The Importance of Imaginary Idols

The bulk of this article was written for and originally posted on AmbiGaming Corner, and here it is on my website with a lot of tweaks/additions! Definitely check out Athena Veta’s great content on AmbiGaming and consider supporting her Video Game Relevancy Crusade (TM) on Patreon, if ya got a few bucks to spare.

People come, and no matter how much we don’t want to let it happen, people leave our lives for various reasons. Our life events shape us, change us, and force us to evolve. The only person you will have for that whole life journey is you. It’s important to appreciate the special relationships that come along, but never take them for granted. None of us are here forever, anyway.

It can be downright devastating when you lose a special relationship (close friend, family member, partner, etc.), but it’s important to remember you are never alone. Things will get better with time and the proper application of coping skills. Never destroy yourself just because someone else hurt you or doesn’t want you in their life anymore. I’m not going to lie. Right now, I’m nursing quite the huge wound in my soul from the acceptance of the loss of one of my best friends.

I’m not going to give in to my storm negative emotions and shut away from the world. I’m going to embrace the positive energy flowing around me. My friend and I may never talk again, but I loved that close friendship at its best. I’m going to treasure the good times I shared with that person forever, and I will eventually be able to forgive myself for everything that went horribly wrong.

Closed doors can always reopen with time. This recent experience triggered me to reach out to another lost best friend I had quietly door-slammed 8 years ago (INFJ problems). Guess what? They missed me too and now we’re reconnecting as if nothing happened. Time both heals and destroys. You just have to learn how to go with the flow.

In the present time, I can do nothing but move on while processing my emotions in a healthy way. And that’s going to involve my favourite method of escapism: Video Games!!

Video games have always had a special place in my heart. They are, like, the thing that takes up the vast majority of my free time, and I love the way they just take me away from life’s problems. In my old age I’ve come to appreciate connections with characters and deep storylines just as much, if not more than, fun gameplay mechanics and pretty graphics (Pretty does not necessarily mean ultra high-def super 3D, either. That’s a whole other post worth of stuff to tangent off into, though). And sure, video game characters aren’t real people per se, but our feelings for them are real and that’s something special!

I can connect a video game to every painful life event I’ve faced. I can also credit a video game character with helping me cross just about every silly obstacle life as thrown at me over the years (a big reason why I loved the big coping project AmbiGaming completed). I’m an only child with some, um, problems connecting with humans in the real world. When I stop and think about it, video game characters have been like the supportive network of family and friends I’ve needed. I take no shame in looking up to some of them like idols.

Idols are definitely important. Having someone to look up to and inspire you to become something greater, especially when you aren’t feeling so great about yourself, is, well, a great thing! I’ve noticed it’s socially acceptable to proclaim a sports star, actor/actress, musician, or someone generally famous as your hero or shero. Heck, imaginary idols are usually understandable by others, but only if they are characters from a book, TV show, or movie. If you tell a non-gamer you idolize a video game character, chances are you are going to get a really strange look in return. Trust me, I know.

Case in point: Lightning Farron, the pink-haired protagonist of Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XIII trilogy. It’s hard to describe exactly what happened, but during a time when I was suffering alone with constant panic attacks, a whole lot of self-loathing thoughts, and an overwhelming fear of life’s ultimate Game Over screen, I zoned out of my emotional chaos and just randomly started playing Final Fantasy XIII (a game I had found in a discount bin months prior). Not exactly sure why I decided to give the game a spin then, but Maker, am I glad I did! The universe was looking out for me, I guess.

Imaginary Idols 1
Did I ever!

From the moment I first saw Lightning Farron fighting her way off the Purge train, I was instantly drawn into her story (and away from my own personal train wreck). She looked so strong and so powerful, but as her story went on, I discovered she was quite the opposite. After witnessing Lightning continuously shut away all of her friends and even threaten her own little sister, it was clear to me that she was silently struggling alone with a chaotic mess of feelings.

Lightning wasn’t strong or powerful at all. She was weak, unneeded by anyone, and at the mercy of her own feelz; all just like me. So why do I idolize this severely flawed woman and hail her as my shero?

Lightning kept moving forward, no matter what happened to her, how awful she felt about herself, or how hopeless her life seemed. As her journey went on, the cracks in her cranky exterior started revealing the big vulnerable heart she tried so hard to hide from her unforgiving world. Lightning would do absolutely anything to protect the people she cares about, even though she has no idea how to interact with them in a healthy way.

Snow Punch
Amusing, for sure! But definitely NOT a healthy social interaction.

Over the course of three amazing games, Lightning learned from her mistakes and helped save the world with her friends, by finally accepting she needed those friends to help save her first. I won’t ruin anything, but thinking about the ending scenes of Lightning Returns still makes me a little choked up.

In short, I grew alongside Lightning’s character as she grew throughout the FFXIII trilogy. It’s a special experience I’d never thought a video game series could give me. In a way, Lightning Farron turned into the overprotective big sister I’ve always wanted. Sure, I know she’s not real, but she is an inspiring force who has helped me become someone greater. Now whenever I feel stressed, depressed, hopeless, worthless, and helpless, I just have to look at the pink-haired warrior goddess, and I suddenly find the strength to keep fighting for a better future, no matter how bad things get.

As this recent loss of a close friend has proven to me, there’s no question I still have some issues to deal with, but at least Lightning has given me a permanent spark of hope; an essential weapon in my never-ending war against my overwhelming emotions. If all that made no sense, Lightning is so important to me I recently got a huge tattoo of her on my arm. That should say a lot!

My Lightning Farron Tattoo
I will find any excuse to show of my fancy tattoo 🙂

I have no shame when it comes to showing off my fancy arm ink (obviously) so you better believe I was showing it off at work once it was done. All the responses were pretty much “Hey! That looks really cool!”, which says a lot for the great state of tattoo acceptance in today’s society. However, I remember when I told one co-worker that the woman on my arm was a video game character, I got a little eye roll with a “Oh, those…” type of response.

‘Tis true. Even in this day and age, a lot of non-gamers still grossly misunderstand the whole video games a relevant medium thing. I can guarantee you if I would have told that person Lightning was from a movie, book, or TV show, I would’ve got a “That’s great! She must mean a lot to you” type of response from that co-worker instead.

And that’s the major point I want to make with this article: video game characters are valid imaginary idols, and all idols, whether real or imaginary, can be a very important source of stability and inspiration in someone’s life. Especially when their life seems to be falling apart.

In conclusion, don’t be ashamed if a video game character has a special place in your heart. And if any non-gamers are reading this, please stop dismissing video game characters as an irrelevant collection of pixels that people control on a screen whenever they’re bored or something. Strength undoubtedly comes from within us all, and when a real or imaginary idol helps you feel strong, that’s a good thing!

Imaginary Idols 2
The universe really is looking out for me! The gaming gods have gifted me with another close sisterly character connection during this difficult time in my life: My De Sardet and Siora in GreedFall.

Also important: it really is okay not to be okay. Trying to push away painful emotions instead of accepting them or reaching out for help leaves you broken, hollow, and alone, no matter how many idols you have. I know that round-trip all too well, my friends. It takes the most strength to admit when you need help, and even more than that to actually go seek it out. I’m grateful I have a therapist and several close friends now who are also helping me through this latest rough path in my journey.

Got any imaginary idols you wanna talk about? Feel free to make use of that comment section thingy down below!

Thanks for reading!

If for some odd reason you want to read more of my posts, you can find a somewhat organized (and usually up to date) archive of my ramblings… I mean, articles here!

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Published by

"Lightning" Ellen

My name is Ellen, and I've been babbling on the interwebz about video games for over 15 years. Video games themselves have been a large part of my life since 5-year-old me first encountered a SNES in a children's hospital. Fun times... Video game escapism is still the #1 coping mechanism for adult me these days.

22 thoughts on “The Importance of Imaginary Idols”

  1. This was so well written and very relatable! Your writing style has such a good flow and really grasps the readers attention. I’m glad that you have characters to help you find inner strength.. Almost as a tool of access. You’re on the right path and things will get better ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Absolutely agree! This one always seems silly to people, but…when I was still working in an office, I had to do some written tests to gain promotion. Rainbow Dash from MLP:FiM was actually a talisman for me throughout all that. Her confidence and willingness not to give up kept me in check a lot, and I actually spent every trip to one of the testing centers listening to fan songs about her. It helped a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent read I couldn’t agree more on this, video games are still far too derided by some people but what really matters is what we people who actually play them get out of them.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I had lots of fictional idols growing up: Escapism via games (and anime) got me through my childhood. I still remember Sephiroth and Cloud from FFVII were my favourites, alongside Fayt and Albel from Star Ocean 3. I probably sound old, but I don’t think they make games like they used to, at least character wise. It’s been a while since I could really relate to a character like I used to!

    That is the most awesome tattoo I’ve ever seen 😀 Must have taken ages to get it finished!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The coping power of escapism is awesome! They definitely don’t make games like the used to *shakes cane* Thank you for sharing some of you characters!

      Thanks 😀 It took 10 hours over 3 sessions. Best investment ever. Whenever I need hope, I just have to look at my arm, haha.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Absolutely agree! My imaginary heroes are Batman, Master Chief, The Arbiter, Lara Croft, and some others. Escapism is great, it allows us to go to a place and totally forget about the real world. I just wish I could live in these worlds forever and never leave.

    Videogame characters are indeed a good source of inspiration. I think whenever I have children, I might name them after a few videogame characters.

    Liked by 1 person

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