The Returner: Fitting in Final Fantasy XIV

The Returner: Rediscovering Final Fantasy XIV

You may have noticed the absence of our Final Fantasy XIV column for a couple of weeks, and there’s a very simple reason for that: time! Two weeks in a row, the days flew by so quickly that before I realised it, it was Friday and I hadn’t had any time to continue my adventures in Eorzea due to all the other things I’d been doing.

To be honest, this is actually a big part of the reason why I dropped the game in the first place — I simply didn’t feel like there was room for it in my life any more. Or, more accurately, I felt like there wasn’t space for it in the way I used to play any more.

Final Fantasy XIV

For several years, I played Final Fantasy XIV as one of my main forms of entertainment, recreation and socialisation. I don’t regret those years at all, and I had a wonderful time with a variety of very lovely people — many of whom I’ve talked about elsewhere on these pages. But there reached a point where there were too many other things that I wanted to play — which were, in themselves, games of substantial heft — and thus I had to cut back considerably on how much I was playing. I eventually quit completely.

I don’t want that to happen again, because I still haven’t experienced Shadowbringers, which so many people say is the best part of the game to date. And I don’t want it to happen — because I still genuinely like and enjoy the game. But once again being in a position where I have a bunch of games on the go and feeling like it’s difficult to fit something like Final Fantasy XIV in makes me ponder what the best solution to this could be.

Because I doubt I’m the only one feeling this way — both within and outside the Final Fantasy XIV community. So many games these days are designed to be what I like to refer to as “lifestyle games” — games which are designed to become your main hobby. They feature enough in the way of things to do and enough in the way of daily incentives to discourage you from wanting to play anything else — and if you’re happy playing like that, great. I’ve always been someone who enjoys a more varied gaming diet, however — and thus I find it easy to start resenting a game that is trying a bit too hard to “retain” me.

Final Fantasy XIV

Final Fantasy XIV has never really felt too much like that, thankfully. Sure, at endgame there are daily roulettes and weekly raids and stuff like that, but it’s never felt like an obligation; one of the things I’ve always felt was particularly strong about Final Fantasy XIV was the fact that if you just want to play it for the story — as a Final Fantasy game that just happens to include a multiplayer component — you can do. If dying repeatedly to a raid boss for weeks at a time doesn’t sound like fun, you don’t have to do that — there’s plenty more casual-friendly stuff to enjoy, including, in most cases, easier versions of said raid bosses.

So what’s my hesitation? Well, I think it’s mostly in my own mind; I’ve been conditioned over the years to believe that MMOs are a massive timesink and a huge commitment, and thus when I consider firing up Final Fantasy XIV for an evening, I sometimes find myself thinking “I should probably get on with playing [insert game name here] instead”. In reality, I know that despite it having plenty of hardcore stuff, Final Fantasy XIV is also very friendly to casual play; the vast majority of the story content is single-player, and most dungeons and trials can be completed within 15-20 minutes or less if everyone has at least a vaguely decent grasp of what they’re doing.

So in this instance, it’s very much a “me” problem. But how to fix it? How to ensure that I can catch up with Final Fantasy XIV without feeling like it’s somehow “depriving” me of other experiences? That’s something that each individual will have to answer for themselves, but an approach that I’ve found quite helpful — particularly if you’re playing with friends — is to treat it like an activity you’d go out and do back in the Before Times.

Final Fantasy XIV

Perhaps you’re someone for whom Thursday night was football night, where you’d head on down to the local sports centre and have an informal kickabout with your friends, then hit the pub afterwards. Or perhaps Tuesday night was board games night, where you’d gather around someone’s house, drink wine and play tabletop games until the small hours. Whatever it was, this sort of thing was something you enjoyed committing to, because it didn’t feel like an obligation; it was, instead, something to look forward to each week, or however often you committed to it.

Thus, the exact same thing works for something like Final Fantasy XIV, which can be an inherently social activity if you let it. Make a commitment with your in-game friends to, say, run some dungeons together one night a week, or catch up on trials that people haven’t done yet, or help people who are lagging behind on the main story to romp through the multiplayer encounters.

If you tend to primarily play with randoms, meanwhile, you can still make that commitment — allow yourself an evening a week where you know you’re going to sit down and play Final Fantasy XIV for a couple of hours, and set yourself some goals. I’m going to make this much progress with the story; I’m going to reach this experience level; I’m going to craft these items and corner the market for vast Gil profit.

Final Fantasy XIV

Writing it all down on “paper” like this, it all makes perfect sense and seems perfectly feasible. So from hereon, that’s going to be my approach. I’ll commit an evening a week to Final Fantasy XIV — likely Wednesdays, or perhaps Fridays, after writing this column — and that should get me back on track. Because I’m enjoying the game, make no mistake about that — I just need to allow myself the time to enjoy it without guilt!

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Pete Davison
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