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How Fans Lives Changed During The Long Wait For Kingdom Hearts III



Screenshot: Kingdom Hearts III (Square-Enix)

Some got married. Some came out. Some just got older and started looking differently at the world and the game series they loved. Devoted Kingdom Hearts fans made 13 years for the big sequel to 2006's Kingdom Hearts II and that time, their lives took some dramatic turns.

Jaime bonded over the original 2002 Kingdom Hearts with her best friend when she was 10. She's 26 now. "Neither of us would have ever thought, in a million years, that we would be married before Kingdom Hearts III ," she customs Kotaku about email.

Alice, who first started playing Kingdom Hearts at age 8 and is now 24, came out as bisexual and transgender since she first played the series. "If you were yourself that," Yes, you were gay for Riku, 'and,' No, you were just crushing on Kairi and Namine, you wanted to be Kairi and Namine, 'I would have saved myself so much grievance later on, "she said.

Josh, who started playing at 10 and is now 26, was diagnosed with depression, and found hope in the story of Kingdom Hearts .

" Kingdom Hearts for me, was my childhood, ”he said. “A story of kids defeating their demons was endlessly inspiring to me. Laying eyes on the Kingdom Hearts III title screen hit me with a wave of nostalgia and left me feeling that same hope I felt like a kid, knowing I could overcome my brain chemistry. ”

Ryan Pagella, a mutual friend of Maddy and I, cosplaying as Axel
Photo: Ryan Pagella

Last week, Kotaku asked Kingdom Hearts fans about how their lives changed while waiting for this game. We hear from dozens of Kingdom Hearts fans who wanted to tell the stories of how their lives intersected with their fandom for the series. They told us some extraordinary stories. Kotaku 's Maddy Myers when the two cosplayed as Kingdom Hearts characters while in high school and that then introduced me to Maddy while we were a college, with a friendship with someone who eventually also became my coworker — all in the time between Kingdom Hearts II and III .

Some fans discovered that the fantasy world of Kingdom Hearts soured for them over time. Leo was a hard fan of Disney and Kingdom Hearts growing up, playing the first game in the series when he was 10. He remembers crying when he finished the Hundred Acre Wood side levels — he was so invested in the characters that once there was nothing left to do it felt like Winnie-the-Pooh and all his friends were effectively dead, he said.

Leo, who is 26 today, said that as an adult he was Kingdom Hearts III but has also grown disaffected with Disney. "Basically any time Disney buys up a thing I just got more and more worried about the impending dystopian future where five companies control everything," he said.

Disney isn't the only corporation that Leo has become wary of. After learning the working conditions in Amazon warehouses, he canceled his Amazon Prime membership. With Kingdom Hearts the temptation to return to the world of its characters is stronger, even if it has taken moral stands against corporate practices it finds immoral in the past.

Leo still feels connected to these characters , and said that it would play the game if it could, if only because it played the other two. In nearly two decades since the release of the first game, though, he has become more aware of business practices of large corporations that are well with him, like Disney lobbying for extreme extensions or copyright law. "I don't know, maybe it's unreasonable, but that game evangelizes Disney makes me feel really uncomfortable," he said.

Indi, a thirty-year-old fan from Panama, said that playing games like Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts as a kid helped her gender identity.

Photo: Indi P.

“My favorite Final Fantasy character ended up being Cloud, as I identified with him, because of the cross-dressing part of the game, "she wrote of Final Fantasy VII 's protagonist. “Kinda made think that I could also be a girl, just if I was a guy.”

“I was a pretty quirky kid,” Indi told Kotaku about email. "I hung out with the" nerds, "but I never actually fit with them all that well, for I was the" girly boy "of the party," Indi said. “ Kingdom Hearts was with me during my darkest hours, as a kid, having to struggle with bullying (black 'gay' kid in a school full of straight white male jocks, who happened to be extremely racist) and an absent father, ”she said. “ Kingdom Hearts was there for me to remind me that life still had good things.”

Indi said that she was suspected of being transgender from a young age, but that coming to terms with that in Panama's "macho society" was difficult. For years, she repressed those feelings. Societal pressure was not the only obstacle to transition for her, as Panama law was also a significant impediment.


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