The Game & Word Podcast: Final Fantasy, Real Individuation (ft. Eve)
Happy Pride! Join us for a conversation with Eve, an LGBT gamer and friend of the newsletter, on Shadows and individuation in Final Fantasy 7, The Legend of Zelda, and IRL.
Hello! If you enjoy Game & Word, please hit the “heart” button at the very top or very bottom of this post, or on the bottom-left corner of the Substack app. It helps more people find Game & Word, which helps us survive and grow!
The Game & Word Podcast, Volume 3, Episode 2: Final Fantasy, Real Individuation (ft. Eve)
Table of Contents
NOTE: Gmail users, you might see a truncated version of this message. If this happens to you, just click the “View entire message” link next to where it says “[Message clipped]” to read the rest.
Hello again, psychonauts!
For this episode of The Game & Word Podcast, we’re doing something a little different.
Our guest today, Eve, is not an academic, doesn’t have a Ph.D., isn’t a content creator, and is not on social media—but they are a longtime friend of the newsletter, as well as someone with a ton of personal experience with this week’s games and topics—both as a lifelong geek and a member of the LGBT community (oh, and they’re also a paid subscriber… hint, hint).
And we had one of the most profound conversations I’ve had the honor of hosting on this newsletter.
We chatted about facing one’s Shadows and the process of individuation, especially as shown in Final Fantasy VII (FF7) and—to a lesser extent—The Legend of Zelda series. We also talked about our own experiences and our own journeys of individuation—as well as the collective process of individuation currently unfolding in the COVID era.
Hope you enjoy our chat. Happy Pride, everyone!
PS—This podcast goes into some depth on FF7. Before listening, I highly recommend brushing up on some background information by reading the section on FF7 in last week’s issue:
Or instead, you could spend 50 hours playing FF7 to completion—and then another ~10 hours reading and watching one plot analysis and summary after another in the vain hope of making sense of the narrative labyrinth you just emerged from. The choice is yours.
(And you thought Game & Word was long!)
It’s Time to Subscribe!
Game & Word is a reader-supported publication. To support my work, the best thing you can do is subscribe.
You can subscribe for free, and get each new issue and podcast episode delivered straight to your inbox (or the Substack iOS app) every Sunday.
Or, if you want to directly contribute to Game & Word’s production, and keep it free and accessible to all, upgrade to a paid subscription—and gain access to exclusive bonus content as well!
If you enjoy the newsletter but aren’t ready to commit to a paid subscription, consider buying me a cup of coffee instead. Just $5 will fuel one full night of writing. Just click the image below ☕️:
The Psychology of Final Fantasy, edited by Anthony M. Bean, Ph.D.
The Lifestream of Identity Development, Memories, and the Final Fantasy Franchise, by Ryan Kelly
The Legend of Zelda:
Our Guest: Eve
Newsletter: Nintendo Switch Weekly (NSW)
Twitter (Chris Brandrick)
Discord (Request an invite from Chris after subscribing to NSW!)
Video Podcast: Critical Role
Theme Music Attribution
Simply Me by Deoxys Beats | https://soundcloud.com/deoxysbeats1
Music promoted by https://www.free-stock-music.com
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported
NOTE: This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Game & Word: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to another episode of The Game & Word Podcast, and Happy Pride! I'm your host, Jay Rooney, as usual. And today I've got a wonderful guest for you today: Eve.
That's right, "Eve." Now Eve is quite a different guest than usual. Eve is not an academic, doesn't have a Ph.D., isn't a content creator, and stays far away from social media. They're simply a good friend of the newsletter and one that happens to have extensive personal experience with the games and the topics that we're going to discuss today—as an avid geek, gamer, and fellow weirdo, and as a member of the LGBT community.
As a result, my conversation with Eve was one of the most profound and insightful that I've had with any guests since starting this publication… six months ago. Wow, time flies. Anyway, I hope you have as much fun listening to our talk as we did recording it.
Before we begin, though, I do want to caution you.
We will be delving fairly deep into some of the story and lore of Final Fantasy 7. So if you've ever played Final Fantasy 7 or just don't remember it, then I highly recommend reading Issue 3.5 of Game & Word, which on the date of this episode's broadcast will be last week's issue.
You'll find a fairly condensed explanation of the relevant plot elements that we're going to discuss as well as links to several different plot summary and analysis videos. In case you just wanna dive in deeper. This way, you'll be better able to follow our conversation without feeling lost, even if you've never played the game before, or any game before.
Of course, you could also play Final Fantasy 7, which I do recommend if you're into Japanese role playing games, or JRPGs for short. But since completing the game takes at least 50 hours, and that's if you kinda hustle through it, and fully grasping the stories, twists, layers, and nuances is gonna take multiple play throughs, or a comparable amount of time, perusing analysis, videos, and fan discussions, trying to parse together just what the hell kind of story you just experienced.
Which if that's cool with you, awesome! But reading last week's issue is definitely much quicker.
Imagine that. There are things longer than Game & Word, after all!
In any case, once you're ready, grab your cup of Joe or your cup of tea, put your earbuds on lay down on your couch, like you would in an old-timey psychiatrists office, and press the play button.
I'll be back after we're done to wrap things up. Until then, enjoy Game & Word's interview with Eve on Final Fantasy 7 and individuation. See you on the other side!
Game & Word: Thank you for joining me today, Eve. Do you want to introduce yourself?
Eve: Hi! I'm Eve, I'm the guest for this episode. I am a LGBT individual. So, Happy Pride to all my fellow queer folks out there! I'm a gender queer man, or non-binary man. I use any pronouns. And today we're gonna be talking about some topics related to individuation and the sense of self and the masks that we wear as individuals. We're gonna be focusing on two specific sets of video games or franchises: Final Fantasy 7 specifically, and the Zelda franchise, with a focus on Majora's Mask and some of the games where Link has to fight a Dark Link version of himself.
I played Final Fantasy 7 when I was 14 and a freshman in high school. So it was around 2001 or 2002. And I revisited some parts of Final Fantasy 7, so that I can have a fresh memory for this recording. And I have also played a whole bunch of Zelda games. And then I've watched playthroughs of some of the ones that I haven't played.
Game & Word: All right. So Eve, we are talking about a very particular scene in Final Fantasy 7, but of course, we'll be expanding a bit beyond that.
We're looking at Cloud's process of, by the way, I should also say this: spoiler alert! This video is one massive spoiler for Final Fantasy 7 and a few Zelda games. So if you don't want this game spoiled for you, feel free to stop the video.
Eve: You either need to go play, yeah, the 50 hours of that game or do what I did to refresh my memory right before this, and go watch someone's 40 minute Final Fantasy 7 plot summary of the entire game, so that we don't spoil it for you.
Game & Word: Yes. Either way works. And either way, the video will still be here, by the time you get back here and we'll be ready for you.
So we are talking about the one particular scene in Final Fantasy 7, where Cloud and Tifa fall into the Lifestream while Cloud is in the midst of this amnesiatic disassociative state brought upon by what's basically one pile of trauma piled onto another, piled onto another.
And it leads to this sequence where where Tifa accompanies him through his subconscious and walks through his memories to piece together who is the real Cloud. Cause up until this point, we've gotten very conflicting information of who is Cloud, right?
Eve: Yeah. It really is tens of hours worth of this edgy boy main character being steeped in the mystery of his own backstory.
Game & Word: And spoiler alert, it turns out he's not quite who we thought he was. But at the same time, he is in a way. The big twist is that, Cloud is introduced as being member of this elite class of mercenaries called SOLDIER, and this is all that the player and the characters have always known him as. It even says it in the manual, that Cloud is ex-SOLDIER. And one of the big plot twists that actually, no, he was never a member of SOLDIER.
He was a lowly infantryman, and that's what precipitates his breakdown, is this horrible truth that he'd been trying so hard to keep repressed for himself and as far as, what he showed to others. And once it got to a point where he was staring that truth in the face and he couldn't deny it anymore. Then his mind just splinters.
Eve: I didn't remember any of this. My memory, like a lot of people listening right now who are closer to our age, undisclosed, your memory of Final Fantasy 7 is probably from somewhere between 1997 and 2002.
I think it was when I played it. So I had to dive down memory lane. I'm assuming that as a video game scholar and writer, you just have these in your brain permanently and you remembered all of this. He's laughing on camera. But for me, I had to refresh my memory. I had to watch some plot summaries. I had to watch this scene. And it was amazing to watch the pieces of this come together.
Cuz I don't think I ever pieced together the complexity of his backstory, myself. The entire story of Cloud, in my mind as a young person, was "cool guy with big hair and big sword fights to save the day."
In reality, he's a very vulnerable character. He spends most of the game suffering an extended period of psychological trauma. And then finally the scene that we're talking about is him patching a lot of it together. And then that's really a pivotal moment that gives the rest of the game a little more focus in moving towards an end goal.
And it's interesting watching after that scene takes place, he apologizes to the whole main crew. A scene that I don't even remember. But he is standing in the air ship and he's "Oh, sorry guys." And they're like, "Stop apologizing, we gotta go to the next area and fight the bad guys" or whatever.
But it's interesting to watch. The people in charge of the writing for this game built this sort of—and it's so appropriate for, I've been reading your newsletter in the current chapter about this idea of masks and the Persona and the Shadow behind the mask—that Cloud, has built in story elements that give him physical or physiological excuses for all of the normal psychological stuff.
So, he can't live up to the fact that, like you said, he dreamed he wanted to be in SOLDIER. He heard about Sephiroth, this super powerful guy. Who's a super cool guy that leads SOLDIER. They're a little vague on what he hears about Sephiroth, but he decides "I need to be strong like that so I can protect Tifa, because one time we fell off of a cliff and almost died." That's the call to action for Cloud Strife. More spoilers, but we said that at the top.
Game & Word: Yeah.
Eve: So he has to go into the military so he can protect his childhood girlfriend from falling into a ravine again. Great motivation!
But he can't cut it. He goes and joins the military and his friend, Zack, becomes a member of SOLDIER. And he just is too ashamed to go back home, too ashamed to write home and admit that he basically just became an infantry foot soldier, and decides, "Okay, this is my life now. I'm just a foot soldier in the military because I have to hide from the fact that I wasn't good enough to fulfill my own weird self-inflicted goal and dream."
Game & Word: Yeah.
Eve: And then they give him this easy out for repressing all those memories, because he then gets whatever injected with these magical cells…
Game & Word: Jenova.
Eve: He gets Jenova cells injected and he's trapped in a magical test tube chamber for two years or something. So he has this easy out that he has basically been Mako poisoned, and he is catatonic. So when he wakes up from that, he, the last thing he remembers is on this truck ride, Zack telling him all these stories and he thinks, "That's me!"
So he wakes up and says, "That's me, now." And then we watch throughout the game. and the entire game is just someone coming to grips with the fact that they invented a persona for themselves that is entirely fabricated, someone else's experience, repressed his real memories, and is just lying to himself and everyone. Which is of course, a thing that happens in real life.
But they give Cloud this out of, he's not just repressing memories and trying to be someone he isn't, he also genuinely believes it, because he's infected with powerful alien cells. And so we have a fun sci-fi explanation for our psychological situation.
Game & Word: Basically. Yeah. That's so funny too. I've always thought it was so funny how the series is called “Final Fantasy” and it's gotten progressively more sci-fi ish as the years go by .
Eve: I always thought of VII as being the turning point where they were , "Okay, hang on. VII, you have spaceships and VIII, you have spaceships and cars." And they were like, "We gotta make a U-turn on this and get back to some fantasy." They tow that line.
Game & Word: Definitely. And, of course, not that they're mutually exclusive or anything. I always thought that was funny. Cloud's thing of repressing these memories and then also grafting false memories or new ones. There's a technical term for it actually. It's called a disassociative fugue slash false memory syndrome. He's in this disassociative fugue state from all the trauma he's endured. And then also, cuz Zack gave him something to latch onto, in a sense he took Zack's mask. And put that on himself as a persona.
And of course, Jenova cells didn't help either. That introduces a whole other layer of complication, that, I won't quite get into detail. But Cloud's story also brings up this concept of the Shadow.
And we hear this talked about a lot. As far as psychology goes, and psychological concepts, it's pretty well known. And in media, it's provided very rich fodder for conflict and for storylines. But you have the Shadow, which it's an archetype.
Which is supposed to be this universal truth, basically (to massively oversimplify the concept). And the Shadow is all the parts of your personality that your conscious self, that your ego, tries to repress. Is either ashamed of, or doesn't approve of it. And so your ego, your conscious self, either tries to ignore it or hide it or actively repress it. Which never works out well, because the Shadow is a part of you, and we all have our Shadows.
And they're as much of a part of us as our conscious selves. So as long as we are alive, our Shadows are alive, right? So it's a fight that you can't win. And the more you try to keep it under wraps, the more you try to put a lid on it, the more you block the valve, it just builds up pressure and keeps building up pressure until it blows up. And when it blows up, it's never pretty.
And we see that happen.
Eve: And you have to let some amount of yourself through and, in Cloud's case, and again, we have this hilarious added element of he can't just decide, "Today's the day I'm gonna tell everyone that I didn't make it in SOLDIER," which no one cares about but him at that point. They're trying to save the world and he's, "I didn't make it into the elite branch of the military!" But for him, he literally doesn't remember any of it. It's locked behind, he's been genetically tampered with, or whatever sci-fi stuff.
He's such a great example of this idea of, repressing the Shadow, but letting some elements of it back into, blowing off a little bit of the steam of that valve, so it doesn't go over. Because he has taken parts of his true history, particularly the ones where he was in the same place as Zack, and then woven those in. So he's taken his own identity and woven it into the tale of Zack's life.
I know it's out of scope here, but it makes me want to—I'm never gonna play it—it makes me wanna watch a playthrough of that game where you're Zack, and you see the whole prequel from Zack's perspective, now. It's interesting to think how they would blend those. And if the listeners have played that, then they already know.
The one element of this that I immediately to me, I was like, "Oh no, we have to be critical of this, we have to call this out." We get this whole grandiose science fantasy analogy of the Mask and the Persona and the Shadow in these literal fake memories that Cloud has of Zack.
But the Final Fantasy 7 metaphor for the psychological help you would need to get through that, is the incredibly dangerous entire trope that his childhood girlfriend is the one that fixes his brain, quite literally.
It falls so hard into that trapping of, "A good woman can fix her man, and then he'll be able to save the world," and it's, "Oh no, this was a little bit problematic." But I guess there's no psychologists in Midgar. Everyone's being killed by giant...
Game & Word: No, there is, actually. His name's Hojo!
Eve: Yeah, that's right. Yeah. The evil scientist. Yeah.
Game & Word: Final Fantasy is, I think, one of the worst offenders when it comes to falling back on that trope repeatedly.
Eve: Especially that era. We do have to give it some leeway, on being from 1997 or whatever. Cause they started to take a U-turn on that, I guess in 2000. Yeah. X-2 and XIII where we have much more female focus in some of those games. We can acknowledge it and move on. Not the point of the podcast.
Game & Word: Yeah. No psychologists in Midgar. That's why it's such a messed up place.
Eve: Yeah. Everyone's having a tough time.
The ground's opening up and giant Weapons are coming out. So we're gonna give them all a pass that they got through it as best as they could and they saved the world. And Cloud sure did reconcile all the pieces of his Persona.
I do wanna say in the scene that we're actually talking about where there's three different Clouds, I was waiting for that to look like three aspects of himself. And I guess in a way it was, but not really, it was just like these three Clouds represent three cut scenes, not really three aspects of the self. I thought it was gonna be a little deeper than it was. In reality, it was just a vehicle to have Tifa watch three cut scenes and then unlock all of Cloud's trauma and past.
Game & Word: Yeah, basically three memories, in essence. That's what she's walking through. So I guess it also raises, and this is a more philosophical question, but… what are memories, or what is an identity, but an amalgamation of memories? But that might be getting a bit too deep.
Eve: Yeah. The memories, the experiences, the perception of self. Yeah, we're gonna get into some Philosophy 101 discussions very quickly if we go down that trail.
Game & Word: So instead of Philosophy 101, let's stick to Psychology 101, and talk about that whole process of piecing together Cloud's persona. So that's a process that if Jung were alive, if Carl Jung were alive today, he'd call that an example of individuation. And individuation is the process by which an individual faces and reckons [with] their own Shadow.
And doesn't quote, unquote, "defeat" it. That's another thing that, media likes to portray is heroes literally battling their Shadows, when generally speaking, you're not gonna like, literally throw rocks at your Shadow, but...
Eve: Yeah, you can't just kill the bad memory of yourself and then say, "Only the good parts are enough." You have to somehow reconcile that with the Mask you've been wearing.
Game & Word: Exactly. And that's what it means to face your Shadow. Instead of confronting your shadow in a hostile way, you reckon [with] it somehow. And of course, this process is gonna look differently for everyone, because there are as many Shadows as there are people. But yeah, media loves to have this thing of you literally battling your Shadow. We see it in video games a lot, too. In Zelda for example, you have Dark Link. That's literally Link fighting his Shadow.
Eve: Right. I was gonna say, I think this is where we bring in our other example, which is the Zelda and Dark Zelda1 here, which is a cartoonish example of this process of, "Kill the bad version of you!"
Game & Word: Yeah.
Eve: I'm trying to think of which games you have, like a Dark Link that you have to fight. I think it came from Zelda 2, originally.
Game & Word: Yes.
Eve: It was just a pallete swap villain. I know you mentioned, I think [Majora‘s Mask]. Or am I just thinking of that, ‘cause it was in the newsletter?
Game & Word: It was in the newsletter. Yeah. It’s Ocarina of Time, where you battle Dark Link. So, close.
Eve: You battle Dark Link. Yes, exactly.
The funny thing about Cloud's individuation is that most of it, we don't see it in the way that a real person experiences any of it, because he is literally in the Lifestream with Tifa. So they've fallen into a giant crack that's opened in the ground. They're swimming in the Lifestream, the Earth's energy. Or Gaia's energy, or whatever.
And so she's just piecing together parts of his memories and he's, subconsciously I guess, accepting them and reconciling them before he even wakes up. And then, they wash up on the beach, he wakes up, and now he just in one quick cut scene is, "Oh, cool. I remembered all the stuff I repressed. So that's all true. Sorry, guys." And then moves on.
And admittedly, it's a video game for teenagers to fight bad guys. So I do understand that they didn't wanna spend a tremendous amount of time on—they'd already spent enough time at that point in the game, on Cloud being an edgy weird boy!
Game & Word: Yeah.
Eve: So I get them moving on. But for Cloud, it seemed like his individuation was really just gaining access to the parts that he had repressed. And then he was like, "Oh, boom. Okay. I've accepted all these. Moving on. Let's go save the world." So, I guess that's not the worst way to do it if you're mentally healthy enough to just grab all that and run with it like he did!
Game & Word: Yeah. Suppose when you're in a world with no psychologists, you play the cards you're dealt, right?
Eve: Yeah. he was dealt a talking wolf, and a machine gun arm guy, and a girlfriend that helped him solve all of his mental problems.
Game & Word: Yep. And Cloud was just a-okay from that point on! Actually, no, he wasn't. I think in Advent Children, he's still messed up. Not as messed up, but still messed up.
Eve: Yeah, the real challenge of making something that's supposed to be a one shot and then realizing it's incredibly successful and you need to have a sequel, prequel, and a spinoff… is that if your protagonist has really followed his Hero Journey, so to speak, to the end, you have to find some reason for him to have conflict again.
Game & Word: Yeah.
Eve: I'm trying to think if in the rest of Final Fantasy 7, if that kind of stuff resurfaces, but… nah, we're good now. We're good.
Game & Word: Yeah.
Eve: We solved all the mysteries of this story!
Game & Word: That's a good point. The fact that it's very easy to get the impression, just by consuming media, that individuation is a one-shot thing. "I have to gather all my courage, and dive deep into my mind, and swing a sword at this shadowy mirror of myself, and then integrate all my trauma into myself, and then boom! Nothing, ever, is gonna trouble me in life ever again, ever."
When really, it's a lifelong process. Because our Shadows are always gonna exist, as long as we are. As we grow and we change, our Shadow changes as well, and then we can integrate as much of it as we want at one point, but there's still… it's never gonna go away.
If you approach it as this thing of, "Oh I've reckoned with this particular trauma, and this is what I've been fixated on for most of my life and I'm done," then you're gonna be in for a pretty rude awakening. Because there's always going to be new things to deal with. There's always gonna be new traumas. There's always going to be some part of you that you don't like, or you want to hide from others. So it's a lifelong process. Yeah.
Eve: We're always changing. Life is just a process of change from start to finish.
Game & Word: Yeah.
Eve: Is this the part where we relate this to our own experiences?
Game & Word: Yeah.
Eve: ‘Cause if so, tag, you're it! You have to go first and tell us about your Mask and the Shadow that your Mask casts.
Game & Word: There [are] a few different ones. I was—obviously, spoiler alert: gaming writer—a huge geek growing up. And I was a child of, you know, the late eighties and the nineties, and being a quote “geek” was decidedly not cool.
Eve: It's become more cool. Hasn't it?
Game & Word: Yes.
Eve: I forget. Are you like a year or two older… I was born in ‘87.
Game & Word: ‘85.
Eve: Two years older than me. Yeah, exactly. It was really much more, still, you got bullied automatically for being a nerd, right?
Game & Word: Yeah.
Eve: Video games weren't cool.
Game & Word: Nope.
Game & Word: But my wife, she teaches middle school. And I actually volunteer there sometimes. I help her with her creative writing club students, and I'll DM2 a few sessions for her creative writing club students.
Eve: Oh, okay. Gotcha.
Game & Word: And, it is remarkable, how much more accepting they are of people's differences. And being a geek is cool now, of course, but it's also people of different races, or LGBTQ people. The zeitgeist of this particular cohort is very much just, "Be who you are, and live your life, and that's cool."
Eve: Yeah, there really does seem to have been… I think I noticed it in the 2010s that, people coming outta school, I was like, "Wow, people are nicer now." Like, they're just a little bit… it's not that no one gets bullied. I'm sure that's still a problem, and we still have a lot of progress to make. But kids are maybe slightly less malicious to each other now for no reason, the way they were when we were growing up.
And I'm an LGBT individual myself. Until maybe three years ago, I had that pretty well under wraps.
I was happy with who I was as a queer person at the time, but I didn't present in a way that was visibly queer. It was one of those “silently not straight” type of things. So I had this sort of upbringing, like you said of late eighties, early nineties, and getting picked on for just something as simple as liking a video game, which is wild to think about now. People would get absolutely bullied into the ground for that.
And I remember as I got into college and the workforce and I was surrounded by people who were slightly more mainstream than me, people who played video games, but maybe they were more playing mainstream games and not JRPGs.3
And I started to bridge between my nerdy upbringing and a slightly more mainstream version of myself. Like I started watching American Football and I was like, oh, this is actually pretty fun. Now I have something to talk to my coworkers about. I started playing fantasy football. I started getting into like car culture a little bit, so that I had something to talk about with the normal people around me, so to speak.
Is that is that something you've ever had that experience where you're like, oh, I gotta pretend to be a little more normal at this point, you know?
Game & Word: Oh, 100%. And I think the first time that I really truly felt like I could be myself, was when I moved to San Francisco about… geez, almost 10 years ago. Up until then. Yeah. I was always putting on some kind of mask.
So sports, I think is a really good example. I never particularly cared about sports, but I've always at least, followed them. So that I would have something to talk about, with my roommates or my colleagues or whatnot.
There's also a lot of cultural and societal, pressure and expectations to be more overtly masculine that I really felt comfortable being.
Eve: Yeah. Mm-hmm.
Game & Word: So that's another front, that I would have to put on.
Eve: That's right. Yeah, I'm uniquely positioned to talk about the years of trying to fit in with toxic masculinity and going the other way on it. But yeah, being a weird nerdy kid going to a private school and having a small group of friends growing up and then getting thrust into a slightly more mainstream society.
For me, at least, the sort of mask I was wearing in the individuation process I was going through between the age of, I'm gonna say 19 and 20 something, was this sort of balancing that masculinity that society puts on you. But not going too far with it, but going far enough with it that I could learn the language of the men around me.
I worked in an IT field that most of my coworkers were men and learning how normal men, that don't just sit at home and play video games by themselves all night, communicate and relate to each other. And, that experience of something that I would've always rejected to that point of, "I'm not comfortable being this kind of person," learning it as almost like a second language so that I could relate to these people, and eventually getting to the point where I thought, "This isn't really healthy, but it's not bad."
Like these men are speaking a language that I don't speak, but now I get it. And now there is a bond here that is unique, you know what I mean?
Game & Word: Mm-hmm.
Eve: We're only allowed to talk about four topics, but we can relate everything back to those four topics. It's all either Marvel or, sports or something else, but, speaking that language.
And I got then playfully made fun of by, my friends from school who were like, "What's this going on, Craig's the sports guy now." For the listeners, Craig is my birth name. So I go by Craig when I'm using a masculine name, or Eve when I'm using a more feminine name. Because otherwise, you have to come up with a non-binary name and suddenly your name is Spoon or something like that. Shout out to all the five Enbys4 listening to this. Sorry for calling you out like that.
Yeah, it was interesting getting trapped in between the two worlds. To call out, I'm sure some of your listeners know Critical Role, very popular Dungeons and Dragons live play show. I was gonna say podcast, but video show. Travis Willingham is a voice actor and a player on Critical Role who basically grew up trapped between these two worlds.
He's a huge, I don't know if you're familiar, Jay, he's this huge, six foot three, jacked dude from Texas, with a "yeehaw" accent. And he grew up doing drama and Dungeons and Dragons and playing football because he was a born athlete. Dude was just jacked and he had to play this role of preventing the jocks from bullying the nerds in his school by finding common ground for them to relate.
His great example in an interview was "They play the same N645 games that you do, so why are you gonna pick on them for doing something different?" But I know for years, part of my individuation process was reconciling those two worlds and I'm sure you had a similar experience.
Game & Word: Yeah, absolutely. And still ongoing.
Game & Word: And nowadays I have much healthier coping mechanisms and ways to go about it than in my early twenties.
Eve: Little older, a little wiser and in a thankfully more open and progressive environment now, in California, I would hope so.
Game & Word: Oh, absolutely. I was in Florida beforehand and no offense to Floridians out there, but… God, I was so happy to get the hell out of there.
Eve: We're gonna go down the list. I've offended the two non-binary listeners who have eccentric names. And now also everyone in the Great State of Florida.
Game & Word: Yep.
Eve: Yeah, it's been an interesting process after that now, because I rode that line for so long. And then now I'm a much more visibly and openly queer person, but I'm still closeted to my coworkers.
So my coworkers have what I call, this can be related back to any aspect, I think, that society puts on people in terms of something being normalized, but, people have what we call “cis-het blinders.” So you're in your lane, you see everyone as cis-het until they give you a reason not to believe that.
I don't look like a non-queer person. But my coworkers are just like, "Oh, okay. So you're just doing something different with your style. That's fine." Now I'm going through this process of being a completely different person, for my own safety and preference, around my friends, and a different person around my family, and a different person around my coworkers.
So we all wear those masks in our life. I'm sure that you have to put on a different persona in each of those scenarios.
Game & Word: Yeah.
Eve: And it's been, I'm now in that sort of cartoon exaggerated version, like Cloud and Link, where it's like, "This isn't normal individuation you're in the Lifestream."
I'm not quite in the Lifestream, but I have to actually pretend to be a completely different person in different scenarios. So the Shadow of my mask has become huge, which is an interesting process I've been going through for the last two years or so. And I'm still on that journey.
So while we are a little older and a little wiser and we maybe have healthier ways to cope with it, I've given myself a boatload more to cope with in the last few years.
Game & Word: And to be sure, the last two years have done that for a lot of people.
Eve: For all of us.
Game & Word: Yeah.
Eve: Yeah. It's...
Game & Word: My Shadow’s gotten stronger over two years of isolation and stress, and I won't bore y'all with my struggles over the past few years, but let's put it this way. There's a reason I'm staking my livelihood on this newsletter now, instead of at an office.
Eve: We're all a little shell shocked right now after the isolation. And it's been wild for me. I'm the kind of person that likes to people watch and observe the way that people behave and act.
And so I've been going through this shift in my own life of becoming a more visibly queer individual. And I'm like, "Oh, what can I get away with wearing? Is someone gonna look at me funny if I wear like women's pants?" Simple example. "Are these jeans too skinny for someone that others are going to maybe perceive as male?" But then you walk out into the world and it's, "Oh, people forgot how to even behave!"
Like everyone got trapped in their house for a year. And everyone's just wearing Crocs and leggings at the store. And people forgot how to function and interact.
So we're all re-emerging, shell-shocked, trying to reconcile the version of us that grew in isolation. And now trying to put a mask back on, remember how to be a social human being, and reconcile that with the scars that we're carrying forward from that long isolation. Interesting process for everyone to go through.
Game & Word: Yeah. Certainly. It's gonna keep a lot of psychologists and counselors employed for a very long time.
Eve: Oh yeah. The therapists have been making the big bucks in the last two years.
Game & Word: Yeah. Cause we've been talking a lot about individuation and Shadows on a personal level. But now what we're witnessing this collective process of individuation occurring or, I don't think we're quite at individuation yet, but certainly, I think our collective Shadows have become very clear to us.
And so now we're at this crossroad of, "Okay, what do we do now? Do we keep ignoring it or pretending it's not there, or are we actually gonna face it, try to do things maybe a little bit better?"
Eve: Yeah, everyone had a lot of time for self-reflection and during that time, major world events kept happening and are still happening that are, major world events are always happening but the last few years have seemed pretty wild. It's been real wild ride leading up to, and then the aftermath of COVID.
I wanna say about seven years ago, 2015 in my mind is the point where we started just going on a roller coaster ride. And it's never slowed down since. So yeah, our American society and our global society are trying to figure out what to do now. People are forming new identities left and right.
Game & Word: Yeah. I suppose this would be the part of the podcast where we propose solutions, but I'll be the first to admit, I have no idea. I have no idea like how to proceed collectively from here. It's...
Eve: You know what? Here's the solution, the wisdom: be kind to each other, be more open minded, try to understand each other, help people who need help. A few other platitudes we could throw on there.
We all have a lot to figure out about ourselves in this new modern world. Just be nice. Let's take some wisdom from those kids that grew up after us who didn't get bullied just for playing Dungeons and Dragons or playing video games.
Game & Word: Yeah.
Eve: And maybe we'll all turn out a little better if we just don't look for extra reasons to be mean.
Game & Word: Yeah.
Eve: There's already enough valid reasons to be mean to people! Just chill on it, and maybe we'll figure some things out about ourselves.
Game & Word: I couldn't have put it better myself. That's… I think that's an excellent note to wrap up on.
Eve: That's what I'm here for.
Game & Word: Eve, thank you again for joining me, and for chatting with me about psychology and video games and the state of the world…
Eve: Yeah. Stuff that we're totally unqualified to talk to. Thank you for having me! This is the part where I would plug something and I have nothing to plug, I'm not a content creator. I'll put some contact info for myself, I'll send that to Jay, so you can put it in the in the description in case someone decided I was so insightful, they have to shoot me an email or something.
But no the closing remark here is subscribe to Game & Word. Can we plug Chris, the man and newsletter that brought us together?
Game & Word: Oh, absolutely. Yes. Yes. Chris Brandrick is the publisher of Switch Weekly. Which is...
Eve: Yes, NSW, Nintendo Switch Weekly. Yes. The newsletter that Jay and I are collectively members of, that's where we hang out and talk Nintendo and talk shop.
If you wanna talk to me and Chris, or sorry, me and Jay, subscribe to Nintendo Switch Weekly.
Game & Word: Yeah.
Eve: And Game & Word. And come join the Discord server.
Game & Word: Yeah. And there'll be links. I'll put all these links in the notes too, but yeah, excellent newsletter, wonderful community, Chris himself is just a really standup guy.
Eve: Love that, man, yeah.
Game & Word: He's great. Yeah. He totally deserves your readership, and your Patreon money, too. So... subscribe!
Eve: Yep. That's all I've got.
Game & Word: All right!
Eve: Thank you for listening.
Game & Word: All right, that's a wrap, folks! Thank you so much, once again, to our wonderful guest Eve for such a great conversation, and quite possibly the wisest parting words I've ever had a guest impart on me. So, thanks for that! Now as Eve mentioned, they are not on social media, but if you wanna get in touch with them, they have provided their email address for me to pass on you.
It's Eve moon elf at Gmail dot com. That's E-V-E, as in Eve the name, then moon as in the moon that comes out at night, then Elf as in the ones from the Lord of the Rings or the little dudes at Santa's workshop. All one word, all lowercase, no underscores or anything like that. Again, it's Eve moon elf at gmail.com, and I'll include it in the podcast references below.
I'd also like to thank Game & Word's paid subscribers for keeping this whole newsletter, podcasting, and publishing operation going.
And, I'd also like to especially thank Game & Word's Founding Members for making this episode possible. They are Le Takas from Luzern, Switzerland: Member since April 14th, 2022. Ela F from San Diego, California: Member since April 24th, 2020. Alexi F from Chicago, Illinois: Member since May 13th, 2022. And Elvira O from Querétaro, Mexico: Member since May 18th, 2022.
And thank you, dear listener, for listening today. If this is your first time here, welcome! I hope you enjoyed this episode enough to want to stick around. And if you would like to stick around, then I highly encourage you to subscribe, even if you're not able to purchase a paid subscription at this point. We do offer a free subscription tier, and as a free subscriber, you will get Game & Word's popularly acclaimed, longform newsletter and companion podcast episodes in your inbox, as soon as they publish every week.
And if you want to directly contribute to keeping this publication running, as well as keeping it free and accessible to everyone, please consider upgrading to a paid subscription.
In addition to sleeping well, knowing you're supporting an independent creator, you'll also gain access to exclusive bonus content just for paid subscribers, as well as early access to some free content, along with the ability to comment on podcast episodes and access to special paid subscriber-only feedback threads, where you can suggest future content.
And if you purchase a founding membership, which is the highest subscription tier we offer, I'll directly acknowledge you, by name or by username, both on the newsletter's masthead and as well as on the podcast, like I just did for my Founding Members earlier.
But regardless of whether you're a paid subscriber, a free subscriber, or no subscriber at all, thank you very much for listening today. Ladies, gentlemen, non-binary folks, anyone and everyone in between: this publication, this newsletter, this podcast would not be possible without you. So I am always eternally grateful for your readership and your listenership and your support. Once again, I'm Jay Rooney, and this has been another episode of The Game & Word Podcast.
I'll be back for the next episode. In the meantime, keep leveling up your curiosity, knowledge, and wonder stats with Game & Word, The Curious Gaming Newsletter. Have a wonderful day!
Eve meant to say “Dark Link” here. Which just goes to show that even seasoned, longtime fans of the Zelda franchise can subconsciously fall prey to the common “Link = Zelda” misconception that’s so common outside the fandom!
“DM” is short for “Dungeon Master,” the person who “leads” a group of players in Dungeons & Dragons. The DM is in charge of bringing the world to life, planning the plot/story, applying the game’s rules and mechanics consistently, assuming the roles of any non-player characters (or NPCs for short—incidental characters with usually little to no bearing on the larger story, like a shopkeeper or a castle guard), and mediating disputes between players.
Note that “DM” is a term specific to Dungeons & Dragons. In other tabletop RPGs, the more generalized “GM” (short for “Game Master”) is used instead.
JRPG = “Japanese Roleplaying Game.” Final Fantasy is almost certainly the most well-known JRPG franchise in gaming history.
“Enby” is the phonetic spelling of “NB,” short for “non-binary.” It’s become a widely-adopted term of self-identification for non-binary people.
“N64” is short for “Nintendo 64,” which was Nintendo’s 64-bit console in the mid- to late-90s.