Back in Fernando's high school days the whole “internet” thing was just taking off and, as is the wont of high schoolers with nerdish proclivities, every attempt was made to sneak to the library and use the comparatively fast connection available at the school for assorted dubiously immoral acts. Not porn; no, that's far too blasé a target. Fernando and his crew were set on mining the glories of illicit ROM sites.
Armed with only a collection of 3.5” floppy disks, the goal was to hoard, bit by bit, any of the video games for the NES, Game Boy, Sega Genesis, and SNES that we didn't already own. Since Fernando had access to most of the big-name titles because either he or one of his friends owned them, ROM mining served to open Fernando's eyes to the less-popular or unreleased titles on those systems. And one of those titles was Earthbound.
Earthbound is...how to put it best? It's a generally cheery stock RPG with baseball bats and psychic powers and modern hospitals subbed in for swords and magic and inns. Instead of demons and evil knights and rogue wizards you've got aliens and exploding trees and, um, hippies; instead of nicely-rendered and static two-D backgrounds in combat you've got an oscillating backdrop that looks like something one would see while on a bad LSD trip. And instead of an emperor-type Big Bad who lords over all its minions with exacting efficiency or a bumbling villain who ascends to godhood through ruthless ambition or bumbling luck, you have a certifiably insane Lovecraftian alien horror that is only defeated because you take it on while it is still in its biomechanical womb.
Fernando was derided in high school for loving the crap out of that game. Ok, the graphics are on the simplistic side and the storyline is incredibly linear. Superficially, it's a kiddie game. The colors are bright and cheerful and your protagonist is a twelve-year-old boy who, in blatant disregard of Japanese RPG tradition, has not yet become an army general. But none of those was the point as Fernando saw it.
Earthbound wriggled into Fernando's heart because it seems to be a perfect electronic microcosm to real life. Unlike most other RPGs, it doesn't have an overly idealized narrative base upon which everything else rests; quite the contrary. This game features cheery lies as a superficial facade over untold horrors, the extent of which most people in the game world are blissfully ignorant.
Despite this, the game fails to dip even a toe into the cesspit that is cynicism. Hell, the theme music of the game series is named “Pollyanna” (if that's too diabetes-ridden for your bitter self, here's a version lacking lyrics made from the contents of a sugar bowl). In Earthbound, it doesn't matter how many or what sort of eldritch beasts are creeping around the edges of reality. They'll get beaten down by bottle rockets and pyrokinesis if they so much as peek around the dimensional corner. If that's not enough punishment to encourage them to look elsewhere for entertainment, all of humanity will unite to fight them off in the end.
Fernando likes to believe the real world is like that, deep down. That in the end people are able to set aside their petty differences and work together to achieve greatness beyond what any individual could hope to accomplish. Fernando sees a little of that every day. He sees, more often, people being kept divided through blindly following the goading of others who emphasize the arbitrary differences and disconnects between groups instead of their commonalities like, and maybe this is Fernando being overly sappy, the fact that they're all people. Funny how superficial things like skin color or religion or hobbies keep us divided so effectively.
Maybe the only way to put an end to these petty squabbles is for the aliens' octopus-robots and cyborg fire-breathing eels to pay us a visit. That'd show us right quick the value of camaraderie.