My Final Fantasy History: Why I lead a Free Company
There is something about the game Final Fantasy that has always had me hooked. Growing up through my teenage years, I had a reputation within my circle of friends of never beating video games. This was true too, I would buy a video game probably once a month. I’d get really into it, progress maybe 50-75% of the way through, and then just lose interest. It happened like clockwork each time, except for Final Fantasy. I don’t know what it was about each version that would come out, but I would play that game to death. Every achievement possible in almost every Final Fantasy out there I have obtained. I’d level my characters to their fullest potential, unlock all the secret weapons, chocobos, summons, etc.
So you can imagine how excited I was when Final Fantasy XI came out. It was like I was living a dream. This game that had hooked me for so many years prior was giving me the opportunity to enter into a living, dynamic world that allowed my to roam free interacting with people from all around the world who enjoyed Final Fantasy as much as I did. I remember entering East Sarutabaruta for the first time, marvelling at how expansive this world of Vanadiel was. Then I discovered Tahrongi Canyon, and my excitement reached an all new high. Eventually however I learned the truth behind how amazingly vast Vanadiel was, and I think my mind literally exploded. I was hooked for the next ten years. In all of those ten years I did not purchase another video game.
I was hooked on Final Fantasy XI for many reasons, the storyline, the variety, the job system, the challenge, but the main reason I believe I stayed as hooked as long as I did was the friendships I formed. This is something that I think everyone can relate to. It’s why we play MMO’s instead of just a console RPG, we love the satisfaction that comes with teamwork and comradery. It makes the game more relatable and alive. But for me there was always something else too. There was a safety in family. When partying, you never knew what you were getting, who you were interacting with, and the responses you get if something came up in real life. When playing with my linkshell, I knew that if we wiped people wouldn’t start blaming each other. I knew that if I had to afk for a little while, people would be ok to wait for me. I knew that if my gear wasn’t up to the ideal standard, people wouldn’t judge me based on that. There was a trust there that we weren’t taking advantage of each other, and we could just relax and have fun.
This was the sort of family I found in Chaos Theory. Even though it had it’s share of drama in FFXI, the core family that was formed had an extremely special bond, for whatever reason. We had so much fun playing together, and we successfully branched out into all the challenges that Vanadiel could throw at us. We did Sky/Sea/Dynamis, CoP, Nyzul Isle, etc, and I believe that sense of accomplishment really helped to gel us as a family. Eventually though, as time went on, the shell dwindled in size as people became enamored with other things and bored with FFXI. And after awhile it ceased altogether. I spent my remaining time in Vanadiel a drifter. I started up a pet linkshell that was fun for awhile, but eventually fizzled out. I bounced from shell to shell, always trying to find that new home, but I never could. Because of this my interest in the game waned. I would lose interest for months at a time, but eventually I’d get the wanderlust again and come back. Each return though was shorter and shorter, and the game became a ghost of what it was for me. It would be fun to relive old memories, but I soon realized that’s all I was doing: reliving old memories and not forming new ones. It’s the people that we spend time with that creates the best memories, and playing an MMO by yourself was simply a hollow shell of what my old experience was like.
In the spans of time not being spent in FFXI, I’d try other MMO’s, and it always would shock me how isolated everything always was. Guilds seemed to get together to do raids, but not much else. There was no family, no sense of looking out for each other, no interest in how the other person was doing and genuinely wanting to form relationships with the other people in your guild. Everything was so fast paced, and people were so easily categorized into players that were either skilled or not skilled. And it seemed like I was usually branded as one of the not skilled players. It was all so selfish, and as a result hollow, the family I was looking for was not be found, and my interest was never held for more than a few months.
Then FFXIV came along. I became extremely excited. Maybe this could finally be the chance to find that family again. The old members of Chaos Theory began to congregate, and things were off to a great start. But the first release was so awful, that eventually it was only TW, myself, and a handful of others that were still playing. But hope stayed alive with the coming of Yoshi-P and the announcement of A Realm Reborn. And this is when my role as a leader of Chaos Theory was begun.
In an effort to spark interest and excitement, TW, Vorta and myself began the forums we use to this day. We also had a Facebook page for all the old Chaos Theory members, and we would post all the news updates for ARR constantly. I don’t know what the personal reasons TW and Vorta had for taking on the leadership mantle, but for myself, I wanted to create a new home. I wanted to create a home for people to shelter them from the elitism that seems to permeate today’s MMO’s. I wanted to create a home where a parent of young kids that don’t sleep can still have a group of friends that would understand where he’s coming from. I wanted to create a home where people actually talked to each other, and we did fun things with each other besides just doing raid after raid. I wanted to create a home where someone who had never played an MMO in their life could come and ask questions without being labeled as somehow less of a player.
We’ve had some bumps along the way. This sort of vision can be hard to maintain and move forward, but I believe we have done it. I feel so good about the group of people we have here with us today, and all of you have really turned this goal of mine into a reality. I hope that you feel the same sort of connection to each other, and that this Free Company feels like home to all of you. If there’s any way we can ever be better, please let any of the leaders know.