18 Nov 2023

“Friends from the internet” in Uncrankd

Here’s a an excerpt from my article for the first issue of Uncrank’d, a playdate fanzine. Thanks XaniaLasagna editing the issue!

We’ll be moving soon. Our landlord’s daughter will want to use the apartment at some soon-ish future date. It’s a weight to carry with you. An extra random number generator to look for while the rental market goes bonkers. However, that’s not that special. Everything’s changing all the time. Growing up, switching jobs, economic crises, overcoming burnout, enduring COVID complacency, having a kid. One needs a lot of love to live.

It’s December 2000 and we drive to a nearby city for Christmas shopping. I buy Final Fantasy VIII for PC in a glorious sky blue box. The manual is a xerox copy of its Czech translation and I spend the whole ride back home reading its 16 pages. Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec. That Christmas I’ll get a racing wheel that connects to the game port on the sound card. I wanted it for so long but I’ll rarely use it — the Final Fantasy fandom will swallow me whole.

Thanks to a high school friend who to this day goes by Kiros and a web community of local fans, I became obsessed with Squaresoft and Japanese culture in general. To this day, my parents still ask me “Is that Nobuo Uematsu?” when I play something they don’t know on my laptop. I spent hours on our dial-up chatting with friends from the internet and eventually connecting with them through ICQ (🌼107691763, currently offline) and even becoming pen pals.

When traveling to another city — the one where I live now — I met with the admin of our fansite and picked up the Final Fantasy X OST mp3s burned on a CD. My father was watching us over a newspaper from a distance to keep me safe.

In about two years I got through most of FF4–8, Chrono Trigger, emulated Pokémon Yellow, and many more. I started writing previews for a website focused on Playstation, despite never owning any console. Since I didn’t know much English back then, I just quickly Alt-Tabbed between the game and a WinGED 2000 dictionary window all the time.

However, what I remember most fondly, is the everyday online banter in our community chatroom. Picking up at Final Fantasy and going in all directions. I remember a safe space — I was lucky, it really was a safe space — for talking about any teenage or early 20s angst. Some people wrote fan fiction and drew fan art and we all read it and checked it out and talked about it. I remember talking about Photoshop as I liked the faded edges in images on the fansite (apply blur to a mask, and voila, there’s your gradient – I was impressed). Being a countryside kid, I liked to talk to people living elsewhere. I was amazed when there was a first meetup and later even a con (I couldn’t go, though).

Read the full article in Uncrank’d! There are both print and digital editions available. Get it on Shopify or Storenvy.