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Fighting the Monotony of Homelessness with Granblue Fantasy

posted on by Lynzee Loveridge
Toby is 25 and without secure shelter—but his mobile gaming life is rich

The world of mobile games (mobage) is vast. There's an estimated 2.2 billion mobile gamers logging in on their smartphones to pass the time in dungeon puzzlers, questing in a fantasy world, or hoping to pull that rare Servant card. The average user spends just 23 minutes a day playing their game of choice but that hasn't stopped the industry from exploding in popularity. Unlike most console games, mobage can be played on the go with little more than a charged mobile device and an internet connection.

Toby is a 25-year-old Granblue Fantasy player. He logs in regularly to adventure with his friends in a guild whenever he can find reliable Wi-Fi and shelter. Toby is part of the U.S.'s 203 million mobile gamers and is also part of the country's other increasing population. Toby is homeless.

Toby mostly spends his time in public areas; outside when the weather cooperates or in a public library.

"Public and college libraries are a godsend. Some of them offer free Wi-Fi and snacks and as long as you look and smell decent and have a backpack, everyone just thinks you're a student," he said.

When the night comes, Toby will sleep outside or check into a church or homeless shelter if the temperature and conditions are too dangerous. It was only recently that he began squatting in unoccupied homes.

"I have been homeless for around two years or so. Yes, I have broken into some houses to squat for a bit but never for an excessive amount of time. Usually less than a month and only when it seems like the house hasn't been touched for awhile. The one I'm in for example has been abandoned for some time now; mail has been piling up and I haven't seen any signs of activity of any kind. While the front and back doors were locked, the bathroom window on the second floor wasn't. I won't be here for long," Toby said.

Toby's situation came to light via a viral social media thread started by one of his guild mates. The pictures in the thread show his sleeping arrangement in various homes, usually with an exposed cushion on the floor, a blanket, and his laptop. Toby declined to share too many details but attributed his situation to a mix of family problems and debts that he found himself increasingly unable to pay. When he could no longer keep up with the payments, he decided to leave it behind.

Insecure housing options have led Toby to disappear for weeks at time with no way for his guild mates to contact him. After two weeks of radio silence, he logged in to Granblue Fantasy again to let his friends know that he'd been en route to Pennsylvania from New Jersey on foot.

According to Toby, the most difficult part of being homeless isn't the walking or lack of funds; it's boredom.

"Being homeless isn't exciting or anything so a lot of it is trying to pass the time. I started [playing Granblue Fantasy] around a year ago around the fourth anniversary. I have played other mobages, so I had heard of GBF for some time at that point. I saw some of my friends posting about it and I asked them if I should play GBF since I needed a time-waster. I had quit FGO [Fate/Grand Order] at that point. They told me 'No, do not do this,' but I didn't listen to them and here we are," he said.

Toby is part of the Sangsues Sans Frontières (SSF) guild, a self-described casual group of gamers. One of his fellow members described Toby's achievements as "baffling" given his unstable living situation. Even though the SSF aren't hardcore, Toby outranked the majority of them in the game's Guild Wars monthly face-offs.

"On a total scale there are a lot more than 200,000 people playing in Guild Wars and he ranked in top 40,000, I think," his guildmate said.

Toby said the relationships he's made in his guild are what keeps him coming back to Granblue Fantasy. He described himself as someone who doesn't like to be around large groups of people, but he values the time he spends playing with his friends.

"The only thing I can really say is that, for me, the real Granblue Fantasy was the friends I made along the way. Whether it's making dumb jokes or complaining about the new thing KMR [game director Yuito Kimura] f***ed the game with, it's always fun with them. Honestly, they're probably the only thing I have for now. So I can say thanks GBF for everything."

Sources: Japan Online Game Association's Online Game Marketing Seminar (2018)
An Inside Look At The Massive $70 Billion Dollar Mobile Gaming Industry [INFOGRAPHIC] by Mediakix
2018 AHAR: Part 1 - PIT Estimates of Homelessness in the U.S. by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
E-mail exchange with Toby

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