero'. Never played these games (as before), so really enjoying reading about them.


  6. Aaron
    May 16, 2015 @ 7:10 am

    It's really too bad you never liked RPGs. When I first found the Nintendo Project, I marveled at how we shared a lot of the same early experiences, and so it was sad to me that you didn't see the wonder in these games that I did growing up. I think you underestimate the ways in which the stories in the final fantasy games really captured the imagination of a whole group of kids. I remember renting this every weekend from blockbuster, and saving over every save file in the hopes that the next person to rent it wouldn't save over my file, because I desperately wanted to see how everything turned out. Now days, I'm always amazed at how little text there is to flesh out the characters in these games, but they were able to create such vivid characters with what they had. My brother and I would have endless discussions on whether Rydia or Kain were better characters, why Kain had turned evil, what Baigan would have been like had he joined the group, etc. When we got to final fantasy III, I remember falling in love with Terra and her journey, and being fascinated by the idea that these characters, after the world fell, had moved on and grown distant from each other. I'd never known a story that depicted the ways in which people grew out of touch in adulthood, and it was a new concept to me.

    I don't know, I realise you've said before that you don't think RPGs are a good place to tell stories, but these stories (Earthbound, FFIV, Chrono Trigger, FFVI, and later FFVII) are probably the most central narratives for me, the myths that I grew up on and the heroes that I'm going to remember for the rest of my life. I'm sad that everyone of our generation couldn't grow up on those same myths: On the cursed knight getting redemption by slicing a mountain open, on a woman, turned monster, screaming across the sky, on a tired, angry knight, running as his wife and children are carried away on the rails of Styx, on a magical, doomed city, flying through the skies above a frozen wasteland, sure to fall but unaware of its hubris, on three heroes happening upon a coffin with a living man inside, who only stirs when his lost love is named. All of these images were given to me by these old games, and in my mind define the myths that my generation grew up with.

    Yes, no one likes random battles, though newer games (Persona 3 is the best example) have found really interesting ways to solve that problem. But it's a shame that random battles kept you as a kid from enjoying what else these games had to offer, because they were always such a small part of the journey.


  7. Daibhid C
    May 16, 2015 @ 7:20 am

    " The vision of heroism portrayed in Final Fantasy II is more civic than the normative western one. Inasmuch as it is militaristic, the military is a form of service, as opposed to a path towards glory and heroism. The idea of fighting alone is discouraged, both in the plot and in the mechanics (which are, of course, about successfully finding a rhythm to the battle as a team)."

    Not to detract from your point, but surely the importance of teamwork is at least partly derived from the Western RPGs that inspired the game, which have it because a tabletop RPG is literally a social activity, in a way a video game – at this point in history – can't be? Although D&D definitely has the "glory and heroism" thing, so like I said, the point's still valid.


  8. encyclops
    May 17, 2015 @ 9:42 am

    MMORPGs are the video game analogue to the tabletop RPG. I can't think of too many ways they differ, actually, except in the small but crucial point that you are participating in defining and directing the story in a tabletop, and in an MMORPG all the actual narrative is predetermined. It's still a social activity, at least.


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