Recent comments

Latest News

Creating and Leading A Top FFXIV Guild Anonymously For 5 Years....Until Now - Azure Infinitum's Master Revealed

Untitled  
For over 5 years I have kept an anonymous identity in Final Fantasy XIV- one of the most popular MMORPG games online that sees roughly 15 million subscribers, and has been an ongoing game since 2013. 

Azure Infinitum who's members are pictured in a gathering above, has remained one of the most successful, active, organized, and friendly guilds and communities in FFXIV for years.

Untitled

Together, the people of Azure Infinitum, lead by yours truly, have shattered activity records, toppled conspiracies set to take advantage of Square Enix's server, overcame rebellions worthy of being an anime story about an online game, exposed conspirators, liberated communities and merged others, and have kept a wildly successful weekly, monthly, and yearly activity schedule that is normally unseen throughout the rest of the game. 

Azure Infinitum is known for keeping a trail blazing, no-drama policy, structured leader-member harmony, creating the guild's own holidays, custom quests, and more- and running a guild with the logistics of comic-con and the professionalism of a real life job. 

How did a young otaku journalist from California grow into a community leader that has lead hundreds on a journey of success, friendship, and positivity in such a unique way that is rarely known among online communities? 

If you've seen the Code Geass anime,  there are times I've considered myself the "Lelouche" of FFXIV. 

The Beginning 

When I was 15 years old in 2005 I watched Square Enix unveil "Project Rapture" in the form of a trailer that showed a game that was being developed using FFXI character models. 

As a longtime and very studious Final Fantasy fan, as well as an XI player at that time, the video and announcement was a visual feast and mental overload for me, as well as a glimpse into the future. 

Its no surprise that I dove into A Realm Reborn upon launch- the re-launch/re-make and sequel to Final Fantasy XIV's 1.0 version that became an infamous failure.

Untitled

During my time in FFXI I was a part of tight-knit group of comrades I happened to befriend who took a young 16-year old newbie tank (who liked RPG's but never really got into the mechanics of a big MMORPG) and showed me the ropes. 

They were called the Ebon BladesWhile Ebon Blades remained small, the times spent with the mostly older crowd in that group made an impression on me through taking time to teach me not only FFXI's gameplay and more, but some values and how to treat fellow comrades as well. 

Years later I would inherit the Ebon Blades, and then restructure it into a new guild named "Somnus Infinitum". Eventually Somnus was divided into a sub-guild named "Knights of Altana" for endgame raiding, and still persists today setting records on Bahamut Server. 

Growing up I was instilled many values by my small family who numbered less than 10 and were mostly elderly and from the south. 
My mother as well has always been a big inspiration, support, and teacher to me.

Without a father who left when I was young, I often took a stand to defend my mom and help be a strength in our household during the years it was just the two of us- and later when she grew ill and I was at odds with my now ex-stepfather.

Untitled

I don't know exactly where I learned to lead, but even amidst my time in school I found myself pulling projects together as a Student Council President at a few different schools, taking part in community efforts, and deciding that High School wasn't a barrier for me to add on a bunch of college courses early. 

Those who have been following me or know me around the internet or at conventions, know how passionate I am about the Otaku Subculture, which mostly is comprised of Video Games, Anime, Manga, collectibles, and more. 

When I was 14 I began to volunteer and take part in my local anime convention. I happened to get involved when meeting the founders during the planning stages, and from that point forward as I grew older I became more and more involved. 

By the time I was 19 I had become a journalist and started a blog called Run Around Kazu, named after my blogger name I have carried for years, and the fact that people see me always "running around" back and forth at cons to take pictures and cover events.

Untitled

Flash-forward 10 years and I've taken jobs for different companies like Google, PlayStation, G4, and more of what's listed on my About Page. All the while, I had retired from Final Fantasy XI to focus on my career. 

Deep inside me, I yearned for a true guild experience still. Somnus Infinitum was bound by older technology, lack of a real guild system (FFXI's guild was basically a text channel or "LinkShell" and that was all you got), and you had to use a lot of imagination, luck, time, and organization just to get anything done. 
Growing up as a hardcore .hack// fan who read, watched, and played anything in the franchise, I yearned even more for an MMO like Final Fantasy XIV is today.

Untitled

Final Fantasy XIV

I started FFXIV in 2013 on A Realm Reborn's launch. 
Joyously I had come aware of plans to meet up with old LS-mates as far back as Ebon Blades. 
Unfortunately, not many showed up, and the decision came to keep EB as a LinkShell even in XIV. 
I respected their decision, but bogged down by playing on a server where english was only 1/3 of the spoken languages (you couldn't pick at the beginning), I decided to try to roll random on a new server with an alt to try and join my close friend. 

I made it to a server called Midgardsormr
What happened next was destiny. 
I joined my friend's "FC" which stands for "Free Company", the guilds in XIV. 
They come with a very well put together guild system, guild territory, housing, distributed ranks and goods, and more. 
That initial free company eventually didn't work out for me and I was picked up by another not long after. 

The new "alternate character" or 'alt' I made to play on Midgardsormr was a female blue-haired Miqo'te named Reika Fujishima. 
I named her quickly after this website's mascot, Reika Fujishima who you can read about here
The alt ended up becoming my main because I was having so much fun on Midgard, and I am not ashamed to admit that I enjoy playing female characters

As far as my intentions have always gone, have never been to abuse or use being a female character to any sort of advantage or dark interest. 

In the beginning, no one really questioned me anyways, and I got involved with a new company named Crimson Blades who stood in the server's top 20 ranking. 

Crimson Blades What was originally a medium sized FC of friends who reminded me a lot of my FFXI days with the Ebon Blades (no relation at all) ended turning very sour as its original leaders disappeared and new ones were put into place. 
Over time I saw a divide in the leadership and their friends vs the members of our FC who were either treated terribly or ignored altogether. 

Times got worse when I witnessed certain Blade leaders and members  actually trying to make others do embarrassing things as punishments, force donations, humiliate people on their real life social media pages, and more.

I had been trying to help recruit fresh blood for the FC, and the leaders were pleased. They were so pleased in fact by my personality and service to other members that one day they called an Emergency Company Meeting and named me the new leader before they left. 
However, I did not know I was being given a faux leader rank, and the real Master rank was assigned to an alt owned by one of the leaders who I later found out was watching my progress.

Untitled

Leading the Crimson Blades, The Crimson Blades Assembly Room pictured above. 

Time passed, and I built up the Crimson Blades FC, establishing a new website, rules, weekly schedule, events, and more. 
Things began to get positive until we saw we were losing members rapidly by the day. 
It was discovered by one of my members and then revealed that a massive server-wide conspiracy was in the works
This plan was being instigated by an outside gaming clan who had entered FFXIV's ARR re-launch and infiltrated or created many of the first created free companies. Their ultimate goal was to strike a year or two later after the many FC's built up members, resources, and more, and had plans of created massive mergers and the absorption of billions of gil in the process. 
Their reason was to dominate an entire server and own a significant amount of resources. 
In the process, people would be shifted around like cattle, gil could have been being gathered to sell for thousands of real life dollars, and an FC or community genocide would have happened as innocent communities that had formed over the foundations of evil would have been uprooted and dissolved at the day they planned to act. 

Our small Crimson Blades lead by me who was losing members, was discovered to be getting poached by people who were picking off the bones of what we were reviving, and it was one who got poached who obtained and help leak information on the inside. 

We knew I didn't fully "own" the FC resources, land, and name, so myself and a batch of loyal members we could catch online left and created a new one.

Untitled

Azure Infinitum 

My identity had not yet been revealed or discussed, but it was at this great moment that Azure Infinitum was created, that eyes began to follow me closely. 
The conspirators' and their organization was horribly shamed after the exposure we began and they lost all their reputation. The ex-Blade leaders who joined them in the attempt to make me build Crimson Blades up so they could sell us off and be rewarded by the conspirators, were exiled by the community as well for what happened. 
Myself and my early members of Azure Infinitum- the new FC- were harassed, belittled, included in slander campaigns, and more for a time until it died down.

Untitled

The founding of Azure, as pictured above.

Azure Infinitum was founded on November 2nd, 2014, and was created out of the indignation of us having been used for dark deeds of other's greed, and with righteous fury we worked to create something that would be nothing like the former at all. 
A guild where members would be treated like people, would help each other, show love to others, become organized and active, and with leadership that fostered and cared for the community, pulling the cart like a leader should- and shining the brightest to be an example to all.

Untitled

Infinitum Master 

Being targeted online by vengeful anonymous players you've encountered- whether you've done things honorable to piss them off or not- is never easy to deal with
Being responsible for leading a team that exposed the plans and dark deeds of an untold number people might certainly do it. 

When taking my responsibility as Azure Infinitum's FC Master, Founder, and unanimous leader among our first thirteen people, I had to face a rough start. 
While people in the server who knew what we did hailed us as heroes, others scorned us who had contracts with the conspirators. 
Some who downright listened to any words of slander the conspirators used toward us, blamed me for "stealing Crimson Blades and rebuilding my own FC". Even with the great energy the entire event and success that became known as "The Liberation of Crimson Blades" was in full, didn't keep some members from our first weeks very optimistic. 

We had no resources other than a few pieces of furniture- the rest had been taken by less honorable ex-Blades who mostly didn't follow us to Azure. 
On our way out of Blade, a conspiring mole we had trusted with permissions, started a diversion to run to get all the funds from the company chest by promoting everyone to Officer rank which allowed them to take anything. 
Chaos had ensued as we left Blade and the disgruntled members had ripped it apart themselves. 

Moving forward and eventually earning our own FC Estate and more, I began to realize that Azure Infinitum was very special and if we stuck together we could accomplish anything. But I never imagined what it is today. 

As Azure Infinitum's Infinitum Master I have faced countless trials and overcome hurdles with my people. 
There have been several eras of the game along with eras of our own guild's success. Slowly my character and I began to attract respect, honor, and love from all that I began teaching good values to. 
I began to work on Azure with skills from my real life, and have spent over half of my 20's dedicated to enriching my member's experiences and providing a place that anyone can be a part of and have fun. 

The Lunar Rebellion 

By the time I became comfortable becoming closer friends with some of my members, a serious event occurred in our free company that kept me from ever wanting to expose my identity again. 

Now a legend among our FC and our server, the Lunar Rebellion began when a founder went rogue less than a year after our founding, and vowed to unravel our community by any means necessary. 
The one in question was a trusted friend I had recruited during Crimson Blades and got to know on Skype for a while. 
Over time I found this person to be incredibly mentally unstable and our community discovered that he was engaging in acts of pedophilia toward a couple members who we were told were under 18, as well as sociopathic behavior across our server. 
There were stories of how this person went as far as to convince other players he was a medical professional and gave them bad medical advice, because making people sick entertained him

When I denied him the right to return to his leadership rank after he requested to step down prior, he went off the deep end and started a crusade.
The individual made threats against me in real life, tried to find my home, responded to roommate advertisements I had posted, and more. 
He had even taken advantage of the fact that at that same time, my wife had left me after having multiple affairs and using connections of her friends to vandalize my home and used scare tactics to keep my family in fear afterward- all through getting to know me and making me think he was a friend during one of the hardest months of my life. 

In-game this person went as far as he could with creating anti-Azure propaganda, lying about me, and then making links to things he wrote online that he slew across the game as much as he could. 
Worse- he included others by indoctrinating people from our FC and using them to help him. 

The FC they created as a project to undo us and poach our people was named Lunatic Pandora, with the tag of Lunar.

Untitled

The Years That Followed 

In 2016 shades of the Lunar Rebellion died down. For the first time besides the great Crimson Liberation event, I saw clearly that opposition had only strengthened our community. 
I had master plans for our community and one of the first things that had to be established was a real leadership structure
I couldn't bring myself to reveal my identity yet, because there was one major fact that the rogue officer who lead the Lunar Rebellion said that was true, and I didn't want him to ever seem credible to anyone, so they wouldn't fall under his lies.

We established our Azure Council and the years were full of success. 
We overcame hurdles, and began to continue our quarterly Azure Day Weekend events that are massive get-togethers run across 2-3 days over a weekend, 4 times a year, packed with minigames, custom quests, costume contests, and even mazes we make out of 'event estates' invested in. 

During our 3-day long Summer Festival event we have raised over $3,500.00 for children in long-term care to receive books and games in partnership with Child's Play charity.

Throughout our time we have either been progressing, outliving the few major troll events we had, or I was doing everything I naturally do to show people how much I care about them, especially those who support our guild and wear our name as an FC member. Of course its not just me, but I'm telling my end here.

Azure ended up blazing a trail in the world of Organized, Active, and Friendly communities. 
We grew to to take the #1 rank of our server's ranking, then the worldwide rankings landing in a top 20 position which fluctuates among 60 or so other top FC's. 

We built the largest known fleet of airships and submarines, shattered activity ratings and records, held thousands of hours of event time, and developed a no-drama policy that many others have now adopted. 

Azure has even had presences at major FFXIV events hosted by Square Enix, worked closely with Square Enix's special task force that removes RMT (Real Money Trading) and illegal activity, and have been commended by FFXIV staff. 

A plaque with our FC's big gatherings and special messages from us was even gifted to Producer Naoki Yoshida and translator & co-lead world & lore developer Michael Christopher Koji Fox that is now at the Square Enix Shinjuku headquarters.

Untitled

But there was one crack that has always been in my master plan, and it has led trolls against myself and my comrades. 

I was assumed to be a female player. 

I did everything I could without going overboard to maintain my privacy. 
The great secret progressed through these 5 years so intensely that myself and my close friend who was also assumed to be female and played the part well, got to the point of paranoia in keeping the secret that we'd keep a list of who lived near our city and whisper about XIV in public in case any FFXIV players or guild members were near.

Our roles as female players were cemented in several ways, but it was convenient to keep up as a wall around my safety concerns after I've had threats to myself and my family from multiple sources. 

As years passed however, I began to realize that the immersion of being a strong female leader helped me in several ways to focus on leading our FC and that even though being in character was as natural as my real self, this immersion was a huge escape from the pain I faced in real life. 

After my wife abruptly left me and I discovered that she had been having multiple affairs that number more times than I even know now, I had to suddenly deal with our new home we had just moved into, our pets, our bills, and my car was stolen just after leaving me lacking in transportation. 

My family has all passed away besides my mother, and I have one friend who actually visits me- everyone else are convention or social media acquaintances. 

On my About Page you can read about some of the things I've overcome in my life. 
I like to share what I've overcome and create motivation for others to keep pressing onward even if bad things happen
After my wife left me suddenly and during the Lunar Rebellion the stress had increased so much that I had a nervous breakdown so bad that it permanently effected my central nervous system. 
The chronic illnesses I live with like Fibromyalgia, TMJ, chronic migraines, and severe anxiety were all affected for the worse afterward. 
With financial issues and no vehicle or family, life quickly became hell and I receded from much of my normal activity in the games journalism and convention industry. 

I am still recovering today while taking smaller jobs and working online from my home office where I run my social media, this network- RA:N, and Azure Infinitum. Again, focusing on Azure made it feel like it all goes away while leading one of FFXIV's most active top FC's in a community that has been cultivated full of loving, supportive members that number in the hundreds at a time. 

My Greatest Fear

Untitled

Toppling huge conspiracies in servers of over 250k people, starting liberations, surviving rebellions, resurgences, playing guild politics and alliances with others, standing at the heights of a massive MMORPG community that numbers some 15 million players, and leading handfuls of hundreds to success and better times, (even watching many of them even move across country to get married, even have children) is an amazing feat for one person who spends a lot of time in an otaku-den. 

But what no one has known was how painful it can be to make dear friends and make years worth of memories while never getting to actually speak with them or know them more personally- for over half a decade

With the immersion and safety as my main reasons, I also refused to think about what could happen if everyone thought I had lied to them.

Accomplishing in that world what I have as my character, Reika Fujishima, has made her no less than a beloved monarch type of figure. 
I completely understand and accept this proudly.
I keep a set of standards and work with everyone on keeping them for the purposes of order, retaining discipline, and formalities. 
We even have pages and pages of FC lore that is all based mostly on true stories. You can see an example of how my Master profile in our community looks below, with art done by manga-ka Eudetenis:

Untitled

Over the years even illustrators and others began sending in art of my character in-game who became established as a powerful and passionate leader.

Untitled

As Infinitum Master, I command respect, shine as the brightest example, and operate my community with utmost love and well-placed pride in what we have made together. 

My worst fear all this time was to be found out and for the symbol I have become of all things good- to then be misunderstood to have lied to everyone. 
I have never, ever used my character's gender to ever obtain anything for personal gain. 
I keep her modest as I feel her character is, and I have taken the Elizabeth I approach to including in her lore that she will take no husband or mother no children, but is married to Azure Infinitum and the manifestation of its continued success and harmony.

Untitled

The time has now come that we have structured, grown, and outlived several past issues. 
There are big plans in the works to take our community to higher levels with the advancement and evolution of becoming an international gaming clan. 

Azure Infinitum will always be centered on our positive values and no-drama policies, to create fair and fun opportunities for people to connect and enjoy time with fellow community members and have an overall positive experience. 

On more occasions than one, our FC has made people feel like staying in XIV longer than they ever would have, its caused people to overcome fears or helped them tremendously with obstacles in their lives. 

I can't even find or count every kind message or piece of feedback we've received over the years because there is so much

Our Confession 

After 5 years of wearing Reika's mask I'll be revealing myself to my community, and this crazy story to everyone here and across my social platforms who follow me.

Its been an amazing, unforgettable journey for me like I have never experienced but have always wanted, and has filled my life with the love from so many people I have come to call my online family. 

When this article goes live it will be in conjunction with my confession of being me, a loving, caring, strong, and kind person who is a male player - that has so easily filled being Reika Fujishima in FFXIV as naturally as being myself in real life. I am also doing this alongside my best friend who plays Kihona Kiot in-game who's also a male player

Kihona has kept a private identity even longer than I have among friends across FFXI and FFXIV, who's identity quickly became tied to my own after my character rose to such high regard and Azure rose higher than the Azure Sky. 
Technically, I'm not alone, and Kihona has a just set of reasons as well in making this big reveal with me. 
Kihona who is one of my right hands or Officers aka Skysguard (also known as the Bluecloaks) and my First Arrow, will be holding hands with me as we pass through the flames of confession. 
If you'd like to get to know Kihona's character, here's her Azure Council profile below:

Untitled

From Kihona: 


"I had reassured our council members just the other night that I was ready to leave the FC for the sake of safeguarding it from people like me. I'm sure after you hear this some of you will feel awkward, maybe weirded out, even disgusted and I won't sugarcoat it, but I apologize that I've deceived you. When Reika told me that she would finally reveal themselves, I was very apprehensive over it and immediately reacted that it would best for me to retire Kihona and leave the FC, starting as an alt and leaving everyone alone. Reika my best friend, held my hand despite my insistence that I should leave and with the love of the Council I was able to finally come out. Part of the reason I never opened up in the first place was because of how deep I was in it, I haven't been as professional as Reika, I wasn't as noble, didn't display an ironclad respect as a leader; I was cuddly, touchy-feely, nuzzly, but the love I had for this FC is real, while it may have been Kihona you all saw, it was me that pushed myself out there. I wish I could explain it better, I was never good with words. I was ready to go, ready to leave, if one person in the council had voted yes for my resignation, I would have left, no complaints, no protests, I would have left effectively immediately. I was even rememing how I witnessed on social media- a guy that got torn down who played a popular female character for years in anonymity, saying he was able to express himself more freely as this persona and people still ridiculed him for it, calling him pathetic for using a crutch like that. Kihona provided an outlet where I could freely express emotions and affections that I normally would suppress unless I was with Reika during the weekends. I don't have a lot of friends where I live outside of work, in fact, Reika is probably the only friend I do have outside of work, and I could let myself go, unwind. Later, Azure extended that and through a character I love, I continued, despite my fears. I've made good friends here, helped people and I've been helped too. To this day even, Reika still helps me, because she knows the kind of self destructive person I am. But thanks to Reika, and then to Azure and its members, I know there's more to my life. I've met a lot of wonderful people here and I would hate to lose them all, though I would understand if some of you would not want to interact with me anymore after this announcement. But please know that I am Kihona, I am real, she's not just some character I made, she is a part of me that I wanted to free from a world that can be so cruel and the experience that she's been nurtured by because of all of you made it special for her. Again, I was ready to leave, I was ready to kill her off, start an alt and play this game by myself without ever interacting with anyone from the FC. That vote I had with the Council last night shows that it was unanimous that I should stay, even though I insisted that I could have left because of the chance of my presence here would bring up problems for everyone here." 

Together we are hoping to gain the understanding of all of our members in our community, all who read this, and great plans are store for Azure Infinitum in the future that I will see realized. 

Azure Network 

Overcoming my anonymity and revealing myself and Kihona hasn't been easy. Something like this could easily disrupt any community. 
Thankfully the amount of support so far from our beloved guild has been outstanding. 
Becoming closer to everyone is even more vital now in moving forward toward the future.

azurenetwork

In 2020 the lines between both my RA:N and Azure Infinitum will blur as the Azure Infinitum Network site is launched. As RA:N and Azure's official community portal. the A.I.N. will allow our readers and guild members alike to join Azure Infinitum and "Azure Branches" that will begin to host guilds in more games than just XIV. 

We'll be using similar formulas for establishing ground in almost any major game that allows for the creation of clans. 
Leaders who volunteer and those put in charge will oversee these branches and Azure Infinitum members will be able to stick together and carry our communities' name into any world and continue to play together. 

This is also in preparation of XIV's lifespan approaching its twilight years whenever that day comes. 
Establishing the foundation of Azure Network now will help our community maintain when those days arrive, and also provide more people to join the Azure Network than what is currently allowed in FFXIV, which is capped at a 512 active member roster. 
There will be a lot more details released on plans for what's coming in Azure Infinitum Network or just Azure Infinitum for short, like even a new Azure social site for members of any Azure branch to join, as we continue to build an empire that promotes positive values and provides a loving place for people to come together.

Untitled

In Closing

Thank you for reading my strory, whether you've come from Azure Infinitum to read, you're an RA:N reader, or friend/follower on social media.

Its been an incredible journey being a tried and true guild leader in an incredible game along with incredible people- and I'm not stopping now.

I have a stern list of philosophies, beliefs, and experience in place while being fueled by so many awesome individuals we have welcomed into our ranks as we continue to grow, surpass limits, and blaze trails. 

Its been a good run as an anonymous leader these 5 years, (that's longer than it takes to get through high school, holy crap) and its taken a lot of courage to come out of anonymity- especially while being a renowned and respected entity, and one that many believed was a different gender.

Now it is time for me to grasp both lives of mine and combine them, allowing everyone from both sides to know me completely,
I confidently look toward our future together as a guild, as a community whether RA:N readers, fellow otaku, Azure Infinitum FC members- the future is very bright!

I will continue to show everyone how far we can go!

"AS FREE AS THE AZURE SKY!"



rancollageed1

Want to keep running around with us? Stay connected! 
RA:N Facebook | Kazu's Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | G+ | Flickr | YouTube | LinkedIn | RSS
Play-Asia.com - Play-Asia.com: Online Shopping for Digital Codes, Video Games, Toys, Music, Electronics & more


No comments