A Queer Year

M.E.G.A.’s first year in retrospect

Thinking back to how far we have come – I cannot help feeling proud. Today, exactly one year has passed since our founding, and gurl, what a ride it has been. It was in May 2018 when a few friends started thinking about forming their own guild. M.E.G.A., or Make Eorzea Gay Again quickly came into existence. We have grown into an active and social community. Today on the ides of June, in Pride Month, we celebrate our first birthday. But Rome was not built in a day – and we have had our share of growing pains. Luckily there were many highlights as well. I would like to share our extraordinary journey with you. – by Victus Suncrowne

The need for community

There are less and less organizations and associations focused on a primarily LGBTQ+ audience. That is highly likely due to the successes of queer emancipation in Western society: in a growing number of circles one’s gender identity, expression, biological sex and/or sexual attraction is not a large issue anymore. We still have a long way to go, but there has been progress. However, queer gamers, ‘gaymers’ (or whatever you might call them) very much have a tendency to stick together. And that is not a strange phenomenon. Gaming is very much a social activity and it fills a need for connecting to other people. It is much easier to connect to people who have the same experiences and struggles like yourself. And sadly, as gaming still involves a degree of anonymity and (sometimes under the guise of freedom of expression) a vague sense of accountability, discrimination is still an issue queer gamers have to deal with. Being part of a queer gaming community seems to be a good solution. There are queer (friendly) guilds everywhere, in online communities all over the world, in various kinds of games.

Going beyond

And in one of those guilds a few friends found each other. The year was 2018. Immersed in the wonderful world of FINAL FANTASY XIV, they looked to one another for help and company. But they quickly found that connecting one’s self to as a queer guild was not enough. In their eyes, a guild (or better said: a community) needed to move forward, it needed to grow and it needed to be active. The Free Company they were a part of had no collective activities and uninvolved or absent leadership. There was a feeling that they did not “own” the community and therefore were not fully part of it. And why try to organize things when the leadership did not seem to bother? They were disappointed, wanted better and wanted to do better themselves.

So they decided to build a Free Company based on a few guiding principles: diversity, respect, activity, reciprocity and democracy. They left their inactive Free Company, never to return. A new domain name was registered, a website was built, the new FC was founded, the Discord server was being set-up. Other friends quickly joined. A new adventure awaited.

“Make Eorzea Gay Again” and “M.E.G.A.”.

Transforming, reappropriating and owning the infamous phrase that defined bigotry and conservatism. A wish to leave a mark on the online world we call home. An acronym standing for the grandness of our ambitions.

This is not the first time queer people used reappropriation on a negative expression.

We would soon learn if the world was ready for us.

A summer of love

Although democracy was a guiding principle, until there were a fair amount of members, the leadership could not be elected at first. The founders of the Free Company were the provisional leadership until a future election. The first order of business was to get the basic level of facilities that was expected of a Free Company: a house and rank fitting for grand ambitions. Within the first month, due to the hard work of all members, a large plot was bought and Rank 8 was achieved. We crafted our asses off – and it payed off quite well.

The summer holidays were in full swing, a great number of people were playing FINAL FANTASY XIV, unbound by the obligations of education and work. We found that the message of the FC, which we occasionally /shout -ed in crowded areas, was picked up very fast. We grew very fast in a very short amount of time. That was both a blessing and a curse. Ideally, one wants to give new members the time to acclimatize and get acquainted with the community. But with an influx of many new members the community soon became like ‘a large room filled with strangers’. Although many people stayed and became part of our community, some quickly left as fast as they joined. The leadership came to embrace quality over quantity: pacing growth steadily and making people responsible for new members to settle and feel comfortable. The leadership also built in steps into the membership flow of the Discord server to ensure a proper introduction.

Decorating the house was another challenge and the community found able members to coordinate the decoration of the house. A huge amount of time and effort went into the design and crafting of the interior and exterior of the house. There was a thrill and a huge sense of accomplishment – we all built a home and a community in such a short time. The design was lauded by all who layed their eyes upon it. The leadership made someone responsible for maintaining the housing and the workshop.

The Large mansion was transformed into a work of art.

Events were planned and organized. Raffles (including a Byakko-themed raffle), content runs (new patches, the launch of Heaven-on-High), fashion shows on our catwalk, a Final Fantasy trivia quiz, countless EX mount farms, a furnishing contest, a photo contest… a great variety of events were organized. Some events were too ambitious and did not make it, such as Chocobo races and team-versus-team dungeon speedruns. The bulk of the events were organized by the leadership and as such, they also made someone responsible for coordinating the events. (Start to see a pattern here?)

The first FC event was a Byakko-themed raffle. We used to make posters for events such as this.

We had a meetup with various European members of the Free Company during Rotterdam Pride in the Netherlands in September 2018. Many real-life friendships and even new romances flourished within our community.

With the rainbow flag, marching during Rotterdam Pride. Later that evening, more members joined for food and cocktails.

Things were going stable. It was time to give reign to the members to elect their own leadership.

The chain of command

The leadership consisted of the Legatus (the de facto leader of the FC) and two Tribunii. The leadership embraced a ‘divide and rule’ principle by making various people (called Officiers) responsible for various important topics: new members, the housing, the workshop and organizing events. In August 2018, people could vote for a Legatus through a first-past-the-post poll. The winner of the election was to choose two other candidates to serve as Tribune. A Legatus was chosen. They chose their Tribunii. They would lead for the upcoming six months. But difficult times lay ahead.

The first elected Leadership of M.E.G.A. Omega.

Summer was over. Players, including our community and its leadership and officers, went back to the obligations of daily life. Some started or continued their education at university, some just went back to work. Suddenly it was not crowded anymore. And leadership struggled with their new-found obligations. Activity goes hand in hand with effort, and there were, save for the weekends, a lot less hands to work with. Work on the housing, the workshop and events declined and sometimes even grounded to a halt.

Having experienced such a high tide in the summer, and with the old and stale community fresh in our mind, we were overcome by a small panic. Did we not leave the old community to do better? We were turning into the very thing we fled.

A very important lesson was learned in terms of leadership. Stepping up to inactivity and holding leadership to account. Choosing to fulfill a leading role within a community is a commitment; and if one is not able to fulfill the commitment, one should step down. It’s easy to make promises in a time one’s online all the time – leading takes a long(er) term commitment, at least for six months.

We also made a choice to kick members who have not been online for more than 100 days without letting us know about a prolonged absence.

There was also a brief period of time we were affiliated with ‘Gayorzea’. But because of a toxic collaboration and multiple stories of harrassment by some of their prominent members, we saw it sensible to dissolve our affiliation. M.E.G.A. strives to be a safe and friendly haven for all queer gamers.

Slowly, little by little the FC reinvigorated itself. And that is the merit of democracy: it is a self-regulatory system. New elections were organized in February 2019. This time, the Legatus world be a permanent position to safeguard the original principles and avoiding the transfer of delicate responsibilities. Two Tribunes were elected. And in the wake of the final STORMBLOOD patch, the Free Company started to flourish again.

It goes to show that even in times when not many people are online, we are still able to organize events, have a great community and keep all things running – an active and devoted leadership helps tremendously.

In April 2019, Zana’than set out to form a new branch of M.E.G.A. on the Ragnarok server. Our dream and philosophy is spreading to other servers in our datacenter.

M.E.G.A. Ragnarok was formed in 2019.

A new day is dawning

We are now on the eve of a new expansion. SHADOWBRINGERS will without a doubt bring back many friends and newcomers to Eorzea and our community. And as a new summer approaches, many will spend their days not only in parks and beaches, but also in the wonderful world of Hydaelyn and the First Shard.

Rhodin Nybark, winner of the latest M.E.G.A. ball, with his outfit in the SHADOWBRINGERS category.

We are ready and welcome all with open arms. We all are Warriors of Light (and Darkness) in our own way, challenging difficulties and adversities, only to learn and overcome, hopeful to what the future will bring.

Our journey ever continues. May you walk in the light of the Crystal.

Victus Suncrowne
Duodecim Gratia Legatus Omega