Completing Final Fantasy 14’s main story — including all its expansions — takes somewhere in the region of 350 hours. Even the hardiest RPG fan would have to admit that this is a lot. That’s also assuming you’re concentrating solely on the story and not getting pulled away by any of the impossible number of other distractions the game throws at you.
This was how I approached my first major stint in Final Fantasy 14. Head down. Tunnel vision. Plowing through it. I overcame the very real boredom of the game’s first 50 or so hours, was blown away by the next 200, and, as the credits rolled on the Endwalker expansion, came to realize that I’d just finished one of the greatest games I’ve ever played.
Normally when you complete a game that you’ve enjoyed, you’ll be able to take a breath, step back, and decide whether it’s worth spending another 5 or 10 or however many hours to have a further poke around and mop up the game’s extra challenges. But in Final Fantasy 14, I reached the end only to realize that, after spending the equivalent of 2 whole weeks of my life playing the game, I’d only just scratched the surface.
So, despite my love for Final Fantasy 14, I took a break. It’s okay though, the game’s director gave me permission.
You Can Check Out Any Time You Like
It’s an unusual thing to hear anybody directly involved with a game telling you that it’s fine not to play it. Of course, nobody is exactly putting a gun to your head and forcing you to play their game, but the implication that you should is built pretty heavily into live service gaming’s FOMO-centric business model.
Final Fantasy 14 is, to be fair, no different. Like any MMO they run a steady rotation of limited-time events with limited-time rewards. There’s also the sense of responsibility that comes when you play online games with other people — how they depend upon you so that they can continue being able to do everything in the game that they want.
Still, it’s refreshing to hear someone so heavily involved in the game’s continued development come forward and encourage you to take a break when it suits you. That’s what happened in 2016 when Final Fantasy 14’s director, Naoki Yoshida, responded to a player’s question of how best to deal with burnout from playing the game. Thanks to Reddit user u/elevenmile, you can read a full translation of the response Yoshida (aka YoshiP) gave to this player. While it’s a short response, there’s a lot to unpack here when it comes to both developer and player attitudes to online games.
YoshiP mentions how forcing yourself to play the game will make you feel stressed. He appreciates that there are other games out there that might turn your head. He implores you to go ahead and play them, then return to FF14 when there’s fresh content to do. This, he says, is how you stay motivated to keep playing the game he designed.
Those 350-something hours I spent completing the main story of Final Fantasy 14 were spread out over the course of around a year and a half, and it’s now been about a year since I left the game. My experience was almost completely a solo one, only ever grouping with other players to complete mandatory dungeons and trials.
Because of that, I didn’t have any external pressure from other guild members who were relying on me to join in with their raid progression or the like. It was, therefore, pretty easy for me to drop the game and move on.
The truth is, I wouldn’t have had any problem doing so regardless. I’ve been around the MMO block enough times to know there’s no point holding on when you’ve had enough. Among the wider MMO community though, on Reddit, X (Twitter), and YouTube, you won’t have to look far to find plentiful numbers of people who are constantly bemoaning the state of a game they’re still playing every day.
Yes, it’s entirely possible that whatever game they’re playing may have been made worse in the years since they started, but more often than not I think it’s a case that they’re simply burnt out and refuse to recognize it.
There’s a general feeling among MMO players (and indeed among communities of all online games), that it would be the most marvelous thing to find that ‘one game’ you’ll be able to play forever. A true second life, with a never-ending stream of things to do — where you can become a rich, powerful, and respected member of a thriving community.
It’s a romantic sentiment, and one that marketing departments tap into regularly as they barrage you with taglines that offer some variation of “your new life/home awaits”. Is the reality quite as appealing as the fantasy though?
We’ve all been there. Loved a game, found a community, wanted to lose ourselves in it every spare moment we could. Then, for whatever reason, it happens — logging in starts to feel like a chore. Yoshida recognizes this inevitability, but he also recognizes the best solution for it. If you keep playing the game against your will, your sense of apathy will turn to distaste, and when you finally do leave it will probably be with some sense of finality. It’s far better for a game’s long-term health to encourage your players to leave on a relative high so that they might return with a renewed vigor rather than a gnawing reluctance.
A Return to the Realm, Reborn
There’s been a fair amount of discussion amongst the Final Fantasy 14 community recently with regard to how underwhelming the Endwalker post-expansion content may or may not have been. As the A Realm Reborn era of FF14 hits its 10-year anniversary, however, how much of this ennui can be put down to just sheer fatigue? How much content, of what level of quality, would be sufficient to keep you engaged in the same game year after year?
This is almost certainly a case where your mileage may vary. There are still people who are perfectly content playing EverQuest every day and have been doing so for almost a quarter of a century. Meanwhile, there are others who are still regularly logging in to online games like Secret World Legends that haven’t had any new updates for years. But what works for one person doesn’t by any means work for everyone.
Since returning to Final Fantasy 14 this past week to catch up with the latest story content before the new Growing Light patch hits, I’ve been having an absolute blast. Meeting back up with all the other Scions, quickly falling back into the flow with my combat rotations, and getting all weepy-eyed over hearing musical cues from the game’s more emotional moments.
I quickly burnt through all the latest story content, but now I’m excited to stick around and try out all the other parts of the game that I side-stepped the first time I landed in Eorzea. I’m not just talking about being happy to have something to do either, I’m literally going to bed at night looking forward to the next time I log in. That just wouldn’t have happened had I slogged on past Endwalker’s credits out of some misguided sense of obligation.
YoshiP’s statement encouraging players to take a break from Final Fantasy 14 is quoted so often among the community that the words have almost started to lose their meaning. So often it feels as though there’s more interest in the statement just on account of how anomalous it is rather than for what he’s actually saying. You can’t reasonably expect games PR to start coming forward and telling people to quit their games when they feel like it, but I wish more game developers would echo Yoshida’s sentiments so that they might one day become the accepted norm.
With the Dawntrail expansion not slated until Summer 2024, now could be the best time yet to take YoshiP’s advice and spend some time away from the game. With a whole new era in the game’s history about to begin you can be sure that Final Fantasy 14 will still be around to enjoy for many years yet.