One game, 10 years, and several creative, nerdy pursuits have changed my life completely.
As 2015 wound down and we entered the season in which everyone talks about how thankful they are for various things in their life, I found myself reflecting on the things that have brought me to where I am now – writing, self-employment, and embracing my inner geek.
Earlier this year during E3, Final Fantasy fans across the world waited with bated breath as Sony made what was arguably the most anticipated announcement in the franchise’s history. A remake of one of the most beloved, well-known PlayStation games was being remade for the PS4. Rumors had been circulating for years – since the trailer release of the PS3 graphics and the opening scene of the game as a teaser – that Square-Enix was working on a remake. While that rumor was put to rest earlier this year (one of the original developers stated that it wasn’t going to be remade), fans still speculated, hoped and prayed that someday our wishes might come true.
Final Fantasy VII was a game that changed the direction of my life, if only indirectly. I didn’t grow up with video games. I always had put into my hands by family members and very much enjoyed them through the years. When I was 18 and in college, my boyfriend at the time introduced me to console gaming. While I had watched cousins and friends play video games growing up, it was always the Atari or classic Nintendo consoles, never anything quite like PlayStation. While he played Resident Evil, I would flip through his other games, and I finally stumbled across Final Fantasy VII. The Brady Games guide he had for it was fascinating – I was used to text-based PC games, so the graphics to me were mind blowing, even considering how dated they already were by 2004. I began to Google more artwork from the game and eventually stumbled across people dressed up as the characters, which was something I had never imagined. I followed one of the photographs to a cosplayer’s website, Adella Cosplay and my mind was entirely blown. To me, she looked exactly like Aeris, who had quickly become my favorite (of course, I had no idea what was in store for her, since I hadn’t played the game yet).
After that, I bought my own copy of the game, and of course a PlayStation (which was $20 used – I didn’t want any other games, so a PS2 at the time was of little interest). It took me a while to figure out what I was doing in the game, but it wasn’t long before I felt very emotionally attached to the characters and storyline. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get past the scene at the end of Disk 1 though. To this day, I haven’t been able to complete the game and it’s most likely because of that scene (I won’t spoil it… for those who have been living in the dark for almost 20 years about this!). I was emotionally wrecked.
A few years later, I had left that particular college and expanded my video game collection to include every Final Fantasy game – including Tactics – that was available on console in the US. I started at a new college, and began to befriend more like-minded individuals who enjoyed video games and anime, and they introduced me to a new hobby – one that was becoming more and more popular: Cosplay. I remembered those photos I had seen a few years before when first getting into console games, and became really excited about the idea of portraying Aeris myself. Admittedly, my first few attempts were not very good, but sewing costumes opened up a door in my life and brought me to where I am today.
While it was a struggle, I discovered that the world of academia was not something I wished to continue to pursue, and eventually left my second college in order to pursue my creative interests more thoroughly. While working a part-time job, I began to hone my sewing skills and save up as much money as I could, hoping to eventually be able to support myself – somehow – with my creative endeavors. With the (incredibly skeptical) support of my family, I continued to push myself, wanting to prove not only to my family, but also to myself that I could do this if I really tried. In 2011, I was invited to join a group of friends who were also Final Fantasy fans who cosplayed from Final Fantasy Dissidia. I had been toying with the idea for some time with cosplaying Terra Branford from Final Fantasy VI, since I had fallen in love with the artwork designs from Yoshitako Amano (the original artist for the Final Fantasy games, and designer of the Vampire Hunter D characters and artwork from the novels).
While my friends, at this point, expected me to cosplay Aerith (which I did eventually do, as you can see, and have been continuing to do since the first version of the costume I made in 2008), I told them I was more interested in portraying Terra (or Tina, as she’s called in Dissidia) because I had big plans for her design. For months, I sketched out designs and poured over the innumerable reference images from Amano, purchasing art books, looking at fan art and in-game reference images to cobble together my own design. Finally, I decided that the only way to really do this costume justice would be if I had an embroidery machine, since my painting skills are abysmal. After convincing my parents that it would be a great investment and help me to improve my skills, they agreed to pay half on the machine as a belated birthday gift.
In between working on the embroidery for my costume (which I later beaded, covering the wig, cloak, dress, mits and boots in almost 7,000 Swarovski element crystal beads, making it to this day my most labor intensive and expensive costume), I began to experiment with making patches and accessories for costumes from various series and video games. Friends were urging me to sell the patches to them and start taking custom orders, but I had my eyes on a bigger idea – opening a shop. A few months into 2012, I began to plan what would be the biggest and most rewarding venture of my life. I packed up a storage unit, and moved 2,500 miles away from everyone and everything I knew, and opened up my Etsy shop.
I opened my shop in October 2012 (with maybe 3 listings total, and no idea what I was doing or if anything would come of it). Since then, my Etsy has grown from being able to maybe break even to my main income, and how I pay most of my expenses every month now. My shop has almost 100 listings, and I have customers from all over the world. Every day, I wake up and look at images from Final Fantasy VII, and I just marvel at how flipping through a game guide and a quick Google search could have had such an impact on the path my life took 10 years ago. I’m not really sure what would have happened if I hadn’t dropped out of college, but I know that the life I live now is fulfilling, and every day I wake up happy that I followed a whim and embraced my inner geek. Video games have changed my life for the better, and I’m grateful for it every day. There’s nothing I would change on the road to where I am now, and while I don’t know where I might be going, I look forward to where it leads. Right now, I’m enjoying this nerdy journey of mine.