Final Fantasy is one of those things that when you hear it, you immediately know what it is and can usually bring several images to mind. This was not always the case. As a young boy, the only interaction I had with series was playing the original for two minutes on a family friend's Nintendo when I was 5 and getting destroyed by a group of goblins outside the first city. Needless to say, when I finally got my own console, I stuck with Mario/Duck Hunt, or something like Paperboy where it was challenging, but the game mechanics were fairly simple. As my family was not the most well off, I did not get a SNES until about 1995 (making me about 9 at the time). I also had a Gameboy at this time, so I immediately went out and bought A Link to the Past as it was something I recognized and Super Star Wars as it was and still is my favorite thing in the world. I played those games every weekend and even rented some of the classics such as Clayfighter, Super Castlevania IV, and Mortal Kombat from our local rental store. It wasn't until Halloween of 1997 that I was introduced to the game that would change my life. I was set to go out trick-or-treating with several "friends" that I knew. I was always a shy kid and the idea of getting to hang out with people was both exciting and terrifying. I remember waiting in my costume (a zombie cowboy), for a phone call letting me know that they were coming to pick me up. As 5 o'clock turned to 6 which turned to 7, the realization came that I had been ditched. Needless to say, I was crushed. I went to my room, changed into my pajamas and prepared for a night of tears and self-loathing. My parents, not really knowing how to deal with a nerdy son who didn't have many friends, offered to go rent a movie and a video game. As it was a Friday, that meant that I could get one of each so that I had something to do all weekend. I reluctantly agreed and my dad drove to the Albertsons grocery store that also rented games and movies since my dad had other items he had to pick up. I walked up and down the little aisles looking for the perfect movie and game that would take the hurt away. I ended up renting Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie, which is still one of my all time favorite shows, but I was struggling on picking a game. As I looked over the boxes of cover art, some in black and white because the store was too cheap and only had photocopies of the box, my eyes rested on a bright red box with a sword on it titled "Final Fantasy II". As I stated, I was really into Star Wars and I was just starting to expand my love of fantasy, so a game that had a cool looking sword on it was just what I was looking for. We paid for the rentals, I came home, watched the movie (as it being only 1 hour and 20 minutes long, the night was still young), and loaded the game into my SNES. I'll never forget the sound of the main theme playing out of my TV's speaker. Even in those first few notes, I knew that this was something I needed in my life. I started a new game and was swept into the story. I played the game until 2 am, when my dad had to come and tell me to go to bed. As I slept, all I could think about was Cecil, Kain, Rosa and how to beat the next boss. I played all day Saturday and on Sunday, I was able to get to the scene that changed everything. Watching Cecil go from Dark Knight to Paladin was the spark that ignited my love for everything Final Fantasy. I kept renting the game and ultimately had to stop once I got to the moon because I didn't know how to grind and I gave up. Then I moved onto Final Fantasy III/VI. Again, I was blown away by the story and characters and how the choices I made effected other parts of the game. Final Fantasy even gave me the confidence to start conversations with other kids at school who also happened to be way into the series and make real friends. As each new game was released, my friends and I would hang out and play through them, marveling at the awesome new graphics and battle mechanics that made the games so fun to play. I unfortunately did not play XI as I was in college and could not afford the monthly membership on my own, but I would still play through the console games. Final Fantasy made into the person I am today. It holds a deep place in my heart and I will always enjoy everything that comes next. But I still go back to the one the started it all for me once a year and play it as a reminder of who I was and who I became because of a video game.