Like most of the best friendships, Amy and Clayton’s began with casual Friday night gaming sessions. The two were playing Final Fantasy XIV and found themselves in the same Free Company, an alliance that would go on to bloom into a lifelong friendship. For International Friendship Day I had the absolute pleasure of chatting with the two of them about how they met, what made them such fast friends and why they think the game is such a popular place to make new friends.
The popularity and nature of Final Fantasy XIV means that you’re constantly surrounded by countless other players from all over the world, the realm is teeming with life from all walks. Given the sheer scale of players, jolly co-operation is encouraged through the game’s Free Company system.
For the uninitiated, the Free Companies are an in-game system that allows players to connect and pool their resources, such as currency and items, to tackle problems bigger than one Hero of Light can manage alone. As you roam Eorzea you’ll often be prompted to join these groups, who use the text chat to explain what they’re about and why you might want to jump in. These are often incredibly endearing, the general player base of Final Fantasy XIV being an earnest and welcoming bunch of dedicated players with personality to spare.
Through one of these Free Companies, Amy and Clayton first met, plundering events for rare items and the like. “Clayton thought we got lucky with loot when I was in his party so he would ask to be in my party often.” Amy tells me, “We had chatted briefly in Discord a few times about Final Fantasy, cosplay, art, FFXIV glamours and general interests but when my father passed away, we talked a lot more often in Discord.”
Clayton, a resident of my own stomping grounds, Adelaide in South Australia would go on to delight Amy with tales of his Dungeons and Dragons character, leaving quite the impression on the New South Wales player. It’s the kind of connection most folks dream to find while playing an online game, one that Clayton recognises takes time to foster. “..You only have text to talk to someone in the beginning, so you talk to people! It kind of forces you to do that because your interactions aren’t really nuanced with emotes only.” Clayton explains, “Asking questions and being interested in what the other person is doing and talking about. Seeking them out and making them feel special.”
Despite its critically acclaimed focus on narrative, Final Fantasy XIV also allows players like Clayton and Amy to spend some downtime together in a virtual space. Given the past eighteen months that we’ve collectively endured at the hands of the COVID-19 outbreak, finding new places to form friendships can be a lifesaver. Back in September 2020, I wrote about finding family through games like Final Fantasy XIV and while it pains me to still see us in a similar global situation nearly a year on, the positive impact of these online spaces continues to be a soothing balm of sorts.
“We also both loved FFXIV content and storyline so we would quite often do new content together as well as levelling up, getting new items or just hanging out to waste time at the Gold Saucer (casino),” Clayton explains. “That’s only ‘in game’ stuff though, we would often talk about our days or things we got up to as well, this led to sharing photos and learning more about each other’s life interests.”
This connection helped Amy through one of the darkest times a person can experience after she suddenly lost her father. “..it felt like I was in a fog for a very long time afterwards. Clayton really helped to keep my thoughts together and think more clearly. He got me through the tough times that followed and I’m not sure what I would have done without him.” Amy tells me, going on to note that players can sometimes be seen coming together for memorial services in the game. The most high profile example of this being the passing of Beserk creator Kentaro Miura after which players formed long lines clad in Dark Knight armour to honour the iconic artist.
In turn, Clayton has found his experience with Final Fantasy XIV has been changed for the better since his friendship with Amy. “I have improved when it comes to my Glamour, photo shooting, and Interior designing/housing because of playing with Amy…we encourage and engage each other to help with improving those things we enjoy and want to get better at,” he says, heaping praise on his friend. “I think Amy is infinitely more talented than I am when it comes to a lot of these things (just look at her cosplay, art etc) so it’s great that we hit on things where we can grow together but still learn at our own pace.”
This friendly learning ethos is one that both players have found to be a common element in Final Fantasy XIV‘s social environment. Along with the Free Company system, the game also marks new players with a unique sprout symbol that communicates to others that patience may be required with them. Beyond the technical elements though, Amy notes that “..the overall love of the game that everyone has within the community really helps people be openly caring, friendly and helpful.”
Clayton goes on to add that “Talking to people was key. People like to answer questions and show how much they know, share what they learned, and help, just don’t rely on them to get the job done for you without you doing something of it yourself! You need to put in effort to get that information.”
With a player base as sizeable and varied as Final Fantasy XIV‘s though, Clayton explains that opening yourself up to players in other language regions is a uniquely rewarding challenge. “If you’re stuck out in Limsa not knowing why your Duty Queue isn’t popping then a quick question to your Free Company might let you know its because you need to check ALL languages,” he says. “That’s the other thing I have enjoyed about being on a Japanese server. I think there has been a strong influence on how people interact because of the multicultural aspect of our server. People not having common languages means there have to be other ways to communicate, and all of that takes patience.”
If you’re looking for some new friends in that brave new world, you might even consider joining the Free Company Amy and Clayton founded together. “We (me, Clayton, my twin sister Lulubelles and our friend Alasdair) decided we would make our own Free Company when a friend had suggested we should make an FC called the Bea’s Knees, after the dance emote the Bee’s Knees. The Bea being the start of my character name Beatrix.” Amy says, explaining one of the sweetest Free Company names I’ve ever seen.
Clayton goes on to say, “It’s a small group at the moment, but it’s slowly growing. We do like to run events and we attempt to get people to play together, but we also understand people want to play with their friends and maybe not new people, so we don’t force FC people together.”
Fortunately for new players, there are dozens of ways you can find help from others while you patiently figure out the game for yourself. While Free Companies are your first port of all, Clayton and Amy both highly recommended the Final Fantasy XIV Australia and New Zealand Facebook Group. “Ben and all the admins are wonderful people, there’s also FFXIV experts in there that’ll answer any question you have. They also have a long list of Free Companies and who to contact in-game to join. It’s a very positive and friendly place!” Amy explains.
“You might hear a horror story but you’re more likely to hear a lot of good stories about how helpful people are, and how easy it is to be put at ease,” says Clayton. When I asked him for a general tip for players looking to get into Final Fantasy XIV in 2021 he goes on to say that, “If you’re a hard-core gamer then it’s got you covered there too! You can join raids and that has everything cutting edge you could want. Casual? It’s suitable for you too. Get out there and discover a new world!”
With a brand new Oceania Server slated for release later this year and a player base that shows absolutely no signs of slowing down, there has arguable never been a better time to jump into Final Fantasy XIV. It’s a big game to be sure but filled with a community that will welcome you with open arms, a digital hug I know I needed over the past year.
We’d love to extend a warm thank you to Amy and Clayton for taking the time to talk to us about their friendship.