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Life, Writing Life

Role Playing Games: Writing tips from Final Fantasy VII

It’s almost funny that my last post was about not making excuses about writing and then like I jinxed myself, I haven’t posted anything in months.

Finally, I decided to post this. It’s something I’ve wanted to post for a while – I created a draft 4 months ago- but I didn’t think/ I still don’t think that I can explain it properly but here goes.

When I was 13, I got a play station and final fantasy VII as a gift from my brother. If he knew the amount of hours I was going to spend on that thing, maybe he wouldn’t have bought it.

I got the- what is this time-sucking thing you are doing? Your time can be better spent doing x or y or z? from my parents. Surprisingly I never got the why are you playing games you are a girl speech? Maybe because before the PS, I had the Super nintendo, game boy etc.

Here’s the thing.

I loved Final Fantasy VII.

The world-building, the characters (Cloud, Tifa, Aeris,  mysterious Sephiroth, Yuffie, Cait Sith)!, the complex story lines, the just for fun quests (riding chocobos!) and let me not get started on the music… Nobuo- I toss my hat.

And people everywhere else must have felt the same. There’s been

  1. Final Fantasy Advent Children
  2. Final Fantasy 7: Crisis Core
  3. Final Fantasy 7 will be on PS4 this year

and a few other games where Cloud (Final Fantasy VII’s main character) makes an appearance- ex Kingdom Hearts

I don’t know if I would have gotten into the final fantasy world if I started with VIII, IX, X , X-2 (all of which I own) Yes, the graphics are better , things have come a long way from when it was released in 1997 but VII storyline still rocks

So here are 10 things I learned from VII that applies to writing

  1. Foreshadowing- Cloud would black out and have these episodes where his memories would conflict with the stories he has told people during game play. He was always frustratingly one step behind and we almost suspect he is the one doing all the bad things but just can’t remember [Think Tell Me Your Dreams by Sidney Sheldon]. Then we visit his hometown and there’s a big reveal
  2. Pacing/Tension- There were many funny and relaxing memories /moments that cut the tension of bigger moments. I read a blog post about actually charting your story’s tension and it should look something like this

  3. Backstory- A character’s backstory shapes who he is and releasing the history in snippets makes for great reveals. Every time I visited a character’s hometown, I was always excited about what new facet I’d learn about him/her
  4. Romance – Love triangles
  5. Government- The main characters started out protesting the government (Shinra) by blowing up a building.  During the story and through flashbacks we learn a lot about Shinra- deliberately destroying parts of the town, experiments on people, a crazy president with an equally crazy son. The government impacted each character and everyone else that lived in that city in one way or the other.
  6. Love to hate characters
  7. Killing your darlings- A major character is gone half way through the game, and IT CHANGED EVERYTHING
  8. Side Quests- Experiences that may not move the plot forward directly but helps with pacing. Final Fantasy is know for it’s many sidequests. You can get through the game without completing a number of the quests but trust me, it changes the experience.
  9. Magic (or world building)-  how to use magic, where it comes from, how it affects its users was a major element in the story
  10. Sephiroth- a villain that’s horrifying and yet you can’t help but feel for him (or who he used to be) at the same time. Take time to create an antagonist that isn’t black and white.

     Has anyone learned something from a game that spilled over into his/her writing? Please share.

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