His Final Fantasy collection is one of the most impressive libraries of games, memorabilia and merchandise we've ever seen - and it's not limited to Square Enix either. It's clear from my conversation with Randis - the Final Fantasy Super Fan competition winner - that he's an incredibly humble guy. He was quick to point out that winning isn't about who has the most extensive collection - and he's right! His passion for Final Fantasy is what caught the eye of the judges and it's this passion that has driven him to pursue a career in games development and as a professional concept artist.
When we held a Lightning Returns press event in Paris it was only natural to invite him along and award him his prize - but that's only the half of it. Here's his story.
First of all I want to thank you all for your support. You're the ones who made it happen and I cannot thank you enough for going all out on my behalf! Also lots of kudos and respect to all other contestants, you guys are awesome and I am happy to have made some new friends.
Before I review the recent events I want to take a step back a bit and tell you where it all began. Ever since I was a child I've always been a fan of Final Fantasy. The work of people like Yoshitaka Amano and Nobuo Uematsu has been a huge inspiration and the reason why I became a professional concept artist, art director and developer.
I am now the founder of Grimm Bros LLC, Toy Golem and HD-Fortress Studios. Despite having a fulltime career I still have my hobbies - in fact a great deal of professionals in the games industry are big nerds and geeks!
Sometime last year Square Enix America came across photos of my Final Fantasy collection - that at the time was doing the rounds on reddit - and featured them on their blog. As a present they sent me a large box with games and demos, a very nice gesture I thought, to get something back for the time and effort I'd made to build my collection.
A couple months later Square Enix announced the Final Fantasy Super Fan competition - where I took part and made it to the finals. There were a lot of great videos and I was lucky to know some of the entrants before the competition, so it was great to see them reach the final as well. Personally, I think that everyone did a really great job.
With the help of friends, social media, reddit and features on various sites I won the contest. Soon after the official results were released I was contacted and congratulated by Square Enix and received my hotel booking and flight tickets to Paris. Part of the prize included two concert tickets for the Final Fantasy Distant World concert, so my fiancée got to join me. I would have taken her regardless but it was especially nice because this was her first visit to Paris.
At the start of January we took our flights from Asia (that's where I am located at the moment) and spent the first week with my family in Berlin. Shortly after arriving I received a package from Square Enix filled with goodies! The box contained a letter, Chocobo plushy, and a set of Final Fantasy Creatures (Vol.3). Square Enix Germany also sent a large envelope with holiday wishes, a Hitman tie and a congratulations message for winning the contest - everyone was very nice.
After some relaxing time with the family we continued our journey to Paris. Square Enix had booked us a hotel right in the heart of the city for two nights, but we extended our stay by a week so that we could get time to explore the city.
On the first weekend we finally met up with Square Enix. It was a pleasure meeting the Square Enix brand manager Rui Anderson in person after having exchanged many emails. Rui is a super-nice fun person - we both have cats so it was easy to make friends. It was also great to finally meet Ben Bateman, Central Community Manager for Square Enix Europe and Adam Phillips, the Square Enix Europe PR Manager.
We had a long and interesting talk over some hot cups of tea
while waiting for my interview.
Then came surprise after surprise! I wasn't told in advance that Motomu Toriyama and Yoshinori Kitase were in Paris and I was surprised to see them both waiting for me. They presented me with a custom made crystal engraved with a Chocobo, the company logo, date and title on it. I am now the owner of this truly unique Final Fantasy item. We shook hands, Motomu Toriyama and Yoshinori Kitase congratulated me on winning the contest, and we took some pictures together.
My name will also be added to the Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII credits
The crystal has a special spot with my Final Fantasy Ultimate Box
I was pleased to hear from the Japanese developers that they had received some of my art prints. Last year I was in Tokyo attending the Final Fantasy 25th Anniversary event and had left a couple prints with the staff to pass onto the developers. It's nice to see that they had found their way into the right hands. Square Enix America and Square Enix Europe also received some of my art prints and I was told they'll be displayed in their offices.
After meeting Motomu Toriyama and Yoshinori Kitase I had an Interview with Famitsu. If you're unfamiliar with Famitsu it's a very famous and popular gaming magazine in Japan so I was very thrilled to get a full page!
Here is me with the super-nice
Here's me answering the first question; how I felt winning the contest.
The interview was fun and I got an issue of Famitsu as a present along with the Final Fantasy Famitsu Memoria booklet. It contains brief reviews on all numbered Final Fantasy titles, some background information and interviews.
After a brief rest I had a video interview for Square Enix Members with Ben Bateman. I think it went well and Ben promised to make me look handsome with some magic editing techniques [I'm thinking rainbows and Chocobos - Ben]. I was pretty excited so I hope I didn’t mumble anything weird!
Here is Ben, me and my fiancée May.
May also enjoys Final Fantasy and used to cosplay.
After the interview we had a bit of time to talk and before heading to the Distant Worlds concert! When we arrived, the entrances to the hall were packed with hundreds of people. Thanks to the VIP cards we were able to enter without any wait - phew! The theatre was filled and mysteriously there seemed to be more people than seats.
We had great seats but some of the nice Square Enix guys traded with us so we that we had the best seats, right in the middle and in the same row as Nobuo Uematsu and the rest of the Square Enix staff. The orchestra was accompanied by a projector playing video snippets from the respective Final Fantasy games to complement the tracks being performed. It felt very nostalgic to watch videos of the old titles while listening to the music. The music itself was of course beautiful! I've listened to the performances numerous times on CD but nothing beats a live performance - the sound quality was simply awesome!
It was a great treat to see Nobuo Uematsu actually participate in the performance of Final Fantasy VI (my favourite Final Fantasy) along with the conductor, Arnie Roth, who played the violin. The vocal pieces performed by Susan Calloway were spectacular and all in all it was a great concert!
After the show we got to meet Nobuo Uematsu, Arnie Roth and Susan in person. Rui introduced us and I had the chance to shake hands, briefly express myself, and give them some presents I'd brought for them. I presented Nobuo Uematsu with a canvas-print of a portrait I'd made of him.
I hope that he likes the gift - he seemed very happy.
A rare Final Fantasy I-II OST on cassette tape
It was an honour meeting Nobuo Uematsu in person and to see him perform. We had a great evening and great trip! Now it's all over I'm back in Thailand, chilling at the beach as I write this.
Thank you all very much for all the support and big thanks to Square Enix and Famitsu!
You can read Randis' original blog post here - make sure to view his extensive gaming collection and his incredible art. While you're at it you might want to like his Final Fantasy Collection Facebook page too?!