Over the years, much has been said suggesting that games are unhealthy or antisocial. A little bit too easy to believe in a world where the industry is struggling against harassment and abuse allegations, it’s refreshing then to see how Final Fantasy 14 has lightened the mood substantially. Teamwork does not have to stay within the game, it turns out. With a growing reputation for helping relationships develop and blossom across the distance and even language barriers, NME spoke to two people who found that the game did so much more for their lives than just entertain them.
“I didn’t realise at the time that it was a French party finder,” explains Amelia Mac. Keen to get involved with the Coils of Bahamut raid series with a friend, the pair soon ended up the only non-French speakers when partaking in the raid. Fortunately, Amelia knew what to do despite the language barrier and the pair had a good time with their new found friends. While one mistaken tap of the party finder could have gone nowhere, Amelia was keen to push forward.
“We had a few more nights of joining them with some people coming and going before I invited them all to a discord server so that we can talk in a voice chat,” she explained. While unconfident about whether they’d accept one of the only non-French speakers to a voice chat, things paid off. All of the group understood and spoke English to varying degrees so she was able to get to know them to the point of forming a static (a group of people keen to beat bosses together) with set raiding days arranged.
The downside though was that talk during raids would soon turn French as frustrations grew – “It didn’t take me long to learn all the french swear words!” So, Amelia decided it would be a good idea to learn more French so she was able to be a more valuable part of the group. Initially stuck with only knowing some swear words, the numbers 1-10 and being able to say “I am a banana” in French, she downloaded Duolingo and got to work.
“I practiced a bit in the voice chat by saying hello and asking how everyone was in French and they all appreciated the effort and got a nice laugh out of my rather lacklustre pronunciations!” with some of the group sticking around after a raid to help her out a bit more. She admits that her conversation skills are still a bit basic but 70 days down the line with Duolingo and Amelia is slowly getting there with her reading ability far improved from the start.
Crucially, the standout moment for her was that she was pleasantly surprised that others stuck around to help her out, even though English was just about working for the team without her needing to master French along the way. Along the way, Amelia also learned that COVID may or may not be ‘le COVID’ or ‘la COVID’ and that some translations of dungeons in Final Fantasy XIV aren’t as accurate as one might think.
Amelia now plans to start a new game in French to truly immerse herself in the language after the rest of the static – that’s a regular group that runs raids together – suggested that watching TV or playing games has helped their English language skills.
While learning a new language might be a fairly obvious way of enriching your life through a game, Final Fantasy 14 ended up truly life-changing for ‘Dawn’.
Staying in a friend’s house after losing everything in her life, including her home, job, and dog, thanks to an abusive ex, she was afraid to leave the house so a friend encouraged her to sign up to Final Fantasy 14 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Having never played an MMO before, ‘Dawn’ soon found it to be a “safe space” for her. Joining a Final Fantasy 14 Discord channel, she met friends that motivated her. They made her realise “that life has more to offer for me and talking to them gave me the push to wrestle through all the other obstacles to get my life back,” she explained. The group even ended up crying together at times talking about their problems while playing the game.
“It was give and take without having any feelings of pressure,” she notes. “They were always welcoming and accepting,” with the group able to talk about more serious stuff while they played, feeling supported each step of the way. Such support was both mental and also in-game with the group realising that Dawn hadn’t participated in the Heavensward Alliance raids, leading to the Discord channel ensuring she got to experience the raids for herself. “It was fun because they barely remembered the mechanics and I didn’t know them anyway so most of us were running around like…headless Chocobos” laughs Dawn.
Once lockdown eased late last year, Dawn was able to meet up with her closest Final Fantasy 14 friend and now shares a flat with them. Her life improved from before, she has a support network thanks to the game and regularly talks to others online while the pandemic continues to limit the chance to meet up.
Pivotally, people having your back in-game can and are extending further beyond the screen with relationships developing to help players out with more than just their raid tactics. Whether the person is trapped in a bad relationship or simply prone to hitting the wrong button on the party finder screen, it’s noticeable that the effects of Final Fantasy 14 can be far wide-reaching than simply a gaming distraction during a time where many of us have been indoors for longer periods.