A meme making the rounds on twitter has landed on my timeline this weekend that got me thinking about how I play games these days. I don’t know the ‘original meme’ but clearly another FFXIV player put his spin on it which elicited some grins and snorts in consecutive FFXIV sub-tweets:
I remember my early gaming days in the 80ies and later 90ies were all about waiting patiently on new releases, saving up money for the next great title the gaming mags had previously told us about. After my initiation to gaming on the Intellivision and Atari ST, I saved up birthday and Christmas money to buy myself (and my instigating sibling) the NES. We only owned a handful of games on it, obligatory Mario and Zelda among them. At school there was another kid lending me Probotector (Contra) which was a high point as far as shooters went.
Then the SNES landed on the European market in 1992 and with it the golden age of JRPGs and bright colors was upon us. Modules were eye-wateringly expensive with 120-140 bucks per game. Still over time, we managed to play almost everything of name and rank of the era which continued to top itself year after year. The PSone was released not long after and there have never been better times for classic RPG fans since. Not on consoles, anyway!
The turn of the century
Playing many different games on different consoles became my norm until the 2000s. It’s quite a thing that: being born into a time where you get to witness the turn of a millennium and with it the crazy leaps in technological advancement that we’ve seen since the commercialization of the internet. I started university in 2001 and got my first own PC with a 32-kbit modem (and later 56-kbit wahey). The old dialing tone is the stuff of legend now. I created my first blog on blogspot that same year to keep in touch with friends and family while living near campus. Chatting on ICQ was all wild and new and then Square, motherload of all that had been great and mighty in the 90ies, finally announced FFXI coming to PC in 2002. That’s when my gaming career took a sharp turn towards MMORPGs.
My final console was the Gamecube. I remember boxing and re-selling it in 2004, after World of Warcraft had taken the world by storm. That’s when an intense period of MMO monogamy began for me that lasted well into 2010 and the beginning of Cataclysm. I did not purchase a single new game for years, that’s how busy WoW kept me. However like so many, I became an MMO vagabond after that, looking for a new home in GW2, AoC, Rift, Lotro and Wildstar to name a few. What had seemed inconceivable for a long time, playing several MMOs at once, became my new reality if not necessarily a satisfactory one.
I also opened a Steam account in 2011, diving into the new and comfortable world of digital cross-platform gaming. You can say about Steam what you like, it re-introduced me to variety gaming and the colorful world of indie titles the way no other platform could have done at the time. My first titles according to the purchase history were Bastion, Red Orchestra 2, Skyrim, Dear Esther and Lotro.
Since then, multi-gaming and online co-op has been my world. What established itself too is an ever increasing backlog of titles I’ve yet to finish or play – what a difference 10 years can make! Games have become a cheap, accessible and plentiful commodity, with all the up and downsides that come with that. What was once a highly restrictive setting due to access and cost considerations is now a challenging selective process due to sheer abundance of releases, special offers and sales. I believe there’s a misconception that the quality of games has gone down with the increased quantity; gaming is as fantastic as ever. Sure, many half-baked games make it to market that probably shouldn’t, yet that’s an issue of quality control and selection rather than a statement on what modern games can achieve.
My MMO drifting years came to a slow end with A Realm Reborn in 2015. According to the Mogstation, I have been actively subscribed for a total of 1410 days since, so I’ve taken a few breaks in between. FFXIV was always on my radar but after the initial disaster, there was a long deliberation period before giving the title a second chance. I am glad that I did – FFXIV has improved tenfold in the meantime and is now, together with WoW, the most solid and content-rich themepark MMORPG out there on the international market.
I’ve kept up with its content over the years and it’s safe to say there’s never been a greater expansion than current Shadowbringers which saw the game soar to new heights with over 20 million registered users. I missed the bus blogging about this between 2019 and 2020 but the noise out there was hard to miss. Shadowbringers will be a tough act to follow for Endwalker but I’m not worried. Safely remaining in Yoshi-P’s hands, FFXIV will continue to offer MMO players a stable online home long into the future. It has found its rhythm and way of doing things and the formula works.
It’s nice to have a steady MMORPG to return to and see the world and your character grow with it. Even if I’m always up for trying new promising titles, and they are now far and few between, I am an MMO monogamist at heart. I like to know where to turn to in the evening after a long day at work. I like walking familiar streets, watching familiar sites. There’s a sense of belonging to an MMO world once you become a more seasoned player that is just very nice and comforting to me, like a warm blanket to the soul. Experience has taught us that nothing lasts forever but until that time, I’m along for the ride.