26/08/21 (Who is Tall Meepa?)

I think I’m writing this as a blog post to think through how I’ll actually write about the installation work that is I am Tall Meepa, due to arrive at a woodland in the Scottish Borders in September, assuming I can get my DIY waterproof screen to behave (it’s not a problem if I don’t mind everything being in soft focus).

I thought I’d better introduce Tall Meepa, before I start to think about the woodland and the forest at all. It’s difficult, actually. She’s several things – beginning with the basic explanation that she’s my self-created character in the MMO (Massive Multiplayer Online) game, Final Fantasy XIV, but she’s so much more than a colourful avatar I picked out, designed from a list of options on her appearance. She’s how I interact with the world in this video game, but also increasingly outside of it, through social media (follow Tall on instagram here) and in real life, too (more on that later).

Here’s a screenshot of her looking serious:

I usually give her these glasses to wear, although I’m not too bothered if I can find a nice hat that suits her. She’s got a cute knitted one at the moment with a big bobble which I adore. I’m planning on writing up a knitting pattern to create a replica of it. If I write that here, I might actually do it. I’m thinking merino wool, aran weight yarn…

Tall is a Female Roegadyn, also known as a femroe. There are various races to choose from when you join FFXIV, and the most popular are Miqo’te (cat people) and Viera (sexy bunny ladies). I chose Roegadyn, unironically because they’re big and strong. Tall herself is 7 foot and 3 inches tall. My partner, who also plays the game, has a Lalafell character. Lalafells are the shortest race in the game, so when I signed up I thought this would be funny.

There are many jokes made.

I think a solid half of my Free Company think that I secretly made her taller at some point in the last few months. The only way to make a character taller than Tall is to be a male Roegadyn, and they’re not very common sights around eorzea either. Most of them are green.

I’m struggling to write this post without visual aids, so here’s another picture:

That’s me and Enchan, waiting for a Ceremony of Eternal Bonding (Wedding) to start in-game. I’m all dressed up here, but I’m usually wearing a pair of yellow boots. Here I have a pet cat.

It’s strange, searching back through my folder of screenshots of the game, which I started playing back in November 2020. It’s so similar to looking back through a photo album, but I’ve actually managed to get the pictures of friends together because that’s part of the point of interacting like this.

The experience of participating in this kind of role play, which for me is generally infrequent and spontaneous, is fun, it’s cute. It’s a simple way of joining in, it’s easy. I paid 88 pence so Meepa can blow kisses which send a little twinkly heart towards the recipient, and use it more than I ever would in real life. I can make her blush, and give people hugs, and thumbs up and she can jump for joy and go into a panic and dance a few of many, many dances.
Random interactions with strangers are like meeting someone at a party, fleeting, new, intense and ephemeral. There are no logs kept forever of all of these interactions, only screenshots, which admittedly could be being taken by anyone at any time, while they play the game, or streamed to an audience. You never know if you’re being overheard here, but you don’t out in public, either, right?

I keep finding myself having (real life) conversations with people, lamenting that I can’t say anything stupid on social media. It could go so wrong, a joke could go the wrong way, things could be misunderstood, taken out of context, it happens so often and can cause chaos in peoples professional and personal lives. Think about the things you might loudly declare to friends when drunk or elated, or riled up, or just high on having company you feel safe in, and think of the horror and the destruction if something ridiculous you said were to make it to the internet. We know it happens, and we denounce it collectively every time it does, with a righteous anger at peoples narrow-mindedness, while narrowly looking at one sentence or two out of somebody’s entire life.

Here, Meepa feels somehow safe in a game, her written… spoken communication (her lips move when I broadcast a message to characters nearby), is as fleeting and insubstantial and just as incredibly important as a conversation had with someone in the street or in the pub. Mostly, really, we compare notes on the game (where did you get that minion, have you cleared UCOB yet?) and talk about the weather (it’s rainy in Germany).

I don’t think it’s anonymity that makes the game feel so freeing and so safe (although I can’t say exactly what it is that does so). I came to the conclusion when I decided to make work about Tall Meepa, and when she decided to start making fan art, that I can’t keep the two separate; she wants to have her own space, sure, but I need to use my own channels like a business to communicate my videos and my writing, including her.

Tall Meepa is part of who I am on the internet now… and probably I’ll write about how she’s part of who I am in ‘real life’ next too. Then we can talk about the forests.