As we now sit in 2021, I have been looking back on what were my favorite media experiences of 2020. At first, I was just going to create a list of a top 5 or top 10 movies/games/anime that I enjoyed. But as I kept thinking, I found myself going back to how I was going to do Final Fantasy XIV justice. So, now we’re here! I don’t think that my year would have been near as manageable without the wonderful experiences that FFXIV provided me.
For those of you who are not aware, Final Fantasy XIV is an MMORPG made by Square Enix. The original version released as both a critical and commercial failure on PlayStation 3 and PC in 2010. This version’s servers were shut down in 2012 to pave the way for “Version 2.0” that would be a complete rework from gameplay to story. “Version 2.0” released in 2013 with a new title: A Realm Reborn. Under the guiding eye of Naoki Yoshida, a producer and designer known mostly for his work on the Dragon Quest franchise, FFXIV would become one of Square Enix’s most profitable ventures in the mid 2010s. Currently, FFXIV has over 20 Million registered players and three unique expansions: Heavensward, Stormblood, and Shadowbringers.
I’m not going to get too in depth on story or gameplay mechanics because they really aren’t what’s important to me regarding FFXIV. I will say though that before playing this, MMORPGs really were not my thing. I had tried out Lord of the Rings Online, dabbled in World of Warcraft, and dipped into Star Wars: The Old Republic, but none of them proved to capture me like this game did. I honestly could not tell you why, but there was something that this game had to get me through the door that the others just didn’t have. I found the world interesting. The mix of traditional high fantasy with the patented “JRPG Nonsense” that is often found in Final Fantasy games just clicked for me. Eorzea is a diverse land with each city-state featuring its own special charm. Ul’dah, the gem of the desert, Limsa Lominsa, the coastal fortress, and Gridiana, shrouded under the forest. The gameplay was fairly easy for me (an MMORPG noob) to grasp (with guidance from others, of course). So what resulted behind my desk in the midst of a global pandemic was the perfect storm for this game to take a firm hold of me.
Really the thing that sticks out to me about 2020 is the opportunity that I had to get to know the people I play FFXIV with now. Finding the silver lining in a horrible year is easier for some than it is for others. I recognize that I have it a lot better off than so many others, and I am so thankful for that. But it was a hard year, and this is my silver lining. I don’t think I would have ever had the pleasure to meet and, more importantly, get to know the group I now call friends. I purchased FFXIV on July 19th, 2020. I have played just over 360 hours, and had so much fun along the way. This is due in no small part to having good people to spend time with everyday. Video games and online interaction are not a replacement for in person relationships, but in 2020 they literally were! We weren’t able to go hang out with friends, go to the movies, go to conventions. I was lucky to fall into a situation where I could have daily interactions with friends, and I would not trade that for the world.
Another thing that surprised me with this game is the community. I can count on one hand the number of bad experiences I have had with other players. People are always willing to teach new players in dungeons, and there is always a Bard somewhere putting on an impromptu concert. There is an online clothes database called the “Eorzea database” dedicated entirely to outfits. There is always something going on in terms of community events. The creativity that I have seen from going to various homesteads for parties, concerts, or tea shops and restaurants has been terrific in itself. Engaging with the community in forums other than dungeons, trials, or raids, is where the min maxing and mechanic heavy gameplay drops to show a community that is fun and welcoming to the core. Though sometimes this leads to what I call reverse gatekeeping. This is when a particular community is overly aggressive in advocating that others consume the piece of media in question. This is not a problem particular to FFXIV, but it is most certainly there. You would think that with over 20 million players toxicity would be more prevalent, but I am very happy to see that it is a very small minority.
In short, I am super glad that 2020 introduced me to FFXIV. There were so many other games, anime, and films I enjoyed, but this is the only one I felt I could write something meaningful about. Being able to dive into a world with so much to do was really what helped me to fill what would have been otherwise empty time. I am so thankful to have a collection of friends across the entire United States that I would not have met otherwise.
Currently, I have finished the first expansion and am working my way towards the second. I am slightly distracted by Culinarian and Botanist, cooking food and hugging trees. I now completely understand OSMCast’s love for this game, and, for future reference, if you guys have an open slot on Carbuncle Chronicle, I’m available 🙂 .
So, here’s to a better 2021, Warriors of Light! I hope you all find something that inspires you in the coming year.