When I started playing Final Fantasy XIV, it was because Shane and I wanted a new game to play together. You know, aside from our staples of Diablo 3 and League of Legends.

At first, I was perfectly happy just following his character around everywhere. I didn’t need to use the chat or emotes or anything, because I could just say what I was thinking to the man across the room.

To the rest of the busy town of Gridania, I was the Silent Adventurer.

Because I isolated myself so early on, it became pretty easy to forget that nearly every character running around with me was a real person.

It probably didn’t help that I had turned off all non-party name displays, too, just to make it easier to see the new world around me. I could see myself, and I could see Shane, and that’s what mattered to me.

The thing about playing a massively social game, though, is that eventually, despite perpetual silences and self-inflicted isolation and a strange belief that jumping expresses everything (because I hadn’t figured out emotes yet), you will meet other people.

And that will come with everything that a regular human interaction comes with.

When I joined my first free company, I was nervous about starting to talk to a bunch of new people I had never met. I’m awkward at the best of times, and at least in person I have my vaguely comical facial expressions as a fallback.

It wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d thought, because the upper-level folks went out of their way to make sure we newbs felt comfortable and at home. Soon enough, I had a new circle of friends.

A bout of personal disagreements changed that, and although it made me sad to give up my meme-ish tag, Shane and I moved on to a new company.

Can you guess what we ran into within a week?

Yep. Drama.

Full disclosure: I can be a little dramatic sometimes, and I have been known to blow things out of proportion.

However, I’m not the kind of person who appreciates drama for its own sake, or who likes to drag other people into things. Both real-life experiences and every rom-com ever have taught me that it pretty much always backfires.

About four days into my tenure in my new free company, right when I was starting to feel a little less afraid of being the clueless person talking with all the obviously super-experienced people, one of the members brought in a new member, whom he introduced as his wife.

I thought it was kind of cute that they played together.

The very next day, that same person brought another new girl in, singing her praises and ignoring the fact that his “wife” obviously knew this girl and was very clearly displeased with the whole situation.

I thought that was a little weird.

Two days after that, things got a little crazy. Here’s how it played out:

  • “Wife” tells free company that she’s leaving
  • Free company tries to convince her to stay (which was very heartwarming, actually)
  • “Wife” explains to free company that she’s being harassed by other girls in one of the main plazas
  • Free company ladies flock to the plaza to lynch the bullies
  • Everyone returns to the free company house
  • “Wife” leaves anyway

This whole chain of events left me baffled, but that only lasted a few minutes before the story came out.

As it turns out, the person who originally brought his “wife” to the free company was not actually married to her, and had been flirting with a bunch of other girls in the game, including convincing several of them to transfer their characters to our server so they could have a chance of marrying him.

For the record, you have to pay to transfer characters between servers. He convinced these girls to pay real money for a chance of marrying him in the game.

The whole situation left me feeling a little uncomfortable and uncertain about what I’d gotten myself into. It was a very sudden realization that the other characters, which were very easy to think of as NPCs in my head while I was out doing my thing, were real people.

And they don’t always do the right thing.

It made me wonder if maybe I wasn’t the only one who sometimes forgets about the people behind the screens, the hands on the other side of the keyboard. Maybe I wasn’t the only one who sometimes felt like the only real person in the world of the game.

That left me with one last thought:

As great as it is to roleplay being a Warrior of Light in a fantastical world of moogles and chocobos, and go around saving the world in impossible ways and impossible outfits, it’s important to remember that on the other side of every PC you meet is another person—someone who deserves the same respect and treatment you’d hope to get from them.



One Comment on “Finding the Humanity in an MMO

  1. This is very true – every player is a person and should be treated with kindness and respect 🙂 It saddens me to see the kind of people you’ve run into, but I’d be lying if I’d said I hadn’t left FCs because of similar drama. For the last six months I’ve tended to float around from FC to FC, hoping to find a casual mature bunch who enjoy chatting and playing without getting too hung up on elitism gaming or other stuff. It seems to be a never ending quest XD

    Liked by 1 person

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