I would like to share a story with anyone who is reading this blog. A story of how I got a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet with some people that I never would have thought I would see up close and my impressions of those people.
While in London, job hunting for a couple of weeks, I kept an eye on the calender. And that was simply because I had one thing on my mind: Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII would be released on February 14th. I wanted to keep this date open so that, if the game’s company, Square Enix, were to host an event for the release in London, I could definitely go. After all, this is the franchise that I grew up with we’re talking about!
I continued to look into it until about a week before release. And on the official website of the company, it was announced that there would an event at which the game’s program developer, Yuji Abe and one of the Final Fantasy legends (the producer of Final Fantasy VII, VIII, X, X-2, XIII, XIII-2, Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII and X/X-2 HD), Yoshinori Kitase would attend to sign autographs and speak about the game. This event would be held at a store called GAME. that was located on the lower part of Regent Street.
As soon as I saw this I decided I was going to go, but something troubled me. During my walks around the center of London, I had been to Regent Street (more than once) and I could not for the life of me remember any video game store called GAME.. In fact, I couldn’t remember any video game store in that area at all! All there was there that was remotely interesting was a five-story toy store called “Hamley’s”. That’s it. Everything else was clothes stors. So where did I have to go? But, as I usually do, I decided to worry about it when the time came. Besides, I had the address, what could go wrong?
And so, the thirteenth day arrived (13/02). The event would start at one o’clock (13:00, get it?), but I left a bit early so that, if something went wrong I would still have time. It’s a good thing I did too! As soon as I got to the address, I realized that there was no GAME. store there. It was just “Hamley’s”! I noticed a bunch of people outside the store but I just went on my way, down Regent Street. I kept thinking I had written the address down wrong and that it was closer to Piccadilly Square than I remember (Regent Street leads to Piccadilly Square). Unfortunately, I went all the way down to Piccadilly, and then some. But no GAME. shop! So, I decided to go UP instead.
I followed Regent Street as far as it went, until it eventually ended in front of the BBC building. Then I pulled out the tablet device I had with me and tried to find some wi-fi signal, but to no avail. My next thought was to randomly ask someone, but the people on Oxford and Regent Streets don’t seem very sociable. It’s like they’re all late for something. Everyone’s in such a hurry! It’s best not to disturb them.
As I was going up and down Regent Street I was noticing the crowd at the “Hamley’s” store. There were more and more and more of them each time I went by. But I didn’t pay any attention to them, thinking that they were probably there for some kids’ party or something like that. In the meantime, I was getting very irritated. There I was, less than two steps away from the creators of Final Fantasy, people I’ve only seen on YouTube and livestreams and I couldn’t get to them. I began to just give up. I asked for a sign to show me the way.
And just as I was making my way back to the bus station, there he was. He must’ve been in his 25’s, wearing his earphones, walking carelessly down the street. And he was admiring his Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII copy, signed by Kitase-san himself. I jumped at him like there was no tomorrow and asked him where he got it. He seemed to be frightened and told me he got it from “Hamley’s”. And I said that they were holding the event at a store called GAME., and that’s when he replied that GAME. is in the basement of “Hamley’s”. If I had time on my hands, I would’ve felt so stupid, but I didn’t. I ran to “Hamley’s” and jumped to the basement.
And there was everything. A gaming event just like the ones I usually read or write about. IGN.com taking interviews, Abe-san and Kitase-san signing copies of the game and hundreds of Final Fantasy fans! It sorta felt like I was at home between these people. I immediately got in line to purchase a copy of the game and while I was waiting, I had some very pleasant conversations about the franchise. Meanwhile, I was noticing Abe-san and Kitase-san. They were constantly smiling humbly to every single person who asked for an autograph.
Eventually and after some waiting in the line (which I didn’t mind at all), it was my turn to meet with Abe-san and (more importantly) Kitase-san. They smiled at me, signed my copy and when I asked them to take a picture, they gracefully accepted. Even when the picture came out awful and I asked them a second time, they still had no problem, smiling at me throughout. I thanked them with the tidbits of Japanese that I speak, and then I continued to watch them from afar.
These people are millionaires. They don’t need to be at these events. Heck, they could even stop making these games and still have enough money to feed their grandchildren. Yet, they continue to strive and work and labor for this franchise. It was more than obvious while watching them: the smiles on their faces were original simply because they enjoy what they do. This is their passion. And they are thankful to us, the players, for sharing that passion. This is what happens when people actually like getting up for work in the morning.
After that meeting, it was obvious to me that the future of the Final Fantasy franchise is in more than capable hands. People may bicker about their quality, but these people put their heart and soul into what they do. And that’s why the fantasy will carry on strong!
Arigato gozaimasu, Abe-san, Kitase-san!!

Originally published at sopeoplewhatsup.blogspot.com on May 31, 2018.

Media graduate, professional journalist and self-proclaimed Final Fantasy fanboy. Interests (and die-hard passions) include gaming and sports (mainly football).