Writing about my favorite part of massively multiplayer online games has made me reminiscent about my past experience with them. Like I mentioned yesterday, I have played a lot of MMO’s, but I played them all for different reasons. Sometimes I play them to connect with friends, other times I aim to be the best and min/max my gear, still other times I seek to enjoy the in-game story. This one time I played Final Fantasy XI just to be an asshole.
Sometime in late 2006, Final Fantasy XI had an open beta on the Xbox 360. The Official Xbox Magazine used to include game demo disks in every issue. One month they partnered with Square Enix to include Final Fantasy XI Online as the demo disk. This game would become one of my favorite games of all time, and some of my fondest gaming memories ever were forged while playing FFXI.
I created an Elvaan male named Bebond. The Elvaan are approximately equivalent to elves in other games. Bebond was tall with short cropped hair, and small squinty eyes. He never made it past level 20.
I poured countless hours into Final Fantasy XI Online. I remember the sense of scale and grandeur that the game inspired. There were so many things to do and see and explore, it felt like you would never be able to experience it all. Couple that with an antiquated quest system that did not give players much direction and you could spend hours just exploring the main city.
So explore the main city I did. I started in the main hub city of San d’Oria and explored most of the nooks and crannies. The sense of life within the city walls inspired me to become a member of the Final Fantasy XI community. However, with no previous knowledge of the MMO genre and very few guides to help me, I was lost.
Eventually I turned to gambling. I couldn’t run dungeons because I had no idea how the combat worked. Every so often I would venture out beyond the walls of the city and kill worms and rabbits for experience and fun. But the majority of my time was spent talking to other players and exploring the shops.
I would usually begin each play session by shouting “Win free money. /random Number higher than 700, WIN DOUBLE!” Every time I would get at least a dozen inquiries, every single time.
First, I told them to trade me their wager. They had to give me the money first or they could not play. Then they just had to type /random in chat to generate a random number from 0 to 999. If they rolled higher than 700 I would give them double their wager, if they lost I kept it. A string of low numbers helped cultivate my entrepreneurial spirit.
Sometimes I would change the number they had to roll. But the house always had an advantage. Some players would warm up by rolling a few times before giving me their wager. The lure of the winning more money was too much to resist.
Every so often someone would come with a large bid, 500 gil or maybe even 1,000. And every so often they would roll a high number. Whenever this would happen, I ran.
I would go hide in the Chocobo stables or run into the next zone. I would hide in a shop or behind a corner. The person would always chase me, but I would never give their money back. I was a jerk. I was a rich jerk, but a jerk nonetheless.
I never made it past level 20. I only completed a handful of quests. I barely left the safety of my starting city. Yet I still poured dozens of hours into Final Fantasy XI Online.
I existed within the world. I filled chat with excitement and wonder, and probably a whole lot of disappointment and anger. Most importantly I had fun.
I never tried to race to the end of the game. I never worried about random loot drops. I never stressed about grinding for world bosses. I used Final Fantasy XI as a virtual chat room with a really cool Elvaan avatar. I would buy different vendor’s clothes and change my look often. I would talk to everyone I could and I always found something new.
Nowadays I am always rushing. I am rushing to the end of the level. I am rushing to get home after work. I am rushing in the morning to get ready. I was never rushing when I played Final Fantasy XI. I just existed.
I need to play games with that mindset again. I should learn to relax and enjoy the journey. Lately, I have been trying to beat as many games as possible to experience them all. But in that process I lose something about what makes the experience so special. Instead of worrying if a new game will take me 10 hours to complete or 100, I want to consider the type of experience each game will provide. Is that game worth my time?
Sometimes the end is the worst part of a video game. Because that means it is over. Existentially, the most important part of a video game is the player. Giving the player the ability to choose their own course of action is an incredible undertaking. If I never choose to advance past the first level or starting city, so be it. Only with true freedom of choice can the player be an authentic actor within the game world.
There are many more stories of Bebond yet untold. Hopefully, if you enjoyed this article I will document some more of my dastardly deeds in the future.
What are some of your favorite gaming memories? Did they generate from something unintended in the design of the game? Did I inspire you to become a gil scammer in an MMO? Would you have played my random number game?