Hello dear readers and welcome to the second of my collaboration reposts! If you missed my previous post, it was a repost of my piece originally written for the Normal Happenings collaboration – The Games That Define Us – and today I’m reposting my piece from last year’s collaboration – The Characters That Define Us. So come join me to find out who that is and why!
As I said last time, taking part in these big collaborations was a wonderful experience. One thing I really enjoyed about it which I don’t think I mentioned before was the process of actually writing the pieces. Both this article and the previous one took a long time to write and involved a great deal of thought and soul searching. I hope you enjoy this piece, and please do take the time to explore the other entries in this collaboration. The stories told were as amazing as they were varied, so I really think you’ll find something to enjoy!
For now though, lets take a look at the character that defines me, who unsurprisingly is from my favourite game – Xenoblade Chronicles (for which this article contains *spoilers*).
Hello. My name is Pix and the character that defines me is Reyn from Xenoblade Chronicles.
Wait! That can’t be right! Let’s try that again…
Hello! My name is Pix and the character that defines me is Reyn from Xenoblade Chronicles!!!!
…hmm, OK, it came out the same that time but with more exclamation marks, I guess it must be true. But how on earth could that dunder-headed tank of a man, who revels in coming up with catchphrases that include his own name, be the character that defines me? Well it might take a while to explain, but that’s OK because I guess at long last it is finally Reyn Time.
This in itself is an unfinished story. The extent to which Reyn has had a defining impact on my life is not yet fully realised. Let’s call it a work in progress. To start my explanation I want to say that this wasn’t an obvious or easy choice. As with my choice for 2018’s epic collaboration The Games That Defines Us, I struggled for a long time to choose a character. I think it is interesting how some people have that one character or game that they automatically associate with themselves. I don’t seem to think about things in those terms until someone actually asks me to, but here we are!
There are many characters I love, including a few that have been with me since childhood. I make deep connections to characters in video games. This is true to the point that years after finishing a game I often find myself missing characters as if they were old friends. I made a list in advance of my decision which had 15 names on it. They were almost all ‘serious’ characters. You know the type – tragic pasts, complex emotions, heroes with inner demons, people in terrible circumstances etc etc. I got the list down to four and then stared at it for days. I whittled it down until there were no names left on it. These were characters I respected, ones I felt a deep emotional connection to, but somehow I just didn’t think they defined me…
…and then it came to me. I was looking for answers in all the wrong places. The character that defines me did not have to have a deep backstory or have experienced pain, trauma and tragedy. Quite frankly, why would a character like that define me? The thing with these characters is that they often live in extraordinary circumstances. Some of them are royalty, possess supernatural powers or are in some way destined to save the world. But that is not me. I am not special in that way. I am just a girl living in the world and no one expects me to do anything extraordinary. So instead of choosing a hero I chose someone simpler. Someone I can understand and who inspires me despite his lack of graces. Yep! I chose Reyn!
Now it might sound as if I’m being a little mean about the poor boy so let’s get some background. For those not familiar with Reyn, he is a playable character in Monolith Soft’s epic 2010 JRPG Xenoblade Chronicles. In battle he is your typical tank character – massive, strong and doesn’t know when to stop. In fact, I’m pretty sure when I played the game he was the character who got KO’d the most because he just charges in without a second thought. Outside of battle he is remarkably similar to how he is in battle – he doesn’t really think twice about his choice of words and isn’t averse to making the odd cheeky comment about his teammates. He is well known for his terrible but hilarious catch phrases, such as “It’s Reyn Time!” and “You can’t have a rainbow without Reyn, baby!”.
So what is it that really draws me to Reyn? It certainly isn’t that I resemble him in any way. Instead, it is that he inspires me through his personality, his determination, and the role he fulfils. In terms of his role, I don’t mean his role as the tank, or indeed his role as the ‘light relief’, although that is something I enjoy very much. Instead I am referring to his role as the best friend of the games’ protagonist, Shulk (about whom you can learn more during this collaboration thanks to the wonderful writings of Lodestar Valor – I hope you are really feeling it my friend!).
Shulk and Reyn grew up together in Colony 9, where Shulk was a quiet but intelligent kid obsessed with researching a sword called the Monado. Reyn on the other hand was a bit of a loudmouth who wound up being a member of the colony’s Defence Force and frequently found himself in trouble with the Force’s Commander. Despite their different trajectories the pair had a strong friendship. When all hell breaks loose in the colony, Reyn doesn’t hesitate in supporting his best friend’s quest for vengeance. At this point in the game Reyn is the real powerhouse in the party, and it seems unlikely that Shulk would have got terribly far without him. Throughout the course of the game, Shulk will go on to gain great powers and wield the potential to change the future. Reyn will not gain any mystical powers or be heralded as anything other than himself, but throughout the game he plays a vital support role which allows Shulk to flourish.
His loyalty in itself is something we can probably all be inspired by, but Reyn is not without his flaws. Although he is often played for laughs, the frequency at which he flies off the handle is quite a problematic personality trait and really doesn’t help him to build relationships with the other members of the party. He clearly struggles to contain his emotions and on top of that comes across as a little emotionally naive, developing feelings for someone who is not in a position to reciprocate. Whilst he appears confident, perhaps even overly-so, there are points in the game where we see real self-doubt from him when he realises that he doesn’t have the power to protect Shulk. Considering his self-appointed role as Shulk’s defender, this must be really difficult for him, but in the end his understanding of his own weaknesses just makes him try harder.
I noted at the start of my ramblings that one of my reasons for picking Reyn is that I see him as being relatable because he isn’t a hero type. I have also described his role and personality, including his faults. But in what way do I relate all this to myself? As I’ve already noted, I am absolutely nothing like him. I’m not a tank, I don’t have many dumb catchphrases and on top of it all, I’m not always a very good friend. I also don’t have a defined role in this world that I am happy to call my own. Whereas Reyn has a role he will not let go of, I have struggled for as long as I can remember to work out what my role actually is.
It is hard to explain what I mean by this – there are lots of awesome things in my life that are incredibly important to me, from personal relationships to hobbies, but somehow I have this constant nagging feeling of being unfulfilled by my contribution to the world. Even when I think I’ve found something that could fill that hole, I lack the persistence to see it through. I am constantly afraid of looking foolish. I am so scared of being wrong that I often make no contribution at all. But just imagine if Reyn thought like that. If he did, Shulk would almost certainly never have reunited with Fiora and their world would probably have been destroyed. Even though he doubts himself and even though he lets his emotions overtake him, Reyn knows exactly what his role is and never gives up his pursuit of it. He doesn’t leave Shulk’s side just because he doubts his own strength. He doesn’t change his attitude or apologise just because the others might make fun of him. He is resolutely and unashamedly himself at all times, and that is how I want to be.
I said at the start that this was an unfinished story. That is because I have not yet found the courage to let my inner Reyn loose on society. It is after all terribly scary to put yourself out there and just go for it. But with Reyn, I have found a character that has done that despite his failings and so given me hope that I can do the same. He proves over and over again that you don’t need to be a leader to be a good friend. He shows that your own importance should not be measured against the deeds of others. He shows me that being quite ordinary can in fact be extraordinary. He has taught me, even with all his dunder-headed comments and rash battle tactics, that all you really need to do is be yourself and look out for those you care about. All the achievements and grandeur in the world mean nothing if you can’t get those simple things right. Reyn inspires me to want to up my game and find my role, even if all I’ll ever be is a girl living in the world.
So there we go! That is the story of why Reyn defines me! Who’d have thought?! I hope you enjoyed reading these pieces and that you will join me again soon for more ramblings about my life in video games.
Thanks for reading,
*Featured image by Normal Happenings