How a Game's Plot Improved My Moral Philosophy
Updated: 5 days ago
For those newer to the site, the one piece of media that influenced me the most is one known as Suikoden IV. It's a game where you essentially play as a heroic military leader with a magical illness, known as the Rune of Punishment. In a world supposedly controlled by destiny, the cursed rune cannot be avoided, which means that that hero is meant to be punished for using that Rune's powers. These powers are those that allowed him and an entire group of island nations prevail in a war against an invading empire, intending to conquer them all, lead by a legendary anti-villainous officer.
While the rune brings you, the player, great power, it also consumes your character's life, until you're most likely to die by the end of the game, especially if you are not going to be completely moral. Thus, in order to get the game's true ending, and thus survive the war and your own rune, you must be good, by recruiting every follower available even if they betrayed you before, and even if they tried to assassinate you.
Playing the game most of my childhood, I was unconsciously conditioned to understand that being good pays off, and that is a philosophy for life I hold dear to this day. And that is also why I refuse to commit evil, which stems from sacrificing others for one's own gain (even if that gain is pleasure alone)
I did not expect, 20 years ago, that my life will be consumed by an illness of my own: chronic fatigue, a post-trauma symptom. Unless I managed to recover from it completely, I won't be surprised if it has the potential to return once more, unlike the Rune of Punishment, which is fortunately far parasitic compared to my own, and incureable. I'm not talking about CFS.
The world of Suikokden IV changes by the time your character obtains the rune "by mistake", during a naval battle. Afterwards, some people begin to see you as too hostile, and thus, you are sent to exile with a small team of fellow traitors, who believe in you. It was your own childhood friend, who framed you for murder, even though it was the rune itself, who consumed the life of the previous owner.
You are, again, expelled from a ship due to your nationality, by the mercy of its captain. It is on a deserted island, when a monster attacks you, and you have to use the rune in a way that makes you collapse and faint. If it weren't for your followers, you would probably die alone there, unsafe and unprotected from the island's creatures.
If it weren't for that magical parasite of sorts, you would still have the life you had today, living as a soldier for a nation that provided you with food and shelter. You would still have had your childhood friends, your comrades, and, perhaps, the life on the island village itself. It is, arguably, your "fault", that you got this rune, even though it was completely unintentional, story-wise. By having this unfortunate curse, you were punished for it.
In order to survive the game, you must, nonetheless, be merciful to that said friend that framed you for murder; You also must recruit him eventually, or else you will die. Should you be vengeful, and execute him once captured, you will be killed, yourself, by the rune.
You will not even be buried, but instead, be sent on a boat as your grave, as that Rune is a parasite that can seek new prey indefinitely. Therefore, in order to prevail your parasite, you must forgive, and you mustn't strive for revenge, EVEN when faced with the option, to execute another potential recruit -- a surrendering commander who occupied your island village.
The irony of the Cursed Rune lies with the fact that you must go against it, in order to prevail the game in its ending. Be severe with your judgement of those you capture, and your character won't make it. Also, you must not only not execute anyone, but allow killers and mercenaries as well on board, despite trying to execute you themselves. You must understand that even those who went against you can be of service, and that can apply to real life as well.
From a trio of thieves who tried scamming you, to an arrogant loner who deceives you for the fun of it, to an assassin that was sent to kill you -- you must accept to recruit anyone that can be recruitable, to survive and to be redeemed by the Rune's powers.
Such good-hearted nature, although counter-productive at first, is the best thing you can do in order to get the happy ending your hero can have. In other words, the cure to your parasite's parasitic nature, is forgiveness and compassion to people most humans would treat vengefully or ruthlessly.
As I grew up myself, I realized how important it is, to be kind-hearted to those who deserve it. After all, it was a great way to make people understand my medical position at the time. I know that, should I be too much of a jerk, I would let people's negative bias deteriorate, and mislead them, to reach incorrect assumptions towards me.
It is easy to devalue someone whom you hate, and thus, in order to be better understood, I chose that game's philosophy: To try and act good as much as possible, for being good can easily pay off than acting bad.
This is an extremely difficult task as our emotions can bring harm to others alone.
It's easy being a jerk to people who don't know or like, especially online. For most of the time you don't even see their faces, unless they have their own profile picture, or post a video where they visually appear. You don't care for them personally, right? So, the mindset in many people's eyes is, don't care about those who don't know nor owe anything to.
However, that treatment is a luxury I refuse to afford, even though I can. Why? Because everyone has their usefulness. And I can build an empire out of goodwill like the game's protagonist built an army out of being moral.
Being compassionate goes a long way towards correct estimation of one's situation, as it prevents one from sinking into negative bias. It can also reduce human suffering. Both of which are needed in our world. And all I need to understand that is cognitive empathy.
In Israel, disabled people get a special card that gives validation to their condition. Should a disabled person go to the supermarket on their own, they can show this card to the cashier to skip the line. This feature can be regarded as a sign of compassion that gives Israel some degree of benefit as a country that provides welfare.
The thing about it is, that it can make people angry for waiting in the line and see a person get immediate access to the cashier, even though it's that person's right to do so. Being good hearted enough can go a long way to make these people understand that you suffer from a certain problem or have a disability. It's also a reason for disabled people, like myself, to act moral, as we need to be understood in order to operate in this world.
As you can see, cognition can lead not only to good deeds but also to a better understanding of ourselves and of others. That game's protagonist had followers who chose to be exiled along with himself because the protagonist was good enough as a person in order to earn their trust and loyalty. This helped him to better survive, and thrive, after he began building his morally-backed army.
I almost always was a nice person, and maybe it was primarily because of that game, that might've influenced me subconsciously, to be one, before realizing it. Nowadays, the game's story was a moral lesson that, although largely underrated, serves its purpose in my own, Rubinshteinic philosophy, by utilizing egoism for good.
We don't have to be nice at all times, but a more compassionate and forgiving attitude, sure helps and increases one's chance to understand and to tolerate others and vice versa.