Monday, April 19, 2010

For the Love of the Game

I told myself that I wasn't experienced enough to write this yet, and I might be right, but it's something that has been in my head over the last few days.

Roger Ebert is a man I really admire in personal, professional, and intellectual aspects. He's a very smart man and is synonymous with movies in the same way Spielberg and Scorsese are. And for good reason. His makes his point articulately, usually spinning some kind of story through his reviews. He gives credence to the phrase "art criticism is art."
Recently Ebert wrote a blog in which he expounded on his claim that video games are not art. Not only are they not art, but "video games can never be art."
Obviously this enraged some gamers who, as Ebert was quick to point out, are "intensely concerned" that their hobbies be considered art.

Ebert was right in many ways. Obviously he is not an avid gamer, and some of the people posting on his blog say that he is "too old" to appreciate video games. Age clearly doesn't factor too much, as Ebert says he enjoyed the first Transformers movie and I hated it. And I'm much younger than he is. Ebert refutes the age argument by saying that "Not a one is too young to appreciate art," though a friend (also an English major) was quick to point out that a five-year-old can hardly appreciate Shakespeare. Of course people can be too young to appreciate art, but Ebert was clearly hyperbolic in his statement.

I can't help but to think that when Ebert makes these claims, he is thinking of games such as Pac-Man or Tetris. And he's right about that. Those are concepts. They are no more art than Plinko is. Concepts are used for problem solving. Tetris, at its minimum, helps you to see organization and patterns. This is not art. I'm sorry to say it's math. What can be considered an art in these games is something that Ebert, I think, is overlooking.

Video games aren't just concepts. The final product is the concept in action. All video games, at their cores, are problem solving games. Eat all the pellets; help the frog cross the street, hit the enemy's weak spot for massive damage. In between the genesis of the concept and the execution by the player comes the art.

You'd be hard pressed to find someone who doesn't believe that set design in a movie is not important. Costumes, mannerisms, lighting, and casting the right actor for a part are all a part of the illusion. They help you to suspend your disbelief so you can believe what you are seeing on the screen. The same is true of any video game. Before Frogger can cross the street, he has to exist. People design him in the same way one might design a costume for a movie.Video game characters don't just appear. They go through careful planning the same way any character from a novel or a movie would go through. They are important to the story and to the audience.

Secondly there is the music. I would find it difficult to tell Nobuo Uematsu that the 600+ tracks that he has composed for the Final Fantasy series alone are not art. Like the character design, the music is used to invoke feelings. The score of a film is one of the most important parts of a movie. Robert Zemeckis, on the Back to the Future special features DVD says that he told Alan Silvestri to think of the music as another character in the film, lending weight to the importance of music in the final product.

Perhaps more than any other genre, the role playing game (RPG) genre is the most like art. An important part of art is eliciting an emotional response. This is why art exists. This is why people like paintings, and music, and yes, film. RPGs are a literary genre. Take away the battles and the equipment and you have a cinematic and literary story unfolding in front of you. The game Final Fantasy IV for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, while dated, has the first truly emotional characters in a video game. We feel the self-loathing in Cecil, the jealousy and confusion in Kain, the need for revenge in Edge, and their love for each other. The story is one of forgiveness and retribution. There are character arcs for all 12 main characters, some admittedly better than others. The player feels loss when Tellah sacrifices himself and anger that his revenge was wasted.

Like any novel, we have seen these characters meet and watched their friendships blossom. The game may not run as deeply as a novel, mostly due to the memory limitations of the time, but the emotions we feel are real. And as with any good film, the music does as much to set the tone as the characters, lighting, and environment. Final Fantasy IV is light on metaphor and deep meaning, but it tells a cohesive story. It was crafted so that the player cares about what is happening.

A more modern example is the Japanese game Mother 3. The series' creator, Shigesato Itoi, is a part-time essayist and philosopher, and like any novelist, constructs his games' scripts with his own outlook on life in mind. While Mother 2 (Earthbound in the west) used traumatic bits of his childhood for the final boss, Giygas, to haunting effect, Mother 3 is rich in metaphors about human consumption and destruction of ecosystems. If there's one thing Itoi knows, it's creating emotion. In a scene early in Mother 3, the main character's father, Flint, learns of his wife's death. His reaction, although it is in simple pixelated form, is one of the most heartbreaking scenes I have seen in the medium. And it is all done with no dialogue from Flint.

The idea of art comes up in other genres too. Though RPGs may be the easiest examples, we also have the story of Wander and his lover in Shadow of the Colossus, which has almost no dialogue, but still conveys the love Wander feels for his lost love, and sympathy for the main character and the noblest of steeds. The most touching moment may be when Agro, Wander's horse and sole companion, topples over a cliff, leaving Wander more alone than we was at the beginning of the game with his dead lover. The grief in the scene is palpable. The designs of the Colossi and the musical score are breathtaking as well.

Someone might argue that video games lack one thing that gives film and literature a leg up and an obvious claim to art, and that is the literary allusion. Milton's work is full of them, and Shakespeare reveled in them. Adaptations of Dante's Inferno aside, video game developers exist in a world where they can create allusions to the most literary of all texts and get them to a mass audience.

While Star Wars used the classic design of the samurai to inform its character Darth Vader, the game Portal used imagery and even a nod to the name of HAL 9000 in the design of its GLaDOS character.

While we're on the subject of Portal we have to give the idea of design a thought. Portal is a game that makes use of a portal gun to help the player solve puzzles to escape imprisonment. The placement of the pieces of the puzzle; turrets, platforms, weighted companion cubes, are all important to the way the game is played.

They are all vital to the movement of the character and the way she interacts with her world, and by moving a platform or a turret, you change the way the stage is played. Could this be an argument for the game as art? Maybe, but it illustrates the importance and planning that goes into the development of each level and obstacle.

This is where it gets tricky. I would argue that the creation of video games is an art. Enough designers, composers, character artists, and modelers use their craft to make the game possible. Without their care and careful attention, the game is broken. It will never have a chance. However, the act of playing a game is not art. As Ebert says, "Bobby Fischer, Michael Jordan and Dick Butkus never said they thought their games were an art form. Nor did Shi Hua Chen, winner of the $500,000 World Series of Mah Jong in 2009." I agree with him here. We don't see the reading of a book as art. Only the writing process. The viewing of a film isn't art. It's the production. Your sitting on your couch all day to play Call of Duty is not art. The people who put the artistic knowledge and skill into the game are the artists. Bobby fisher wasn't an artist, but I'm sure he had a well-made chess set.

There is a reason I chose Pixar's Toy Story as my example of concept art way up at the start of this article. Both Pixar and a company like Square (creator of the Final Fantasy series) use computers to make their product. They design their characters, they sculpt them on a computer, they hire voice actors to make those characters come to life, they hire orchestras and composers to create a soundtrack to their world. Yet, why is Pixar's work seen as artistic genius, and Final Fantasy as tripe? I don't have the answer. Ebert seems to hint that the fact that video games are made for consumption and by executive decree;

"I allow Sangtiago the last word. Toward the end of her presentation, she shows a visual with six circles, which represent, I gather, the components now forming for her brave new world of video games as art. The circles are labeled: Development, Finance, Publishing, Marketing, Education, and Executive Management. I rest my case."

Disney is one of the largest corporations on the planet, but Pixar is undoubtedly still making art. Andy Warhol blurred the lines of consumerism and art in the 1960s and they have broken down further since then. Most art is made to be bought. The entire film industry is proof of that.

Perhaps my favorite part of this argument is the fact that a movie critic is saying that video games are not art. If you read that as a snide remark against Ebert, read it again because it certainly is not. While he sees film as an undeniable art, it was not so long ago that the same art critics were dismissing the artistic worth of photography (and by extension, motion pictures). The definition of art eventually had to be reconsidered to make room for photography.

Art critic Clive Bell said that the interpretation of art was up to the "significant form." More Americans are now playing video games than going to the movies. What could be more significant than that?

Thanks for everything, Ebert. I really mean that.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Janice: The Unsung Hero of the Muppets

Anyone who knows me knows that I love the Muppets. The original three movies (The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper, and The Muppets Take Manhattan) are all fantastic films that rely on a childlike approach to the world but never panders to them. People seem to hail "Shrek" as some kind of revolutionary film that started this trend. Dreamworks eventually took this schtick and ran with it, eventually creating abortions like "Madagascar" but that's another rant for another time.
The Muppets were never afraid to shy away from a joke. They treated their characters like functional adults. This would never happen in movies now, but when the Muppet films were made (at least, the three above) there were sexual and alcohol references in all of the films. They were never forced, but seemed to arise from casual conversations and were natural dialogue in the films. For instance, both Rowlf and Fozzie allude to alcohol in different films. Rowlf says he likes to "have a couple of beers" and "take himself for a walk" before bed. There's a joke there for adults, who laugh at the felt dog drinking, and one for kids who laugh at the phrasing Rowlf uses about going for a walk. Rowlf is a bit jaded as a lounge singer and this dialogue makes sense. On the other side of the spectrum, Fozzie is childlike and comments that champagne would taste like ginger ale if he added some sugar. There's a reason you never think for a moment that these characters aren't real people when you're watching a movie. They behave like real people. They have emotions and they all behave in certain ways.
And despite what politicians might tell you, kids won't start drinking because of this. They know that some activities are for adults.

Perhaps the most subversive character in the Muppets is Janice, the lead guitar player for the house band, the Electric Mayhem. In the Muppet Show she sings "With a Little Help From My Friends" and the writers made no attempt to say that she "gets high with a little help from (her) friends." With her other bandmates including Animal and Zoot, I don't doubt it. This scene even takes place during a "human" sacrifice, as Kermit notes. Can you see that flying now? Of course not.

Janice sings "With a Little Help From My Friends"

But it doesn't stop there.

Janice has two fantastic moments in "The Great Muppet Caper." The first comes relatively early in the film when Kermit, Fozzie, and Gonzo stop in at the Happiness Hotel for a room. Pops starts up the song and Janice gets the best and funniest lyric; "Still, the management is cheerful, though the whole joint's gone to Hell..."
Happiness Hotel
That's fine. Plenty of kid's shows from "Rocko's Modern Life" to "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" to "The Adventures of Pete & Pete" have mentioned Hell. It was much easier to get away with in the 80s and 90s. Can you see it happening on Nickelodeon or The Disney Channel now between advertisements for the new Hannah Montana album or "That's So Raven" (Is that even on anymore?)?
Her second bit is riskier and funnier. It strikes closer to the nanny state agenda we've cultivated in America; nudity.
The whole Muppet crew (in a group shot that no doubt took several dozen Muppeteers) yells over one another before Kermit can get them to shut up. When he does, Janice gets the final line that everyone hears because the room goes silent. If you've ever shouted something at a party as the music turns off you know this feeling.
Janice's life goals

The joke worked so well that in "The Muppets Take Manhattan" they turned it up a notch; "Look buddy, I don't take my clothes off for anyone. I don't care if it IS 'artistic.'"

Janice is hilarious. You may not have noticed her in the crowd of frogs and pigs and bears and... whatevers, but she's there. And she's awesome.
Disney has really dragged down the Muppet franchise. Did you see "Muppet Wizard of Oz"? I rest my case. When they started catering to kids, they dumbed it down and ruined its appeal. The Muppets weren't popular because they were by-the-books kids' characters. It was because they defied convention. Look at "Shrek" and "Shrek 3" to see what I mean. Hopefully Jason Segel, the Muppets fan he is, can rein then in and get them back on track with his new script.
And hopefully they won't be afraid to break some rules along the way. In the mean time, watch the old films. Count the jokes that would be impossible to do now, and enjoy the films as the great character interactions and hilarious slapstick showpieces that they are.

I probably should have Googled "General Geekery" before starting this blog

Because holy shit, is it used a lot.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Final Fantasy games defined by one song (Part 2)

Part 2!

Final Fantasy VII
Aeris's Theme

An easy one. Whether you spell it with an "S" or a "T-H," Aeris's theme is easily the definitive music from FFVII.
It's no spoiler now to say that Aeris suddenly gets the axe at the end of disc one. It comes as an absolute shock to the player. Sure, deaths have occurred before in Final Fantasy games in the past, but Aeris was something special. Tellah and Galuf were both old men who went out in blazes of glory. Leo was a secondary character that the player really had no emotional connection to. Aeris, for all intents and purposes, had nothing about her that would suggest that she would be departing from the game so early. She was the innocent of the group. While a bit annoying, she kept spirits high around mopey Cloud, angry Cid, and morose Vincent.
With one scene, Aeris became the unforgettable spirit of the game. She cemented Sephiroth's place, perhaps undeservedly, as he never did much else in the game, in RPG villain history. Aeris's theme served as a reminder to the player that Sephiroth was willing to destroy everything good in the world for his own purposes.
After Sephiroth dies by Cloud's massive blade, the theme plays again over the ending. The player is reminded of Aeris's death and, perhaps for the first time, realizes that without her death, even is they had stopped Sephiroth, the world would be doomed. It is because of her that the Lifestream fights off Meteor. She binds the Lifestream together in some kind of FFVII-esque "Force" that flows through the planet's veins. Cloud didn't save the day, Aeris did. She was never intended to be in your final party. She always had to die.
If FFIV is a story about redemption and self-discovery, FFVII is a story about loss and acceptance.

Final Fantasy VIII
Eyes on Me

I debated this one for a long time. It just feels so... easy. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it's the theme for a reason.
Every good RPG has love as an ingredient in its plot. Final Fantasy is no different. While FFV was very light on love, great romances thrived between characters like Cecil and Rosa, Kain and Rosa, Celes and Locke, Terra and the Mobliz children, Cloud and Aeris, Cloud and Tifa, Cloud and Yuffie, Cloud and Barret... you get the point. But love had never taken center stage until FFVIII. While the game seemed to revolve around the emotional journey of Squall and his change from cold, uncaring student to brave, likable leader, that change could not have taken place without Rinoa.
Many FF fans shun FFVIII because it failed to live up to the standards that FFVII had set. They may feel that the plot was too confusing, Squall was too unlikable, and the love story was too prominent. While other FF games focus on the saving-the-world aspect, FFVIII got more personal. It showed us that Squall DID have a heart under all that gruff. Moreso than FFVII and its literal delving into Cloud's mind, FFVIII told us all about Squall. We know why he was distant and why he opened up. It also led us slowly into the relationship. He and Rinoa's interactions seemed normal. He went from seeing her as nothing more than an employer to someone he had to protect. When he used the Ragnarok to go to space and save her, she finally shattered that emotional block and he finally let her in. Final Fantasy VIII is a character study. It's a drama. It's arguably the most cinematic of the FF games and it's more personal than anything we had seen in a video game up til that point.

Final Fantasy IX
You're Not Alone!

Final Fantasy IX is a direct reaction to FFVIII. Fans grew tired of the depressing main character. After the unlikable protagonists like Cloud and Squall, Square created Zidane. Zidane is ever the optimist. While Garnet battles with the abuse by her mother and Vivi struggles with who he is and Freya longs for her lost love, Zidane serves as the character who pats them on the back, telling them to chin up and assuring them that everything will be ok. He's cheerful, he's fun, he cares. Zidane is the anti-Squall.
So why the depressing music?
Well, near the end of the game, Zidane discovers where he is from in what has become an old Final Fantasy standby. Like Cecil and Terra before him, Zidane is from another world. He seems to take it pretty well at first, but when he realizes he was created only to kill, he, for the first time, loses hope and becomes depressed. He mopes in Pandemonium and wonders if his whole life has been a lie.
But then something special happens. While any other Final Fantasy game would allow its protagonist to mope and cry and philosophize, Zidane is instead convinced out of it by the friends he has made. Garnet, Vivi, Quina, Freya, Eiko, Amarant, and even Steiner comment on what a great friend he is. They talk him out of his depression by helping him realize that he, in fact, is not alone in all of this. When Zidane reaches his lowest point, the people he has surrounded himself with and kept going for all this time return the favor. Continuing with themes in the games, Final Fantasy IX is a story about friendship. Someone could make the argument that ALL of the FF games are about friendship and I wouldn't disagree. However, FFIX spends the most time building those relationships. Like FFVI before it it doesn't really allow any one character to steal the spotlight. Instead it is shared. We equally see Zidane's depression, Garnet's relationship with her mother, Vivi's struggle with his mortality, Steiner's unrequited love, and Freya's loss of home, and Eiko's fear of solitude. Final Fantasy IX is an ensemble piece where all of the characters work together to strengthen the story. In the past we could only infer relationships between Cecil, Palom, and Porom or Sabin and Cyan because of memory limits in the games. Final Fantasy IX helps you feel for its characters.
In some ways, as much as it is a reaction to FFIX, it is also a companion. It shows the differences between a cold character and the friends that want him to open up, and a group who become more tightly knit as we reach the end. If one gets too grim, we can turn to the other. If that gets too sweet, we can go back.
Because that's what life is; a balance between the grim and the sweet.

So that's that. I didn't intend to garner some kind of message from the games as I went, but I did. Maybe you liked them, or maybe you think I'm some kind of hack reading too deeply into some video games. That's ok. More of you may be asking why I didn't include anything after FFIX. Well, that's another blog.
For now, go back and revisit a classic. And this time, enjoy Uematsu's music as much as you enjoyed the characters, the plot, and chopping off monsters' heads.

Final Fantasy games defined by one song (Part 1)

A long ago in the far-off land of 1987, a fledgling video game production company called Square released what would be their last game on the Famicom (NES to us in the west). Clearly history didn't work out the way they thought it would because FF13 just came out not too long ago and we're already being bombarded with screenshots and trailers for the fourteenth installment.
Aside from some brilliant gameplay and fun graphics, Final Fantasy boasted some wonderful music from the mind of Nobuo Uematsu. He has composed hundreds of unique songs for 13 of the series' installments beginning with FF1.
As fans of the series will tell you, each game has its unique flavor. The characters always stand out and the music is always fresh and sets the mood perfectly. I'm willing to bet that you could play Uematsu's music on the radio and pass it off as classical and people would eat it up.
With so many great songs, some just become fused with the very essence of the game. Naming a Final Fantasy will immediately spark a tune in the mind of the fans. Sure, the Victory Theme or the Crystal Theme or the Chocobo Theme are all great (and all playing in your head right now), but they're used in all of the games, so they won't be included on this list. Also, each game has its own battle theme and boss theme, so it'd be easy to use those. But who said I liked it easy? I'll be using music used only in the specific games that define the game for me. For me, these tunes are as follows; (Please note, I won't be doing every FF game. They're all great, but these are my favorites)

Final Fantasy
Matoya's Theme

Final Fantasy takes all of the fantasy cliches we know and uses them to its advantage. We all know the rescue-the-princess scenario. We've read it for years, it's been force-fed to us by Disney, and even Super Mario did it. Any NES game that had you save a princess ended shortly after the deed was complete. However, Final Fantasy made it the first quest. After that you were free to roam the world by airship, boat, and even canoe. One of the oldest fantasy cliches is the old, evil witch. When the party stumbles upon Matoya you expect to find a new enemy. The dark, foreboding music seems to invite this feeling. However, only a few moments in you realize that this music is cheerful. And Matoya is a friendly character who needs your help. This character interaction sets you off on your real quest. Matoya and her backwards-talking brooms invite you to a gaming world where not everything is quite what it seems and puzzles and characters lie in every part of the map. Matoya and her crystal help set the stage for the whole Final Fantasy series.

Final Fantasy IV
The Lunarians

I know I'm skipping ahead by a lot, but I never played FF2 and 3 enough to really do them justice. Instead of trying, I'm going to move ahead and get to the meat of this article.
Where Final Fantasy played with fantasy cliches, Final Fantasy IV helped create new ones. The man with no knowledge of his past, the love triangle, the villainous brother, the ninja womanizer. Ok, maybe not all of those are real. Final Fantasy IV was a story about changing one's station in life while respecting the past. Cecil is a Dark Knight who works for the kingdom of Baron. He is treated like a son by the king and has a family of his own in Kain, Rosa, and Cid. However, Cecil comes to realize he has no identity. He hides behind the mask of the Dark Knight, is afraid to show his emotions to Rosa, and is quickly becoming the king's go-to man for striking without asking why. Cecil finally begins to question the direction his life is taking and he asks the king why he must fight civilians and rob the all-important crystals. For his change of heart, Cecil is ordered from the castle on a mission that will brand him a traitor to his country and a fearful symbol of oppression to everyone else.
The game, itself, reinforces the idea of change by placing us, yet again, in a fantasy world and using the narrative scrawl as the journey begins. Final Fantasy IV sets us up for another swords-and-sorcery adventure.
Midway through the game, Cecil must scale the Mountain of Ordeals in order to shed his Dark Knight persona and become a warrior of light; a Paladin. He tosses aside the mask he hides behind and shows his true face and flowing purple locks. The mysterious light he meets there calls him his son, sending Cecil on a journey of self-discovery. This journey eventually takes him to the moon where he learns that he is half alien. In this scene, the Final Fantasy series breaks with tradition and opens up a new world of opportunity. They fuse fantasy with sci-fi and scribe one of the great video game stories of all time. "The Lunarians" is the music that underscores his adventures on the moon. It is a song of mystery and enchantment. It inspires a feeling of discovery and vulnerability.
It comes as no surprise that Cecil embraces his new life and uses his experiences to return home and rule Baron. Like the Final Fantasy series itself, Cecil has become the keeper of fantasy and sci-fi and has embraces the family he has always known while accepting the family he never did.

Final Fantasy V
Clash on the Big Bridge

I promised no battle themes, but this one gets a pass. Where Final Fantasy IV was a serious tale of self-discovery, Final Fantasy V was light on story, but heavy on gameplay. All you need to know about FFV is that it involves four heroes trying to save the world from an evil sorcerer. In some ways the game seems like a parody of Final Fantasy IV. It's lighthearted and it's fun. What the game lacks in deepness or story or character it makes up for in gameplay. Final Fantasy V has some of the best gameplay in the series.
It really says something when the most memorable character in a game isn't in the main party. In fact, Gilgamesh doesn't appear until 1/3 through the game as the villain's bumbling sidekick. He has a penchant to one-liners, swords, and terrible puns. Gilgamesh's stay as the ineffectual villain begins when Bartz and company travel to Galuf's world, following the villain Exdeath in order to make sure he remains sealed in his forest prison. It makes sense in context. Kind of. After Galuf saves Bartz, Faris, and Reina, the quartet escape Exdeath's castle and head toward Galuf's castle, Val. On the bridge, they are ambushed by the comical Gilgamesh, who begins his stint as the Goldfish Poop Gang for the game. Gilgamesh eventually becomes a likable villain who is punished by Exdeath for being the pushover he is. Gilgamesh eventually redeems himself by saving the heroes at the end of the game.
"Clash on the Big Bridge" is what Final Fantasy V ends up becoming; an awesomely goofy but sometimes serious celebration of RPGs.

Final Fantasy VI
Dancing Mad

Perhaps Uematsu's magnum opus. Dancing Mad is the icing on the cake that is Final Fantasy VI. Fans are often split between FFVI and FFVII as their favorite, often leading to internet arguments about which is the superior game. Though I side with VI, VII is still great fun.
Final Fantasy VI is the game that really took the Final Fantasy series to the next level. It gave us a tragic story, an interesting villain, and great battle mechanics. It also moved the environment from the old-school fantasy realms to a steampunk stage that would set the mood for Final Fantasies to come.
Dancing Mad is first head on the opening title screen. As the logo appears, the synthesized choir sings before leading you into the first scenes. You won't hear that again until the final battle. Dancing Mad takes the player on an adventure. Like the rest of FFVI, Dancing Mad goes through several changes. It sounds like the archetypal villain-on-an-organ theme that we've come to expect, but then, as the player whittles away at Kefka's monument to non-existence, the song changes. It comes in stanzas, adapting itself to the image on screen. The demon has the ominous breathing and organ, the second part becomes a playful yet terrifying chorus among the many humanoid characters, the third sounds like something out of a church with a heavenly choir and the appropriate figures in the foreground as beams of light shine through the overcast sky. When the party rises above the cloud they are treated to an evil rock and roll, again on the organ. Kefka's final stand invokes villainous stereotypes, modern instruments, and even a riff on his own in-game theme song.
Speaking of theme songs, Dancing Mad continues after his death and leads the player on a musical travelogue through each of the game's fourteen main characters before it all builds up to the finale and the Final Fantasy main theme. It's enough to bring tears to anyone's eyes after spending so much time with a group of characters that you've learned and lived with for over a year of their lives.
What is Final Fantasy VI? A story of the struggle of life. Each character overcomes his or her hardships in order to face true evil. FFVI features the protagonists at the lowest point of any of the FF games. Kefka wins. He completely destroys their home planet and everyone must suffer through it and struggle to live. Ultimately FFVI teaches that the human struggle to preserve itself and live is something of beauty. We must always strive to go on, even when the madness sets in.