Final Fantasy XIV and Me is an interview series where I highlight mental health and how MMORPGs, in particular, can directly affect how you feel. This has been a passion project which I have wanted to do for a long time and throughout it, I will be interviewing all kinds of people. From game veterans to beginners taking their first steps in the world of Hydaelyn.
My second guest is also a friend of mine, whom I’ve been fortunate enough to meet through Final Fantasy XIV. I hope she is made to feel welcome. It’s been yet a more dismal day as we sit down together and talk over Discord. The weather is grey and miserable, but there is yet hope.
Hello! Welcome to this interview. Thank you for taking time out of your day to answer a few of my questions. Can you please introduce yourself?
Sure, my name is Devon, I am 27, and from the UK. In Final Fantasy XIV, I go by Artemis, and I’m a Dunesfolk Lalafell healer! I currently reside on the Moogle server.
So to start things off, let’s get into the basic details. Can you tell me how and when you first got into the Final Fantasy franchise?
I have always kind of known about Final Fantasy. I’ve had friends who really loved it, but never really got into it myself as such. I sat down one day about seven years ago and tried playing Final Fantasy X but while the story seemed good, it wasn’t a style of gameplay I enjoyed. I didn’t so much as ‘get into’ Final Fantasy until the beta test of Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn, which I played with some friends and adored it! From then on, I’ve been playing Final Fantasy XIV. But as for the whole franchise, I haven’t played much else, unless you count the ‘Theatrhythm’ games.
To be fair, Theatrhythm is a great spinoff title in the franchise. So you certainly do have a refined taste in spinoffs!
You could definitely say that! The music of Final Fantasy is one of the best things about the franchise as a whole, in my opinion.
Right, let’s get into the crux of the interview. The main focus of this interview is about how the relationship between positive and negative experiences can intertwine with our own mental health as a player, and the potential it could have in your real life, too.
So let’s start with something light, the positivity Final Fantasy has had, not just in-game, but also in real life.
To start with, Final Fantasy XIV was a great place to escape to when I was feeling down. I suffer from depression and anxiety, so it was great to be able to jump into the game and be someone else for a while. In Final Fantasy, I mainly play healer jobs, so people depended on me, and it made me feel important in being part of a team. It gave me something to focus on when things got too much for me in the real world.
A big part of escapism for me, and many others I assume, is being able to take on another persona. Even better, one that you can mould to fit your needs. Part of my depression stems from negative self-esteem, mostly due to my looks. In real life, I’m a bigger girl and had next to no confidence, so I would dress quite plainly. However, in FFXIV, I was a cute Lalafell and I could wear lots of different cute outfits. I was shy so I made my character confident, I was a bit of a loner but my character had lots of friends and companions. Basically, she could be everything I wanted to be. It helped me to forget my real problems for a while and just be her instead.
And those feelings your in-game character gave you, did they help in real life?
More recently, Final Fantasy XIV has helped me with real-life relationships. I’ve met some fantastic friends through the game, who I talk to now more often outside of Eorzea. I even met my fiancé through it as well! These people have honestly changed my life, they make me feel more confident and happy. Even though they are the ones who have impacted my mental health, I wouldn’t have met them if it wasn’t for FFXIV.
That’s wonderful! How did you manage to meet your fiancé within the realm of Hydaelyn?
I had taken an extended break from the game, but my sister had gotten into it and asked me to come play with her. She was on a different server, so I picked up and moved across to join her, and her Free Company. My now fiancé was in it, and I had made friends with one of his friends, so we all used to go on adventures together because we were all Lalafell! My fiancé and I started to play together as well, even when our friend wasn’t online. So we got a lot of chances to talk, and we just became really good friends. I guess it was fate, as cheesy as that sounds.
Sounds like a potential Hollywood romance! How touching!
I wouldn’t go that far!
You also mentioned that you play healer roles in-game because a party can really depend on them. Was that the main thing that drew you to that role?
I chose to be a healer because really, I feel like they are the core of a party. They literally choose whether someone lives or dies! I was able to be in control of something when everything else in the real world was out of my control. I wanted people to depend on me so I could feel important, when in real life I was just another face in the crowd. I guess that’s just my inner Leo coming out there though!
Seems like a lot of pleasant experiences, especially contributing to your helping your mental health, which is great. But now for the darker part. Has the game also had a negative impact on your mental health?
Unfortunately, yes, and it’s the reason why I took a break from the game that I mentioned before. When the game was new, and I was playing with my ex, there was a lot of pressure on me to do the content after the main story. Back then, these fights were difficult. Having never really played an MMO before, I found them even more so.
My ex and I had joined a group of people to raid with but I wasn’t as good as them. It made me feel useless, and stressed. To the point where I had to take a break from the game because simply being there was just as bad. It became really difficult to separate the stress of real-life, and the stress from the game, so it made my mental health a lot worse. Thankfully, now, there isn’t as much pressure to do these fights. There are other things to do instead, and I’ve also learned that it’s just a game. It’s okay to mess up!
It sounds like that was really tough time for you. You mentioned it was difficult to separate your in-game stress from your real-life stress. How did that impact your mental health in real life?
Well, because of the amount of stress I was under, I eventually had to leave the raid group for the sake of my own mental health. My ex stayed on with them, which meant we spent less time together as they raided more. My schedule was one of the things that impacted the amount we were able to raid as a full team. It also just generally weighed on my mind a lot because of my already negative outlook towards myself.
Having to leave the group stopped me from playing with my friends as much, which made me feel lonely and worthless, like I was an unskilled player or generally just an unskilled person. Although this may seem a tad extreme to those who don’t suffer from depression and low self-esteem, being told you are not skilled enough to do something in a game such as FFXIV can make you question your abilities to do other things as well, such as other hobbies.
So, the positives and negatives definitely go hand in hand then?
Absolutely. It can be the smallest thing sometimes, like a stranger critiquing your skills, that can affect someone negatively. I think it’s important to remember that at the end of the day, it’s only a game. It’s not life and death, because you can just revive and try again.
Would you say that was the worst experience you’ve had with other players? Or do you have any other instances where another player has affected your mental health?
Well, it’s a bit of a long story but, I’d say it was when I was kicked out of my own Free Company. Some friends and I made a Free Company together, and neither of them wanted to be the leader, so I took up the position. It didn’t really mean anything, we all sort of ran it together, but I definitely put a lot into it.
I spent a lot of time on the game recruiting new members, bought us a house, and even furnished and decorated it. However, because of things unrelated to the game, my mental health was at an all-time low and I struggled to log in daily. I approached my friends and said I’d be taking a break from the game, so I wanted to give one of them the leader position so I knew everything would be safe when I returned.
A couple of months went by, I’d kept in contact with them but maybe not as much as I should have, and when I logged back into the game, my Free Company tag was missing from my character name. I teleported to the house, and it was still there with my retainer standing in the garden. I messaged my friends and asked them why I had been removed from the FC, and they responded saying I wasn’t welcome anymore, because I’d dumped it all on them and disappeared.
I was crushed, to say the least, and absolutely furious. Everything I had put currency into, all of my friends… it was all gone and I had basically been exiled because of my mental state. It was then that I took an extended break from the game, with no intention to return, until my sister eventually got me back into it.
That does sound really difficult to deal with, especially after all the hard work and effort you had put in to make the Free Company work.
I’ve had run-ins with unsavoury players, trolls, and the like that I’m sure everyone else has. I’ve been told I’m not playing my role correctly, been kicked from groups for messing up mechanics, and even once been told out of the blue that my player character was ugly, but nothing was worse than being shunned by people I thought were my friends because of my mental health.
Even though the experiences with those friends, your ex, and the raid group weren’t positive, I imagine they weren’t all negative. You highlighted earlier that you’ve made some of your best friends in-game, too. What is your fondest memory you’ve shared with them?
Meeting up with them in real life! I was very nervous but it helped that I had met a few of them before and had someone with me, but it definitely wasn’t the first time I’d met someone in real life who I had met online. Having said that though, I was still incredibly nervous, on top of the usual social anxiety and general low self-image stuff, but once we had all met up and I’d confirmed that they, in fact, weren’t horrible axe murderers, it didn’t feel much different to how it feels when we all chat online!
If they were all axe murderers, doesn’t that mean they’d be a party of Warriors?
Exactly! Then it would have been even more obvious from the beginning, seeing them lug around those big axes!
Just out of curiosity, in all the Final Fantasy games you’ve played, what is the one thing you’d love to be implemented into FFXIV?
Well, I’d say a rhythm mini-game but we did actually get that for one of the Christmas events! As I mentioned before, my knowledge of the Final Fantasy franchise is sparse, but I think more cross-over events with other Final Fantasy titles would be fun. Or even, dare I say, Kingdom Hearts?
If there was one piece of advice you could give someone thinking of picking up FFXIV, what would it be?
Take your time with it! Don’t be tempted to rush through the story (or, god forbid, skip it!) to get to where everyone else seems to be now, because you really would be missing out on an incredible story with fantastic characters. I promise it will all be worth it and you’ll be glad you went through it all.
If you missed the previous Final Fantasy XIV and Me interview with Elora Rhiki, you can catch up here.