This is a bit of an odd topic, but it’s something I wanted to ask myself this morning since I’ve been playing Final Fantasy X lately, a game that took a bit of convincing from some friends before I became invested, and now I’m hooked. The title itself seems pretty weird, especially to someone who might not at all be into gaming. How could a video game be therapeutic, you may wonder? Don’t they fry your brains? Well, not exactly. I personally find that watching television does that more than video games do. And on the topics of video games being therapeutic, why RPGs, of all genres?
Basically since I was born, I was the only person in my family who could get into RPGs like Final Fantasy, Persona, etc. (Though my parents seem to like watching me play Persona 5, oddly enough. Maybe they find the story as intriguing and entertaining as I do, even though my dad jokingly refers to it as a “bad anime movie”.) It made me feel like the odd man out, and it worried me as well. I write fantasy novels because of my childhood (and early adulthood) obsession with RPGs, and since my family found them boring, for years, I’ve had a bit of a “self-esteem” issue with my taste in games, music, and everything.
My co-author and I have had our fair share of arguments regarding the topic, especially because I love the Mother trilogy and he doesn’t. He hates the first two games, but he said that aside from the “80s-esque soundtrack”, Mother 3 isn’t all bad. (Quick note: Mother 3 has some of the best music I’ve ever heard from a video game, so he has no idea what he’s talking about.) But my point in that is arguments aside, I’ve been a bit of an influence on people. I’ve gotten my co-author’s sister and little brother both into particular RPGs, I’ve been getting other people into the older Final Fantasy games, things like that. What about them are so appealing, though? And why would I recommend playing them therapeutically? Well, I’ll tell you now.
There’s so much that go into them. To me, a good RPG has amazing music, characters you can love, hate, hate to love, love to hate, a deep story, good writing, gameplay that requires thought and strategy, and a nice sense of aesthetic. With all of that being said, there are three ideal games that come to mind when thinking of these—Xenoblade Chronicles, Persona 5, and Final Fantasy X. The reason I chose those three games is because they all excel in the fields I mentioned above. Yes, I’m only 16 hours into Final Fantasy X, and it’s one of my top three favorite RPGs when taking those fields into consideration. Good music, awesome characters, beautiful story, great writing, strategic gameplay, and great sense of aesthetic. (I have quite a fondness for ocean-based locations.)
In order to play RPGs therapeutically, you’ve got to play them with an open mind. Have an eye for the details and appreciate the small things that were included within the big picture. Understand that the game you play took a lot of work by a team of people who worked endlessly until they created a work of art, each part of the team dedicating a piece of their soul to us, the players and admirers of their work. The music composers, the coders, the writers, the voice actors… all of them came together to collaborate on something amazing.
While you can say this about any video game, why am I talking specifically about RPGs? It’s because of their nature. I’m not talking about Fallout or any shooter RPGs, but what we know as jRPGs, the ones with turn-based combat. The ones that give you time to think about how you want to act next. You could even try tactical RPGs like Fire Emblem or Final Fantasy Tactics (another one of my favorite RPGs of all time). There’s something appealing about taking time and making sure each character is doing well. I love being able to take my time and actually use my brain during battles, which all three of those games require. And on top of them, they have very fascinating and enjoyably stories.
If you ever get the chance, give RPGs a chance, and play them with an open mind. Take what I’ve said here into consideration, and enjoy it. Trust me, when you play them slowly and take your time, it’ll be relaxing.