That time I got bullied in middle school for liking FF8

A few times now on this blog, I have alluded to an incident when I got picked on because I liked Final Fantasy VIII. It is time to TELL THIS STORY. It has nothing to do with the game itself but it’s permanently associated with FF8 in my memory.

I went to an “academy”-style middle school in Indiana, where they encouraged the top students from the other public schools to apply and take an aptitude test. I think they expected to have a school full of Martin Princes, but what they got was a school full of anarchic restless nerds who knew how to take a test well. Which is to say, it was a school 100% full of weirdos, for better and worse.

It didn’t take me long to find my other weirdos (some of whom remain close friends to this day), but of course, there are bad weirdos too.

One day in the halls, a friend and I were talking about Final Fantasy, as weird restless nerds do. I mentioned that I thought the series had been doing downhill since Final Fantasy VIII. Even though I enjoyed IX and got it as soon as it came out, I was a little underwhelmed by the traditional fantasy setting and tropes compared to whatever the hell was going on in VIII.

A kid—I never learned his name, we’ll just call him Calvin, he seemed like a Calvin—overheard us, and decided to make fun of me for it.

“Hey,” he muttered, “Has Final Fantasy been going downhill ever since Final Fantasy VIII?” His voice was weirdly calm, mocking us just by restating exactly what I said.

We were confused and moved along. A few weeks later, he ran into us again, and again, he confronted us: “HEY,” he said, more confrontational this time. “Do you think Final Fantasy has been going downhill every since Final Fantasy VIII?”

This repeated several more times over the next couple months. He never said anything else to us; he would just ask us about Final Fantasy VIII and stare blankly at us until we left. I never figured out if he agreed, or disagreed, or most likely if he was just a seventh-grader finding arbitrary things to pick on people about. He kept doing this, over and over, even when we asked him to stop, to the point where we went out of our way to avoid him if we saw him in the halls.

Towards the end of the year, my friend reported, with glee, that Calvin started a fight and was suspended. That was the last we ever heard of him. Even back then, I realized he was probably a troubled kid. For whatever reason, he was trying so hard to be a bully and just not doing a good job of it. If he had only seen god’s light and been a fan of Final Fantasy VIII, things might’ve turned out differently.

Was this the origin story for my obsessive defensiveness over Final Fantasy VIII? No. But it didn’t NOT prime me for a world where people get mad at me for having the right opinion about Final Fantasy.