After 14 months in a Final Fantasy 14-induced coma, I've struggled to adapt to a post-MMO world

Final Fantasy 14
(Image credit: Square Enix)

A couple of months ago, I did something I thought I never would do: I unsubscribed from Final Fantasy 14. Okay, maybe I'm being a little bit dramatic about taking a break from the critically-acclaimed MMORPG. But between August 2021 and October 2022 I somehow poured around 3,000 hours into it—a lot of that spent AFK in Limsa Lominsa, admittedly—but it's an awfully large chunk of my life to dedicate to a single game.

I barely even played anything else during that time. I branched out occasionally, dipping my toe into the waters of a few new releases. I even returned to old faithful games like Genshin Impact and Overwatch. But as quick as I would drift away from Eorzea, it would snatch me right back in. So when October came and I realised I was done with the game for a little while, it was like coming out of a weird, Final Fantasy 14-induced coma. 

It's a strange feeling, spending so much of your time with a game and with the click of a button having that comfort vanish. Online editor Fraser once likened quitting a live-service game to dumping a friend. He's not wrong. In the first few weeks of my Final Fantasy-less existence, I felt lost in a way I wasn't expecting. Friends I had made in the game began trickling into my Discord DMs, concerned that my bunny girl hadn't been spotted causing mischief in a hot sec. I half-heartedly waved them off, saying I would be back in the coming days. I knew I wasn't, but I also wasn't ready to fully let go the thing I'd been hyperfixating on for almost 14 months.

(Image credit: Square Enix)

When you focus your hobby on one specific niche, it's surprisingly hard to zoom back out and look at the bigger picture. I generally go through ebbs and flows with games anyway. I'll hit the acceleration, pouring hours into games for months on end, powering through my backlog or replaying favourites. Then, out of nowhere, I'll hit the brakes. I lose my desire to play for a little while, mindlessly flitting between games or opting out of playing altogether for a little bit.

Leaving Final Fantasy 14 behind has forced me to reengage with a lifelong hobby in a way I wasn't sure how to navigate. It wasn't like my usual moods, where my drive to game had diminished. I still wanted to play, I just wasn't sure what. I was suddenly faced with an entire year's worth of games I'd brushed aside after a few hours to go back to raiding, levelling classes or socialising in-game. The thought of starting over again, learning controls and mastering a whole new way to play another game was daunting. 

Back to reality

It was also rather strange being alone again. I still had friends a Discord DM or voice call away, but I was no longer joining my guild's voice chat. I wasn't in-game, ready for my friends' avatars to appear out of nowhere, emoting or playing dead at my feet, trade-cancelling my teleportations and running away. I had spent so much of my life gaming in my own company, yet 3,000 hours spent in an MMO made it such a wildly unfamiliar feeling.

(Image credit: Square Enix)

Thankfully, Game Pass and my ever-growing backlog on Steam and Epic Games came to the rescue. I nibbled at games here and there before some gentle convincing from features producer Imogen and guides editor Lauren convinced me to give Disney Dreamlight Valley a go. Somehow, of all games, Gameloft's Animal Crossing-like reeled me straight back into my hobby hook, line and sinker. I've also kept in contact with a surprising number of Final Fantasy pals, many of whom also temporarily stepped away from the game shortly after me. I've had the pleasure of playing other games with them, watching anime together and generally maintaining our friendship outside of the place we met, which has been a lovely surprise. But still, I find myself thinking about my guild, my silly spot in Limsa and the world of Eorzea more often than I'd care to admit.

Memories accumulated in the virtual world are also an important proof of life.

Hironobu Sakaguchi

Is it kind of lame to miss a game as much as I've missed Final Fantasy 14? Probably. But no matter how trivial or seemingly pointless things in our life may seem, it can be hard to let them go. I built fantastic friendships, people I never would have met or spoken to had it not been for the game. Final Fantasy's original creator, Hironobu Sakaguchi, began playing the MMO in September 2021. In the run-up to his one-year anniversary with it, he tweeted something that has stuck with me in the months since. "Memories accumulated in the virtual world are also an important proof of life."

It's a statement that's gone a long way to validate how I've felt about my time with Final Fantasy 14. I may have been behind an avatar, parading around in all my bunny-eared glory like a weird anthropomorphic goofball, wildly gesticulating at my fellow bunny-eared and cat-eared brethren through various emotes and flashy class animations. But it's nights like New Years' Eve 2021, when I was stuck in the house with Covid. I'd secured an in-game house within hours of testing positive, surrounded by my friends in-game and in voice chat. We saw in the new year twice—once for my German and Italian friends, and again for us in the UK. We sat on my virtual roof, drank real alcohol and chatted until the wee hours.

(Image credit: Square Enix)

It was the nights of barreling into roleplaying clubs, barely being roleplayers ourselves. We were just looking for an excuse to do something different and listen to DJs spin decks on Twitch. It was all the times I would log on after a crappy day, only to be immediately greeted by a friend with a hug. Sakaguchi isn't wrong. Even though the memories are taking place in a virtual space, they create real emotions and connections. 

I'll no doubt return to Final Fantasy 14 in 2023. Hell, by the time you read this I may have already caved and resubscribed. But right now I'm enjoying reconnecting with different games, remembering the things I do and don't like and finally diving into some of the big ones I missed this year like Stray. I've also ventured outside my comfort zone a little bit—just this month I've played Need for Speed, Midnight Suns and finally given Overwatch 2's competitive mode a shot. I never expected to go on such a weird journey after quitting a seemingly trivial game—but it goes to show how big an impact these experiences can have on us, virtual or otherwise.

Mollie Taylor
Features Producer

Mollie spent her early childhood deeply invested in games like Killer Instinct, Toontown and Audition Online, which continue to form the pillars of her personality today. She joined PC Gamer in 2020 as a news writer and now lends her expertise to write a wealth of features, guides and reviews with a dash of chaos. She can often be found causing mischief in Final Fantasy 14, using those experiences to write neat things about her favourite MMO. When she's not staring at her bunny girl she can be found sweating out rhythm games, pretending to be good at fighting games or spending far too much money at her local arcade.