Our parents used to say that video games are a “waste of time,” and a “bad influence on the minds of your generation.” There was even once a group of parents who tried to ban FPS (First-Person Shooter) games due to a belief that they would cause kids to be violent. However, video games can provide important commentary on modern society, such as the games in the Persona series by ATLUS.
The Persona franchise is a spinoff of the internationally acclaimed Shin Megumi Tensei (SMT) franchise developed by Japanese developers, ATLUS. SMT games usually involve using a group of demons based on figures from mythology and religion to alter the world — for better or for worse. The Persona franchise keeps the mythical and religious motifs, but focuses on how humans are affected by the abstract, represented in Persona 3, 4, and 5. Persona 3 focused on death and how its inevitability affects life, Persona 4 focuses on the necessity of searching for truth, and Persona 5 focuses on the human race’s attachment to freedom. Persona 5 in particular has been the most thought-provoking game in the franchise so far.
The antagonist is a National Diet Member (Essentially Japan’s Congress) who is aiming to become Prime Minister. But this antagonist is using the supernatural forces to manipulate the minds of important government officials, to stir up public anxiety, and drive support for a new leader. While the antagonist pretends to be a caring individual in front of the cameras, he actually has no faith in his country’s people and believes he was chosen by God to lead Japan on the right path. For that reason, he does not feel any remorse for all the atrocities that he orders throughout the game. Despite all that, the antagonist wins the election for Prime Minister of Japan, though after the election he confesses to his crimes due to the actions of the protagonist’s party. The problem is what happens in the aftermath of his confession. Even though he confessed to the destabilization of Japan for the purpose of political gain, the Japanese people still assume that he is innocent and continue to support him. It is here that the themes of Persona begin to meld with reality.
In the game, people of Japan have become apathetic to the world around them. They believe that voting for the antagonist will free them from any worries in life. To that end, they have stopped questioning their leaders and are willing to give up their free will. In the game, people have given up their hopes and dreams in exchange for being provided order by some “god” (SMT tends to involve battling gods). Even though life returns to normal in the end, Persona 5 caused me to ask the question: how far are people willing to go for a sense of safety?
Previously, I have written about the popularity of Dr. Fauci during the pandemic, despite his constant flip-flopping on everything from masks to vaccines. That is just one of the many examples of Americans giving up their freedoms without a second thought. Another example is the slow degradation of free speech in the United States. We have had “journalists” call for the censorship of people under the guise of “harm reduction”. The New York Times, one of the biggest advocates for the Russia Hoax, has called for the Biden Administration to create a Ministry of Truth to fight “disinformation”. Public university campuses have fostered an environment where supposed “intellectuals” believe people should be punished for hate speech. Elected officials have asked cable companies to cut access to certain news networks that question the 2020 election results. I have not read 1984, but I have read the Babylon Bee, and the Orwellian policies the “Democratic” Party and “liberals” are calling for are worrying. But that is just one aspect of the dumbing down of American society.
Another one of the important themes in Persona 5 is the idea that there are times when rebellion is necessary. That is most likely why the antagonist of the game is a corrupt government official. Heck, the US exists today because the Founding Fathers, despite their many faults, believed that rebellion was necessary. 2020 has shown just how tyrannical some of these government officials can be under the guise of “providing safety.” People have lost their livelihoods due to the mandated lockdowns that governors across the nation have enacted, and business owners who have disobeyed the edicts have been throttled by the state. What makes it even worse is that these officials have violated their own COVID policies while punishing their constituents for doing the same. Unlike the main villain, these officials are not killers (with the possible exceptions of Whitmer and Cuomo, but that is a debate for another time). The officials say they are protecting the lives of their constituents, but when the riots came and went during Summer 2020, the truth of the tyranny became apparent.
The same officials who gave long-winded speeches about wanting to protect the lives of Americans were apathetic when rioters started setting cities on fire in the name of fighting systematic racism. Why white leftists believed looting and burning down black neighborhoods and business was a good idea is beyond me. Either way, the spike in crime was around the same time that these (mostly Democrat) city councils were voting to defund their police. In other words, the tyrants shut down the businesses of their constituents, allowed their property to get destroyed, and continued to blame it all on President Trump. The result of this string of dumb decisions was the record high number of gun sales in 2020. A large portion of these buyers were first-time gun owners. While some people such as Alyssa Milano see this spike and become scared of the results, this can be seen as people taking initiative in their lives. Though the intent may not be to rebel against the government (except for maybe the Boogaloos), people are still making decisions for themselves and taking responsibility for their own lives instead of relying on the powers of a false god like in Persona 5.
The Biden administration seems to want Americans to be ever dependent on the federal government to solve all the problems. So it seems that for Americans to move forward, they need a form of governance that focuses on freedom and the individual rather than trying to take people’s freedom while telling people they are being protected. If we as Americans cannot do that, then we are heading towards the bad ending of Persona 5.