Midgar is Burning
"Then, a funny thing began to happen: As their personifications of beloved characters became more absolute, they rarely spoke out-of-character at all. Those one- or two-word action descriptors became increasingly elaborate. ... In real life, they were mostly teenagers and young adults, up all night on their PCs. But online, in a chat room called Seventh Heaven Bar, they were Tifa, Cloud and Barrett, together again."
What happens when the game ends, but the fantasy lives on? Leigh Alexander looks at the Final Fantasy Role Play movement.
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This is an interesting snippet of the whole online roleplay thing. "FFRP" is hardly the only thing like this online these days, mind you. There are no end of MUCKs and MUSHes where people are there for the story rather than the grind, there's a flourishing community of people who roleplay using journal sites like LiveJournal and GreatestJournal, there are no end of message boards set up for this kind of fannish, game-and-movie-and-book-based play.
Games of any sort have a tendancy to grow, flourish, and then die off... it's just faster or slower, depending on the enthusiasm of the fans in question. Some people will just move on, join a new game, make their own game... or just give up on the whole damned thing for a while, if not forever. Myself, I've been playing in a small chat community for around... 8 years now, give or take. We've had much the same things happen. Just... on a smaller scale. Play evolved from short blurbs to paragraphs, fancy formatting for character sheets sprang up, storylines grew more complicated, the homebrew rules system mutated into a terrifying beast of Lovecraftian proportions... heh, but it's my home on the Internet. I boot my computer up? I open a browser up to the game, say hi to my friends, and go about my business.
Why do I even say this? Something about the article gave it a tone of "Yeah this happened, but NOT ANYMORE! The glory days are GONE, I tell you!" and that didn't ring true with me. A game may die, but the gamer spirit will live on.
Final Fantasy VII is my favorite game of all time, but these guys were hardcore. The problem with all role playing is that one shitty role player ruins it all.
Wow, this article brings back more memories than I care to admit. I had an avid love of roleplaying back in the day, oftentimes working within other people's RP message forums and whatnot in order to vent my creative frustrations. Indeed, I think constant roleplaying and failure within such realms, as well as meeting the typical ass-hat board admin actually HELPED my writing career on a whole.
Oh, many would dismiss such things as mindless nerdisms, and truth be told, they are, but there was a fun in them. If you could find a collection of decent RPers who honestly got along with each other, great fun could be had. By the time I got into the RP field, I think, maybe it had already started this article's aforementioned decline, but I enjoyed it, despite hiccups. I used RPing to help playtest ideas that I later put into books and novels that I have either published or helped to publish.
Reading this article now reminds me of the fun I had RPing, but at the same time, it also reminds me of how I can never truly go back to it. RPing is a thing of the past, and as my skill was refined and developed, I found myself unable to commit to anything truly epic, truly large scale. The occasional MSN RP with a ladyfriend of mine is all I can really put up much effort into, my creative outlets now refined into books and stories and articles and essays--there's little time to indulge in RPs, yet I can sit back and watch a new guard come into some old RP sites I used to haunt, watch them settle into the spectral chairs that I and others once held, and I feel that nostalgia that festers in my old soul about the "good ole days" and how I somehow wish they would return, and yet I know.
I know that, for me, they're gone forever.
This is one of the best articles I think I've read on the Escapist, although it may be more of a subject-matter preference than anything else.
I'm actually replaying FFVII right now. I love it more than all the other Final Fantasy titles.
But damn, I could never get into roleplaying loike that lot. Nutters! :D
...That article makes me feel like the Indian shedding a tear for the now polluted lands of his ancestors.
I remember doing the whole MUSH thing WAY back when. The author describes the experience perfectly. Except for one thing...
Not those with different ideas, but just those that literally had no love for the source material. The kind of guy that played Cloud just so everyone would dote on him and talk about how "cool" he was for being so "original" for picking the "coolest" character. Then they'd bitch and complain when people they tried to RP with didn't care. People like that killed those chatrooms.
No respect, no respect at all.
i think this is amazing, someway, pitfuly i never played final fantasy i never bought a playstation and i dont like that turn-based combat system, i RPed abit on a mmo i play but i never expected to see something like this.
maybe i should try to find a emulatr or something and see whats the story of that game for create such a fans
Bring back memories of all RP games that I played in the past and will play in the future. I admit, I never actually played any FFRPs, but they are not the ONLY RPs out there. There's Link RPs, NationStates RP, Star Wars RPs, Artimers Fowls RP, etc.
I don't know. I like the concept, but I hate it in practice, and in the end, it's just as addicting as an MMORPG, more addicting because you can do whatever you want, and your fellow RPers are good at ego-stroking and allowing you to gain power.
But I dislike them as well. It's pointless, because Midgar will only burn because the players think it would be for 'good RP'. You have total control, but what is the point of the control then? It's empty, and meaningless, as with you having all power over the control of the story, over the control of the fate of your character, over everything...there is no point to play.
And, many of the RPs do enter into "Mary Suedom". A point against its favor, altough pretty minor.
Not to mention that RPs devivating from their source is, in the end, rather irriating. In an RP that is supposed to start off as a story about the races of Hyrule battling each other (before the Hylians taken over the island), you manage to get "Al-Qadiah"-copycat terrorists with anthrax, evil mages driving everyone to Terminana, the Undead winning the Annual Hyrule Spelling Bee, amnimorph cross-overs (don't ask), people hunting down Yellow Rubber Ducks, masks allowing for instant teleporation, Ruppee "Shaving" Operations (you go and you burn the ruppe to create natural resources...which you sell, making more ruppes in the process), and people managing to be a mixture of all 6 races at once...Honestly. I can see some people like it. I once liked it. But now, I can't stand it.
I suppose that how I deal with it is this: If I have fun, I play. If I don't, I leave with the rest of society. If Midgar doesn't interest me anymore, I'll leave.
I am so burned out on FF7 news and BS spin-offs. I love the popular analogy of Squenix or "Shinra" literally raping the Mako energy of their planet or "franchises" for diabolical profit. Maybe they should have focused more on making FF12 suck less ass.
When it first came out, FF7 was a gaming event, the ushering in of a new generation of gamers ready to go beyond Mario and Sonic and play quote/unquote real games. I may have been a youth at the time, but no Halo, no Madden, and no other RPG ever came close to the pre-release fervor of Final Fantasy Seven. Not playing this game would be the equivalent of having never seen Titanic or Armageddon or such. Basically, you missed out on a defining moment of popular culture in gaming.
Oh my gosh. I only started reading the Escapist because of Yahtzee, but I decided to read this article because of the title and... I was a part of a this movement. These are my ROOTS! =O I'm going to have to forward this to all the old friends I'm still in contact with. Thank you Leigh! Were you one of us?
This revives a lot of memories. I was 12 or 13 at the time, younger than a lot of people chatting but definitely not a newbie. I lived on the east coast to make matters worse. Time zones were always tough for chatroom RP. I never played a character from the original FF7 cast, I played a character named Phelkis who went through all sorts of character modifications (male and female) in the period that I had that screen name. I was pretty shy in real life, FFRP really dragged me out of my shell.
I've stayed in contact with a Rufus from those days pretty well over the years. After advent children was released we tried to start a FFRP revival using forums but it didn't catch on. The funniest thing out of the whole ordeal was I had met the guy a few times at anime conventions, and one year before Fanime '04 we told all the members of our forum we were going and anyone who wanted to meet us could. We did get to meet some of them, but realized we were like 5 years older than all of them. It was just like back in the AOL days when we were the youngest ones playing with the rest of the group.
Damn Leigh, well done. The whole time I was having flashbacks of 1996 and what became a massive roleplaying chat website for Star Wars. I can't remember the name of it, but it will come to me later. Anywho, we would play for hours! Everyone had ranks, powers and we even got to the point where we banned people (they would come into the room and be completely ignored). It was insane! Man, I miss those days. Thanks for bringing it all back for a brief moment.
Leigh, I want to honestly thank you for this article. I spent 6 years roleplaying in one of the largest ShinRa RP guilds on AOL for the longest time and if I hadn't ditched AOL, and lost the names in my account, I would have some long time friends. I miss them and this article made me think about them. You're right though. It was a small revolution that went unseen. People in other RP rooms bashed us for being "part of a group", but when we were able to hold our own individually and "fight" in groups against all these RhyDin stereotypes with giant swords, it showed that these things encouraged competition of writing and betterment of our skills.
It makes me wonder what my old friends are doing now. Thanks again Leigh.
Very good article Leigh. However, I think the AOL Neverwinter Nights rivaled and even surpassed FFRP in many respects. In any case, these experiences did do their part to help introduce a new genre of roleplayers to the world of RP, and in that there is no fault.
An evening after working for the civil service with my PS2 and some light vodka, and stumbled upon this article. Feels like a far cry from what I was doing a decade ago when I was back on Aol in FFRP. Feels like years now, but just like dawn703 says, those are my roots. He complains there about timezones but hell, was very tough for me, a Brit (Many of the US based rooms that FFRP used were near impossible to reach from UK Aol clients, no dirent links existed, I had to be invited.) Many late nights spent RPing there. Can't even remember most of my names and characters now, but know I used this Kezultra, DarkLavos, DarkDawnbringer... amongst others (Aol names I still keep on Aim if anyone remembers me). And yes, as FM78 says I remember RhyDin too. Makes me wonder just how many of us there were there.
Feels weird reading this article... I'd completely forgotton about those days without this bringing the memory to the surface. Always strange what life buries beneath the surface. Well, fond memories to those from FFRP.
May you not fight a moder.
Oh wow... this article brings back the memories for me. I was absolutely involved in FFRP on AOL back in the day as Sephiechik (mostly hung with the IXRufusXI, etc. crowd...) and I remember RhyDin too... had a few elven charaters for that one! I was around near the very beginning of FFRP and saw it collapse and rebuild itself a few times. Everything in this article is so amazingly accurate - the 15 hour binges, the insanely over-descriptive entrances/actions... it made me laugh and smile to read this article and recall all of those good times.
I continued to RP on AOL for a few years after FFRP died out but those days as my daughter of Sephiroth were the best. Man, I feel so nostalgic. Thanks for writing this artcle :)
Loved this article, though I know little or nothing about AOL/FFRP, was a paper RPG man back then, if that.
There are these grand, overarching themes, the leitmotif of life, the rise and fall of memes and norms. It all moves so much faster with technology filling the sails.
I thought of PB Shelley's sonnet about the traveler who comes across a mighty statue in the desert, a behemoth that once inspired dread that sleeps in the sand. "My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
yeah i lack the typing speed to role-play plus i find it gets boring after 10 min
but man that article was beautiful
I had to register - solely to reply to this brilliant little article here. I roleplayed on AOL for freakin' years, man. Must have been a solid 7 or 8 years if not more. I'm 21 now, and left the whole thing because a.) I was heading off to University and thought I'd get ridiculed (today I don't really care and don't mind laughing at myself from time to time) and b.) because my pops wouldn't pay for AOL anymore and I got tired of paying the $14.00 a pop each month for an AOL Canada service that was growing increasing shitty. (Mac OS X + Canada AOL = bad time).
Either way, I grew up doing it and every now and then I'm damn happy I saved a bunch of logs. I went through all the phases ... from total noob, making lame jokes "OoC" (out of character using brackets like these: -[ *lame joke* ]- ) to snotty, arrogant "veteran" who wouldn't be bothered to take the couple of minutes needed to be nice to newer players to explain a few things.
And IMHO, it's the snotty arrogant "veterans" above me, chiefly in terms of age, that ruined most of the whole damn thing. I know I'm definitely going to ruffle a few feathers by saying it, but there was a certain chat room (often simply called "Midgar") where a bunch of guys who used to belong to a guild called NEO, or the Midgar Alliance (MA) hung out just vegetating and making the occasional inside joke at someone else's expense. At any rate, the RP community, from my vantage point (if that's worth much, like I said, I left before it all vanished like a fart in the wind), was just not going to be able to renew itself because younger guys got snubbed. I can't help but laugh at my old roleplaying now, though: I'd type up these insurmountable dialogues about the texture of a nearby rock for christ's sake -- it was as if my colleagues and myself were busy trying to be Jane Austen. You'd think we all had thesaurus.com up while we were acting out our scenarios.
On the flipside, perhaps it's simply true that all good things must come to an end. The torch would've had to be passed on to kids like my younger cousin, who, though courtesy of moi were exposed to Final Fantasy at a young age (my civic duty fulfilled, right?), are more into tossing YuGiOh cards around or roleplaying stuff like Naruto. I believe hands down FFVII is a game for a generation, even though I hope it will continue to spill over into younger ones.
Just a few words .. old article, but boy was I happy to find it after a couple google searches. Makes me real nostalgic. Wish I could get back in touch with all my old RP friends now!
This is wonderfly sad. I had a wow experience much like this one.
Some say it is better to have loved and lost then never to have loved at all. When it comes to role playing you have never lost it all the way. There is allways someone out there, an old friend, an old enemy. Siting. Hopeing that one day there will be an amount of people significant enough to realy bring back the good old days. The end of an RP era is like siting next to a loved ones death bed. Hopeing that thay will come back yet at the same time just a small bit wishes for the comfort of the end. For it to be over. But its never over. The RP is never realy dead. Its just allmost there. Staying allive... bearly. It makes one wish for a happy dagger.
I roleplay on a Megaman Chatroom...admittedly we've butchered the universe by moving it to the 29th century (2808).
I wind up being most of the canon characters...
Wow, this brings me back to the days of my Elf Only Inn-style Roleplaying. Lots of drama, lots of god-moding newbies.
Sometimes, though, I miss those days...
I simultaneously lol'd and cried
Lovely, but upsetting at the same time.
This article was amazingly written :3
scary how a buncha me and friends, many non-gamers (and many gamers who don't even play much FF7) read up about it and watched Advent Children and...
I swear, something about that game/story/universe that really just hits the right chord, you know? even we were doing some (minor) roleplaying lol
but really, it's just (to me) the most balanced character ups and downs (tho some still think Cloud is to emo, I think he's, as a character and as well as the game as a whole, more legit than other FF7 wannabe FF games ^^)
=p Okay, the Escapist magazine is just pure goddamn Literary Gold. It can make PIMPLY, MALADJUSTED PRE-TEENS ROLEPLAYING FINAL FANTASY CHARACTERS IN AOL CHATROOMS SOUND EPIC. Is there any limit to their skill!?
<3 The Escapist with all my heart