When given the choice, I always go for the mage. There's just something about shooting magic out of my hands that appeals to me when playing video games, the ultimate power fantasy. Why swing metal when I can manipulate nature itself?
Except with Final Fantasy 14 I went against my instincts, a decision I eventually came to regret. Square Enix's MMORPG has an initially overwhelming choice of Jobs to choose from before you adventure in the land of Eorzea. Your Job is your role in the game. And I chose the wrong one.
The first choice is between a tank, healer, or DPS (damage per second) role. The first two - defending or supporting - come with extra pressure, so damage dealing it was.
I went with Dragoon. Dragons are cool, right? And Dragoons can leap into the air with a spiky lance and fancy armour. And so my Warrior of Light began his journey: 1, 2, 3.
The role of DPS is to simply deal damage and dodge attacks. 1, 2, 3. Attacks are assigned to the numbers on your keyboard and lead into each other as a combo. 1, 2, 3. 1, 2, 3. It became monotonous. I was bored.
All of which is to say I eventually switched to healing and never looked back. White Mage requires strategy and thought. I hold not just magic in my hands, but the lives of my teammates.
So that's the ongoing journey of my Warrior of Light. But what about the rest of the Final Fantasy 14 community?
Why do players choose one Job over another?
For many players, the choice of Job simply comes down to the type of role and the aesthetic.
"Aesthetics are important to me, and there's nothing cooler than a knight in shining armour, holding a glowing sword and shield. It's what anyone would imagine when thinking of a tank, and I completely embrace it," says Shistar, who plays as a Paladin.
"Due to its great defence and even healing abilities, Paladin is ideal for solo content. The rotation feels smooth as you go back and forth between weapon skills and spellcasting, making it very fun to play. I think this Job reflects my personality, as I am a person who likes to protect her loved ones and is happy to do the heavy lifting to keep everything running smoothly."
Says Alex, a Summoner: "I enjoy playing 'dark Jobs', ones that fit the gothic aesthetic. My Jobs of choice are, in that order, Summoner, Black Mage, Dark Knight, Reaper."
"I enjoy DPS, but I love being a support player, and Bard really fills both of those niches to me," says Sparrow.
"I always come back to Bard because I've always had a soft spot for archery-based classes in games, and because I enjoy the flexibility of being a ranged combatant while also helping my party out, whether that's through the song buffs or through being able to mitigate damage or remove debuffs."
As for the Black Mage class, Sooth sums it up nicely: "Explosions. The effects of the spells feel great, reflecting the nature of a Black Mage's destructive nature.
"Oh, and they have big hats."
Playing as a support character is particularly satisfying for some players. "Being able to save a player from certain death with a well timed shield or heal feels so rewarding that I can't imagine playing another role," says Raya Serahill, who plays as Sage.
White Mage Tony agrees. "I've always enjoyed healer Jobs, a lot of people find them stressful, but for me there's a particular adrenaline that comes with making sure I keep everyone alive," he says.
"One of the things I love about healing in general in Final Fantasy 14 is that you actually function somewhat as a 'green DPS'. I love that the best form of damage mitigation as a healer is through spamming holy to stun the enemy, and killing it before it can do too much damage to the boss. I see it as the best of both worlds - being able to DPS and making sure that my tank is kept topped up in between."
For others, though, playing as a tank or healer brings anxiety. Tanks lead the way by pulling enemies and attracting their attacks, while healers ensure the party doesn't wipe out.
Many players praise the welcoming community of Final Fantasy 14 though as a way to experiment with different Jobs and overcome that initial anxiety.
"I started as a healer, mainly because that is what I played in other games," says Sooth. "They are definitely the spotlight roles, where you notice if either messes up so I was definitely nervous. The friendly community and chill attitude to wipes, where people dust themselves off and get back to it, really helped with getting over that anxiety."
"In other games I have played, the community has historically been more toxic, so I think people in that situation tend to stick with what they are good at and avoid testing and trying something they might not immediately be as good at," says Kiv, who plays Dark Knight.
"Personally I had played DPS classes and started Final Fantasy 14 assuming I would continue doing the same. But thanks to the more forgiving attitudes in group content, I did eventually try other roles like tanking and healing, and found that I really enjoyed tanking after all."
Shingo, though, recommends more of an all-rounder approach by playing as multiple Jobs.
"I get to see the game from many perspectives and every one of those teaches me new lessons about how to approach fights," he says. "I am convinced that overall switching around improves my gameplay for all roles."
I can concur: to be a great tank, you need to learn to be a great healer.
For some players, the choice of Job is more personal, reflecting their real lives.
"I'm a literature teacher in real life, so I wanted to play a Job with a book as a weapon. Ended up loving the Scholar," says Loup. "I think as healers we have to be the mentor of the group. I see the tank as the one that sets the rhythm, and the healer as the one who will do everything to get the group to victory."
"Summoner uses arcane geometry and aether manipulation to create avatars that use special attacks," says Summoner Alex. "My real-life interests are mathematics and literature, and as a Summoner uses what is essentially a maths book as their weapon, I've been immediately drawn to this Job."
Kyorii was fascinated with the Bard Job and the link to music: "With the Bard system, it was a very touching thing to me since I play violin behind the screen. I love music, and the fact I can replicate that onto my lalafell, it gives me a lot of joy with Bard."
Other players are the opposite: creating a character and choosing a Job offers a chance to role-play completely as somebody else.
"I pick Jobs that I feel are appropriate for the character I'm playing: for example, one of my characters has no grasp of magic, so all healers and Black Mage are off the table for him, as well as any Jobs requiring big weapons or bulky armour since he's not too physically strong - hence the only tank Job he has is Gunbreaker," says Marion.
Says Najme: "I try to make the Jobs I like and enjoy fit into my Warrior of Light's story. With Bard for example, I made her into someone who likes storytelling and music. For Dark Knight, I considered her growth during [the main story quest] and at which point she could have picked up the Job... I don't think my Warrior of Light would ever become a Warrior for example, but I like the Job and I will keep playing it. So for the most part, I view my personal playstyle and my Warrior of Light's story as two separate aspects of the game."
But what happens when fantasy becomes reality? For many members of the Final Fantasy 14 community, their choice of Job has actually come with personal discovery. Perhaps the game has offered a chance to reflect on themselves, or experiment with who they are.
"I would say my Warrior of Light is a mirrored version of me, but with some glaring similarities," says Dark Knight Teri. "She is also a very special character to me because she was the second character I ever made with the same skin tone as me (dark-skinned), which was a step towards accepting how I look in the online space."
"At first I didn't like dressing my character too cutesy in Final Fantasy 14 because many of the female characters and clothes have an overly feminine or even sexual touch to it and I didn't want to push that and I still don't indulge that very much, but I accept that it's totally fine to just wear something because I think it's pretty and not to overthink it," says Summoner Pia.
"And it's also okay to experiment and not to commit to anything. I can wear a pretty dress one day and epic armour the next. I have adopted that in real life as well, just feeling more confident in trying things and owning them like my badass Final Fantasy 14 character does."
For Nicola, her self-discovery has been profound.
"Trying out the different Job roles in Final Fantasy 14 has made me realise that I also have a really deep need to feel useful," she says. "Doing group content where the healer has to keep me up because I am missing mechanics (or I can't heal other people because I am the healer and I died) really drives home to me just how emotionally impacted I am by this need to be one of the most useful people in the group - I can't stand feeling like I got carried through content by the rest of the group."
"It's made me start to really think about where that stems from, and whether that is something I am handling in a healthy way in real-life. Trying out the different Job roles in Final Fantasy 14 gives me a safe, low consequence space to explore that side and how that impacts my relationships with others."
Others have found love in Eorzea. Sage Dominik met his current partner while playing the game, while White Mage Tony actually plays as his girlfriend
"In many ways, I don't think I'd be the person I am today without her," he says. "Those pixels on a screen have become hugely important to me. My girlfriend, who I initially based the character off of, also enjoys being able to see what the virtual equivalent of herself is up to - so it's a fun way of her being somewhat included in a hobby she otherwise wouldn't engage with."
A considerable number of players have also discovered their gender through role-playing. Playing video games can provide a safe space for experimentation with identity.
"My Warrior of Light has grown on me a lot," says Najme. "At first I didn't care much about her identity, but ever since Heavensward and having more and more choices to kind of craft my own Warrior of Light and insert her into the story (via dialogue choices for example), it has become very important to me.
"She has been growing alongside me since 2016 and having Final Fantasy 14 and especially her as a neutral ground I can express myself with has helped me a lot. I realised a lot of things thanks to her (like that I am non-binary!)."
"I made her to be essentially my transition goals (I'm a trans girl) and I've actually gone to conventions dressed as her and dyed my hair to match it so yeah I would say she's very important to me," says White Mage Amy of her Warrior of Light.
"In part, my male Viera represents a facet, the Kawaii facet, of myself, I can't really express or show in real life," says one Reaper player. "For me he represents gender neutrality in its most beautiful nature. He sees himself as a guy, but loves dressing in a maiden's dress, or short hot pants, paired with sneakers, as if saying 'fuck, it I love to dress this way'. He gave me the strength to be honest with myself and finally made me see I myself am agender. I just don't care. He gives me strength. And represents that in Final Fantasy 14."
And then there's Summoner Philip, who pretty much sums up the epitome of role-playing right here:
"My Warrior of Light is female, homeowner, rich, powerful and goes on adventures to the end of time with bosom companions. If that's not a great escape from a 9 to 5 Job in modern Britain I don't know what is!"
Your choice of Job says a lot about you, then. It reflects your taste in aesthetics, the role you take in your life, who you are, or even who you want to be. It's a distillation of the ideal you. After all, Final Fantasy 14 is an MMORPG. The ability to be someone else but learn about yourself is the true power of role play.