"I can do this." Lara tells herself as she's about to scale the imposing radio tower that nearly cracks the sky. Only moments before, she took out a herd of vicious island natives hell bent on killing her. Yet Lara still needed to remind herself of the strength she had within and of the potential that she was able to reach. All she had to do was take those first few steps forward.
Like Lara, we too face intimidating heights throughout our lives, in our careers, conflict with other people, or something as simple as finding a reason to wake up in the morning. Though Lara's upheaval may seem physically impossible, she ignores the odds and pushes forward. Just because we don't have to climb a rusty ladder (which also happens to be falling apart) does not mean that what we face isn't just as hard.
Like Eidos's Tomb Raider, there are other games that provide more than just a few hours of entertainment. We can look to them as more than a “child’s play thing” and be inspired to courageously tackle many of life’s obstacles head on.
One specific theme found in several adventure based games, which is applicable to everyone with a desire to succeed, is the pursuit of greatness. When responsibilities can seem to build up and tower over us like the walls of Jericho, it’s sometimes hard to imagine how we could ever overcome them. But when we look through Lara’s eyes at that radio tower, we too can utter those same words, “I can do this.”
One example that comes to mind is the story arc of Garnett in the game Final Fantasy IX. Through the course of the story, Garnett comes to learn a great deal about her past and where her ultimate destiny. As the game progresses, she begins to deny her preordained purpose and decides to choose her own path and forge her own fate.
Towards the beginning of the game, Zidane, hired by an unknown client, attempts to kidnap the princess. As he gives chase, they find themselves at the top of one of the castle towers. Unaware that Garnett is actually trying to run away, Zidane thinks he has the princess cornered. As she steps onto the ledge, she takes a look at Zidane, smiles, steps off the ledge, and swings on one of the banners onto the Tantalus theater ship. It is at this moment that Garnett refuses to let her circumstance weigh her down. She takes a step off the ledge and with that comes closer to achieving her freedom. It is this moment that sets the course for “Garnett, the child” to become “Garnett, the adult”. She learns about her past and how her position and abilities can help the people of Alexandria. She does not let herself become a victim of circumstance. Instead, she eventually returns to the land she left with a newfound confidence in herself.
One game that I cherish in my memories is Mass Effect 3. In the time that it was released, I had been facing a difficult situation in my life. During those few lonely months, I decided to finish the journey with Commander Shepard that was started a few years earlier. Seeing how unwavering Shepard was when faced with the terrible threat of the Reapers made me understand that the perils that we face are not what define us. The battle on Rannoch against the Reaper was the pivotal moment for me in understanding this. A battle with the odds stacked against Shepard and yet she (or he, depending on who you played as) remained strong-willed. That moment made it clear to me that this game wasn’t meant to be just a few hours of mindless entertainment. It became a metaphor for understanding that I could get up from my pit of despair, brush the dust off, and keep moving forward.
Video games can help us to take a step back to look at our circumstance and tackle it head on, no matter what it may be. Of course, we don’t live in a fantasy RPG where we can slay dragons, and I’m sure none of us are ever in a position to climb radio towers in the middle of a blizzard, but that doesn’t mean that the challenges we face aren’t as great. Whether it’s an obstacle at work, a school research paper, an unsettling conflict, or maybe problems at home; whatever the issue, we can find the strength within ourselves to face them. We may want to run away, like Garnett did, but let’s look inside ourselves and find the courage to come back and face that radio tower and say “I can do this.”