FF7: *Spoilers* Aerith

Posted December 16, 2014

Her death is a powerful moment for many players, but why? I personally didn’t care when it happened because she felt very one dimensional and I wasn’t invested in her character. However I can understand why other players would care.

Investment is a key part in understanding why this event was a big deal. Aerith is the best healer in the party. She has white mage type limit breaks to reinforce her usefulness in battle and encourage the player to use her. She’s tied very heavily to the core plot, in a game where backstory can be missed if you have the wrong party. This further pushes people to use her as the defacto second party member. By having a character that you level up and take some ownership in the fate of, you will naturally have extra attachment to her.

Stability is the other key concept here. By making her the only character with a clear support role, she’s a character who will stick around. By her constant and deeply engrained position as the main heroine through dialogue, the player is led to believe she will be both Cloud’s love interest, and the one to battle Sephiroth. Plus, many players were new to the series if not JRPGs entirely, so the thought of a main character dying was impossible. You have pheonix downs right? They can’t kill someone since that wouldn’t make sense…

When you invest in someone or something, you’re attaching part of your own self worth to that someone or something. If that investment is destroyed, taken away, lost, you feel as if you’ve lost part of yourself. Believing that investment is stable and will never go away, it makes that loss all the more painful and bitter, because you come to rely on it. Creating this investment in a character and belief in their success, is the fundamental setup for effectively getting emotional involvement from the audience.

By setting her up in this way they manipulate you through the game mechanics to feel the loss when she’s killed. Which by the way ties into the games central themes of death and loss, making them palpable to the player in that moment. It’s a great bit of game design and would work super well on me… if I used her/cared about her story at all.