Ten years ago today, March 28th, 2012, one of the most influential games of the past generation of video games was released. It was developed by Squaresoft (now Square Enix), a company known for their RPGs and more specifically, the Final Fantasy series. This game was called Kingdom Hearts, and it was a very risky investment. The game features original characters, but crosses over with Disney, bringing the worlds and characters together in an incredible adventure that was both familiar and new. A Final Fantasy/Disney crossover sounds odd in theory, but somehow the series found a way to bring RPG gameplay into a magical journey we are all familiar with. Ten years and seven games later (excluding 3D and mobile titles), Kingdom Hearts is a full-fledged franchise, out of a humble beginning on the PlayStation 2. No one knew the success the series would earn. It was a 50/50 risk; either the idea would fail, or it would open up new opportunities for stories, characters and enjoyment that could be shared with the young and the old.
Kingdom Hearts saved my life. I’ve suffered from clinical depression for six years; I’m almost 20 now. Video games have been better therapy to me than anything else, including medication. When I’m playing a game, I’m no longer myself. I am the character in the game I’m playing, I feel what the character is feeling, and I’m in the world of that the character is in. It may sound nerdy or even crazy to some, but when I’m feeling depressed, playing a game gets my mind off of everything around me. I play the Kingdom Hearts series more than any other franchise, perhaps only second to Final Fantasy, and it has helped me through hours and hours of my own torment.
When I first found Kingdom Hearts, it was a couple of years after it was released, sometime around 2004, and at this point I wasn’t depressed. But this was my introduction to the series, the game that started my love for it. I was spending the night with my sister and her boyfriend. Both of them were asleep, so I was by myself in the apartment. Her boyfriend had a PlayStation 2; I didn’t have one at the time, so I was very interested in what it could offer me. I played a few games for a little while (and had even played Final Fantasy X, my favorite game) and then I came across Kingdom Hearts. I was very confused when I saw the cover, but was very intrigued as well. I saw the Disney logo, with Donald, Goofy and other characters on it that I didn’t recognize. I played it for a couple of hours, longer than any other game I had played that night. I hadn’t gone back over there so I hadn’t played it in awhile, until a few months later when I borrowed his PS2 and games with it. That’s when I found it again, started playing it, and instantly fell in love with it once more. I played it every day.
Twenty hours later, I had beaten it, but the ending left me wanting more. I remember as soon as the credits rolled, I jumped on my computer to see if there was a sequel. Sure enough, new details had just surfaced around Kingdom Hearts II, and from that point on, I was hooked. As it turns out, right when I was starting to feel depressed, the second game came out. It was just a few months later. I had always stayed locked in my room, sitting around playing a game. But what is mainly a hobby or interest for some, this time alone was a savior to me. Instead of moping around in my own suffering, I was actually fixing myself. At this time I didn’t know it, but looking back, it definitely kept my head held high. Every day I would come home from a terrible day of school, a long day of feeling like I just wanted to be left alone. It was something to look forward to, a feeling that I hadn’t felt very often. I’d arrive home and just play for hours, but with no one knowing what I was actually doing: I was saving myself from suicide. I was no longer myself. It was the only happiness I could find, the only comfort. I was slowly dying inside, but just like Sora, I had to fight the darkness.
Ten years, seven games, 605 hours played and hundreds of levels gained, I am now a better person because of Kingdom Hearts. In short, it saved my life. Only excluding a few people, nothing else in my life has made such a huge impact on me than video games and Kingdom Hearts specifically. Though I still suffer from depression, it’s pretty much controlled now, but I still turn to video games for comfort and therapy that nothing else can give me. Call me any name you want — nerd, dork, pathetic — but I owe my life to these games. With a new game in the series coming out, Dream Drop Distance, I am looking forward to many more years and many more hours played of Kingdom Hearts.
Kingdom Hearts — 158 hours played
Kingdom Hearts II — 196 hours
Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories — 20 hours, 39 minutes
Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories — 55 hours
Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days — 45 hours, 35 minutes
Kingdom Hearts Re:coded — 42 hours, 10 minutes
Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep — 87 hours, 51 minutes
That’s a total of 605 hours. I await many more.