We live in a society that punishes those who try to retain their individuality and rewards those who give in to the hive mind, those who follow the trends, those who throw away their individuality in order to fit in with the crowd, to become 'normal'. This theme has been explored through various different viewpoints in various different mediums such as literature, movies and in this instance video games.
The Nature of Society and the Effects it has on the Individual:
Part One: The Individual in Society
In the game you play as a human-horse hybrid who defends a single large gem against various enemies, such as goblins and skeletons. While one can see this as rather simplistic, I believe that the gameplay has a deeper more complex symbolism and meaning. As mentioned previously, I believe Final Guardian is a direct commentary on herd mentality and the effect it has on ones individuality and mental state. The gem which the player defends can be interpreted as ones individuality, and the various enemies faced can be seen as the group mentality, who try and strip the player of his or her individuality, to make the player another one of them. This is made obvious through the design and colour of the enemies and the playable character, as the playable character is drawn with bright colours which is juxtaposed with the drab green and brown colouring of the enemies. There is also a rather small selection of enemies, symbolising what society has turned into, symbolising the lack of individual thought in today's society. One of the best examples of the group mentality and peer pressure is high school. I believe the environment in high school to be one of the most toxic on the planet, only second to the internet and Jacksonville, Florida. Everyone knows what high school was like, everyone knows about the toxicity, the bullying and even if you were part of a popular clique i'm sure you would have at least seen kids who were bullied for being 'weird' or different. People were bullied, or at least harassed every once in a while, for being different, for being too quiet, for liking certain things, for being socially awkward, for studying too hard, etc... I could go on for days, but basically people were excluded for being different, for doing something differently from what was perceived by the majority as 'normal'. High school is just one example, but this exclusion and bullying can be found everywhere, and it is greatly damaging to society. One of the great things about people is that we are all different, that we all have our own different interests and personalities. The media and, what seems like, most of society has been saying that for years and years, with campaigns and protests on racial and gender equality, it seems as if society wants people to accept diversity and people who are different. So why does society seem to want to reject anything which doesn't fit with its own beliefs?
Part Two, The Effects of Herd Mentality on the Individual
While the message of individuality is quite strong on its own, I believe the deepest, most striking and emotional part of this game is the reaction of the character to the enemies and how the character defends his or her individuality.
What can one do when they are under attack, under attack for no reason other than the fact that he is different from another's idea of normal? One really only has two options, join the group, do what the group does and give up on ones individuality, or one can build barriers around oneself, complete removing themselves from the herd, isolating themselves from society. Of course on can also try to create an understanding, but things rarely work out this way, as humans are hardwired to reject things which seem foreign to them, it is in our nature and it is very hard to break the habit of rejecting and attacking those which one doesn't understand.
One of the main mechanics of the gameplay is building walls, structures and various autonomous weaponry to defend the jewel from the enemies. Through this mechanic the games explores the option of isolating oneself from the herd. The game forces the player to build walls around the jewel, allowing none to get close. As the player builds more and more barriers, the player becomes more and more isolated from the enemies, from the group. While isolation and building barriers may be an effective way to remove the risk of losing one's individuality, it comes with a great, inescapable but somewhat calming loneliness.
Conclusion - Life, It's Meaning, and the Struggle to Find True Happiness
The search for the meaning of life has been going on for many millennia, it is one of the greatest mysteries in this world and the true answer seems to be incredibly far away and unreachable. Though we may never get a definitive 'correct' answer, there are still a few theories as to what it could be. The meaning which I believe to be the 'best' meaning of life is that the true meaning of life is to attain and experience true happiness. True happiness can be found in many places, whether it be starting a family with a person who you truly love, or achieving a goal which you have been chasing for your whole life, both of these are examples of 'real' or 'true' happiness, happiness obtained through ones honest and hard effort, or through spending time with ones they truly love. This is the real message of this game, treasure the things which are truly important to you, whether it be a dream, your family or you own individuality, treasure the things that make you 'you'. Don't let others take it away from you and always be yourself, because that is what is important in life, not 'fitting in' or being 'normal' or popular. Live everyday as yourself, don't pretend to be someone you aren't so that people will like you, because you wont find true happiness that way. That is what this game is trying to tell us, be yourself, value your individuality, and don't let anyone else change you.