An Oddity of the Grieving Process

I’ve grown up consuming violent media. I was watching gory action movies from a young age, and never shied away from a game of Mortal Kombat despite RPGs being more my speed. I learned to tell the difference between the fake violence and real life early, so violent media never bothered me. You would expect that to change after going through a murder in the family, but something entirely different has happened instead.

Yeah, it’s gonna be one of those posts.

Soon after returning from the funeral, one of my buddies was looking at starting up a Shadowrun tabletop game. He told me he’d understand if I didn’t want to play- it’s a violent game, and he was concerned it would bother me. I appreciated the thought, but told him it was no big deal. And really, it wasn’t. I could still play Assassin’s Creed, or watch horror movies, and never once feel myself sinking into depression. That wall dividing the fake and the real was and still is strong as can be. To this day, I can play a game that lets me completely recreate the event that’s thrown my life into disarray and not bat an eyelash.

And yet, I can’t play more than fifteen minutes of Chrono Trigger.

This requires some background. Chrono Trigger is an RPG for the Super Nintendo, and it spins a pretty epic, though still lighthearted, tale involving time travel, magic, sword fighting, everything a young nerd loves. It’s widely regarded as one of the best RPGs of all time, and it was always one of my favorites.

It’s also the game I probably feel the most connection to my brother through. When it came out, I spent days and days watching him and his friends play and replay the game. By the time I finally got to play, I knew most of the secrets in the game and could recite some scenes from memory as they played out. I’ve beaten Chrono Trigger more than I’ve beaten any other game, hands down. My strongest memories with the game, however, are with my brother at my side. I’ve played it more times after he moved than I had before, but it was still a strong connection to him. We talked about it pretty regularly despite its age. We spent more time together with that game than any other, save perhaps World of Warcraft (a subject for another day). In fact, the DS port was the gift I gave to my brother the last Christmas we’d ever spend together.

A few weeks ago, I read a post on Reddit about a father reconnecting with his deceased son by playing Warcraft. I felt great that he could make that connection, but it also reminded me of my last attempt to play Chrono Trigger. A few months after my brother’s death, I figured I’d spin up a new game and play through it for old time’s sake, hoping to feel that connection.

Within fifteen minutes, I felt tears in my eyes and had to turn the game off.

Those violent games have a healthy wall between the game and my real life, hidden behind unfamiliar characters, over the top action, and a tongue placed firmly in cheek. Chrono Trigger, on the other hand, was a game I completely associated with my brother, and it functioned as a reminder of what I’d lost. Even now, if a Chrono Trigger song comes up on my video game music shuffle at work, I sink a bit. Someday I’ll circle back and push past, able to enjoy the things my brother enjoyed and feel a connection that I need. For now, though, it goes back in the collection. I’ve found other ways to connect, like watching Star Trek: TNG or listening to some of his favorite bands. The game is apparently still a little too dear to go back to just yet.

The human brain is a funny old thing.

I’ll be back on Friday with something a bit lighter. Gotta pace out the pathos, after all!

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