Life is complicated. It's not often that the path our lives take us down is obvious enough to where we can look back on the choices we made and clearly see what part they played in us ending up where we are. I'm one of the fortunate few who did have a rather profound experience of seeing this sort of cause and effect in a very transparent way, and I have Final Fantasy XI Online to thank for it.
I know that makes very little sense without context. I played Final Fantasy XI, it was my first ever massively multiplayer online role playing game, for almost eight years. I started playing almost on accident. I bought the Playstation 2 HDD for other reasons. It came packed with a copy of Final Fantasy XI, so I decided to give it a shot. The game spread like wildfire among my friends and family. Within weeks everyone I knew who had even a passing interest in video games was playing it.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Just a few short days of playing, I switched what server I was playing on. I did this because I found out a friend of mine at the time was also playing on said server. Ironically I never once saw him on the game, and he quit after the free trial month, and the last time I spoke with him was maybe three months later.
For many years I happily played the game with personal friends. Never giving much thought to the roughly 3000 other players on the server who I shared the virtual world with and occasionally teamed up with. But despite this, I eventually met several people who would impact my life in ways I could never have imagined.
The first of these individuals I then knew as Abasis. I now know him as Paul, he became what I refer to as "my video game wingman". I've convinced him to try out several other MMO games over the years as well as a handful of co-op heavy games. We talk in one form or another almost every day. I met him for the first time just a few months ago when he decided to take a vacation in my neck of the woods. I consider him just as much a friend as I do the friends I have that I've known since high school.
While playing FFXI, I also met Kuior, Belkira, and Rekiconeki. I now know them respectively as Stephanie, Matt (Stephs then boyfriend and now husband), and Chris (their friend and roommate). All three of them happened to be from Arizona, at the time I was living in Michigan. I became good in-game friends with them. Regularly doing activities with them in game and chatting with them.
As fate would have it years later I would end up moving to Arizona for totally unrelated reasons. I go to their house every weekend to play a pencil & paper RPG, or card games, or board games, or whatever we feel like doing that night. They, by random chance, became very real and important friends in my life.
It's difficult to wrap my mind around sometimes. That if it wasn't for one little seemingly meaningless decision to change servers so many years ago, I never would of met any of these people. People that have become very real influences in my life, people who are now very real friends.