Refugee politics in Final Fantasy XII

I’m slowly but surely making my way through Final Fantasy XII (I have ever so many other things to do), and I’ve just come to a place called Mt. Bur-Omisace. It is the religious enclave of the Kiltias, and it serves as a refugee camp for people who’ve lost their homes in recent wars. I couldn’t simply ignore the parallels between this in-game situation and real-world situations like refugees from Darfur and Baghdad. The game’s designers were definitely making a political statement here. I’ve seen many a fantastic location in role-playing games, but not as often a shelter for refugees of war, so I felt like digging a little bit deeper.

Here are some quotes from the game that further illustrate the parallels I am talking about. First up are some quotes from the Kiltias, the people running the pilgrimage destination cum refugee camp.

More than ten thousand souls find peace on Mr. Bur-Omisace. Our doors are open to all. The blessings of the gods be with you. Faram.

This quote helps give some numerical context. Ten thousand is not a small-sized refugee camp. From what I gather, “Faram” is the Kiltias version of the Christian “Amen”.

Ah, not another refugee. I can see you’re weary. Please, eat and rest. You are safe here.

Every day we welcome more refugees seeking the protection of the Kiltias, and our capacity to feed and shelter them grows ever more strained.

We cannot feed the refugees indefinitely, but must give them the means to feed themselves. If only one could magick foodstuffs…

The elders are concerned about the future of our mountain. Are the ever-swelling waves of refugees a sign of more evil to come? Faram.

Resources are increasingly being strained, and the number of refugees is ever-increasing, much like many places here in the real world. We also see an in-the-game-world version of the popular real world aphorism “Teach a man to fish…”

The refugees’ numbers are growing, while the pilgrims’ decrease. It is sad. I would think the faith vital in times such as these.

In the real world as in the game, mere faith doesn’t solve anything. Only actions can solve problems. Faith not backed up by action is worthless; faith backed up by action is worthy, but not because of anything having to do with faith.

We Kiltias live on the gifts of believers. In the past, Nabradia and Dalmasca, too, gave generously, but those days are no more.

Now we switch over to quotes from the refugees themselves, which also help to clarify the situation with Nabradia and Dalmasca, two small nations that were invaded by Archadia, which is a very large imperalist nation (sound familiar?).

Me? I was born in Nabradia. My village was burned to the ground in the war two years ago, and I made my way here. I envy you Dalmascan folk. Even an occupation’s better than seeing your home and everything you loved reduced to a pile of ashes.

Dalmasca is a kingdom that was overwhelmed in a short war against a much superior power and is now suffering an occupation. There is an underground resistance movement (an insurgency, if you will) that has had some violent clashes with the occupiers.

This is not the best land upon which to make a living, but here we are safe from armies and fiends. That is enough.

At home, I chased rats in the gutters — for food, not for sport. Here I sleep with my belly full each day. It is like paradise, you see.

We are refugees from the Republic of Landis, fallen to the Empire long ago…before you were born, son. When we first came here, there were few of us enough. Now, the fires of war rage outside, and we are close to overflowing.

The first two quotes help establish a general feeling of past hopelessness and current hope as expressed by the refugees. The third quote speaks of an impending war between Archadia and Rozarria, the two superpowers in the game. This part may not seem familiar to us in real life just yet … although the way things are going, is it really so far off?

They say the Gran Kiltias Anastasis can silence a king, or even an emperor, with a single withering glare. What I want to know is, why does he hide up here on this mountain? He should be down there, stopping those warmongers.

The Gran Kiltias Anastasis is the religious figure who is the leader of Mt. Bur-Omisace. The last sentence in this quote is particularly insightful: humanity is doomed to suffer strife and violence when good people stand idle rather than take proactive measures. Just to continue the running analogy: what if the U.S. Congress hadn’t passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002? The Gran Kiltias Anastasis may also be analogous to the Pope, who opposes the war but hasn’t really done anything to stop it or ease the suffering it has caused. I suppose it is cynical to say that maybe he would be doing more if the ones suffering were Catholics rather than Muslims, but I am sure there is a large grain of truth to this.

The sheer amount of effort put into the back story of just this small in-game location is what makes Final Fantasy XII such a good game. It is really incomparable to what most people traditionally consider a videogame to be. All put together, the volume of information told through the game could fill a medium-sized novel, and it’s not merely pointless fantasy contrivances, either. There are poignant parallels here to the real world, and they are enlightening to examine and ponder over. I only hope others who are playing the game are getting as much out of it.

I now return you to your regularly scheduled program of grinding mobs for EXP that has no political overtones whatsoever. Because sometimes one wants to play a game to get away from the sorry state of the world today.

3 Responses to “Refugee politics in Final Fantasy XII”

  1. K Says:

    Yeah, I just went through the temple there and got a useless sword that can destroy nethicite. Prepare for an easy esper battle.

  2. Dyneus Says:

    I thought the game had disappointing character development and a lackluster story. It began very well but didn’t have the same emotional climax as FF10.

    Mt. Bur-Omisace was a pretty sweet area though for exactly the reasons you stated.

  3. Cyde Weys Says:

    I guess I can’t highly recommend the game, because I stopped playing not long after Mt. Bur-Omisace. I just got bored. It was during the long journey to the enemy kingdom (Archadia was it?). So much running around and fighting bad guys, so much expensive equipment to buy (with so little money), and so little fun, too.