One of the things I’ve been doing to stay connected and social with my friends while we’re all trying to practice good social distancing, is playing Final Fantasy XIV Online. For those not familiar this is the MMORPG in the Final Fantasy lineup. (That’s a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game, for those not familiar with the string of letters.)
This is a game my husband has been playing for about a year, that he got one of our other friends into about six months ago, and that was suggested when we were all looking for an RPG to play together. All told there’s about seven of us trying it out. We started on the free trial (which is pretty expansive really), and there have been some deals since then, so some of us have upgraded to paid accounts, but that’s all a bit beside the point I started out with.
So, I might be a little story obsessed…
Like most MMORPGs, this one is based around individual quests, leveling up your character and gear, and some group dungeons/events/quests/battles/raids (or whatever the game calls them). What seems to make this game slightly different is that there is a main story, with it’s own set of quests that tell a cohesive story, and all the other quests are a complement to that (and entirely optional). The other things that makes this game different is that one character can have as many classes/jobs as you feel like spending time to earn levels in. This includes combat classes/jobs (your standard healer, tank, and DPS (damage per second) style roles seen in most RPGs) as well as gathering and crafting classes that let you collect materials and then make them into useful gear or items. Being able to do all of them on a single character is what I haven’t seen in very many other games, though my experience is limited.
So there’s the main story quests, telling a story about your character moving through this world. Then there are all the side quests. Each of these tells a mini story about somewhere you are or a character you’re interacting with. I’ve found myself obsessively picking up and completing every quest possible. The smaller quests give richness and depth to the area I’m in and add complexity to the main story as I get to know the side characters (sometimes very far to the side indeed) around the main story.
This seems to either amuse or frustrate the friends I’m playing with. Some of them have had less time to devote to the game, and thus aren’t as far along. They’re still playing and I hope enjoying the game, and we’re all able to jump in and help them with their next story dungeon (the game automatically levels everyone down to match the difficulty of the dungeon), or answer questions about interface or where to find that one person in some back room of an inn who on the map looks like they’re on the hill behind it. (Okay, so the getting lost part may be mostly me projecting, but wow is it hard to find people sometimes.)
One of my friends is a little ahead of me in the main story, and as she approached level fifty content (and the end of the base game) she said she was going to wait for me to catch up. A side-quest heavy evening and then an evening reading instead of gaming means she broke down and went into that level fifty dungeon on her own. Which is fine. She’ll come back and do it again with me when I get there, and that’s what matters. She’s having fun and flying ahead, and I’m having fun and goofing around and taking forever. We’re both enjoying the game in our own way, which is what’s important.
I find it interesting that even when I’m playing a video game, it’s the story that matters to me more than anything else. My level and equipment and all that is secondary. It shows how important stories are to me. To steal a NaNoWriMo saying, “Stories Matter.” And to me, they often matter more than anything else. That’s certainly reflected in how I spend my time.
Have you been finding stories in interesting and unexpected places? Or finding creative ways to keep in contact with friends while social distancing? I’d love to hear about either or both.