With the impending launch of Final Fantasy XIV this week, I felt it would be a good time to look back and reflect on my time with its predecessor, Final Fantasy XI, for my second My History with Gaming entry.
January 2004. Despite having an inadequate computer, and a horrid dial-up connection I waltzed into a local Gamestop and picked up a copy of Final Fantasy XI for PC after hearing my friend Greg telling me how cool it was. After a lengthy install, I entered the world of Vana’diel as ‘Aqualin,’ a Tarutaru Black Mage of Windurst. My first hours in the game were filled with confusion, disorientation and wonderment. Over the next five years, I would eventually play Final Fantasy XI on every system it was released for and enjoyed almost all the expansions.
This was my introduction to Massively Multi-player Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs), one of the gaming industry’s biggest acronyms. Without a doubt (currently), Final Fantasy XI has been one of the biggest games of my life. Mostly because I played it on and off for over 5 years. My total time logged into the game (of which I wasn’t always playing), ended up being just over one year. One year of my actual existence was spent playing this game. It is a year I wouldn’t want to trade for anything.
While playing I forged friendships with people I had never met from places I’d never been. I would eventually meet one of these people face-to-face. It is a very strange feeling to meet someone that you already know. It’s kind of cool, actually. The game was fun, if not annoying in some areas. What I really managed to obtain from my time spent on Final Fantasy XI was not only a lot of enjoyment, but also a sense of community.
I remember befriending one player named ‘Squishie.’ We met at a very early level, and soon we made friends with two other players and I then had a little group of people that I would hang out and level with that weren’t real life friends I already knew. I had a blast doing it. Eventually, the group fell apart. It was sad, but I had a lot of positive experiences during those times. Every so often, I would stop playing for a few months, and then eventually go back. Every time I returned though, Squishie would be on and see me in his Friend List and be certain to welcome me back once again. Even though we never really talked that much or even did things in-game together by that point, he still would greet me as a friend he had not seen in ages. These were the bonds I had formed with some people while playing this game.
Even when I left the comforts of home and went on my merry way to school at Full Sail, I found classmates who had played Final Fantasy XI. Even though World of Warcraft had become the juggernaut of MMOs by this point, Final Fantasy XI was fresh in minds, or still actively played amongst a few of my classmates. I even managed to convince my roommate, who had previously quit the game, to start again for a while. Through this, I found camaraderie in other people, not simply through having played the same game, but by having had experiences and stories to tell of our individual endeavors in the game.
However, Final Fantasy XI was not without out its faults. Whether it was waiting for parties, difficult battles, full wipes in Garlaige Citadel or whatever random challenge awaited you that day, there were days I just wanted to give up because somethings were just so excruciatingly difficult. However, these challenges made the game fulfilling and rewarding when said challenges were completed. To date, this remains the only game to actually induce physical tremors of joy in me from when I finally beat Maat after months of trying to surpass that last level limit (fellow players will know what I talking about). It was difficult, it was annoying and it was frustrating. The sensation of victory when I finally beat him was amazing. I dropped my controller because my hands were shaking so badly. It is easily among, if not THE, top moment of my gaming life.
In the end, I stopped playing as a Level 73 Black Mage. Just two levels shy of the level cap. It wasn’t to any fanfare or a decision I just reached one day. One day, I logged off and I just never returned. I’d been tempted as I had in the past to return, but each temptation reinforced the idea that this time I knew I’d never step into Vana’diel again. In a way, it was sad. Here was a game I had spent 5 years loving and playing this game. Even in the midterm, I tried my hand World of Warcraft for a good while. I also played City of Heroes/Villains and Champions Online. I enjoyed those game, but none of them ever made me feel the way I did playing Final Fantasy XI.
The new Square-Enix MMORPG, Final Fantasy XIV, launches this week. I’ve already posted my opinions about the game from my time playing the Open Beta Test, which closes today. I look forward to the launch this week. I don’t know if I’ll enjoy XIV the same way that I XI has impacted my life. After all, a lot has changed in the last 6 years. I’m now a working professional, I no longer live with my parents and I now have an awesome girlfriend who is more deserving my time and attention than a silly old game. Either way, I will look back fondly on my years with Final Fantasy XI, and look forward to whats to come with Final Fantasy XIV.
The Short and Sweet of It
The Game: Final Fantasy XI
Platform: PC / PS2 / Xbox 360
Why it was important: For 5 years, it was a major part of my life and in it I found enjoyment, community and friendships that I will remember fondly for a long time.