Friday, February 10, 2006

Fleeting Precious Things and Forlorn Hopes

One of the really good things about a really good book or a really good movie is that they have the potential to last. A movie I enjoyed when I was young I can reasonably hope would also be enjoyed by my progeny, if a copy of that movie still exists. A book is even easier—as long as I, myself, have a copy of a book that means a lot to me, the possibility of sharing it to my children in the future is a joy to me.

Still, there are certain things which are so precious and yet so fleeting that one can almost despair that anybody else can share it with you. People have felt this when there is a particular play or cantata or musical which was magical, but with a magic that lasts only through the night and only imperfectly in one's memories. So many people, for instance, point to Christopher Plummer's performance as Cyrano de Bergerac as his best performance in his entire career. I wouldn't know. I didn't watch it; and I will always have the feeling of having been excluded from such a wonderful experience.

Nevertheless, cantatas can be performed again. Plays have scripts that can be published and enjoyed. Musicals that one hasn't ever watched can be remade as films (the way the Broadway musical of the Phantom of the Opera has been) and be enjoyed by new generations. So, even here there is potentially some hope that one can feel that one isn't alone in enjoying these treasures, no matter how different they are.

The same cannot be said of computer games. One of the things that my wife and I shared even as best friends were computer games. Before even a hint of romance between us, we were already close trading secrets and strategies of the games of WarCraft and MYST. As we became closer and closer to each other, there was Final Fantasy VII. WarCraft and MYST both have novels written for them and complete histories that will satisfy the cravings of knowledge; but this is not the same as actually "living" the games. Of course, there still is a WarCraft game out there, and several MYST sequels, but as memorable as these games are to me, to my wife and countless others, they will be forgotten by the next generation. Not because they aren't worth remembering but because there is no way for them to exist once the technologies they are based on becomes obsolete. I find this very sad.

It is even worse with Final Fantasy VII. This game was designed for a console that is no longer being manufactured, and the discs that I saved for and bought are no longer in good condition, even if I am able to preserve the PSOne console for my children. Even when I tried downloading a PC version of it, hoping to relive some of the joy and happiness of playing it, it has problems even working on Windows XP. It is sad, because the story of Final Fantasy VII is one of the best that I have ever lived through. "Lived" because, unlike even the best books, role-playing games such as these allow you to actually live out the characters, even if the story-line is linear. Someday, I can hope to have my kids read Pride and Prejudice when they are old enough, probably watch a DVD of the BBC version; I cannot hope for the same with Final Fantasy VII. True, there is one anime "prequel" and a movie "sequel" to the games, but none of these hold any meaning apart from the game. These movies mean something because we played the game.

Sometimes I wish somebody would write a novel concerning the game, but I realize now that that is a fool's hope. The printed word vs the audio-visual journey are very different things. Notwithstanding issues of canon, putting "the game" down into words will kill the game. How does one translate all the possible materia combinations, the different strategies for defeating the Weapons, the side quests or even Chocobo raising, training and racing into the written word without making it long, tedious, boring and irrelevant?

Prequels and sequels are okay, like they did for the MYST franchise, but even the creators realized that they shouldn't novelize the actual games itself. It shouldn't be done for Final Fantasy VII either.

So, sometimes I wish that Square-Enix had the resources to "re-publish" their "titles" for each succeeding generation, or at least find some way to preserve it so that it can still be enjoyed. I know I am not alone in hoping that Square-Enix would "remake" Final Fantasies I-VII, at least, one last time for the Playstation 3. I know that, unlike good books, good games cannot be republished ad infinitum; but it still is a wish. Then maybe, as all forlorn hopes are, there is a potential for the joy of being in connection still with the next generation, a connection with something that had meant a lot to us while we, too, had been young.