Spirituality in Video Games
In my downtime, I'm a pretty avid gamer! Whether it's console, PC, or tabletop - I have built up quite an inventory over the years. My love for video games was something that started out slow.. I grew up in the age of Nintendo, Super Nintendo, and N64. And while (Super) Mario, Mario Kart, and The Legend of Zelda (especially Ocarina of Time) were games I played when I was younger, I admit I quickly grew out of it. I was someone that had no desire to own a console myself, nor spend time playing every day, but that all changed when I got a part-time job at Blockbuster as a teenager...
|One corner of "Gaming Central" at home|
One summer, while I was picking up extra hours due to boredom, I learned that I could rent a PS2 for cheap and decided "why not?'. I rented it for 2 weeks and took it home with Final Fantasy X.
I got completely sucked into this game! After returning my rental console, I ended up convincing my mother to help me put a PS2 on layaway at Walmart so that by the end of that summer, I owned my first console. From this era, Final Fantasy X, Shadow Hearts, and Silent Hill 2 & 3 topped my list of go-to games. And while I never saw any of the spiritual references or significances in these games until the past couple of years, I can't help but wonder if some of these stories planted the seeds in my brain. As someone that knows the history of Reiki - I can be short and non-descriptive and tell you that the Japanese were well versed in these matters long before we (your average North American) were!
Fast forward several years; and I'll be honest, I'm a hardcore Resident Evil fan (no joke; I own multiple copies of the games as well as all of the canon books) and I have a hard time picking up a game I don't already have an interest in. As I started coming into my spirituality through my trauma recovery, I had to take a break. Because when I started delving into the practices I have today, I wondered if I could ever play video games again... BUT then I found I had a new perspective when playing certain games. I want to mention some of these games here and dive into those details. ((Spoilers ahead!))
Final Fantasy 7
I recently played the Remake of FFVII and completely reconnected with Aerith, and I admit I was giddy about all the references that were given more life this time around. 7 takes place in a time that's actually somewhat relatable to today's world - in the sense of corporations leading the world & it's wellbeing, while keeping people poor and suffering the consequences these industries are causing on the Earth. People like ourselves (all the characters, but namely Aerith) are the odd man out and feel like we're the only ones that care about helping others and getting the planet back to a healthy, sustainable state. It's both enlightening and sad to get personal about Aerith's story, because I relate in that we know we need to help others do what's right and see the light, but the voices from spirits are what really leads us, and sometimes the darker forces try to push and control us.
But it's mostly Cloud's story, and we watch him go through the same confusing and eye-opening process that recently awakened go through, which they're also shining more light on this time around. There's so many more little things (particularly everything leading to the end starting with Aerith's death, and Sephiroth's story) where spiritual matters & understanding are behind the narrative, but I think you get the idea here. Some items, spells, attacks, and equipment are named with a spiritual term.
Final Fantasy 10
FFX takes place in a world that's already been ravaged by humanity's consequences, and even though religion is what's keeping this world together, it's pure spirituality behind it. The main character, Tidus, comes into this world from his own - where he's in fact actually just a spirit that's been manifested through - which is a relatively clear explanation on ghosts. Like those that have passed but remain because they can't come to terms with their death, he continues living on without even realizing he doesn't actually exist there. BUT with the world being as spiritual as it is, no one knows until those alike finally tell him and make him understand... and of course, at the end; as the veil & threat is lifted from the world, he's forced to move on and disappears into thin air.
The spirits behind the Summons are a great representation of Ascended Masters (being the "tools" needed to end Sin, and being a manifestation that can be called upon at any time), and let's not forget the Farplane - a place where people go to call upon someone that has passed to see & speak to them; representative of the collective consciousness. Yuna herself had a spiritual-like journey of her own to be able to obtain these Summons; noting how it took hours of praying to receive her first one. Like FFVII, there's items, equipment, moments, and figures that are spiritual and have spiritual terms for names... but it is hard to identify it all unless you know.
A true hidden gem! This came out right before FFX did and I think it got left behind for that reason. It's a pure light and dark story where the two come together to rid the world of its current evil. Set in actual places throughout Europe & Asia during the early 1900s, it features villages dealing with curses & possession, people using dark arts & rituals to raise dead loved ones, as well as haunted places that the "priest" (Zhuzhen) and "priestess" (Alice) blesses and clears. Almost every playable character in this game has a psychic ability, which they use for their specific & powerful attacks/spells, and it has no shortage of moments where you watch the characters (namely Yuri) suffer while they come to terms with their abilities.
Possibly the most notable character here is Alice; as she connects with Yuri and joins him in spirit to remove the hold the dark entities have on his mind. And even further to that, seeing the recurring theme of these powerful women of light (Healers) willingly offering their lives & fighting to ensure the men in their life are lifted from the curse being placed on them. It's a very charming, enlightening, and heartbreaking story where spiritual abilities and practices are fully embraced and represented throughout. (Also recommended: the prequel Koudelka, featuring a related character as she sets out to explore the haunted monastery where SH comes to a close. And the sequel which brings Yuri his redemption, and features even more psychic characters.)
Divinity: Original Sin 2
This was a game that was recommended to me, and even though I had a hard time getting into it, I'm SO glad I finished the main storyline! It's something that can be played with others, so you can pick a character or completely make up your own. But regardless of who you are in it, your character is a magic-user that's been locked up with other magic-users - in a world and time where (like our witch-burning era) these abilities are considered a threat. It all starts with trying to break free along with a group of others, but then psychically channeled voices and higher powers steer you towards connecting with a God, and sending you down the path to "Godhood". Inevitably, people turn on you and use you, and you have to fight your own friends near the end - mostly because they're greedy and selfish in their reason for Ascension.
The entire story is all about Ascension, and it was completely relatable for me since I did a program in the High Priestess Ascension Academy which had a process & practices that were eerily similar to how the game plays out. I mention that because there were times where the conversations in this game literally brought tears to my eyes, and MANY statements were reminiscent of things I learned in the program. A lot of the narrative is purely spiritual talk, and like the stepping stones on one's spiritual journey - new spiritual abilities are gifted one by one as you progress and prove yourself. In the end, you rid the world of it's threat but are left to wonder where your place is now. It's honestly like taking a virtual spiritual journey of your own, which is why I'm mentioning it.
Silent Hill (series)
I originally wasn't going to mention this, but the fact is that there's a lot of truth to it. Since my experience has shone a light on how real Black & Blood magic (used maliciously) actually is in today's world, I just have to bring it up. Silent Hill, for the most part, revolves around the town which has a dark secret - a cult that worships a dark God (Samael) and works towards manifesting it to usher in a new era of death & darkness, which they consider "Paradise". At the root of this story, you're exposed to one family of note, which actually attempts human sacrifice (using their daughter; Alessa/Heather) to bring the town into the ashy, barren state it's in. It features monsters that one could only dream of in nightmares - which in SH3, is teased as being a problem with the mind (Vincent suggests you "see the people as monsters", and it becomes questionable if they were even real to begin with).
But in later games, the story changes to feature the same cult activity in different towns, side stories that link to the original story, or in the case of SH2 - it's all about the town calling in people that need to face their past trauma. You can almost consider it a spiritual place in this regard since it comes up that everyone see's something different and it's mirroring what the person needs to see (usually representing their trauma) -- which is entirely true in the healing work I do. All the cult activity aside, they make for jaw-dropping stories that leave you saying "WTF?!" as you're forced to slay the evil God manifested. Just do everyone a favour and DON'T become curious in these activities (I previously wrote about how karma plays into dark, ill-intented work; look if you're curious).
This was a bit longer than I expected, so I'll leave it at that and look forward to bringing you a Part 2! If you have suggestions or feedback for me, reach out to me - firstname.lastname@example.org