The Virtue of Final Fantasy VII’s Ambiguous Ending

•April 18, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Whatever the medium, ambiguous endings can oftentimes feel gimmicky. Like the creators are thumbing their nose and the audience, or they’re reaching for some kinda unearned gravitas. However, when used correctly, ambiguous endings can help to drive home certain thematic points or character arcs. I’d argue that Final Fantasy VII, which has arguably one of the most controversial endings in all of gaming, does exactly that.

Spoilers ahead!

Meteor_Logo_Art

Aside from killing off one of its main characters, FF7 shocked gamers when it potentially killed all off the rest of them (excluding Red XIII). Or did they?

Final Fantasy VII ends with Aeries’s Holy defeating Sephiroth’s Meteor. However, it is up to Holy to decide whether it is best for the planet to eradicate all of humanity. We see Holy destroy Meteor, but beyond that the game doesn’t give us a clear answer. During an after-credits cutscene, we see Red XIII running with, presumably, his children to show them the ruins of Midgar, overgrown with vegetation. The screen does a quick edit to the FF7 logo with the sound of children laughing.

There are then two ways to interpret this: 1) Holy decided humans were a threat and now only animals and other sentient beings like Red XIII are left. 2) People have survived, but are living more in tune with nature, hence the laughing children.

For the purposes of this post, I don’t intend to argue which of these interpretations is correct. Rather, I want to point to the purposeful ambiguity and how it reinforces the story’s themes.

(I’m also going to ignore the sequels.)

8672782_orig

FF7 was pretty ahead of its time with its embrace of environmentalist themes and its critique of modern industrialization. Shinra plundering the earth for mako is clearly a metaphor for our present day over-reliance on fossil fuels. The Cetra, who are a sort of inter-planetary custodians, are presented as the ideal. If I may use a cliche, they are “one with nature.”

We follow our cast of characters through around forty hours of gameplay (that’s if you’re not being a completionist or a speedrunner) as they defeat Shinra, Jenova, and Sephiroth. Along the way, each character is given a rich backstory and mini arc, which I think is a big reason why FF7 is head and shoulders above its peers. By the end of the game you really care about these characters, so it’s a pretty big punch in the guts when the ending comes and they’re potentially wiped out due to an environmental disaster.

The ending is thus a sort of activist call to arms. It’s saying, if you want to protect the things you care about then you must do something. If the ending showed the characters surviving then the gamer would have walked away with a sense of completion; it wouldn’t linger in your brain. On the other hand, if it had explicitly shown that the characters were dead then it would have came across as too fatalistic, that we can’t do anything. The ambiguity of the ending leaves just enough reasonable doubt to believe the characters survived.

The ending hits that perfect note somewhere between hope and despair.

Final Fantasy Foiling: Sephiroth vs Cloud — Engen Books

•April 7, 2019 • Leave a Comment

One of the great challenges writers face is creating a compelling conflict between their protagonist and antagonist. Too often the hero and villain exist within in their own respective vacuums. The hero saves the day because that’s their job while the villain twirls their moustache and exists as the hero’s make-work project. I think a […]

via Final Fantasy Foiling: Sephiroth vs Cloud — Engen Books

Useful Idiot: The unexpected virtue of Trudeau’s gender equality

•March 10, 2019 • 1 Comment

After four years of writing the same “Has Justin Trudeau lost his stride?” op-ed, conservative columnists around the country can finally rejoice. Yes, there were a few minor inside baseball hiccups here and there, but this SNC Lavalin/Jody Wilson-Raybould is a many-tentacled monster of Lovecraftian proportions. Based on his treatment of JWR, and now other female cabinet members, Trudeau has been outted, rightly I’d argue, for being a fake feminist. To borrow a phrase from The Wire, this is Trudeau’s first bowl of shit.

Back in 2015, when Trudeau was recently elected, he famously chose his cabinet members to be 50/50 across gender lines. I defended this move in a blog post at the time, and I stand by it, even though it didn’t work out the way he wanted it to. All those conservatives who scoffed at it at then should now be grateful because without it Trudeau would still be arguably invulnerable.

Allow me to explain.

As an aboriginal woman, JWR isn’t a part of the old, white Laurentian boys club of Canadian politics. Once a weakness, this is now a strength. She doesn’t need their approval to survive. So when Trudeau and his regime tried to strong arm her into kowtowing to the party line, she refused.

This is the virtue of a diverse party. Individuals can step out of line because they’re less beholden to the same sources of power.

Conservatives and New Democrats are drooling at the possibility this could be the end of Trudeau’s Liberals, but I have my doubts. Harper had his share of scandals, including being the only party in the history of the Commonwealth to be found in contempt of parliament.

Also–depending what else comes of this–I don’t see this as a big challenge for the Liberals to spin. It seems like no laws were broken and Trudeau could argue that he was just trying to protect jobs. Seeing how all the SNC Lavalin scandals happened under the Conservatives, I’m sure they’ll be wary of leaning too hard into this.

To me, it seems like a bubble.

If Trudeau is going to be defeated it’ll come down to the economy, which seems to be doing pretty good, and his Carbon Tax.

Deep Work: Why a $2 kitchen timer was one of the best investments I made in my writing — Engen Books

•February 10, 2019 • Leave a Comment

In a recent post, I talked about flow and the effort it takes to achieve it. Today, I want to talk more about that, specifically about making your writing space “sacred” and creating a “closed-loop system,” particularly with regards to distractions, vis a vis your phone. In that post about flow, I discussed the pomodoro […]

via Deep Work: Why a $2 kitchen timer was one of the best investments I made in my writing — Engen Books

Otaku ’bout It: Why Horror Is Having a Moment — Engen Books

•December 15, 2018 • Leave a Comment

If you have any kind of feel for the zeitgeist then you’ve noticed that the horror genre is having quite the moment nowadays. There have always been successful horror movies like Paranormal Activity or Saw that spawn lucrative imitators, etc. but presently there are releases that are also enjoying heaps of critical praise like Get […]

via Otaku ’bout It: Why Horror Is Having a Moment — Engen Books

Podcast Interview: This Is Your Mixtape

•December 5, 2018 • Leave a Comment

I recently had a great chat with Michael Collins (not the Irish revolutionary) of This Is Your Mixtape, a podcast where guests pick five songs that impacted them throughout their life. You can check out the interview here. There’s lots of other great episodes to check out there as well. It’s also available on iTunes, Spotify, etc.

TIYM

For my five songs I picked Scar Tissue – Red Hot Chili Peppers; The Decline – NoFX; All The Things You Are – Joe Pass; Sounds of Science – The Beastie Boys; Atlas, Rise! – Metallica

The main thread throughout the conversation started with me picking up guitar as an adolescent after I saw the music video for Scar Tissue and my growth as a musician and subsequent transition into being an author. This lead to topics like self-confidence, virtuosity vs artistry, recognizing when to give up on certain goals, and re-discovering things you liked when you were a kid as an adult.

Cheers,

-b

Farm to Table: Worldbuilding vs Storytelling — Engen Books

•December 2, 2018 • Leave a Comment

I wrote about world building vs storytelling for the Engen blog. Check it out.

Last weekend I attended a panel on world building in genre fiction. There was a lot of interesting discussion, including one question a lot of genre writers grapple with constantly: When does world building stop? As in, when does world building become tedious exposition. After all, the reader doesn’t want an encyclopedic presentation of your […]

via Farm to Table: Worldbuilding vs Storytelling — Engen Books