When I was young, I was very much into console games, particularly RPGs. Some of the all-time classics I absolutely love even to this day are the Final Fantasy series (especially FF7, FF8, FFX), Panzer Dragon Saga (Saturn is totally underrated), Shining Force (Sega 16-bit!), Phantasy Star IV, Chrono Trigger, just to name a few.
For the non-gamers reading this, a RPG is a role-playing game. In a RPG, you assume the role of the hero and embark on a journey that typically starts off benign and eventually culminate into epic-level proportions that involve battles of good vs. evil and life vs. death. Along the way, you are assisted by an ensemble cast of followers, or side-kicks. You also get to interact with NPCs throughout the game – the non-playable characters found everywhere, such towns, shops, houses and inns.
Now let’s imagine – If your life was a RPG, what type of character would you be? Would you be the hero? Would you be the side-kick? Or would you be the NPC?
Let’s take a quick look at how each of the characters is usually typified in a RPG. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll use the male pronoun as descriptor, though depending on the game it can be a male or female.
The Hero embarks on quests in pursuit of his dreams and goals. He is a quick-learner and self-starter. He has a vision on what needs to be done and he will go against all odds and challenges to get it. Even when he faces obstacles along the way which momentarily sets him back, he gathers himself, engages the help of others if needed and eventually overcomes them. Despite overwhelming odds and random curve balls thrown in the course of his journey, he is persistent, resilient and keeps fighting on. In the end, he carves the way for a victory which many touted as impossible at the beginning. The hero dramatically evolves throughout the journey from an almost naive, uncertain apprentice to become an individual of tenacity, wisdom, knowledge and compassion.
The Side-Kick is a very earnest and hardworking individual who devotes his energy to doing his best job. He sometimes thinks about his dreams and goals but never quite takes the step to pursue them, for some reason or another. He sees heroes coming along his way and decides to join them in action. The side-kick lets others develop the vision for him and dedicates all of himself to achieving their goals. He neglects his own dreams in the process and lets them stay dormant in him. Throughout the journey, the side-kick evolves as a person too; however his potential is never fully maximized because he never allowed himself to step up into the position of the hero.
The NPCs basically lead their daily lives in a cyclical manner. Their life can be condensed down into the few same, key mundane activities which they are busy repeating every day. Every time the hero converses with them, it’s the same 1-2 topics and same few lines they repeat over and over. They walk back and forth confined to the same few spots in town, shops, houses, inns, and so on. They don’t spend much time, if at all, thinking about what they want to do. Some of them don’t know what they want at all, others have an inkling of what they want but they are too scared to pursue them. Instead, they live vicariously through the life of the hero. The NPC’s lives are basically shaped by in-game events led by the Hero.
RPGs and You
If you strip away the fantasy elements and the medieval-like settings, a RPG with its protagonists and story plot is actually designed to mirror aspects of yourself and your life. Game developers factor that into account when designing games because they want gamers to be able to relate when playing the game. This relation is what builds the strong connection and affinity to the game, which leads to high utility value and continual purchase of future titles.
These games appeal to us is because it speaks to the hero in all of us. It speaks to the hero in us who wants to take charge of our lives and simply march forth to change our universe. All of us have visionary goals and dreams which we want to bring to fruition. We have passions which we want to pursue full throttle without anything holding us back. We have the idealistic and free-spirited streak running through our blood which is screaming for us to just ‘Go do it!’ without letting ourselves be restrained by anything.
But somehow, when we switch off our consoles and get out into the physical reality, we become bound by fear. Fear of failure, fear of scrutiny, fear of uncertainty, fear of rejection, yada yada. Or we let ourselves be cluttered by a whole truckload of excuses, like responsibilities, need for security, recession, risk, etc. Somehow we seem to spend more time arming ourselves with reasons justifying why we should not pursue our goals than actually pursuing them.
Do you want to be a NPC who sleepwalks through the same routine every day? Do you want to be the side-kick that pursues others’ goals, hides his/her dreams and lives under the shadow of someone else? Or do you want to be the Hero in your life, carving the life that you want?
Honestly, if you don’t know your purpose, find it. If you can’t find a best option to pursue your passion, architect that end goal yourself. If you don’t know how to achieve that goal, plan toward it.
It’s your life – You are the one who has the power to choose and create your own destiny. You have the power to choose your quest to embark on. Don’t let yourself become a mindless NPC that drones through its life. Don’t live the life of a side-kick, pursuing the goals of others. Be the Hero you are meant to be.
Always remember that as your life’s hero, as long you choose your path and keep persisting, nothing can stop you – everything in the universe will eventually fall into place to enable you to achieve what you want.
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