Walking past the End

The year is almost at its end and with it comes the season week of reflection. It has been a long year and a lot has happened. Looking back at previous letters, almost all of them mention the pandemic in some way or another and it saddens me that it is still relevant in our day to day lives. By this point, it has shaped a lot of us, in a lot of ways, good and bad. Most people just see the negatives everywhere: vaccinated vs unvaccinated people, death, pain and loss everywhere, almost imprisoning restrictions in every way of our lives… To say that it hasn’t worn me down for the worse, would be a blatant lie. And yet

And yet, I refuse to only see the bad things in there. I refuse to say that it has defeated me. That it has defeated any of us because we are still fighting. And we haven’t lost yet. And even if everything seems bleak, I can still see a little bit of positivity in it all. And that positivity I want to share with everyone who found their way to this letter. A letter, that is simply my memories and thoughts in written form. A letter, in which I talk about things unspoken so far. A letter, about Sleeping Dragons and a letter about more than just the end.

A Flicker in the Darkness

I said, I won’t see only the bad things that happened during the last year or two. Because I strongly believe that there were also good things. For me, one of those things was finding this FC. In a time where I was not able to meet friends or family, in which I had no choice but to stay at home and drown myself in the depths of internet memes, anime and video games, I felt isolated and lonely. All my previous attempts at finding an FC in ffxiv had ended in vain, so I had almost given up on ever playing this game together with other people. And yet, I found a bunch of people running around in chocobo costumes having fun, making the best out of a potentially shitty day or week or year. And I thought, that I would want to be part of that.

And I became a part of it. In more ways than I expected. I started as an Egg like everyone. I took a bit of time to warm up to the people, but quickly found a safe space for myself. A space where I no longer was lonely. A space of warmth and happiness. A place where I could forget whatever was going on outside. Some people might call it escapism. Maybe it is in some form. But in the last 1.5 years I spent here, I met a lot of people. I got closer to them. I found friends I wouldn’t ever want to miss again. So it was only natural for me to give back to the community that made me keep moving on. I didn’t care if I was going to be recognized for it. If I really did make a difference. All I wanted was for others to see the same positivity that I was able to see. To give them a place where they can be safe and sound from the darkness just as I was.

A recreation of the Hide and Seek event held for SDS 3rd birthday. I couldn’t even tell which chocobo I am.

But this shall not be a love letter to myself. I hope, I am not that arrogant of a person. For I was not the only one who made this safe place. I was not the only one to spread positivity in a swamp of negativity that we call the ‘outside world’. Shadow for example made sure every day that we start our morning commute to work (or to our desk at home) with a motivational mini speech. What started as a fun challenge quickly became a routine none of us would ever want to miss. Laila is always thinking up new things on how to engage everyone in fun ways to knit us all closer together. Jasar does his best to keep the website up to date with ever more new functions. Was he just a fledgling in coding before, so is he now a dragonet, writing bots for our discord, writing iLevel-helpers for the website, ever eager to follow the next crazy idea Laila has to improve the fc inside and outside of Discord. Both of them in a way are what I strive to be as well in my role as ancient. Mojo helped us write a community finder text that has given us new and great people in our already great community. And there are so many more people I would love to mention, but I fear if I do, this letter would never find its end. So just let it be known, that everyone in our little corner of the internet is doing a great job. We all created this fc together and it wouldn’t be what it is now nor would it ever be if not for every single one of you, no matter if new or old, if loud or silent. I may have put a lot of time, blood and sweat into it, but the heart and the body… that is build up of all of us and it wouldn’t do without you all.

The many ways of good and fun

Looking back at the last letter posted on this website, a lot has happened since then. Back when Jasar was writing down his thoughts, Endwalker hadn’t released yet. We were in a content drought, yet over swept by new players in all corners of Eorzea. We were all preparing for the new expansion, for all good and all bad things that would be coming with it. We did a lot of things to counter the drought ingame by expanding more into other games. We had nights of Among Us, Phasmophobia and Halo. We had a Minecraft server and Pub Quizzes. We expanded more and more out of just ffxiv. And while some people might see it as a maybe bad thing – we are an ffxiv community after all. So shouldn’t we just play ffxiv? – I see It as yet another positive thing. Doing more than just one game, changing up activities and explore what other interests we share… Isn’t that what friends do? FF will always be “our thing” for all of us in some way or another. But also switching it up and doing other stuff we enjoy together, that for me is a sign that we are so much more than just players in a MMO. We spent time together, we laugh together (and sometimes we even cry together). We simply have fun. We are a FC, a free company. For me that means we are free to keep each other company. In whatever way we want. And that for me is the greatest pleasure we could have achieved as a community.

But not only did we explore other games. We still found more ways of having fun with ffxiv itself. We had our “Where in Eorzea” series that made us explore all the corners of the game in ways we – or I at least – would have never guessed to explore. We also hold screenshot contests. The 6th one just recently had released its results and we had some really astonishing pictures in there. That contest in particular was special for me. Not because I was part of the jury but because it is a firm proof that even a competition can make us get closer to each other. Having paired people anew in different rounds made sure that the contestants focused more on having a fun photo shooting together than actually aiming for the prices. What more could I have wished for?

An art contest! Well, not a contest. A countdown! As Square Enix always does an art countdown the days before the launch of an expansion, so did we want to do one. On a smaller scale and with a lot more personal touch. And we did! A total of eleven pictures made by ten volunteer art connoisseurs were made and posted each day before the Endwalker launch. When first Laila proposed that idea to the other ancients, I was wary. Originally, only us ancients were supposed to do the art. But seeing how much time that took, we asked mentors to help us, out of curiosity. And then other members as well. I had my doubts that we would find volunteers for every day. But I was a fool doubting my fellow members for even a second. Another flicker of positivity. Oh, what fun we had with the countdown. I laughed and loved a lot during those days.

The final struggles

And suddenly Endwalker was there. Even though we knew it would happen. Even though many of us had prepared for it. It still took me and others by surprise. And even more than that it surprised us in ways that it was not supposed to. What positivity and happiness we had strived to share, was fast getting drowned out by frustration. Even now, weeks after the launch, people have to fight with queues of thousands. The realization of coming home after a long day of work and not being able to log in as it involved hours of just staring at the login screen took a toll on all of us. Annoyance, frustration, even rage were emotions that quickly spread. We still have to fight with the queues. For most of us it – to some extent – ruined our plans of 6.0: how to play, enjoy and finish the story without getting spoilered by the internet. How to plan raiding once Savage drops. How to keep up with anything in the game at all. I find myself at a loss at most of these questions. It surely is only worse for a lot of other people. A fight in its own that we had not prepared for. A fight we were not meant to fight. And yet we have to. And yet we will.

Hard are our struggles in the world outside. And the refuge some of us saw in ffxiv was taken from us. What else might be left then for us to find a moment of calm and happiness? Well, the answer is as simple as it might be obvious, but at the same time hidden for some of us that got blinded by darkness. What else might be left for us?
Each other!

As the time before Endwalker showed us, we can do more than just play ffxiv together. We can play other smaller games together. We can have discussions about our other hobbies. We can watch movies together. We can simply spend time together, each on their own, only connected by our voices. We are more than just ff. We are friends that together can keep on the good fight. And even if we do events in the game, we still look for ways for everyone to join in. May it be by simply repeating those events at a later time. Or like our Secret Santa this year, by just using the people that can log in earlier to be used as postmen.

Just as our Warrior of Light keeps moving on after every struggle, so do we. And even if we might be the heroes and saviors of the world in ff, never does the Warrior of Light fight these battles alone. And neither do we. We have each other. Even in our darkest days will there ever be someone that will reach out to us. Here and now and forevermore.

We will walk past whatever we may perceive as the end. We walk on…

Unto tomorrow!

― written 28.12.2021 by Jace