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Celeste – Struggling Together

On the surface, Celeste is about a woman named Madeline, who is bound and determined to climb Mount Celeste. Before continuing, as always with anything written on this site, there are massive spoilers ahead (basically the entire story). At the time of writing, this game has been out for a week and a half, so I figured I’d add this as a special warning.

As the story unfolds, you discover that Madeline deals with anxiety and depression, and is prone to panic attacks. In the second chapter, a part of her is released into the physical world, and she is forced to confront this “evil doppleganger” throughout the rest of the game.

The other part of Madeline is essentially her anxiety and depression given physical form. The other part often talks down to Madeline and those she encounters. She tells Madeline how useless everything is, that she should give up the climb and just go home, and so on. Madeline struggles with this, sometimes appearing to agree, and then in the next moment, refusing to give up.

At one point, Madeline tells the other part of her that she needs to leave her behind. To let her go. At that announcement, the other part explodes with anger, making herself bigger and more powerful, telling Madeline that she can’t just leave her. And to prove the point, the other part drags her down the mountain.

Still not completely deterred, Madeline starts the climb again. She meets the “crazy old woman” from the beginning of the game, who tells Madeline that the answer isn’t in leaving the other part, but talking to her and figuring out what she’s afraid of. Madeline complies and after their next meeting (following a crazy boss fight type of sequence with the raging other part), Madeline accepts the other part and wants to work together with her. The other part, knowing she won’t be abandoned, accepts the offer.

By accepting this other part of her, Madeline’s abilities improve, and the two make it to the peak of Mount Celeste.

By the end of the game, Madeline has accepted her struggles as part of who she is. Once she realizes the fear and anxiety she faces, she is able to move forward and accomplish her goal. She does this not in spite of what she deals with, but in accordance with who she is, flaws and all.

People are inherently flawed. Some deal with anxiety, some with depression, some with anger, some with addiction, everyone deals with fear at various points – the list goes on. In dealing with these various flaws, we need to stop pretending they don’t exist and learn how to effectively deal with them.

When Madeline tried to leave behind the other part of her (ignore the problem), things only got worse. However, when she accepted the other part of her as part of who she is, she was able to face the problems (doubts, fears, etc.) and climb the mountain.

Madeline also needed help from other people to understand how to overcome the issue. The crazy old woman (who maybe wasn’t so crazy) helped Madeline understand the fear she was facing. Theo, another person Madeline meets along the way, is a source of inspiration and encouragement for her.

Much like Madeline, we need other people in our lives to help us work through our issues. Yes, there are certain things others won’t be able to do for us, but they can still be there with us and support us.

By recognizing our own flaws and struggles, we can start the work to improve ourselves and get a better outlook on life. Not on our own, but together.

Final Fantasy XII – Letting Go of the Past

The main story in Final Fantasy XII could be summed up as the empire is taking over the world and the main party wants revenge. It evolves from there, but the main story isn’t really important for this lesson. Instead of focusing on the main story, I’m going to dive into a couple individual characters from the main party. Looking at the game from the party’s standpoint, a large part of the story deals with the past of each character. More specifically, the events the empire set in motion and how the characters deal with it.

Let’s start with Vaan. His brother was killed by the empire during the invasion. His goal from then on was to take back from the empire whatever he could. Revenge was always on his mind, though oddly enough, it was usually by way of theft. Three of the other characters have similar stories. Ashe was stuck on revenge against the empire for the destruction of Nabudis, the death of her husband (the prince of Nabudis) and father (the king of Dalmasca), and the invasion and occupation of Dalmasca. Basch wanted revenge for the fall of Dalmasca. Balthier was a former judge of the empire, by his father’s doing, yet he wanted no part in what the empire was doing.

Vaan was stuck in the past. He didn’t know how to deal with what had happened with his brother. Ashe and Bosch were stuck on revenge. They didn’t know how to move forward without every path leading to the destruction of the empire. Balthier was haunted by his past as a judge and his father’s transformation. He did everything he could to stay away from the empire, despite what he knew.

They each clung to an event in the past to give them meaning in the present. In each case, it caused more personal harm than it ever helped. I think we, as people, often do the same. It’s easy to dwell on the past because we experienced it. The problem is, we tend to see the past as the trajectory of our future rather than learning from it to make a better future.

There’s a scene where Vaan tells Ashe about what happened and what his views were:

“Hating the empire, getting revenge. It’s all I ever thought about. But I never did anything about it. I mean, I realized there was nothing I could do. It made me feel hollow, alone. And then I’d miss my brother. I’d say stuff like, ‘I’m gonna be a sky pirate,’ or some other stupid thing. Just anything to keep my mind off it. I was just… I was running away.”

This realization is Vaan’s turning point. The experiences leading up to this, with friends at his side, opened his eyes to what he was really feeling and where his life was heading. Immediately following those words, in the same scene, Vaan tells Ashe he’s done running and wants to find purpose and his own answers.

Each of the characters have a similar realization at various points throughout the game. One especially important part is that none of them come to this conclusion alone. It’s through the actions and wisdom of others, along with their own realizations of where the current path leads, that brings them to a point of change. Even Ashe, who holds on to the past and thoughts of revenge for at least 90% of the game, realizes where that would lead her and the personal costs associated with it.

It’s understandable to take time to process events. The death of a loved one, loss of a job or home, a divorce, etc., often leaves a person in a traumatic state. It’s good to take time to deal with the fallout from the event. However, there is a certain point where you need to pick up the pieces of your life and move forward. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck in the past, reliving the pain of bygone events while missing out on the possibilities of the future.

History is a good teacher and we should learn from it, but if you cling to the past, especially painful events of your own past, it will drag you down and prevent you from moving forward. Holding on to the past can be destructive. Life is more than past events – don’t be a slave to them. Live in the present. Move toward the future. Let go of the past.

Katamari Damacy – Humor

Katamari Damacy is a ridiculous game that abounds in humor. The story revolves around the King of All Cosmos going on a drunken rampage and destroying part of the cosmos, leaving the Prince to fix the mess. To fix the cosmos, the Prince has to roll up whatever is in his path – tacks, balls, dominoes, cats, sumo wrestlers, cars, houses, etc. The King of All Cosmos then turns the giant clump of things into the various missing stars and the moon.

That brief description should give you an idea of the game’s humor. It’s not a serious game by any stretch of the imagination. It’s playful, which is primarily what the creator, Keita Takahashi, wanted it to be. Even the soundtrack is off the wall and adds to the humor of the game. Seriously, go listen to it if you want some upbeat wacky music. It’s well worth a listen or two. Or so much that you get it stuck in your head for a few days.

The old adage that “laughter is the best medicine” rings true with Katamari Damacy. In the Bible, Proverbs 17:22 says “a joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” It’s important to find joy and humor in life, even in times of great sorrow. Remaining in grief or anger – in brokenness – for too long is detrimental to a person’s health and general well being.

Finding humor in a situation often leads to stress relief and a general improvement in one’s mood. Often times at funerals and memorial services, people tell funny stories about the person that passed. Remembering the positive moments and laughing about them helps alleviate the pain of loss. The same holds true in any negative situation. If you can find some humor, no matter how small or insignificant, it helps to deal with the grief and/or anger. It’s not that you forget the pain is there, but that you remember there’s hope and joy on the other side of the pain.

This is a significant lesson in leadership, as well. Being able to laugh, especially at your own faults or mistakes, gives others the freedom to laugh. Giving others the gift of laughter has a lot of productivity benefits. It keeps situational and environmental stress levels down and the general “temperature” cooler. Humor, if done well, can diffuse a lot of situations and mitigate stress.

That self-deprecating humor is exactly what The King of All Cosmos portrays. He messed up the cosmos, admits it, admits that he enjoyed messing it up, and then sends the prince to fix his mess. While the King doesn’t laugh, per se, the humor is there and it tends to incite laughter in the players.

We all need to laugh and give those around us the freedom to laugh, especially when things go wrong. Will we laugh all the time? Of course not. Life is full of serious moments, painful times, and so on. But life is also full of hope and joy.

As in Katamari Damacy, don’t take everything so seriously. Embrace the playful side of life and those hopeful, joyful, and humorous times. Laugh when you can and give the gift of humor to others. You’ll be amazed how that simple gift can be a shining star for someone.