Since the first anatomically modern humans were ambling about, they have moved in groups. Small family groups, larger tribes, extended family groups… you’ve all heard the trite phrase “man is a social animal” and it does happen to be true, scientifically speaking.

I’ve been watching Jess play Final Fantasy XIII and all the story lines seem to have something to do with family or a family group. One character’s mom dies. One is missing his son. Another, her sister. Due to all these unfortunate circumstances, a they have a suicidal drive to either avenge their fallen families or reunite them. It makes sense, given that the characters are human based, according to everything I’ve read in psychology and my dabbles in sociology and anthropology. It also makes sense that most people would be moved by these stories as a result, as they should have similar feelings. After all,  “blood is thicker than water” and “family is forever.”

It’s like watching a movie I don’t speak the language of, so I only understand pieces. I do love my sister dearly, and while I don’t think that if I was abducted my family would leave me to die, I don’t quite understand a lot of the emotions and phrases playing out on screen. My family was never the feeling expressing sort. Feelings existed and were there, but were not spoken of. Not the more positive ones, anyway. It makes me wonder about us: Would we have been different in a different time? One with more catastrophe, like in this game? What is it about people that makes them pull together in difficult times, or long for their families? What makes them fear they’ll never see them again?

I can tell you the scientific answer, and it all has to do with genes and the fact that if a species wants to survive, its genes need to be passed on. Best way to ensure the genes pass on is to install a mechanism to force one to take care of genetic offspring and those that share your genetics, even if it is only by 50% or less. I can’t tell you the emotional answer, and that troubles me for a cold, self involved reason: It makes me a poor writer if I can’t synthesize a full range of emotions in my mental alchemy lab.

Of course, I’d be lying if I said that was all it was. You know it, I know it. I’m both fascinated and repulsed by the fact that I don’t understand what seems to be a basic knowledge that you put up with your family because they’re your family. I can vaguely understand tolerating idiotic behavior from someone with 50% of my DNA that I see often or has influence over my life. It makes things a fuck lot easier if those that see you often are happy with you, and I’m terribly socially lazy. A lot of the time it’s just easier to ignore it all than bother to fuss about it. However, when people describe relationships with those outside of the 50% range, things become puzzling. I always wonder if I’m seriously missing out because while family seems to bring a lot of headaches, it also seems to bring people a lot of joy.

As I’m watching with the fascination of someone watching an ant farm, I wonder if the reason this game was so family based is not because a lot of people are not like me, but because they are like me. The world is smaller than ever, and now it isn’t uncommon for kids to move away for jobs, to abandon the lands where their family first set down roots, and rarely see each other in person. It used to be that you were with your family all the time, working beside them, running from predators with them, protecting them, feeding them, and taking care of their children. Now, we see each other through screens and talk to each other with keyboards. Humanity isn’t all that way, but where virtual communication has become more possible, people are moving farther and farther away from their families because they can worry less about “keeping in touch” with the new tech. But what happens when your only contact with someone for years is through a screen? Would you run after them if they were cursed with a horrible disease that could infect you too, just to try to save them? Or would it be easier to just weep for them, far away from them, the problem, and having not felt them elbow you in the ribs in play or ruffle your hair for years?

Maybe that’s why this game seems to be more focused around actual blood families than the Final Fantasy games I’ve known in the past, maybe we need some type of reminder.  Our playmates are taunting us from a half world away, our families are on the opposite coasts, and our friends exist on the internet.

I’m betting more people feel as unsettled and alien as I do watching this dedication to others actually being acted upon and not just paid lip service. Others that feel they’re failing the test of whatever it is to be human. With all this technology working its way farther and farther into our lives, it makes sense that we’re in danger of becoming part machine ourselves.