Persona 5

The themes of Persona 5 strongly resonate with me.

Persona 5 is a giant game that takes 100 hours to complete. It's a mash of simulation and turn-based RPG in which you're a high schooler in Tokyo during the day and the leader of a group of vigilantes called the Phantom Thieves after school. The Phantom Thieves infiltrate the mind of an evildoer which is cognitively manifested as a physical place called a "palace". They reform the person by stealing the "treasure" which represents the person's distorted desire.

Without a doubt, the music is what makes the game truly exceptional. A game is a unique medium in which your own experience (in contrast with movies that you simply watch) is reinforced by multiple visual and auditory sensations. I find that music is often the most important senstation. I can only guess that we humans are wired so that music can communicate feelings that no other sensation can.

I can go on and on about the many excellent features of the game that make it one of the best games I've played. But to me, it's, above all, a game about our deep longing for justice and connection with one another.

Rotten Adults

A predominant theme of the game is a society ruled by rotten adults that take advantage of the powerless for their selfish gains. The depicted society is the one in Japan, but no matter where you are it's clearly not difficult to relate to the presence of oppression by the privileged (though I can believe that it's more palpable in a society like Japan or Korea).

Every member of the Phantom Thieves is a victim of the society in some way. The protagonist is accused of assault where in truth he was saving a woman from being harassed by a powerful politician who is held in high esteem by the masses. The first two members are brutally abused by a high school volleyball coach (the asshole Kamoshida) who is admired as an ideal instructor by the school. Persona 5 is a story of these victimized young people fighting against injustice, against all odds.

When the Phantom Thieves steal the treasure in a person's palace (after exhausting battles), the person has a "change of heart" that opens his eyes to his crimes and he cannot stop begging for justice himself. It's savagely satisfying to watch the evil collapse this way.

Friendship

Through the 100 hours of play, you develop a deeper understanding of each of your teammates. Each has his/her own share of hurts. It's remarkably rewarding to help them overcome their fears and stand up together.

A genius device that enhances this connection is texting. In the game, you get text messages from your teammates all the time on a wide range of topics such as plans for the next palace infiltration, requests for help in their own personal agenda, dates, or just hanging out. This makes you almost expect texts from your teammates outside the game. It's a good example of incorporating contemporary culture to further break down the boundary between the reality and the virtual reality.

I deeply empathized with these characters. One memorable character is Yusuke, a talented young artist who is exploited by his mentor who plagiarises his works. Even after he escapes the bondage, he continues to struggle with the question of why he pursues art. He agonizes over the tension between his own selfish desire for acclaim and recognition and his pure longing to create true beauty. As a researcher and an artist, I can relate to this struggle all too easily. He answered many of my own questions about what I'm seeking. Like him, I also seek "true beauty", be it in the form of the mathematical principles in research or certain inexpressible feelings that I experience and want to express.

Infinite Longing

A masterpiece game like Persona 5 provides a precious moment of profound realization.

My infinite longing for something hinted by the experience.

I don't know what it is, but I could feel it in the deep connection and unwavering trust between the members of the Phantom Thieves. I could feel it in working together and holding onto hope against all despair. I could feel it in the collective yearning for the ultimate triumph of justice over the wrong of this world. I long to have it someday.

The sad reality is that we live most of our lives having forgotten these feelings. We forget because we're constantly inundated with the troubles of the world. Many end up so insensitive to such feelings that anything that's not physically and financially tangible is a child's play that is to be passed as one grows older.

A feline companion in the game called Mona keeps urging "Don't forget this feeling" throughout the journey. I already know that the feeling will fade away, but I'll never forget it. It's a glimpse of what the world should be, what life is meant to be. As a member of the Phantom Thieves, I intend to keep the spirit of a rebel even if that means being foolish in the eyes of rotten adults and fighting against the whole world.

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