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Sight without Vision: Ignis and the Impact of Integrity} ?>
The glasses-wearing Ignis is a character who makes sharp-sighted observations, despite his “passable vision,” in Final Fantasy XV. His attention to detail certainly helps when Prince Noctis, the protagonist of the game, is vulnerable to unforeseen dangers—which in Ignis’s book is everything from a hidden assassin to an unraveling button.
But Ignis’s perception reaches a crossroads in his DLC side-story, Episode Ignis, when he is shown a vision of Prince Noctis’ imminent death. His good judgement is thrust into my hands and I can choose to “save” Noctis from his canon fate and alter the end-game… if I’m willing to follow the villain for a time.
But this choice comes at the cost of compromise. In “playing along” with the villain rather than fighting him outright, I feel I’ve put a hairline crack in Ignis’s uncompromising integrity—his oath to remain loyal to Noctis. Such a choice might be considered developmental for other characters, but Ignis is written to be a personification of medieval loyalty: the type of guy who could rub shoulders (and skillets) with Samwise Gamgee.
Ironically, I feel like I am betraying Ignis by taking this path, even though the cooperation is a facade.
But I do it. Ignis declares (through unhinged rasps) that the world means nothing to him and that Noctis must be saved at the cost of all else. I’m more disquieted than moved. Gone is the Ignis who rebuked others for trying to force Noctis into becoming king and saviour. Though well-intentioned, Ignis fails to be true to himself and loses sight of his role as a result; instead of helping Noctis “share the load” of his fateful mission, Ignis snatches it completely from Noctis’ shoulders, determining the prince’s fate without his consent.
Yes, Noctis survives in this more idealistic ending. But without the prince willingly paying the blood price, the immortal villain is presumably forced into mere retreat for a future king to deal with. In focusing only on the flaring emotions and demands of his immediate circumstances, Ignis develops tunnel vision—and, as a result, so does Noctis. The absolute restoration of the future is exchanged for the preservation of the present. Instead of “pressing onward” as he vowed, Ignis stands still. And with Noctis on its throne, so does the world.
It might seem dramatic that the fate of the world depends on where Ignis sets his focus, but research in psychology has shown that a strong vision—a personal mental picture of the future—can shape our realities. Biologically, our eyes hoard 66% of our brain’s processing power and internalize twice as much information as all our other senses combined. No wonder 70% of us would rather give up 10 years of our lives than go blind. Vision is not merely a convenience; for most of us, it is our ultimate source of perspective.
We naturally gravitate towards what we focus on (for a practical demonstration, try walking in a straight line while looking to the side). If our physical sight holds so much influence over which direction we go, how much more might our mind’s eye, which has the ability to shape the way we see reality?
Having a clear vision begins with deciding who we want to become (and why), as much as it does what we want to accomplish. In Final Fantasy XV, the gods show Ignis a spiritual vision of the future because of his unwavering loyalty to Noctis, knowing that Ignis will use it as a focal point to support Noctis in his eventual decision.
It’s understandable that Ignis loses sight of this end goal in the alternate route—when his despair and fear over the thought of losing Noctis override his loyalty to the prince’s will (and results in a particularly bleak ending if Ignis fails to defeat the villain in time). Biologically, the part of the brain that influences decision-making also houses our feelings. What we feel can dictate how we act, which is complicated by the fact that our feelings can cause us to see the world through a murky lens. Under pressure and fear, any view, no matter how distorted, can seem better than no view at all.
But there’s a catch. This part of the brain is also interconnected with virtues like trust and loyalty. These, and other ideals we formulate, can become habits of thought not easily swayed by emotional reflexes. That’s because long-term habits ultimately restructure our neural pathways (which make it more likely we’ll respond in a certain manner) and reframe our worldview; virtuous habits, then, can help anchor us during life’s turbulence, making it more likely that we’ll make meaningful decisions that line up with the goals we want to achieve and the person we want to become.
In the canon route, while upholding his oath to protect Noctis from the Big Bad, Ignis preserves his foresight at the expense of losing his physical eyesight. Because Ignis’s ultimate vision is to carry on Noctis’s will out of love and duty, however, he is able to reframe the loss as a “small sacrifice in the greater battle”—a stepping stone, rather than a setback, that brings him closer to realization.
Hindsight is a potent tool. Rather than simply being a passive character in the story of our lives, we can line up the inventory of everyday events, seeing what threads connect them from the past, and the multitude of ways that those threads may connect to the future. However, reflection is often difficult. It requires stillness in the midst of our bustling lives, silence of our inner critics, and revisitation of our pasts—occasionally with memories and incidents we would rather forget.
After losing his sight, Ignis serves as a visionary role-model to a grieving Noctis, who becomes directionless after the death of his fiancé. Gently, Ignis encourages Noctis to confront his despair lest he remain stuck in it. Noctis comes to realize that the blackest moments can all amount to something if he is willing to pursue something greater and honour others’ sacrifices. Ignis teaches that focusing on what can’t immediately be seen with the physical eye gives context to every moment and the motivation to follow through.
When the final confrontation comes, Noctis is able to face it alone, knowing memories of his friends will reach him across the chasm of death itself, proving once and for all to the villain that the bonds he holds with those closest to him cannot be sundered by physical separation. His vision is realized when the forms of his comrades appear on the spiritual plane to back his battle.
Later in life, despite being able to see slight changes in lighting with his damaged eyes, Ignis chooses to wear tinted visors—as though he’s shutting out the impulsive influence of the moment to fix his eyes on the future.
It is not until the final shot of Ignis’s scarred face fades to black that I realize, in a beautiful stroke of irony, he isn’t really blind. He can see with greater clarity than ever before.
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