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How a Depressed Kid Was Saved by 'Kingdom Hearts'

I guess, in the end, Donald did heal me.

Image credit to Sally Nguyen

I haven't exactly had the happiest life or childhood. We were a poor family, and growing up, I had an abusive stepfather. Nowadays, things are better, and despite my depression, it's often manageable. But I never would've made it this far alone.

One day, when I was maybe 6 or 7, I came home from school to find a nice new toy. Sitting in my usual playroom was a big CRT TV, and in front of it, a Playstation 2 and a stack of games. I had played video games before, we had an Xbox I played with my mom sometimes, and my stepfather had a PS2 of his own, which I often played while he was away, either at work or the bar or something, risking a beating if he would catch me when he arrived home. Of course, it was worth it, given my situation, to have another form of escapism that could grab me easier than books or TV. I looked at the games I got with the system. A few weren't too exciting, but eventually became ones I love now, ATV: Offroad Fury, Pac-Man World 2, then there were three that my father also had, both of which I had secretly played, Final Fantasy X, X-2, and XII, and finally, at the top of the pile, Kingdom Hearts. This is the one game that truly captured me, the one I hadn't played but was entirely excited for. The colorful images of Disney characters mixed with characters like Cloud Strife and Squall Leonhart, which I had read about but never got the pleasure to play as. That had to be the first game I played. Immediately, I was hit with a line that killed the little aspiring writer and future emo kid that I was then. 

"I've been having these weird thoughts lately... Like, is any of this for real? Or not?" 

Then I was thrown into my first taste of energetic, Japanese music with the opening "Simple and Clean" by Utada Hikaru, which did a proper job of getting me pumped. The trippy effects and beautiful imagery that played along with the music all blended together into an energy that managed to sweep me off my feet. No longer was I 7-year-old Eleanor Graves. I was now 12-year-old Sora, on his quest to defeat the darkness, find his friends, and find King Mickey.

The game had everything that a young kid who didn't know that they were depressed needed. Fun, cheery atmosphere, charismatic, relatable characters, a main character who left everything behind for adventure and, most importantly, messages of keeping the light in your heart lit, despite the darkness. Even after being consumed by darkness, forcibly by the hand of others, and turned into a Heartless, Sora still manages to keep his light lit. If he could do it, so could I right? When I was little, I didn't quite understand why the game resonated with me so much other than the fact that the game was fun and was a great way to just get away. I could hang out with my friends whenever I wanted, and through the game, I've made some great friends in real life whom I'm still friends with to this day. Because of it, I've found reasons to keep going, and every time I've had moments of darkness, either the series, or a lesson I learned from the series, always kept me going. 

Nowadays, Kingdom Hearts has become known for having one of the most convoluted and confusing plots in video game history, and I can't exactly disagree. But two themes kept coming back every game; finding strength in your friends, and using the light to defeat the darkness. Although I only talked about the first game here, every game in the series holds a special game in my heart, aside from Coded and Chain of Memories. These games gave me something to relate to other people with and make friends. Over the years, I've accumulated a lot of friends, and I love them dearly and use them as a great source of power. But it never would've happened without these games. I didn't make it this far without my fair share of battles with the darkness, I have the scars to show it, and even now, the darkness isn't and never will be fully defeated, but I'm glad to say that I've made it this far without losing my heart. Kingdom Hearts comes out in January, eight days after my 20th birthday, in fact, and the Seeker Saga will come to a close, drawing the curtain on my dearest friends. While I'm sad to see them go, I can't express the happiness and hope of knowing that their story mirrors mine, they've grown and fought just as hard as I have, and will soon reach the pay off for their actions. I'm excited for the end.

"The heart may be weak, and sometimes, it may even give in. But I know, that deep down, there's a Light that never goes out!" -Sora, Kingdom Hearts, 2002
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