Home  >  Stories  >  How FFXIV Became a Home

How FFXIV Became a Home

CW: Brief mention of suicidal thoughts, brief mention of abusive relationship

As someone who spent their adolescence riddled with the undiagnosed, but very real, symptoms of both Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder, my communities have always served as the backbone for the stability I needed in order to thrive.

I was fortunate enough to grow up in a tightly knit crowd of LGBTQ+ friends and in an online sphere of gaming and fandom that embraced the equitable treatment of all involved. These spaces shaped me for the better; I found confidence in myself and never loved myself less for the people I loved, the transparency within my online spaces helped me understand my gender identity at a young age, and I found a passion for writing, entertainment, and community.  

The culmination of my experiences with games and the LGBTQ+ community that played them led to my decision to study Communications in college, where I hoped to take up social media management to remain involved with the spaces I loved as a professional. I landed my first role as Social Media Coordinator for our campus’ esports program, where I also found community both from my job and as a competitive player for Overwatch.

That’s me!

But in early 2020, I experienced the explosive fallout that came with the end of an abusive relationship. And, unfortunately, in a time I felt I needed community most, my small group of friends had grown distant from one another due to some questionable behavior that led to hurt feelings. I dove headfirst into the beginning of one of the hardest depressive episodes I’ve experienced as a young adult since my diagnoses and found myself drowning in a general apathy for my life and a passionate dance with suicidal ideations.

And if that wasn’t enough, enter COVID-19. 

I lost my home on campus within 24 hours and had to move in with my college friend in her childhood home. The first few weeks of lockdown were restless; Tiger King, Animal Crossing, and hoping to earn a VALORANT game key from random streamers on Twitch are the activities that passed the time. I had no access to a PC, let alone one capable of handling games, and felt I had lost the one thing I had left that kept me grounded to my own life.

My friend’s dad lended me an old computer of his that, while not cutting edge, would hopefully allow me to reconnect with the world. Around the same time, another friend recommended I try downloading the popular MMORPG, Final Fantasy XIV, to play with him and his friends.

I had my World of Warcraft phase during high school, and while I had loved the game for those precious three months, the appeal of MMOs was not there for me long-term. I found the community unaccepting of newcomers, making it difficult to become invested in more hardcore aspects of the game, and the vibes somewhat rancid; people only spoke to me to say slurs or hit on me after deciding I was a woman based on how I typed. My last few logins to WoW were for the Darkmoon Faire, where I mostly played minigames and leveled my fishing profession by myself. 

I was hesitant to give FFXIV a chance. It took convincing that I wasn’t signing up to yet another community where men found it funny to harass and bully non-men to scare them off. Even after agreeing, I remember how scared I was to even begin playing.

I don’t know how I would have survived without the community I found here.

Beyond outstanding storytelling and fun progression systems, FFXIV’s online community is the most positive online space I’ve ever existed in. You can run around any major town and find people who will wave, dance, and play music for you. If you need help with anything, from crafting clothes to needing an additional group of people to play story content, strangers are eager to assist you. Everyone is patient when you’re learning a new character class during in-game content and oftentimes will compliment you on a job well done. People will initiate a trade with you just to give you chocolates they made that day. The game’s social element is strong and full of individuals excited to exist alongside you during your time online.

Within a day of playing, my fears had melted away. My friend and I founded a Free Company, FFXIV’s name for in-game guilds, and began building what would become the most amazing experience of my life playing a video game. 

My in-game character, Chichika.

It didn’t take long for everyone who had joined the Free Company to grow close together. With our lives out of sorts due to the pandemic, we had all the time in the world to advance in FFXIV’s main story quests together, assisting each other with any crafting needs or +1’s for dungeons and trials. We formed silly traditions like riding Goobbue mounts to weddings and sneezing on the newlyweds after the ceremony. We became Aurum Vale’s #1 fans after finding a foolproof way to speedrun clears for an in-game event.

Our raid team’s group picture after clearing our first savage content.

Our Free Company went beyond in-game content and became a true family of people who loved to spend time together. Even after we caught up to the game’s current cycle of content, we’d log in just to hang around our in-game home and chat.  Our Discord server was where we could share anecdotes of our lives, memes, copious amounts of screenshots of our characters in-game, and so much more. As we grew larger, we began coordinating our own fun events; we formed a raid group, became bonafide treasure hunters, and hosted themed fashion shows (since glamour is the real end-game of FFXIV).

My in-game wedding where we’d ride Goobbue mounts to the official ceremony space.

I could truly go on forever about the memories this game, and its community, gave me. I poured hundreds of hours into FFXIV and know for a fact that a majority of that time was spent goofing off with the community I loved. To date, I see everyone I spent my time with as family and still speak to multiple friends I’d have never met if not for FFXIV. 

This game gave me a community where I could feel at home after being displaced from my own home in 2020. It gave me people who loved me and who I could love in return when I felt at my loneliest. FFXIV came into my life when I needed it most, and it will always hold a special place in my heart.

Written by Caelus McKeel