There are few real constants in life. The ones that anchor us are all too often constants of tragedy: bills, deaths, jobs, accidents. When it comes to video games — especially gaming in the modern era — too often games become meme of the week only to be dropped and forgotten a few months post release. We’ve been trained as consumers, to be hip on new trends and buy the new fun thing so we can talk about it then and there. Video game marketing has become as hyped as memes themselves — parasocial moments framed by a fear of missing out, where too often our enjoyment feels pressured and forced.
Sometimes the hobby can feel more like a second job than a true, stable method of relaxation.
To Game or Not to Game
So much becomes lost in the shuffle. The activity of gaming is as reliant on time as it is money, and these days even more so. Dropping $70 on a new game can oftentimes feel like a small effort compared to the very real necessity of somehow finding twenty to thirty hours to spend on each and every new game, especially when new games feel like they release every other week. The demand to be current — to be up to date on every new in-joke and meme and topic, to not be the only one who doesn’t have the new system or the new game — is a societal pressure that is plaguing the industry and framing our conversations about video games in a negative light. All too often this pressure to never miss a new release actually impacts how we feel about a game, pushing an opinion into our heads that has little to do with the game themselves.
Whether its the rush to play every new game or the mounting pressure to somehow and someday tackle our backlogs, gaming often doesn’t feel like it once did. There’s little to ground us as we move from game to game, and as someone who plays around thirty new games per year (as well as replaying old ones and tackling the backlog), amazing experiences often fall by the wayside. Life is chaotic and difficult and I don’t need my favorite hobby to be exploited by a poisonous cocktail of capitalist marketing schemes and peer pressure. Gaming should be fun, and parsed by my schedule and personal enjoyment.
A Life in Eorzea
Over the last decade, there’s been an experience that has stood out to me against the games that have both been immense tentpoles of the gaming experience and those who have fallen by the wayside. Regardless of what stage of my life I’ve been on or how my experiences have or have not been met by various games, Final Fantasy XIV has remained an ever-comforting constant, a warm-blanket game that I’ve returned to time and again.
Final Fantasy XIV, the MMO of notoriously rocky starts that has evolved into one of the most played massively multiplayer games of all time, has been a game that I’ve spent time with every week since 2013. Eorzea has long been a world that I’ve known as my own, a place that’s often felt more like home than any other. Throughout the litany of changes and evolutions that have occurred in my real life over the last near-decade, Final Fantasy XIV has been a constant of epic proportions, an adventuring wonderland reliable regardless of console or crisis.
There has been an emotional sustainability to Final Fantasy XIV that has withstood years of sales and new releases, and the balm of this MMORPG has been that no matter what game is out, I have this one to fall back on. Naoki Yoshida’s team have crafted a phenomenal experience that has only improved with time, and over the last decade I have been able to glean vast amounts of entertainment from its constant additions. Coupled with the fact that I have friends and family members who play Final Fantasy XIV, it’s been reliable in more ways than one. This has been a game that has somehow stayed with me for nearly a third of my life, a testament to both impeccable game design and player comfort.
It’s the overall experience that creates the comfort, the fact that the game is more than an RPG of dailies and content rigmarole; Final Fantasy XIV feels like it wants me there. It’s a sweeping fantastic of beautiful vistas and wonderful dungeons and impressive sights that I somehow never tire of. It is the equivalent of comfort food, the gaming mirror of a good grilled cheese and warm tomato soup. Despite any roadblocks in life, just booting up the game and hearing those familiar notes of the login screen are enough to bring a smile to my face. This is the definition of the comfort game, a joy-bringing constant that’s more of a serotonin hit than anything else I can think of.
Like with all things, there’s no real measure to how long Final Fantasy XIV will be around. As an MMORPG, it does have an unknown expiration date. Playing through an MMO as it evolves and changes and grows is a blessing of its own, and it’s surreal to consider this game that has comforted me through funerals, employment changes, relationships, even the pandemic. A constant game is more than just a reliable experience, it’s something that exists alongside you as readily as diet, exercise, and sleep. My experiences and memories in Final Fantasy XIV are more numerous than any game over the last couple of years, and many of these spectacular moments have been conflated with and entangled in my own real-life chapters.
It’s a game I won’t be leaving any time soon.
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