After a long dry spell, I've found time to play a video game. (Thanks, Winter Break!) I've busted out my PS Vita and finally, finally gotten around to playing Persona 4 Golden. It's one of the PS Vita's most beloved games, and I can see why: I'm a little over halfway through the game, and I'm still deeply engrossed in the story. I love games that are heavy on story, so a good JRPG can hold my interest for quite a while.
Persona 4 Golden is about more than grinding through battle after battle and leveling up enough to face a big boss. To maximize your potential within the game, you need to develop certain personal traits, such as courage, understanding, expression, and knowledge. You also need to strengthen your social bonds with the people around you, especially your friends and family members. Every part of every day in Persona 4 Golden can and should be used in a productive way, whether you choose to study in the library, go on a scooter ride, or chill out with your adorable little cousin.
Trying to maximize the benefits I get out of my "free time" in Persona 4 Golden is fun, but it's also interesting to think about in the context of my actual life. Trying to make sure that I'm using my time in a way that actually benefits me is easy to do in a video game, but shockingly difficult to do in reality. How many hours have I allowed to slip by because I started clicking links on Facebook? How many times have I come home and intended to read or play a board game, but ended up staring off into space instead?
Persona 4 Golden also keeps track of your relationships in a concrete way, which really makes you think about friendships. There are characters in the game that I forget to hang out with because I "see" them all the time, but I later realize that I've done nothing to actually deepen the relationship. How many friends do I see every day at work without bothering to really get to know them? I live with my boyfriend, so I see him all the time, but am I really investing enough in quality couple time?
Obviously, life isn't a video game. Sometimes you just need to veg, and relationships/me-time can't be quantified in real life. (Too bad: Think of all the knowledge points I'd get for all of the reading I do!) But maybe there is a lesson to be learned from the social mechanics of Persona 4 Golden. I love the idea that time spent reading, studying, or bonding with other people has intrinsic value. How differently would we live our lives if we felt that way outside of video games?