Thursday, 14 February 2008

aerith dies

Probably the most controversial death in a computer game, the death of Aerith Gainsborough in Final Fantasy VII has become one of the most seminal moments in videogame history.

The fact that it caused such an uproar is interesting, to me at least. Probably because we believe that video games work to a very well-defined framework. We dont expect them to obey a moral code, but we expect them to be fair, in some sense. Therefore, when the story kills off a team member you had spent 70 hours training up, it breaks the frame. Cue grown men crying into their joypads.

An additional gripe is that Aerith's death pretty much removes the team's ability to use the 'Phoenix Down' magic option. Therefore, characters can no longer be revived if they get mortally wounded. All-in-all, its a big bony slap in the face from the grim reaper.

Is the reaction is a genuine outpouring of grief, or just a feeling of being swindled and pissed off? Maybe the reactions aren't so different anyhow.

Here's an extract from the wikipedia page:

In early planning stages of Final Fantasy VII, Aerith was to be one of only three protagonists. Before this, Yoshinori Kitase and Tetsuya Nomura decided that one character would have to die, and after creating the three characters, decided on Aerith after a long debate. Nomura stated in a 2005 EGM interview: "Cloud's the main character, so you can't really kill him. And Barrett... [sic] well, that's maybe too obvious". This was not changed after other protagonists were created.

While designing Final Fantasy VII, Tetsuya Nomura was frustrated with the "perennial dramatic cliché" where the protagonist must dramatically sacrifice herself to express her love for someone. He found that this appeared in both films and video games from North America and Japan. "Is it right to set such an example to people?" Director and scenario writer Yoshinori Kitase concludes:

"In the real world things are very different. You just need to look around you. Nobody wants to die that way. People die of disease and accident. Death comes suddenly and there is no notion of good or bad. It leaves, not a dramatic feeling but great emptiness. When you lose someone you loved very much you feel this big empty space and think, 'If I had known this was coming I would have done things differently.' These are the feelings I wanted to arouse in the players with Aerith's death relatively early in the game. Feelings of reality and not Hollywood." —Yoshinori Kitase, Edge Magazine, May 2003

While reflecting on the game, Tetsuya Nomura claims that "Death should be something sudden and unexpected, and Aeris' death seemed more natural and realistic," and "When I reflect on Final Fantasy VII, the fact that fans were so offended by her sudden death probably means that we were successful with her character. If fans had simply accepted her death, that would have meant she wasn't an effective character." Rumors have circulated that Aerith can be resurrected in Final Fantasy VII or that the possibility was removed in development. "The world was expecting us to bring her back to life, as this is the classic convention". A lengthy petition asking for Aerith's revival by Japanese players was sent to scenario writer Yoshinori Kitase. However, Kitase states that "there are many meanings in Aerith's death and that could never happen"


Tim Clare said...

Aeris dying is still the most talked about narrative event in gaming history. It's really pissing off because she fulfils an obvious team function as a White Mage, and you've been levelling her up, there's a love triangle developing between her, Tifa and Cloud, and then suddenly, Sephiroth stabs her at the end of disc one. Gutting.
But yeah, what makes it so good is that it's senseless, and it seems to break frame. I heard about a thirty-something plumber crying when she died. I mention his profession because it is a hearty, manual job that implies stoicism.

Um. For the sake of completeness, here's the (pretty awful) poem I wrote as a response to this subject a couple of years back. I actually do think my current gf is the spit of Ms Gainsborough:

Final Fantasy

Aeris is dead.
I’m fucking a girl
who was dressed like Aeris,
Aeris Gainsborough is dead.

I think this pot
may have gone to my head
Aeris is dead.
They look so alike;
with one coax
of the bow
the rumpled slough of pink and red
hissed right
off her shoulders.
Her mom helped her make it
she said.
I think this pot
may have gone to our heads.

There are clothes
strewn like crash debris
at the end of the bed
and we are corpses
in a hedge
Aeris is dead.
Her skin is brie pale,
peach fuzzed,
pinholed with cocoa moles.
You misled
me, she says.
I am two knuckles deep.
She grins
like someone half asleep
and nips my jugular,
mostly canine, an edge
of incisor.
Our clothes are heaped
at the end of the bed.

She warns me
that last time she bled
but not to worry.
Don’t worry.
And she smiles
as if I might worry
and I think
who cares, now that
Aeris is dead.
When she first unpapoosed
her gibbous bust
I couldn’t help thinking
that I think too much;
I think she thought
my thinking face
was lust.
But instead
with every thrust
I think now
of a brow
cold as Siberia;
I think of cracked materia
and a downy phoenix
of gold and white and red
that could not save her
that failed to save her
last time she bled.

I watch the clock
while she’s giving head.
It’s three
oh oh
Aeris Gainsborough is dead.

Emma Hammond said...

i am trying to work out what aeris' death stands for- part of me thinks it is somehow misogynistic, but i've been reading stuff on forums from female gamers and somehow feel that's wrong. also the 'gratuitous sex and violence and exploitative portrayals of women' thing is generally a misrepresentation of japanese animation- yet when i read this poem- it's kind of odd how you've chosen to use a sexual encounter to express your remorse.
i like the poem a lot by the way.