Finding Fantasy: Graduating from the Final Fantasy School of Worldbuilding

Cloud Strife with his Buster Sword from the Final Fantasy VII Remake

Hello, everyone! I know it’s been approximately 900 years since I’ve last written a blog post. Happy 2023, by the way! I’m here on this cold January night to amend such a grave error–in case anyone ever reads this blog. I kind of doubt it. Like I said, it’s 2023. However, since I’m not good at TikTok or YouTube or anything else requiring video, you’ll get what I do best: text.

As of late, I’ve thought a lot about my approach to craft. Specifically of my approach to fantasy as a genre, since it’s primarily what I write. I’ve also been hyperfixating on Final Fantasy, too. A vudeo game series I hold very close to my heart, particularly Final Fantasy VII, my favorite of the series. FFVII’s widely regarded as one of the best video games of all time, yes, but it’s been undergoing something of a renaissance as of late thanks to its very fantastic Remake, and the recent remake of a spinoff game, Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core Reunion. Well, Square would call it a remaster, but I digress.

The point here is that I really, really love Final Fantasy as a series, and I really really love FFVII as a game. A huge reason being is because of the worldbuilding. If you’re not familiar with the Final Fantasy series, then you might be surprised to know that most of the games in said series aren’t exactly sequential. There are very few direct sequels to any one game and they can all be played independent of one another. Each game has a wildly different setting, different characters, different plots, different worlds. Sure, there are some story elements that stay the same (chocobos, for example), but for the most part the games aren’t connected with one another. What you love in one game might not be in another, etc.

What I love most about FFVII is that it’s very much a science-fantasy tale, combining the best of both genres and mashing them together into one really awesome thing. You’ve got evil corporations (Shina), giant swords (Buster Sword), a man with a gun for an arm (Barrett), talking animals (Red XIII), magic powers (materia), and so much more. There’s also a heavy dose of romance thrown in there for good measure, making it one of my favorite fictional stories ever told.

Without waxing rhapsodic about the game for 2000 more words, I just want to say this: Final Fantasy worldbuilding has majorly impacted my own craft. I say I write fantasy, but I rarely write it in the way people expect. I love combining genres, and I love taking unconventional approaches to worldbuilding. The Final Fantasy series definitely takes the Rule of Cool and turns it up to 11, and that’s what I try to do in my books. Books cannot survive on vibes alone, of course, so there’s gotta be some plot involved in there somewhere, but there’s nothing I love more than worldbuilding elements that exist for the sole purpose of them being cool. Cloud’s giant sword doesn’t make sense. The city of Midgar, with all its plates, doesn’t make sense. And yet it’s all so cool that no one cares.

That’s what I want to do with my books. I want to write books that are cool and fun, while not exactly adhering to traditional fantasy tropes. I have no interest in playing it quite so safe. Final Fantasy doesn’t, and look where it’s gotten. Fantasy, to me, is a limitless space and ripe for extraordinary things. We don’t have to play it safe because that’s what genre conventions want us to do. We can simply abide by the Rule of Cool sometimes. SOme people might not like it. Some people might want more worldbuilding.

As for me, give me the giant sword with no explanation. I’ll take it.

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