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Thousands of ‘Final Fantasy’ Gamers Hold Virtual Funeral for Player Who Died of COVID-19

Some players recorded the event and the scene looks both surreal and poignant.

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Final Fantasy Gamers

(TMU) — There is no shortage of opinions and articles regarding the value and potential of MMORPG gaming communities, ranging from toxic misogyny to empowerment and even as a tool for revolutionary anti-censorship journalism.

One thing that is fairly well agreed upon is that players in online gaming communities develop profound relationships with their fellow gamers that are, in many ways, just as strong as “in-real-life” relationships. The latest example of this ties into the devastating COVID-19 pandemic, revealing the depth of solidarity among RPG gamers.

A Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn gamer, known on the game’s Zalera server as Ferne Le’roy, contracted the novel coronavirus in early April and died soon after from complications related to COVID-19. Though few, if any, of the gamers had met in person, they were a close-knit community, known in game parlance as a Free Company (FC).

The FFXIV: Zalera Facebook group of 3,000 members organized an in-game virtual avatar funeral march to honor Ferne Le’roy. As news of the gesture spread to other communities of Final Fantasy XIV’s 18 million registered users.

Though they’d never met in-person, organizer Leafelda Moonchild had a strong loving friendship with Ferne Le’roy.

“We had never met in person as we lived in different states,” Moonchild reflects. “But we had talked in-game and over Discord. She was one of my [FC] officers and a great friend. She didn’t really like to do endgame things almost at all but loved to help people … Ferne was a great player, and if she even thought you were not doing okay in real life, she would find a way in-game to at the very least bring a smile to your face.”

Moonchild admits she didn’t expect many players if anyone to show up for the virtual march. So she was shocked when on April 11th thousands of character avatars materialized at the approximately same time, donning black funereal garments and umbrellas, and participated in the tribute.

Roke Leonas, a FFXIV: Zalera Facebook group moderator and event co-organizer, was also shocked:

“I didn’t know them. I wasn’t even in their Free Company,” Leonas said. “When the leader posted about it asking people to come, we made the event page for it to help them. The least we could do to get the word out… Gamers take a lot of grief, but for a lot of people, that’s what community looks like. We didn’t have to know them to show our support for a player that was tragically taken and to help FC mourn in their own way.”

Some players recorded the event and the scene looks both surreal and poignant.

While there have been large in-game vigils for lost gamers before, the scale of this virtual funeral march puts it in a different category. As COVID-19 continues to claim lives, communities around the world—both in-game and in-real-life—are likely to continue finding unique ways of honoring the dearly departed.

By Jake Anderson | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

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