“Good day, my friends,” It’s the same familiar voice I’ve heard for almost a year now, always ready to present a new lesson on faraway places, fascinating people, and unfamiliar customs. The greeting is so familiar now I sit up straight in my chair, instantly attentive like a university professor entered the room. The day’s lecturer is a history buff, though he doesn’t deliver another class on the Industrial Age or The Renaissance. Instead, this scribe indulges in the lore of Chocobos, dragons, and Ishgardian holidays, always opening with that same warm welcome and exciting exposition.
On the first day of LunarCon, I logged into Final Fantasy XIV with the enthusiasm of a patch day. And that aforementioned teacher is Synodic Scribe, a guest at this weekend’s LunarCon. The convention is a fan-organized event forgoing the chaos of in-person travel and logistical headaches. Instead, it’s hosted through FFXIV’s in-game world, Twitch, and the spillover into social media. Thinking I was slick, I made the journey from my data center, Primal, to the con’s home on Crystal about 12 hours before the festivities began. The crowds I found outside of LunarCon’s main venue in the Lavender Beds told me I wasn’t the only one trying to think ahead.
As the day began, the line to see Synodic Scribe’s lore panel looked like something from popular anime conventions or game festivals, and Lunarcon’s event staff kept things organized similarly. Upon arrival, players were asked to form an orderly line outside the house hosting their panel. While I’m typically someone who champions the community, I expected an online crowd of this size to throw those rules to the wind. However, to my surprise, I saw no one cutting in line or rushing to the front as the venue opened. Instead, players funneled in one by one, respecting the person in front of them and helping out other congoers confused by the process. Thankfully, my group made it inside before the game’s housing system cut off further entry due to pesky capacity restrictions.
My friends and I entered all wearing robes another player handed out during the wait — thanks for the souvenir, Gale — and the Synodic Scribe seemed delighted by the costumed crowd. While we were outside, Gale weaved dozens and dozens of robes in their impromptu good deed and gave them to other players for free. The outfits looked like the Scribe’s own signature ensemble, and most players were quick to forgo their glamour in a show of enthusiasm and support.
For an hour, a room full of FFXIV lore enthusiasts sat huddled together and listened to Synodic Scribe’s panel, Reading Between the Ley Lines. The lecture and its not-so-typical format was a delightful exploration into the very beginnings of the star as we know it and how the nature of a tale told through an MMO works. When I left, I was over the moon about sharing an hour of in-game lore talk with other players. But more than anything else, I found myself strangely enthused about the community as a whole — a sentiment that stuck for the entire weekend’s festivities.
It’s impossible to make time for all of LunarCon’s offerings, but the three-day event was full of plenty of FFXIV indulgences. There were in-game performances by song-and-dances acts like The Songbirds, cosplay contests, talks on the MMO’s accessibility, raid coaching, and lessons from FFXIV marine biologists. (All these presentations are available as VODs on the LunarCon Twitch channel for those who missed out.) Instead of joining more in-game panel crowds, I opted to work on my glamour for the weekend and enjoy things streamside. My Miqo’te had places to be, and I’d be damned if she showed up looking unprepared.
LunarCon Line (EX) – Hardest part is trying to find your Keanu Reeves-lookin' friend at the end. pic.twitter.com/AyzeUzDYln
— The Linkshell (@LinkshellFFXIV) July 31, 2022
As for the ‘places to be,’ my little cat girl had themed parties lined up for two days straight. The FFXIV clubbing scene is no joke, full of dedicated folks organizing, working, and DJing events every weekend. It’s an impressive display filled with a lot of the same thoughtful details you’d find in real-life events. LunarCon’s club nights recruited some of the realm’s most popular player DJs, hosting ’70s and ’80s-themed dances and a night dedicated to Pride.
And while events like these undoubtedly saw a surge in popularity with the MMO’s growth, LunarCon was a demonstration of that indomitable community spirit you often hear about with FFXIV. This wasn’t LunarCon’s first year, either. It was, however, the convention’s first time since FFXIV added data center travel — a system enabling visits between the game’s regional server hubs, no longer confining players to individual worlds on their data center.
On more than one occasion, queues to get into the Crystal data center and its respective worlds, Brynhildr and Malboro, either backed up or broke entirely. Entering some housing wards became impossible for hours as players partied and flooded in, spawning spillover events into neighboring zones or other servers. At one point, FFXIV‘s official hub even reported on some of those cross-world outages. While not noted in the actual Lodestone blog, I do think it’s safe to say LunarCon’s popularity caused the hiccup. I reckon it’s kind of neat a player-organized affair pops off that hard.
The first two nights of LunarCon ended with my catgirl making a fool of herself at the ’80s-themed party and Pride event. Players often make a pretty big show of Pride celebrations, but as a queer person rather removed from those activities during the pandemic, this one hit hard. For hours, I watched folks show out and let their hair down. I carried on with friends in ways that made me about as happy as my pre-pandemic era strutting about New Orleans, plastered in rainbows with girlfriends and a drink in hand. Except I was home, sitting in Discord watching a DJ stream, and trading some Elezen in the crowd a stack of my Ishgardian Tea. In exchange for my tea, he gave me Bloodhemp, Coke, and a Plump Worm. I understand what to do with the first two; no idea about that last one, though.
After nights of watching FFXIV roleplayers show up to party as beloved NPCs, engaging in endless lore talks, learning from panels, and emoting at strangers to remixes of Square Enix classics, I’m weirdly touched by it all. I spent last weekend covering the love and attention to detail that went into bashes like Sepia Art Party. And now I realize most folks expect their enthusiasm here to be met with hostility or mocking at the worst, maybe a little eye-rolling and dismissal at best. And while there’s obviously no community without issues, I continue to find comfort in the creativity and adoration so many folks have for this MMO’s world and what they’ve made from it.
My LunarCon experience was an affirmation of that sentiment, a reminder that there’s a sense of community found in these spaces when those things feel out of reach. Perhaps some people won’t get it, but I often think about the game’s director and producer, Naoki Yoshida, and his genuine fondness for player-created events in Ultima Online. I think a lot about community and the people who make it, and I think about Yoshida’s explanation of how these things form. There’s a common thread uniting players through community-organized events like LunarCon, and those emotional ups and downs from the game bring them together.
What’s happening in FFXIV feels like the natural progression of those early beginnings in older MMOs. I certainly don’t expect everyone around me to understand recounting some of my silliest online adventures vividly or why I’ll occasionally become a bit too emotional over some dragons. However, I do hope anyone turning their nose up finds a thing they love so much they attend online festivals, make cosplays, draw fanart, or write fanfiction about it. LunarCon had panels for that, too.