December 24, 2005

This little ramble has been building, well, ever since Rufus moved in, pretty much, although I think being down here is what finally catalyzed it. So this is kind of about him, and kind of about me, but mostly about cities.

I am inherently a city-girl, I think. It probably comes of being born in the largest city in New England, or at least nearly there - I always kind of think of Cambridge as being part of Boston, although it's more a suburb - and then mostly growing up in the second/third largest. These cities both have a certain sort of character to them - New England cities all do, I think. It comes of being three hundred plus years old, and having the city slowly build up around it, like sand accumulating on a beach. It means they are an absolute maze of alleys, one-ways, and rotaries (traffic circles to the rest of you), but at the same time, they start to feel almost alive. Even my city as some of that, and as a result, while I profess to hate it most of the time, I also have a strange sort of twisted affection for the place, because it has that character that many of the cities in the southwest, and down here in Florida never seem to have.

Which brings me to Midgar. I had the realization the other night that the Midgar in my head is not quite the Midgar we see in the game. Some of it is just the diffence that comes of taking a place in a game where every town consists of roughly five buildings (One inn, one item shop, one weapons shop, one house containing a plot point, and one extra) and making it into a real world. Underneath the plate always kind of registers as being like the more broken down parts of my city - it was a big Industrial Revolution boom-town, but never really got past that, and has huge sections filled with old brick factories and warehouses. Some of these have been converted and refinished - my school is in one of them - but many of them are abandoned. Likewise, when the Plate was built, in my Midgar, there were big swaths of old factories and warehouses that were mostly just abandoned. Asher and company actually live in a smaller one, the back half of which has partially collapsed, along with parts of the stairs. I think this particular view on the lower city is why I always have so much trouble imagining what it's like with the plate overhead.

Upper-plate Midgar, on the other hand, always registers as being kind of like the nicer bits of Boston. Lots of shops, nice houses (if Rufus lived in Boston, he'd totally be in one of the really fancy brownstones), with trees lining the sidewalks, and towering skyscrapers. It also always has that slightly worn quality about it - in Boston, it comes from the city's age, and in Midgar, from it's attitudes. It gives both cities that sense of depth and realism, though - that character. Shinra Tower is where game-Midgar and my-Midgar really start to diverge, though. Shinra Tower in the game has a weird sort of organic quality in it's design that could probably best be described as a Mac designer gone wild, and it doesn't fit with the rest of the design. Midgar is very much a cyberpunk city, and there is something very inherently 80s (and in my view, 90s gone nasty, although that's a matter of perspective) about cyberpunk, and in terms of design, it means steel and concrete, mirrored glass, sharp corners, and a little bit of griminess about it. So Shinra Tower always registers in my mind as one of the finanancial buildings in my downtown, which is big and rectangular and entirely done in mirrored glass on the outside. On the inside, it's more a traditional corporate builing, if a very big one with high-tech security and the like, and I'll probably always write it as such.

I've got much the same relationship with Midgar as I have with far more real cities. I must confess, when I first started playing FF7, I was a little thrown by the fact that it started in this giant, very modern city, instead of the more usual fantasy-esque landscapes of the earlier SNES games. But a couple of hours in, when it comes time to leave the city, I didn't want to go, and was rather upset when I couldn't get back in. I definately think my own feelings about Midgar, and my city, and Boston come out in Rufus and Asher and Ally's feelings towards that city. One of my vivid memories of the last year or so is taking the train into Boston the night after Claudia and I broke up, listening to the incredibly awesome Turks FST (which I will gladly share with anyone, as it's just that good), and watching the lights of the city around me as the train pulled into South Station. The feeling of that moment can't quite be captured in words, although I hope I at least touched that here.