My New Year’s resolution of 2016 is to swap out my time watching YouTube with gaming. My thinking is that watching videos is a passive pastime, but playing games is active. Since MMOs are huge and always getting updates I chose Final Fantasy XIV as my ‘Game of the Year’. It’s going well so far, and I didn’t realise what a service it would be to myself when I started. You see, exactly 380 days ago I moved from Ireland to China.
Living in China can be a lonely experience for a foreigner. No one speaks English or understands why you drink cold water. The occasional old lady will run at you with an umbrella like a Silent Hill monster for the fear of you getting a tan. It’s a recipe for homesickness. I quickly fell into an unmotivated state within three months of being in Sichuan. After work, I would sleep or binge watch AlphaOmegaSin and Markiplier videos. When making my New Year’s resolution I didn’t expect it to be the panacea it ended up as. I just wanted to fill my time in a pseudo-productive manner.
More Than a Distraction
At the start, it was just like any other game; a welcome distraction. It helped a little but wasn’t anything remarkable. Weeks of exploring Eorzea as my hero E’Loomis Zaurora, meant I didn’t have time to be homesick. MMOs give you a feeling of accomplishment as you reach new levels and plough through missions. In many ways, it recharges my batteries to relax and do the tasks without the guilt of being idle. This isn’t the end of the story, though.
I finally got around to joining a casual guild called The Mocking Moogles. We spent most of our time recounting embellished stories of dungeon raids. My favourites are the ‘Tales of the Inferno’ which involve Ifrit, who is a Final Fantasy staple character. Usually, I listen to these fantastic tales using Discord even when I’m not playing. It’s almost like listening to a spectator reporting on a football match. “That Healer is amazing! She just saved the tank! Oh, Oh!! The Black Mage took out the soulstone! Yes! Yes! Ah, No! No!”. I can’t help it, it makes me smile. There are some really great stories about a Realm Reborn.
Eorzea is My Perfect, Home Away From Home
More and more the guild just turned into family. Every time I log on I get a chorus of greetings and a quiz about my day. The anonymity leads to an openness that is nye impossible in the real world. Oh, and try doing a Twitch stream where you conquer a dungeon in nothing but your underwear.
I suppose it is by design. Part of what makes MMOs so addictive is they are habit forming and a good community brings people back. It plays into the theory of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The guild gives me a place to belong and friends to converse with. The tasks and ranks and hunts boost my esteem. The NPCs do love to gush over me, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like it. It’s these things (love, belonging, esteem) that tend to get displaced when we travel. A lot of the time you’re doing it alone in an almost alien world. It can make you feel pretty small when you realize just how big the world is.
People on the outside don’t realize the closeness of gaming communities. Physically, we may be miles apart, but at the same time, we might as well all be on the same couch. I like to think I keep this 30 strong family in my backpack where ever I go. No matter what time of day, or where in world, I can log on and be surrounded by my friends and family.