Every would-be adventurer in Final Fantasy XIV inevitably takes trepidatious steps through the sun-bleached gates of Vesper Bay. For this quiet, seaside town makes legends out of fledgling heroes. On a day quite unlike the rest, though, a parade in elegant black garb took to the virtual streets. Melancholy music filled the air courtesy of a string and wind octet, while onlookers toasted to absent friends. Eorzea’s champions went home to honor Peter “Fearless Wynn” Nguyen, who recently passed away.
Like many that grew up during the 90s, Peter Nguyen was eager to give Final Fantasy VII a shot. Flashy cinematics depicting a world in ruin, stalwart freedom fighters, and katana-wielding villains certainly caught his attention. Though the turn-based combat was particularly gripping. Born with a sideways curvature on his spine from scoliosis and muscular atrophy, Peter had limited mobility throughout his body. He was only able to sit upright during childhood, and a wheelchair was necessary for him to get around. Most of the time, he played video games while lying in bed.
“[Peter] didn’t have issues using a controller on the whole,” Andrew Nguyen, his brother, explained to me over Discord. “But there weren’t many accessibility options in games back then, so genres requiring a lot of finesse like first-person shooters didn’t always click with him.”
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Final Fantasy VII wasn’t a shooter, though. With a single button press, one could conjure up Materia-infused firestorms, or have the spunky boxer Tifa unleash a flurry of punches on some poor sod. If a party member was on their last leg, combat medic Aerith could offer a rejuvenating touch. The strategic ebb and flow of turn-based combat didn’t require snappy reflexes. That made controlling it a breeze for Peter. Before long, he toppled the wicked Shrina corporation, dusting its prodigal son Sephiroth with ease. Peter’s fondness for Final Fantasy started here, and it only flourished in the years to come.
When Final Fantasy XI hit North America in 2003, Peter was excited, yet anxious. It had everything iconic about the series: chirping chocobos, dragoons polearm-diving from the heavens, and stingy moogle vendors. It was also an MMORPG… Parties still banded together to fight evil, but this time they were actual people scattered around the globe. Real-time combat supplanted the traditional turn-based style, and success was only possible through tight, methodical coordination between players. Peter wasn’t sure if he could keep up with everyone else.
“We played the same character in the beginning,” Andrew explained. “I usually piloted while [Peter] watched. Then, when he was comfortable trying a dungeon or boss fight for himself, I’d pass the controls off to him.”
Being left-handed, Peter kept the mouse between his dominant hand and left leg while lying down. Nudging it right with his hand clicked on weapon skills, while scooching it left with his thigh typed in party chat. That improvised rhythm worked like a charm — earning Peter plenty of small victories while out leveling. It was the confidence boost he needed. Eventually he’d pull off the slickest skill rotations in a pinch, demon-slaying with the best of them. He was damn good and knew it. He even gleefully teased his sibling’s in-game fumbles. “[Peter] was always smarter than me,” Andrew laughed. “So, for as much fun as we had in co-op, I knew he wanted to break off and make a character of his own.”
The people of Vana’ diel came to know Peter as “Fearless Wynn.” Wielding a scythe twice the size of a normal man, this Dark Knight could cut through dragon scales like butter. Such is the life of a Galka, Final Fantasy XI’s massive humanoid race — and Peter was a mountain of muscle even among his kin.
“Day-to-day life was such a challenge for Peter,” Andrew shared. “He rarely had the energy to leave his bed, and even breathing was tough due to scoliosis flattening one of his lungs.” When Fearless brought his full strength to bear, it was cathartic for Peter. A reflection of his spirit. One that many would come to know.
As weeks spent with Final Fantasy XI turned to months, Peter set his sights on hunts for Hyper Notorious Monsters (fearsome beasts that tear through armor like paper). Only the most adept warriors stood a chance. If they brought backup, that is. Communities dedicated to hunting were always on the lookout for eligible recruits. Fearless naturally fit the bill. He wasn’t just in it for the glory or sweet loot, though. “Peter would stay up until 3 or 4 in the morning helping people,” Andrew chuckles. “He was dependable, patient with new players, and always showed up to kill tough enemies.” With that glowing reputation, the legend of Fearless Wynn grew. More importantly, Peter made a lot of friends: people that would be in his life for years to come.
Such as in 2010, during the ghastly first launch of Final Fantasy XIV. Servers capsized over ripples. Nothing worked. Final Fantasy XI veterans were furious with the follow-up MMORPG, with most jumping ship within a month. One of the few to see potential in Eorzea, despite its swift decline, was a Roegadyn named Fearless Wynn. They were a buff, distant cousin of a certain Galka. Peter was back, but his prior friend group had already ducked out, so he found himself rolling with an unlikely crowd.
“Even though [Final Fantasy XIV] was broken,” Peter declared in a YouTube short “new friendships kept me interested. They introduced me to role-playing, which I’d heard of but never done before.”
It was preposterous. Peter’s background was in hardcore endgame hunts. It wasn’t a scene to mingle with flowery role-players. But he was open-minded. Besides, role-playing was the last bastion free of the many technical shortcomings of Final Fantasy XIV. So he gave it a try, weaving an elaborate tapestry of personality traits and lore. “When you first meet Fearless, most would assume that he is just another Sea-Wolf Roegadyn,” Peter scribed on his character page. “Slow, temperamental, and brutish. He’s not and could care less about what someone thinks of him. All the better for him to prove them wrong.”
By the time Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn relaunched in 2013, Peter’s health was in slow decline. Energy levels dissipated, while an on-screen keyboard and batch scripts freed him of strenuous movements. He needed a vice, and role-playing was it. Fearless Wynn became a renowned goldsmith, putting up shop on Balmung, the quintessential role-playing server. Crafting wares so beautiful that adventurers from across Eorzea would seek out his skill — and the demand never let up. In his slick swayed suit and jet-black spectacles, he’d shoot a smile, happy to oblige.
On June 14, 2020, Peter Nguyen passed away at only 34 years old.
While going through his brother’s possessions, Andrew knew he had to reach out to Peter’s friends. The news hit hard. But instead of grieving on their own, they came together. One week later, an in-game vigil drew hundreds from all over Eorzea. Trading stories of the brave Galka sticking his neck out for others in a tough fight, or the Roegadyn goldsmith crafting the finest suits of armor. Andrew was among them.
“[Peter] loved Final Fantasy so much, from XI to XIV, he could express his soul through these games,” Andrew said to the crowd. “To show the world how strong his heart was, and how much he just wanted to protect everyone around him, from little tarutarus to my children in real life.”
Many have adopted “Fearless” as a moniker, but few earned it like Peter.