I’m Playing Final Fantasy XIV – Preamble

“I want in.”

I was twelve years old and experiencing online gaming for the first time. Someone had given me Halo: Combat Evolved for the PC, and since I didn’t have an Xbox, I had no one to play online with. Thirsting for the comradeship and totally epic stories shared around sticky cafeteria lunch tables, I wanted my own community to get to know. Digital friends. A guild. A clan.

I have no idea what I’m doing.

At twelve years old, I was searching for some kind of community. Cool stories to share with people who were in on it. A sense of teamwork (I was bad at sports) and a digital clubhouse (I didn’t have a tree-house as a child).

I think that’s why many people are drawn to multiplayer online communities to begin with. Surely there’s something underneath the grinding and cool downs and stat crunching that keeps people coming back to the same server. The ones that feel like home. The ones where, like Cheers, everyone knows your name, and your name is bonerlord69xxx.

Yet, I’ve never played an MMO before.

Why Final Fantasy XIV, Though?

For some stupid reason, I made a mental pact with myself to play and attempt to complete every mainline Final Fantasy game. Thus far I’ve jumped around the series quite a bit, playing half of I, and finishing VI, VII, IX, X, and XV.

I knew the minute I made this pact that one day, I would have to play Final Fantasy XIV.

…and XI!

my brain every goddamn time

Final Fantasy XIV has technically been around for a whopping nine years. Its first iteration launched in 2010 to abysmal reviews, technical issues, and a fan-base that was quick to dump the title. For comparison, here are just a few games that have released since then:

  • Call of Duty: Black Ops
  • Portal 2
  • Dark Souls
  • The Last of Us
  • Skyrim

Yes, Final Fantasy XIV is older than Skyrim. It’s hard to imagine a time where games existed before the omnipresent Bethesda behemoth was sneaking its way onto generation after generation of home consoles like rockjoint.

that one was for the nerds

In 2013, Square Enix did the unthinkable and doubled down on their latest MMORPG efforts, literally nuking the original world of Final Fantasy XIV and rebooting the game entirely as A Realm Reborn. The gambit worked. The game has enjoyed immense popularity ever since and shows no signs of stopping. Three major expansions and countless updates later later, the game continues to bring in new players and retain old ones, culminating with the latest release of Shadowbringers that launched this week.

There’s a problem here.

The longer I wait to play Final Fantasy XIV, the larger the game becomes. The larger the game becomes, the longer it takes to play. The longer it takes to play, the less new games I’m currently playing. The less new games I’m playing, the sooner my gamer license gets revoked.

The time is now.

Ground Rules

  • I am playing Final Fantasy XIV because I dearly love the series and want to see what all the fun is about, I’m not just checking a box.
  • I’m fully aware that A Realm Reborn has an “okay” story and the good stuff comes later. I’m fully aware it may take me upwards of 100 hours to get to said good stuff.
  • This isn’t a race. If at any point I dislike the game or feel like I’ve seen enough, I’ll put it down for a bit.
  • That said, I intend to make a real effort to get into the game.
  • I have haven’t played an MMO since RuneScape

You’ve Never What?

I’ve never played an MMO since RuneScape, and I’m not sure that even counts. RuneScape was a game I played with my immediate friend group. We’d see each other all day in school, talk about what adamantite scimitar my highly leveled friend would make for me if I bought him a cookie at lunch, then argued over the pronunciation of scimitar while we sculpted ash trays in art class for parents who never smoked.

I fucking download the RuneScape client and log into my original account for a gag and my original username “Shadow_560” is no longer available. It randomized a new one for me. Nice. We will definitely come back to this.

I’m an adult now, and I can’t bribe my coworkers to craft me virtual swords for my online game with cookies. In fact, most of my close friends don’t really play much in the way of MMOs. I have a handful of online friends I’ve accumulated over the years, like how my web browser accumulated cookies in a pre-GDPR world, so I expect this experience to be quite different.

But yes, I’ve never taken place in a raid. I don’t know what instanced events are. I vaguely know that a tank soaks damage, and relies on someone clicking the heal button over them forever.

Shit, do I even remember how to make online friends again?

Halo: Combat Evolved

It’s 2004.

At the ripe age of twelve and not knowing anything about real life social interactions, let alone digital ones, I hopped into any Halo server that had a cool sounding clan name, pushed Y to all chat, and sent my same line over and over again.

“I want in.”

I was so cool. The mysterious stranger who entered your server, strode up to the digital bar, slammed his fist on the table and demanded to be part of your cool group. Surely, someone with balls big enough to arrive unannounced and demand entry was the coolest.

You fucking idiot. You imbecile. This is how you either become a Nazi or almost join the military.

me to my twelve year old self searching desperately for a group to identify with

Eventually, someone had the patience to entertain me for a bit:

“You want in on what?”

“The clan.”

“That’s not how it works. Go to the site and make an account and fill out an application.”

AN APPLICATION! Man, these folks were official. Hell yes I would apply.

And that’s how I became a part of The Marines {TM}.

It was a ton of fun. There were people from all over the world in my clan. We used a chat client called Xfire (c’mon, you remember it too) that I would desperately try to hide from my parents so they didn’t know I was talking to strangers. We had an official forum that would auto-play a Billy Talent song:

you should play this while reading the rest for the full 2004 experience

If felt great to be in a clan. The server became home. I had a group of friends none of my real friends knew about. One guy showed me how to lookup someone’s IP address and scared the shit out of me by vaguely guessing at my IRL location.

I even loved the clan enough to begin a foray into video editing using Fraps. I made a clan promo video (set to Killing in the Name, because of course it was) that wouldn’t render in Windows Movie Maker because my Dell Inspiron 1300 couldn’t handle my Scorsese level video editing skills. I still bitterly think about that lost video.

We weren’t very competitive, but I did play one competitive match with Leader {TM} (the clan leader himself, duh). He DM’d me after and said he was proud of me, despite my negative k/d ratio. It felt great. Twelve year old me was ecstatic. I was part of the fold.

What the fuck does this have to do with Final Fantasy XIV

Everything.

I’m playing Final Fantasy XIV because I love and will play every Final Fantasy game, but to do this, I need to do it. I can recount all of these Halo experiences like they happened yesterday because of the community I found myself in (and let me tell you, I got fucking lucky with the group that decided to entertain twelve year old cool me).

I like to think I’m slightly more socially conscious at the ripe age of 27. I’m a bit more cynical and guarded about strangers on the internet. I don’t meme. I haven’t played a multiplayer game without friends I actually know since Day of Defeat (we’ll get to that, too). I think the whole MMO role playing thing is a bit silly, although I get it.

This is all to say, I’m aware this experiment will be as much about learning to play an MMO mechanically as well as letting my too-good-for-the-internet guard down and try and get sucked into a game community like I was twelve.

Will I make deep friends like I did when I was a kid? I doubt it. In time, we all moved on from Halo. I wonder if my ex-clan mates think of their time with The Marines {TM} with any sort of wistful nostalgia like I do. Perhaps they moved onto the next first person shooter and found new communities and friends. Maybe they never played another game at all, hanging up their controllers for good.

Maybe they’re out there in Eorzea.

START THAT CRYSTAL THEME AND LET’S GO

Published by

Steve D

Happiness AI

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