Escape to Midgar
James McCaulley credits Final Fantasy VII with helping him cope with his father’s abuse of his mother, who he sees as an Aeris-esque figure.
I grew up in a broken home. My father was abusive, mostly to my mother. He was an addict of every variety and persuasion; his vices were legendary. When I was a child, I had to listen to him abuse her for hours, with no end in sight. Sometimes I would just hide in my room and shut my ears just to get away from it. Other times I attempted to shield my mother, but a child’s body isn’t really effective body armor as I found out.
When I hit age 12, I received a Playstation for my birthday. The broken home I had grown up in had changed me into someone relatively numb and accepting of my situation. To this day, I talk about my growing up like one might talk of the weather. That Playstation though, that wonderful machine that arrived just in time to allow me to escape to other worlds; I still think about those days sometimes.
Sometimes, when the situation got unbearable, I would retreat into my room and pop in Final Fantasy VII. Cliched as it now is, it is my favorite game of all time. Though it’s not my favorite because of its story, its battle mechanics, or its music. It truly let me escape into the world of Cloud and AVALANCHE. I would sit for hours playing that game, sometimes searching over and over and revisiting the same in-game locations over and over, trying and find something new. I knew that if I could help Cloud escape Midgar at the beginning of Disc 1, then I could escape my situation eventually.
I actually felt more in common with these characters than some actual people in my life at the time. Cloud’s struggle to find out who he really was was a mirror image of my decision of what kind of person to grow into. Aeris’s selfless sacrifice honestly reminded my of my Mother’s selfless nature, and how she could weather any storm, minus Aeris’s final fate of course.
Then, I received Final Fantasy VIII the next year.
As divided as fandom is over this installment of the franchise, it is still one of my favorites. I felt totally alone sometimes growing up. Even with a younger brother and close friends, growing up in a terrible situation can make you feel like an orphan. As corny as it sounds now, the fact that the cast of FFVIII were all orphans spoke to me. Squall, emo as he is, was a true loaner that no one understood. While it turns out that he just had an immense chip on his shoulder, I was in a situation in which no one could relate. In many ways, I was completely alone. The relatability of my young mind to fictional characters in a video game seems silly to me sometimes now, but I know that back then it was necessary to cope.
And coped I have. I currently write about video games, and have a full time job. I even went to college. My parents divorced when I was 14, but they didn’t stop really seeing each other until I was 20. My mother is now raising my little brother and my father has recovered and is trying to repair the damage caused. I am in a much better place now, then I was. Video games, along with some great parenting by my mother truly did save my life.
I still own both FFVII and FFVIII. I still play them annually, they deserve it.
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