Hello and welcome to the very first edition of Everything Eorzea, Junkies Nation’s weekly column on Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn that will be out every Wednesday. For this week’s column, I decided to go a non-discussion route and take a look at how I got into the Final Fantasy franchise.
The one thing I have never really been able to speak up about is how much the franchise actually saved my life and got me to where I am today. But I figured with this being the first of many columns, why not have story time with Uncle Val and give you guys a glance at how I got into gaming as a whole and how Final Fantasy saved my life?
Super Mario Brothers & Battletoads – 1990
I’m 5 years old, and I’ve grown up a little differently than most of the kids in my kindergarten class. While others are getting brand new clothes and backpacks, I’m getting hand-me-downs and Goodwill clothing. I am often on my own or at a friend’s house playing video games with him and his older brother. Back in the early 90s, “on my own” usually meant I could be out where I wanted and however long I wanted. As long as I was home by the time the sun was setting down. I could often get home on my bicycle in time before it got completely dark. Other times I was either punished for being home too late or they never knew that I was gone.
At this point in time my family consisted of myself, my sister, and both my parents. We had just moved into a new house and were expecting another addition to our family which was exciting for everyone all the way around. My dad was working at a local plant as a janitor and my mom worked at a local restaurant as a cook.
Before living where we were, my family lived out in the country and it was in a place where there wasn’t a whole lot to do. As kids, we were often told to go outside and entertain ourselves but that was something I had little to no interest in. I would be again found over at my neighbor’s house playing video games which consisted of 3 games: Super Mario Brothers, Ghouls N’ Goblins, and Battletooads.
Eventually, my dad brought home a gift to us all as a way to celebrate his promotion at the lumber mill he was working at before we had moved. This was different for us because getting something new was different just because of the way we grew up. Walking into the door with an original Nintendo Entertainment System with two games was almost as exciting as Christmas to me.
I remember spending most of that day watching my dad play as a little 8-bit plumber that was on a journey to save the person he loved with all his heart. Then there was Battletoads and the various moments of frustration as my dad’s toad would fall into a crevice, be eaten by a crow, or go splat against the screen. Either way I look at it, this was this moment that changed that my life for the next 23 years.
Super Mario Brothers 3 – 1991
Here I am, back to being 5 years old and just moved with my family into a new home. My family was living in its glory because we had never been able to do anything like this before. We were living in a double-wide trailer home before this and while it did its job for a 4-person family, it just wasn’t suited to raise another kid in. While this year is still a blur to me, there were two huge moments for me that stick in my mind the most. The first one is that this was the year my sister and our cousin took an entire summer vacation to beat the original Super Mario Brothers.
Even though I was never there for this moment, I was still proud to be part of this momentous occasion. I was there at the very end to watch them beat Bowser for the last time. Sadly, this would be the last time our Nintendo would ever beam its red light at us ever again.
Waking up to find that your outlet from everything going on in the real world was no longer working was devastating to a 5-year-old. Throughout my years in school, I was always the shy and unpopular kid. I was always the one kids picked on, beat up, and did the worst that you can imagine to. Even at the whopping age of 5 years old, video games were my outlet and the way I could get away from the torment I was receiving from others.
Super Nintendo & Sony Playstation – 1991 & 1996
In the small town that I grew up in, we didn’t have much, but what we did have was a local movie rental store that included video games and system rentals. I remember taking all my chore money in the fall of 1991 and saving it up for those special moments. Even with my dad working at his new job and my mom working where she was, there just wasn’t enough money for anything new at that time so saving my money and renting everything was the route I had to go.
In the span of 5 years, I remember the various games I would bring home to play for a weekend to just be myself and let go of everything that was going on at my school life. My adventures with Earthworm Jim, Final Fantasy IV and Super Mario Land were how I made it through the 5 years of torment and hell that I never told my parents about. Little did I know they were going to help change all of this all over again in 1996.
Christmas time in northern Minnesota was always the worst for everyone. But no matter the weather, my family had always made sure to make the best of hard times and keep us all together and happy. It had been exactly 5 years since we moved here and my brother was born and things were going great. There was one gift in particular that I remember opening with my brother and it sticks to my mind just because of what had happened to me just 7 years prior. We had received a Sony Playstation bundle with 2 games: Madden 97 and Crash Bandicoot. To this day, I still thank my parents because that was a gift that again would change my world. Only this time, it would be a bit more needed.
Final Fantasy 7 & Abe’s Oddysee – 1997
This was the worst year of my entire schooling life. I was only 11 years old yet felt like every kid in the school needed to torment me because of my passion and love of gaming. It was also around this time that I finally told my parents about all the bullying that had occurred throughout my entire time in school. I would suffer through the multiple noogies, wedgies, and locker shoving to just go home to my games.
It wasn’t much at this point in time, but a friend of mine had made the suggestion to me one day about a game that was going to be out later in the year and I figured why not? This was the suggestion I needed to keep playing games to this very day. That game would be forever known to every single RPG gamer as Final Fantasy 7.
Even though I was only 11 at the time, the bullying I was going through in school had reached its peak. Every day after school, the one thing I could always look forward to was becoming Cloud and trying to stop the dark deeds by Sephiroth. Homework or not, I would find myself indulged in this world of fantasy and heroism that was given to me in this game. If you were to ask any 11-year-old where they wanted to be in the future, most wouldn’t have a clue. I did. I knew where exactly I wanted to go with my life– my dreams and aspirations. And it was Christmas of that same year that helped direct me more toward the best path that I could go down.
My now-brother-in-law was a gamer as well. He knew the insides and outs of a computer and after getting his own computer that fall, he knew exactly what to get me for Christmas. I remember opening the gift up to find a game that I had never heard of before. Abe’s Oddysee was the first game I had ever tried on a PC, and it made my view on gaming so much broader.
I remember going to school after Christmas break and telling everyone about the wonderful gaming experience I had experienced. I would often get into discussions with my friends about the direction of computer gaming and where it would lead us 20 to 30 years down the line. But deep in my mind I often wondered if would I ever experience a deep emotional connection like I did with Final Fantasy 7 on the computer.
17 years later…
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn – 2014
It’s hard to believe when you hear an 11-year-old say they want to dedicate their life to video games– but to see them actually do just that? For the past 23 years of my life, I have been gaming and taking it in as a hope for my future. Between the bullying that almost cost me my life and the 100s of hours I put into games like World Of Warcraft and the Final Fantasy series, I always kept in mind what I made a promise to myself 12 years ago.
The Final Fantasy franchise has been a major part of my life, so why not give back to a community that helped me so long ago? I am often asked what my goal is at the end of this journey and it’s to be a Community Manager over at Square Enix. It would be another way for me to give back to the community that helped save my life on so many different occasions.
That in a nutshell is my history of 23 years as a gamer. I am proud to be where I am today and who I am with. The game, the community, and who I get to be in-game are what keep me going every day. I enjoy being able to offer my opinions and stories to you, the fans, and hear what you have to say. Have you had an experience like mine? Did bullying or a certain event get you into gaming? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts!
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