Meeting Ike was one of the most critical moments of my childhood.
Honestly, I didn’t realize just how much Ike and the world he inhabits influenced and inspired me growing up. After I became more aware of my emotions, and reflected upon my past, I noticed that the values Ike held had been absorbed and played out to me subconsciously, affecting some of my actions and perspectives. I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here though. Let’s start from the beginning.
First of all, who is Ike? Well, he’s the lead protagonist in the 9th installment of the Fire Emblem series, Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, and one of the many playable protagonists in the sequel title, Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn. I first met him in his debut title back in 2005. I was 15 at the time, and video games were one of the main driving forces keeping me somewhat emotionally stable and “out of trouble” (Along with drawing). I had been able to play the previous Fire Emblem titles that were released on the Game Boy Advance previously, and was very excited to play through a 3D FE title.
Now, my mother had two children with that man she married, and even though there was blatant favoritism being given to my new two younger brothers from that man, I was surprisingly close to my siblings. (More so towards the older of the two brothers, as my youngest brother was born with autism, which made it harder to bond with him. I still love him though!)
That said, my brother and I really bonded over this particular game, mainly because Ike and the narrative he was apart of spoke to us. It respectfully discussed the subject of racism and the harsh and very real impacts it has on society. It spoke of slavery, resentment, bigotry, and how ignorance of others can cause a lot of confusion and avoidable pain. As two black children, this was incredibly powerful and meaningful to us, and the fact that Ike always made a point to denounce racism, call it out, and try to bring people together… I honestly can’t put into words just how much that touched me. Ike made me feel as if I had value, like my existence was being acknowledged, and that I was worth something. Maybe this sounds somewhat over-dramatic, but you have to consider that I was being raised in a very toxic environment where my basic emotional and physical needs were not being met. Simply to witness someone being kind, and expressing how he has no intention of treating others differently just because of their race made me feel visible to the world.
There isn’t much black representation in video games, especially at that time. It’s gotten much better over the years of course, but we still have a very long way to go. My main source of comfort back then was through the media of video games.-- And by not seeing many others that looked like me within those worlds, I, just as many other minorities, felt alienated. Even if most of the people of Ike’s world didn’t look like me, the mere fact that he recognized that people are different, and shouldn’t be treated poorly because of that, was far more than enough to inspire me, and make me feel included within his world.
Back to the point about my brother, over the years, we grew apart, which was very painful, but it’s just something that happens. However, the one element to this day that we’re still able to bond over is Ike. For everything that Ike stands for and has inspired us with growing up, we’re able to get together and reminiscence over our days as kids venturing with the mercenary. When my brother's in town, we’ll usually boot up whatever iteration of Super Smash Brothers is out at the time, and he’ll challenge me to a duel with Ike!