A few months in the past, I did one thing I assumed I by no means would do: I unsubscribed from Last Fantasy 14. Okay, possibly I am being a bit of bit dramatic about taking a break from the critically-acclaimed MMORPG. However between August 2021 and October 2022 I by some means poured round 3,000 hours into it—numerous that spent AFK in Limsa Lominsa, admittedly—nevertheless it’s an awfully massive chunk of my life to dedicate to a single game.

I barely even performed anything throughout that point. I branched out often, dipping my toe into the waters of some new releases. I even returned to outdated trustworthy video games like Genshin Affect and Overwatch. However as fast as I might drift away from Eorzea, it will snatch me right again in. So when October got here and I realised I used to be executed with the game for a short time, it was like popping out of a bizarre, Last Fantasy 14-induced coma. 

It is a unusual feeling, spending a lot of your time with a game and with the press of a button having that consolation vanish. On-line editor Fraser as soon as likened quitting a live-service game to dumping a good friend. He is not mistaken. Within the first few weeks of my Last Fantasy-less existence, I felt misplaced in a approach I wasn’t anticipating. Associates I had made within the game started trickling into my Discord DMs, involved that my bunny lady hadn’t been noticed inflicting mischief in a sizzling sec. I half-heartedly waved them off, saying I might be again within the coming days. I knew I wasn’t, however I additionally wasn’t prepared to completely let go the factor I might been hyperfixating on for nearly 14 months.

(Picture credit score: Sq. Enix)

While you focus your interest on one particular area of interest, it is surprisingly exhausting to zoom again out and have a look at the larger image. I typically undergo ebbs and flows with video games anyway. I will hit the acceleration, pouring hours into video games for months on finish, powering by way of my backlog or replaying favourites. Then, out of nowhere, I will hit the brakes. I lose my need to play for a short time, mindlessly flitting between video games or opting out of enjoying altogether for a bit of bit.

Leaving Last Fantasy 14 behind has compelled me to reengage with a lifelong interest in a approach I wasn’t positive how you can navigate. It wasn’t like my ordinary moods, where my drive to game had diminished. I nonetheless needed to play, I simply wasn’t positive what. I used to be abruptly confronted with a whole yr’s value of video games I might brushed apart after a couple of hours to return to raiding, levelling classes or socialising in-game. The considered beginning over once more, studying controls and mastering a complete new strategy to play one other game was daunting. 

Again to actuality

It was additionally relatively unusual being alone once more. I nonetheless had buddies a Discord DM or voice name away, however I used to be now not becoming a member of my guild’s voice chat. I wasn’t in-game, prepared for my buddies’ avatars to look out of nowhere, emoting or enjoying useless at my ft, trade-cancelling my teleportations and working away. I had spent a lot of my life gaming in my very own firm, but 3,000 hours spent in an MMO made it such a wildly unfamiliar feeling.

(Picture credit score: Sq. Enix)

Fortunately, Game Cross and my ever-growing backlog on Steam and Epic Video games got here to the rescue. I nibbled at video games right here and there earlier than some light convincing from options producer Imogen and guides editor Lauren satisfied me to present Disney Dreamlight Valley a go. One way or the other, of all video games, Gameloft’s Animal Crossing-like reeled me straight again into my interest hook, line and sinker. I’ve additionally saved involved with a shocking variety of Last Fantasy friends, lots of whom additionally quickly stepped away from the game shortly after me. I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying different video games with them, watching anime collectively and usually sustaining our friendship outdoors of the place we met, which has been a stunning shock. However nonetheless, I discover myself excited about my guild, my foolish spot in Limsa and the world of Eorzea extra usually than I might care to confess.

Reminiscences accrued within the digital world are additionally an vital proof of life.

Hironobu Sakaguchi

Is it type of lame to overlook a game as a lot as I’ve missed Last Fantasy 14? Most likely. However irrespective of how trivial or seemingly pointless issues in our life could seem, it may be exhausting to allow them to go. I constructed implausible friendships, individuals I by no means would have met or spoken to had it not been for the game. Last Fantasy’s authentic creator, Hironobu Sakaguchi, started enjoying the MMO in September 2021. Within the run-up to his one-year anniversary with it, he tweeted one thing that has caught with me within the months since. “Reminiscences accrued within the digital world are additionally an vital proof of life.”

It is a assertion that is gone an extended strategy to validate how I’ve felt about my time with Last Fantasy 14. I could have been behind an avatar, parading round in all my bunny-eared glory like a bizarre anthropomorphic goofball, wildly gesticulating at my fellow bunny-eared and cat-eared brethren by way of varied emotes and flashy class animations. However it’s nights like New Years’ Eve 2021, once I was caught in the home with Covid. I might secured an in-game home inside hours of testing constructive, surrounded by my buddies in-game and in voice chat. We noticed within the new yr twice—as soon as for my German and Italian buddies, and once more for us within the UK. We sat on my digital roof, drank actual alcohol and chatted till the wee hours.

(Picture credit score: Sq. Enix)

It was the nights of barreling into roleplaying golf equipment, barely being roleplayers ourselves. We had been simply searching for an excuse to do one thing totally different and hearken to DJs spin decks on Twitch. It was all of the instances I might go browsing after a crappy day, solely to be instantly greeted by a good friend with a hug. Sakaguchi is not mistaken. Regardless that the reminiscences are happening in a digital house, they create actual feelings and connections. 

I will little question return to Last Fantasy 14 in 2023. Hell, by the point you learn this I could have already caved and resubscribed. However at once I am having fun with reconnecting with totally different video games, remembering the issues I do and do not like and eventually diving into a few of the massive ones I missed this yr like Stray. I’ve additionally ventured outdoors my consolation zone a bit of bit—simply this month I’ve performed Want for Velocity, Midnight Suns and eventually given Overwatch 2’s aggressive mode a shot. I by no means anticipated to go on such a bizarre journey after quitting a seemingly trivial game—nevertheless it goes to point out how massive an affect these experiences can have on us, digital or in any other case.