The Summoning

Kin Francis


This work is best enjoyed while listening to the Spotify playlist below. The Summoning is approximately a 10-minute read and contains major spoilers for the video game Final Fantasy X.

I pull the old recliner chair close to the TV screen. The mundane suburban sounds of traffic coming through the front window are dulled by the piano keys, strings, and synths of Nobuo Uematsu. The Playstation 2 hums, trying not to overheat. I no longer take notice of the awkwardness of my body — its long limbs stretched out, still and relaxed. There is only the world of Spira and the story of Final Fantasy X (FFX) that I am falling into.

Yuna steps out onto the ocean of floating debris, coffins in the shallows. Her feet never sink below the water’s surface. She is watched by villagers who have asked her to perform the sending: a ritual to bring peace for the dead. Yuna stands above the centre of the watery graveyard, looking downward in an expression of sorrow. Closing her eyes, she looks skyward and takes a breath. Her violet hakama flows around her, as she twirls her staff and twists her body into a dance. Yuna’s movements bring forth a pillar of water that lifts her above the ocean. The flames of nearby torches turn blue and mourners begin to cry and grieve. Yuna’s guardian, Lulu watches on without any expression. As the ritual ends, an onlooker, Tidus begins conversation:

‘It must be tough being a summoner.’

Lulu replies without hesitation, ‘Yuna chose her own path. She knew from the beginning what it meant. All we can do is protect her along the way. Until the end.’

Yuna was my earliest experience of queer devotion to divadom. She’s self-made, a 17-year-old mixed race orphan, but at first is trapped by expectations. In the world of Spira she is a summoner; a kind of missionary from the religious order of Yevon that holds a fascist and theocratic rule over all its citizens. During the course of FFX, Yuna and her allies challenge the beliefs and systems of Yevon’s power to dismantle its regime. FFX producer Yoshinori Kitase says, ‘[Yuna] has lived her life up until now simply following the creed that she believed in but when her whole world is shaken, she then has to pick herself up and find a new way forward with her own willpower. That was the kind of strength we wanted to show in her’ [1]. 

Yuna’s self-determination, her unwavering drive to believe in the selflessness of humanity, and the support from her allies are what I’ve admired and craved in my own life since I first played FFX in my early teens. The early 2000s feel like a long time ago; I was wearing Jay Jays and listening to The Rogue Traders almost two decades before I was aware of my transness, queerness, race, and neurodivergence.

I define queerness as the willingness to challenge power and authority, to live a life that most will reject and persecute you for even though it causes no harm. Is it not queer culture to turn your back on everyone’s expectations of you? To move forward with your own way of living in spite of how lonely it seems? This is not possible without summoning our own strength or finding allies; we often don’t have anyone fighting for us. 

In FFX, fayth are entombed souls of Yevon’s heroes that are enshrined in temples. Yuna visits the fayth which enable her to summon aeons, beings of great power that fight on her behalf. It is Yuna’s responsibility to gain the power of each Fayth which culminates in the final summoning: a ritual in which a summoner sacrifices themselves and an ally to form a new Aeon that defeats the undying behemoth that is Sin. Sin is reborn after 10 years since its first defeat and these years were known as The Calm. Countless summoner’s have given their lives for this false hope of peace, but Sin has always returned. Instead of finding a definitive path to destroying Sin, it is revealed over the course of playing FFX that Yevon uses the fear of Sin, the self-sacrificing summoners, and their allies to continue its supreme rule over the world. It is the founding summoner, Yu Yevon, who summoned Sin 1,000 years ago and who is immortalised in Sin’s cycle of rebirth.

Toby McCasker writes, ‘Spira’s saviour is Yevon, and Yevon is Sin, Spira’s oppressor. This cycle is entirely godless. People made it. People sustain it [2]. ’ Aren’t we, in our world, living in a spiralling nightmare reality of our own making? I’m witnessing the inability of allyship to change the way power operates in our world. Climate disaster looms. Governments fail to make the right decisions. I have no aeons to summon, no contracts with my allies. As a young, not-yet-awakened queer, I hungered for the sense of justice in taking down a corrupted power. I attended Catholic schools like many others in so-called Australia whose parents believed that religious schools offered superior education and security. I acquired a distaste for the performativity of kindness that is enforced by Catholic teaching. This was my first taste of the hypocrisy of allyship: you can speak the words of theoretical respect without taking any practical action in your own life. 

The discourse on allyship is relatively young and you don’t have to look very far to observe failed acts of allyship. Right now, it feels that no one has a problem in claiming to be an ally. It has become a form of cultural capital. When a topical social issue emerges, ‘allies’ are quick to share infographics and vocalise their opinion online. This is the dominant course of recent allyship — instead of a consistently engaged, on-the-ground approach to aiding those most impacted by systemic oppression, allies will selectively leverage a social movement online for their self-image. While the intentions may be well-meaning, allies must work past the performativity to ensure their gestures materially benefit those they are supporting. 

Within institutions, failed forms of allyship began with the argument that diversity and inclusion leads to better productive outcomes. Those who are structurally disadvantaged are now being consumed to feed diversity metrics, and to uphold the machine of capitalism — which is not dissimilar to Yevon’s fascism and control within FFX. When I think of my own experience in arts advocacy to direct resources towards LGBTIQA+, First Nations, and migrant communities, I consciously have to walk the line of benefiting from career success that this work encourages while also ensuring the artists I work with experience the same material support. I have not always got this balance right, but I have never been afraid to take direct action. It is this fear of making a mistake that is also preventing meaningful forms of allyship to take place.  

Within FFX and most gaming design, there is a clear and controlled context of how allyship works. In my own life, I don’t know who my allies are or how we can work together. At the same time, I’m overwhelmed online with social justice information. Within trans rights movements, for instance, I can browse what seems an endless amount of activist groups and queer organisations providing needed care. Independently-led grassroots groups like Beyond Bricks & Bars: Trans Gender Diverse Decarceration Project are essential in providing direct support to trans people. These independent groups and larger organisations though, have no cohesive strategy for collectivising that is affecting widespread change and resolving the core problem of transphobia.

It is a government’s responsibility to care for its people. Elected representatives make many promises, but there is no accountability for failing to deliver on a promise except when the next election cycle begins. When in power, politicians can change administration processes and make decisions without any transparency. Like many advocates working in social justice, I am quick to blame systems of government but we cannot ignore our own failures within our grassroots movements. If we continue to depend on forming many fractured groups with various agendas, I fear that we will continue to have disengaged relationships with our allies. Most of our communication on joining a cause is based on moral ethics or depending on a person’s empathy. We assist in making allyship…performative. Or perhaps even boring. 

What if we envisioned allyship as a game to design? We plant rewards along the way of someone’s advocacy journey. When they fail, as we all eventually do, we collectively forgive and support them in levelling up their skills and experience. Once they know the rules of the game, we bring them into the design process. We take turns leading. The players become the developers of the game of allyship and so, the cycle continues. 

I am tired and feeling unable to support advocacy work. Lately, I’ve been finding socialising extremely difficult yet my loneliness and hopelessness can feel all-consuming. I am a walking contradiction, desiring connection yet disassociating to survive. In writing this essay for Runway Journal and reflecting on playing FFX, I’ve been confronted by just how much I wish the fantasy of the game I love was real in terms of its social dynamics. Jennifer Froelich explores why video games are so attractive to people with autism:

Games are highly imaginative, but with a well-defined structure. Study participants expressed a strong affinity for RPG and action-adventure games, which appeal to a desire for fantasy without requiring the self-generated imaginative skills that many with autism find difficult. Video games provide clear visual and auditory clues. People on the spectrum often value rules and objective assessment more than their neurotypical peers. Understanding and working within clearly-defined rules can be essential to avoid anxiety and sensory meltdowns [3]. 

This is the reality of my situation. I am often unable to imagine a future for myself, to live authentically and without restraint. It is both a challenge of being on the spectrum, but also because of heteropatriarchal ableism. I believe that we need global rules of engagement for allies to follow, but for now I’ll continue my own self-advocacy and living in my fantasies.

I think of Yuna, when faced with making a choice that changes her life and all those that are connected to it: ‘I will live with my sorrow, I will live my own life!...I will defeat sorrow...I will stand my ground and be strong. I don't know when it will be, but someday...I will conquer it. And I will do it without false hope.’


  1. Yoshinori Kitase quoted in “Final Fantasy 10: Kitase reveals the secrets of its success”, GamesTM, Feb 27, 2014, 
  2. TobyMcCasker, “Final Fantasy X’s War on Organised Religion”, IGN, May 26, 2014, 
  3. Jennifer Froelich, “Gaming on the Autism Spectrum”, Crucial, Nov 1, 2019,