It all began with a stone or so the legend says.
This story however isn’t about a legend, but a game that steered the direction of my entire life from the day I picked it up. No, this story began with a game and HDD bundle for the PlayStation 2.
Coming off of my obsession with Phantasy Star Online for the Sega Dreamcast, my birthday was coming up and it was time to decide what to bug my parents for. Having enjoyed the few Final Fantasy games I had played previously, and seeing that I could get a hard drive for my PS2 along with the game was enough to make me settle on Final Fantasy XI.
I still remember my first time logging into Vana’diel on my PlayStation 2. Back in the day before games did the hand holding they do today, it wasn’t easy to start out. I remember heading out into Gustaberg and fighting a couple of bees before realizing that I was running out of HP. Not wanting to die, I traveled back into the city to find a shop to buy some potions. Finally I found them, but they cost way more money than I had. It was then that I simply asked other player “hey… how do I get HP back?”. Thus it was, that I learned you can simply crouch down and recover your HP and MP without having to rely solely on potions or magic spells.
As time went on, I naturally ran into other adventurers, eventually joining my first linkshell. The leader was a higher level than me and kept talking about going to level in the Valkurm Dunes. I remember thinking to myself “Wow! An area outside of Gustaberg? That’s awesome, I can’t wait to see this place.” Of course, when I get there, I realized that my expectations of this new magical area were simply met with sand, lizards, and death.
The members of our Linkshell slowly leveled up, continuing to check out new areas and do missions together. It was around this time that I found Mega Elixir- the first Final Fantasy XI podcast. I had managed to find it right as they had released their first episode and thought that it was so cool that I could listen to other people talk about the game. I even wrote an e-mail to them after their first episode, suggesting they open up a segment in the show that simply reads viewer e-mails… and they did! Soon after I was invited onto the podcast as a guest and it was there where I ran into a man who went by the name of Steak. We were invited back onto the show several times and when its host Ogaming was purchased by ZAM, the hosts reached out to Steak and myself to form a new Final Fantasy XI podcast.
It was then that Pet Food Alpha was created.
I reached out to a friend in-game, Samigrace, to become our third host and we added several other hosts over the years such as Chinchilla, Squigglicious, Duel, Teila, Miroku and Bersty. The show lasted seven years. A whopping five years within that saw PFA as a weekly show. That show has since been replaced by Pet Food Beta which is the only running Final Fantasy XI podcast in existence right now.
Throughout the years on Pet Food Alpha, we brought in many players to chat about the game, even bringing in people from the Square Enix community team. One year, before events were streamed like they are today, we teamed up with a popular FFXI website that focused on helping to bring news from Japan to English speaker players to cover VanaFest. I can remember spending hours talking to one of the members of that website after we had finished recording. It was so great talking to someone that, like me, had loved the game so much that she decided to get involved with the community outside of the game.
This summer, the two of us will be getting married.
Many years ago, I simply thought it would be fun to journey into Vana’diel alongside other adventurers. I had no idea at the time what that could lead to. Picking up that PS2 game and HDD bundle lead me into podcasting and running websites for FFXI and FFXIV which I’m still doing to this day. Most importantly however, it helped me meet new people, including the woman that I want to spend the rest of my life with.
Today, I’m incredibly saddened to say that console support for Final Fantasy XI has ended. Without this game, without my PlayStation 2, I wouldn’t be where I am today and it’s with happy tears in my eyes that I would like to thank Square Enix and Sony for having such an insurmountable impact on my life.