This is a guest post written by Zack Shively, Marketing & Logistics Manager of The Smile Project Road Trip.
I was thinking about one of my favorite games, Chrono Trigger, the other day (and when I say “the other day,” I actually mean every third minute of every day). My thinking of the game sprouted from my musings of kindness in the video games I have played. Granted that’s not a whole lot, but the ones I have played tend to mean a lot to me and Chrono Trigger is certainly up there with the most meaningful.
Chrono Trigger was released on August 11, 1995 in North America for the Super Nintendo gaming console. I was a month and a little change away from turning two. However, it was rereleased for the Playstation console on June 29, 2001 as a part of the Final Fantasy Chronicles collection. I was seven and staring at eight, and my life was about to change forever. Well, to the extent of any piece of meaningful media you experience changes your life.
The game features so many interesting twists and turns throughout its story. The heroes of the story accidentally time-travel to the past, and then return to the present, where they are forced to escape, causing them to purposely travel to the future, where they learn about an evil alien parasite named Lavos that brings about the apocalypse, so then they travel back-and-forth through time to gain strength and stop Lavos from destroying the Earth.
The three main human characters become companions with a frogman, cavewoman, and a robot whose music theme definitely sounds like Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.” And while that may sound like insane gibberish to the nth degree, it, uh, kind of is. But it’s also full of moments that are touching, fun, and exciting.
But it all starts at a fair. And that’s what I want to focus on here. Once you walk into the festival, you’re greeted with whimsical, joyous music that always brings a smile to my face, both when I first played it and now (the whole soundtrack is amazing, in fact, and I recommend listening to it on Spotify because wow it’s so good). The game presents the player with a bright, eventful celebration where the player can watch a footrace, go to a funhouse, and play one of those games where you test your strength by hitting a lever with a hammer and attempting to make the object on the other side of the lever hit the and ring a bell. Google tells me that game is called High Strikers... You can play High Strikers at the fair.
You can also help a young child in need. On one side of the fair, you meet a sad girl who has lost her cat. On the opposite side, you see a cat. If you interact with the cat, it will follow you. If you take the cat back over to the girl, she rewards you greatly with...just a thank you.
Many games of its ilk have you do similar quests, but always for something in return. Dragon Quest games are notorious for the amount of quests you can do to help random people throughout the game’s world, but you always receive a valuable item in return.
Another game called Terranigma has you go around the game’s world passing along items and knowledge. This results in any small village in the game turning into bustling metropolis, which obviously you should feel good about, but at the end of the day, the reward isn’t seeing the expansion of these towns, it’s building these towns up to get better stores, and thus better equipment for the main character. Even more recent games like Ni No Kuni: The Curse of the White Witch see you doing kind acts for the explicit purpose of further gain for yourself.
I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing. The games are rewarding players for being a good person, and in turn, promoting good acts. The thing I like about it in Chrono Trigger, though, is that you do the act because it’s the right thing to do. The game creates a scenario that allows you to do something nice for the sake of being nice rather than expecting something in return. I think it's good for kids to see that.
And to be fair, your decision does come into play mildly later in the game when the main character is on trial and the young girl speaks to your character as a good person, but the result of the trial is unaffected by whether she does that or not.
So it’s irrelevant if you save this cat or not...and yet, any time I play the beginning of this game, I always give the little girl her cat.