Guest Column: Learning About Life and Death From a Little Black Mage

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Sinreaver

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I don't comment often even though I consume pretty much everything on the site but I really feel the need to say something.

Beautiful article, I don't get emotional very often but I felt the tears well up in my eyes as I read through, thank your for sharing your story (and I am exceptionally sorry for your losses, especially to an ugly illness like cancer) and for reminding me of the hope that final fantasy ix inspires that I had forgotten after losing my own nonno. Good Luck to you and your family Gino, and once again, thank you.

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DefinitelySacha

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Wonderful piece! Thanks for sharing! FF9 has long been one of my favourites and I find myself wanting to get back into it and experiencing everything again.

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johnsonic7

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Great article.

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Homelessbird

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Fuuuuuuuuuuuuck. Thanks for making me cry at work.

In all seriousness though, this is an amazing article. It's touching, informative, thoughtful, and precise, and it genuinely made me think more deeply about FF9. I may even have to play it again. I hope that you are proud of this - you totally should be.

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tiffanytryhard

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Beautiful piece.

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IAmTheCheese

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Gino please, its PoC

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CheapPoison

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Great column!
Certainly helps that it is about the best character in the best Final Fantasy.

Man, was that a happy surprise to just see Final Fantasy IX appear on steam a few months back without knowing about it.
Although, that game is filled with an exceptional amount of stupid collectible bull!

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RagingFlower

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#58  Edited By RagingFlower

Finally, more articles about the actual best PS1 Final Fantasy. But really, this article is more about Gino's personal story than the merits of Final Fantasy 9.

Honestly, this game was the only FF I could stomach for longer than 40 minutes, and it's all because of the little black mage's story. And maybe also Zidane not being an edgelord.

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Gildermershina

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Viva's existentialism was also a big deal for me at that time in my life. I guess I was about 14 at the time, and for whatever reason I was coming to grips with the idea of mortality at that age. It's one of the reasons that game stands as my favourite Final Fantasy.

Although the moment that hits me the hardest, for reasons I can't actually explain, is when you discover Quan's dwelling.

Quan was a master gourmand Qu who was all about imaginative eating. One day he fished Vivi out of the ocean, and raised him as a child. Vivi called him Grandpa. Quan died before the game begins, and when you visit the cave you learn a little about their sweet and strange relationship. It's implied that being raised by Quan was what made Vivi sentient unlike the other Black Mages. But also, Quan was actually raising Vivi to eat him.

There's something to that, but I don't actually know what it is.

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Justin258

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#60  Edited By Justin258

I started reading this during downtime at work yesterday and stopped pretty quickly, I couldn't finish it. A few weeks before my last year of high school started (so summer 2009), my grandfather was told, after years of battling cancer, that there was nothing more they could do. My Mom woke me up early one morning almost in shock and wouldn't tell me what was going on, told me to get dressed and before I could rub the sleep out of my eyes, we were at my grandparent's house, where I learned what was going on. For the next two weeks, my grandfather went from being able to walk and talk and eat and do anything to laying in a bed unable to speak. He passed away surrounded by his family, me included, and that's one of those moments that will be burned into my memory forever. I didn't really know what to say then or now.

Thanks for writing this.

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shaftwaxer

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Very well written. Very thoughtful and thought provoking.

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Nilazz

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<3

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lockonandfire

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An excellently written, heartfelt piece of writing.

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thatpinguino

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#64 thatpinguino  Staff

@justin258: That story sounds all too familiar. I'm sorry for your loss.

@gildermershina:Yeah I don't really know what to do with Quan. Vivi loved and valued him, but visiting his home raises more questions than it provides answers.

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holyxion

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#65  Edited By holyxion

I really love this article, sad I didn't get to it sooner.

What really stands out is just how well anyone who's played FFIX or is familiar with the concept of Black Mages in FF instantly has a shared cultural context to understand the level of melancholy existential confusion described here. If someone I've never met writes about a devastating family history of cancer, that's sad enough as it is, but sitting here with my PVC Vivi figure thinking back to playing the game with my brother growing up and wondering some of the same things myself about what it means to be alive and to die, the level of bittersweet nostalgia and optimistic resignation towards mortality I felt then just makes it feel that much more close to home.

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Gildermershina

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@thatpinguino: There's an ambiguity to it that's haunting. Maybe Quan wouldn't have eaten him in the end, but he's gone and there's no way to know the truth. But what we do know the truth of how Vivi feels about Quan. It's a question that cannot be answered because of death, but one that maybe we don't actually want the answer to.

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StarvingGamer

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FFIX is great. This article is great. I am very sad.

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tadros

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Thank you for sharing! I loved Final Fantasy 9 as a kid, and I see whole new meaning in the game and the story lines after reading this. Very moving and very powerful!

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nickhead

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FFIX is still my favorite of the series.

Thanks for sharing.

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damodar

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Great read, thanks for sharing.

Vivi's arc is the reason FFIX is my favourite in the series.

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Manburger

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I don't have anything more to add other than to offer my condolences and thank you for this beautiful piece. Very very touching; made me tear up quite a bit at the end.

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Corvidus

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“All I can do... is just sit with them.” Resigned, defeated he is left with no choice. This all he can do.

“All I can do... is just sit with them.” Resilient, determined he chooses to do this act because there is no better choice. No better way to spend his time.

“All I can do... is just sit with them.” Is such a smart multi-faceted line.

You Are Not Alone

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Aetos

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This was a fantastic read. Thank you so much for sharing it.

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eduardo

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Fantastic article. Thank you for sharing, Gino.

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Beastcake

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#75  Edited By Beastcake

After having recently purchased this game on Steam and replaying it after several years, is it not ironic that I just passed the Black Mage Village last night. I lost my grandfather to cancer about a decade ago, and that longing to have found some magical cure or words to say definitely didn't come to me then. I find solace in knowing that many others have gone through the same experience.

Such a heartfelt story here, thanks for sharing.

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thatpinguino

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#76  Edited By thatpinguino  Staff

@beastcake: Thanks. This last playthrough reminded me of a whole lot of lines I'd forgotten. Like this one:

No Caption Provided

I swear, if I didn't know any better I'd think this game was made for me.

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climax

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Great job. Hits a little too close to home. Thanks for sharing.

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Ninjahmon

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Thank you for this Gino, you've articulated why I love this game in ways I haven't pondered to deeply. Least not as thoroughly as you have. That closing line was beautiful bro

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Slag

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@slag said:

...

My thoughts are with you and your family. Take care of yourself.

I'm sorry for your loss.

I was fortunately able to read an earlier version of this piece to him the day before he passed. I don't know if he heard it, but I hope he felt it. At the least, I let him know I was working on a thing about him while he was still mostly able-bodied.

Aw man, me too @thatpinguino. I'm embarrassed I made that mistake, I didn't realize he was already gone. I'm so sorry for your loss.

I'm sure he did hear you, maybe not the details but I'm sure he got the heart behind it. Or felt it as you said.

fwiw I don't know if this is any solace, but when I was bedside, the nurses and such always instructed us to talk to the ill like we would if they were well and to not say anything in front of them we wouldn't if they were able to communicate. Partly because you never know what someone can perceive in that state and that hearing is one sense that tends to be more resilient than the others at the end.

I guess that's just my long winded way of saying I really do think he heard you.

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Alek

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Great piece, @thatpinguino. My father was just recently diagnosed with terminal cancer and it's a rough journey. I still don't really know what to say to him or my mother, except just to hold them and pretend it's going to be okay, even when I know it's really not going to be okay.

By the way, think there may be an accidental extra "'s" in this line, near the end: "Although he may have perished, Vivi’s has left behind an entire lineage."

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thatpinguino

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#81 thatpinguino  Staff

@alek: I'm sorry to hear that. I wish you and your father the best. If it's any consolation, my grandpa was given a terminal prognosis over five years ago and he actually managed to inexplicably go into full remission for a couple of years after one radiation treatment. The doctors couldn't explain it. That' not what radiation is supposed to do. I don't want to give you false hope; but, ever since my mom and grandfather's victories I've tried to remember that outliers exist.

Thanks for the spell check. I'll see if there's anything we can do about it.

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