I've never been one for MMOs. I've tried a few. Guildwars, WoW, even Final Fantasy 11, and I didn't care for any of them. I just didn't feel like I connected with anyone else that played them. Though, in retrospect, that's probably due to my own nervousness than anything else.
I'm disabled. Specifically, I have Cerebral Palsy (CP). My mobility is limited, and I have problems with my fine motor skills. Since I couldn't go outside and play like other kids did, my parents found another way to keep me stimulated. They bought me an Atari 2600 when I was three, and my lifelong passion for video games was born.
When I first started noticing MMOs, I wrote them off because I thought that there was no way the story of a game that centers a character you make up yourself, and other, real breathing people who play alongside you, could be better than one written about a character who came from a mind much more creative than my own. When I heard that my favorite RPG series at the time, Final Fantasy, was going to have an MMO of its own though, I had to bite the bullet and try it.
I bought the game on release and installed it on my new laptop that I had gotten for my birthday that year. I created my character and began to play. I struggled because at the time, I was using just the touchpad and keyboard to navigate, and my CP makes that difficult. I died a lot. And when I started dying so much, I started to have a nagging thought: What if people I try to play with get angry with me?
Up until that point, I had played games with people I knew personally. They knew my situation, and accepted it. This was a whole new ball game for me. These players were strangers. They wouldn't care about my physical issues. They wanted someone competent who could watch their back at all times and not screw up when it counted during a quest or a dungeon. I couldn't bring down other people that way. I couldn't make their game worse.
So I stopped playing after one month.
Over the next few years, I dabbled in Guildwars, and WoW to try and get over this fear I had about playing with a party. It never worked. I never gave it a chance to. I quit both games less than two weeks after starting. I even bought Final Fantasy 14, hoping I'd have the nerve to try again with a new Final Fantasy MMO, but after trying it for a few days and hearing how much of a mess it was turning out to be, I retreated into my shell again like a scared turtle. Why mess with a game that's a train wreck, right?
Fast forward to the middle of August this year. I'd been hearing about the relaunch for Final Fantasy 14 for a while. "It's going to be better!" "It'll be amazing!" "It'll be awful!" "Square-Enix is wasting its time!" I'd seen all these opinions. I'd seen images and videos, and decided that they looked really good. Then I heard that if you'd bought the original Final Fantasy 14, you didn't need to buy A Realm Reborn. There was also the final beta test going on, so I applied. If I tried it and liked it, then I could go from there. If I didn't, then hey, at least I didn't spend 50 dollars on another game I wasn't going to play.
I got accepted to the beta and then I was faced with a quandary. How could I make the game easier to control for myself? My hands and fingers tend to shake whenever I try to do any precise action quickly, like typing or navigating a mouse pointer and quickly clicking an icon. How could I alleviate that so that I could play effectively during the hectic parts of the game when I had a group to support? I had a controller that I used for single player Steam games, but could it be a viable option for an MMO? I hadn't really considered that as a possibility before then. As far as I knew, playing an MMO with a controller was something that made it more difficult than using a conventional mouse/keyboard setup. I knew that the game was going to be ported to the PS3 (and PS4) though, so I figured that there must be some way to set up a controller for the PC too. I plugged my controller in and started the game client.
When I gained control of my character after the opening scenes, I went into the setting of the main menu and set the control scheme to gamepad use. I started moving the analog sticks and my character responded. I pushed buttons and the in-game cursor snapped around the screen and highlighted various icons and windows. I was able to move my character around easily. I could make him jump, sprint, and use menu commands all using the buttons. I didn't have to worry that the cursor wasn't pointed in the right place to execute the right menu command due to my shaky hands. I could just push the right button on the controller, and I'd know it was where I needed it to be. Setting new commands to the hotbar was a breeze, as was quickly switching between multiple windows and hotbars.
This was doable.
I played through the beta and waited for the official release. It was torturous. I wanted the game now! I was excited about an MMO! I finally—finally—felt like maybe I could play with other people without being a burden to them. When the game came out a week later, I started playing immediately. I was hungry for it, devouring quest after quest. Nothing made me pause for concern...until Sastasha.
Sastasha is the game's first dungeon. This was my moment of truth. Would I make it through without being abandoned for being an unreliable party member, or would I tough it out and make it through to the end, proving to myself that I can play this game despite my fears of failure. I used the game's party matchmaking tool called the Duty Finder, and shortly, I and three others were bound for the dungeon.
I was a Conjurer, the precursor class for the White mage job, whose main role would be to keep the party healed up as we traveled through and cleared the dungeon. We trekked through, each knowing their role, so not much communication was required. I kept my attention trained on the tank, and threw heals at him whenever he took damage. An occasional glance at the party's health bars let me know when I needed to switch off of the tank and mend the DPS characters' wounds. We advanced onto the boss of the area and made short work of him. We won, and I had helped. I had made it through my first dungeon. And I was ecstatic.
Since then, I have joined a Free Company of great players (Red Sash on Siren). We use an external voice chat program to supplement our communication, coordinate our activities and to help our company stay connected and grow. And although I haven't done a whole lot for them yet, I know that I can. I can, and I will. That is my first, and most valuable victory in this MMO.