There are a lot of memories that are conjured up by the winter wonderland many of us are currently experiencing. To some, this month is a season of giving. It's a time where everything bears the bitter tinge of commercialism, and people tend to spend more time complaining about their commitments than embracing the many things they rightfully should be thankful for. As family and friends come together, there is much to contemplate as we celebrate the end of another year. While the sidewalks are covered in a pillow of snow and the frigid streets of my city lay barren, my thoughts are actually called elsewhere — New York, to be specific.
We all have our own seasonal traditions. Some of these activities are informed by religion, while others have been staples of their families for years. Personally, I find more seasonal attachment to the memory of a particular experience than I do presents, decorations, and turkey. As much as I appreciate the many ways in which my family and friends celebrate the season each year, nothing has been quite as impactful to me as playing Parasite Eve. Funnily enough, I received it as a Christmas gift.
As preposterous as it might sound to value a video game's impression over that of companionship, it is important to understand that I see this game as being tremendously memorable; it does not supersede loved ones. Its impact is huge though, for me at least. Fifteen years later, it still informs many of the sensibilities I have towards video games, visual media, and written media. Through a holiday lens, Parasite Eve used my seasonal comfort as leverage to expose me to darker narrative concepts, survival horror gameplay, and a healthy respect for microbiology.
Though many may not know this, Parasite Eve wasn't a completely original Square release. It was based on a novel of the same name by Hideaki Sena. A full-time pharmacologist, Sena was a graduate student at Tohoku University when he wrote Parasite Eve — with many of its concepts being directly drawn from his formal education. The novel has since been adapted into a film and a survival horror RPG by Square.
The game, like the novel, focuses on a power-hungry strain of mitochondria which has taken the form of an intelligent being known simply as "Eve" — which is an allusion to both Christmas Eve and the book of Genesis. Eve has waited throughout history and evolution for the right conditions when mitochondrial life can achieve its true potential and take over eukaryotic life-forms. It was a chilling concept with a surprising amount of scientific reasoning. This made the game stand out from Silent Hill, Resident Evil, and every other horror title that was providing a hard to swallow explanation for bad things happening
Before Parasite Eve, I had not played a survival horror title. In fact, as shallow as it might sound, I only was interested in playing the game because it had Square's logo on the cover. Up until that point, I had steered clear of anything that wasn't a traditional RPG. No other genre really piqued my interest, and it took Parasite Eve's unique hybrid of ATB combat, inventory management, and bloody horror to open my eyes to the narrative genius of survival horror.
The sensibilities impressed by this PlayStation classic have very much influenced me. In fact, anyone who reads the novel I released this past spring will find many of the same themes and even a few subtle references to Parasite Eve. It's a game that wasn't truly appreciated for what it was upon release, but has had a lasting effect on the things I like and the way I write. It certainly isn't a perfect game, and I hold no illusions otherwise, however, I still find it to be worth playing every year — right before Christmas.
To me, Parasite Eve is synonymous with the holiday season. I hum the opening intro theme as I walk the snowy streets of my city, play the game everywhere I go on my PSP, and try to avoid attending operas or public events for fear of spontaneous combustion. That's my Christmas tradition. Maybe it isn't what Nat King Cole was singing about, but this quirky little RPG has helped to make the season just a little brighter. I hope you can say the same.