Hello Vana’diel, goodbye real life
I don’t regret going through a MMORPG phase. It was a grand waste of my total playtime of 60 days of my life, but my life as Herbi the mithra shaped who I am today. I started playing Final Fantasy XI when I was 18. It was the spring or summer before I left for college, and my then-boyfriend got a copy of the game’s English beta version. We were both pretty obsessed with Square, so we were giddy to spend our summer in doors.
I’d never played a MMORPG before, and I was frustrated with how long everything took and how set back I was if I decided I wanted to play a different race (I picked a hume female who looked like me–good thing I’m white or I would have been sorry out of luck) or even just change jobs. I hated being a warrior, but kept playing and didn’t want to throw out the time I put into her and start over. When beta ended and retail came out, I was excited to finally have my own account so I could play with my boyfriend. I created Herbi the mithra thief, and he was a little tarutaru named Tofutie. We joined the Midgardsormr server with our other friends from beta, many of whom I continued to play with until I finally quit for good at age 20.
Sex kittens aren’t real live girls
Mithras in FFXI are a race of cat women where males are apparently a rarity. It was a joke that mithras are always played by men, and we called them manthras. A guy cross-dressing for some risk-free thrill was fine, but it was like there wasn’t supposed to be a real, live female subject behind the sex object.
People called me he sometimes, but not as often as I got called dude when I tried out World of Warcraft as a tauren and undead. (Can you imagine calling male characters “she” by default?) In our linkshells and parties, people often were surprised that I was the woman. Tofutie is one of those nice guys who goes above and beyond the rest by being a decent human being. He certainly was a lot more patient with other players than I was. He was a healer–a white mage and eventually red mage, and I switched was a paladin, the tanking class. I absolutely loved tanking, and miss it even now. “What! Tofutie is the dude?” our linkshell friends would say. “Girls don’t tank!”
I liked surprising people. I wasn’t supposed to be an actual girl playing the sex kitten. I wasn’t supposed to be blunt and crude and sexy and after all that reveal that yes, I actually was a real live woman behind the computer. That was just weird. And yes, I did like attention, but who doesn’t like to be rewarded with /praise?
Marriage is for heteros only
We’d do some casual role-playing in FFXI, but Herbi and Tofutie couldn’t get married because they were both women. Even video games have institutionalized heterosexual privileges.
Synth me a pie, bitch!
A friend and I tried to start a linkshell called FemmeFatale for girl gamers. I macro’d an advertisement and dropped it regularly by the auction house. I got mixed praise and criticism. Guys begged to join (some pretended to be women). We did let male-identified people in, which was kind of problematic because it was like a little club of “alright” guys who thought they were super special for not being misogynists or something. (I actually learned the word misogynist from another mithra thief, Nekomasa, that I admired.)
One time, a guy told me that there wasn’t a need for a linkshell for women, and that I should shut up and synth him a pie. I blacklisted him, but I was upset.
The linkshell fell apart when the leader’s in-game boyfriend said he was going to move to live near her. He was 19, she was 13. I found out her phone number and got another player to call her parents and tell them. I still think we did the right thing: no way the power dynamics in that relationship were equal
FFXI put me in situations where people used my gender against me. I used it to stay in a romantic relationship longer than I should have been, although Tofutie was a nice shield from being
preyed oncourted by the creeps. And I never did reach endgame, I got too screwed over by other players. But I’d go back. I miss being Herbi and being an honestly good tank and I even miss a lot of the friends I played with. I’d go back and play again if I hadn’t quit to fill my time with studying and novel writing and bike riding and making new friends.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I stopped being so reclusive, stopped dating, stopped being so unfriendly, stopped being so uninterested in school when I quit FFXI.
That’s it for my pithy conclusion.