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Recently I’ve gotten back into Final Fantasy XIV a lot more than I had previously. This wasn’t kicked off by recent awful events, by the way, and it wasn’t necessarily spurred on by the larger Endwalker expansion reveals (though that did have a small part to play in things). Mostly, my return was fueled by friends. Friends that I sometimes play with and people that I’m not necessarily friends with.

Allow me to explain

One of my favorite parts of the MMORPG and MMO genre is the ambient sort of busyness and life that happens around the game. Fans of the genre know what I’m referring to; that kind of gentle buzz that sort of feels comfortable when you’re in a hub town or a particularly active part of a game’s open world. By contrast, nothing feels more depressing that entering a newbie zone that’s wholly vacant.

For some time I’d kind of disconnected from FFXIV simply because I didn’t really feel included. I ignored most of the updates and I even shrugged dismissively at the final MSQ stuff that was added semi-recently simply because I wasn’t really feeling connected to that buzzing sensation. My motivation to play dropped, my motivation to play as my character dropped, and I was genuinely considering not buying the next expansion even if it meant missing out on the finale of the ARR story.

But then, I saw the invitation to the Super Dungeon Friends Discord server.

copyright Belghast Sternblade Photoshoppery and Chip Shop 2021

Up to this point, the Discord hasn’t really done a whole lot of large-scale organizing. I suspect that’s by design, as the entire point of the community is to create a low-pressure and low-stress way for nervous folks or shy folks to come together and run content at their own pace. That said, even without anyone in the community actively forming parties or doing regular runs or statics, simply being in the community got me to feel that buzz again.

Suddenly, I’ve found myself stepping back into my character’s shoes and doing things with people again. Suddenly I cared enough to finish the MSQ. Suddenly I care enough to do roulettes again. I even managed to hop into a couple of raids, which was a legitimately terrifying and nervous thing to do. But simply being around friends — around friendly people — made me want to take that fear head-on and shake off my raiding rust. And it felt amazing.

It’s really easy to think that group finding tools have dulled the social experience, and in a few ways I can appreciate why many folks feel that way. But for me, feeling a part of a game’s community and its general excitement, even indirectly or by pure osmosis, is even more important than striking out and being actively sociable. Hooking up to that energy field has a tangible effect. It’s why FFXIV is back in my good graces and something I can be excited for again. Conversely, it’s perhaps one of the reasons why a game like City of Heroes or Guild Wars 2 doesn’t connect with me; I feel blocked from that buzz.

Basically what I’m saying is that friendship is magic. Even if it’s not a direct or “classic” style of friendship.