Like Stepping Back in Time (A Tale of Two Games)

I have a funny relationship with LotRO. We’re an on-again, off-again kind of couple. Sometimes she gets all hot and bothered when I’m ready to sleep for the night. When I’m in the mood, she immediately tells me to run to Rivendell for some milk. But, honestly, most of the time I’m just out with another game, because, well, let’s face it, I’m a bit of a floosie.

Since I’ve started playing FFXIV, I’ve had this crazy urge to get back into the game, though. It’s a bit strange, actually, since the two games are pretty black and white. LotRO is highly structured and leads you from point A to B, where FFXIV only gives you the bare minimum in guidance and structure, all of which you can choose to ignore. Those differences are it exactly. They are explicitly what makes me want to play them both at once in some kind of crazy, MMO orgy. If only I had four arms.

Tonight, I succumbed to my baser urges and forewent a few extra hours of sleep to get back into the game. It was fun, even spending most of it on horseback. I’d forgotten just how beautiful and immersive the game is. It’s easy to forget when you’ve spent the last few levels deep within the reaches of Angmar. My first quest was to ride to Rivendell and I almost logged out right there (I hate those long travel quests) but I’m glad I didn’t. The journey turned out to be exactly what I needed.

For the first time in what seems like ages, I felt entranced with the game again. Rivendell is the apex of MMO atmospherics. The sounds of birds chirping, leaves crunching underfoot, and a wonderfully majestic, yet mysteriously low-key score rising and falling in the background; you can almost feel the approaching storm, feel the pounding of the enemy’s war drums. The sights too: flowing waterfalls and trickling streams, the lazy fall of leaf and petal, and that pitch-perfect harmony of trees held in perpetual autumn; you want keep them in your view, see them fade away over the horizon. Everything about the zone has this wonderful attention to detail where you just know the developers spent hours crafting it as only true fans could. Going into the Last Homely House and seeing the intricacies of the ironwork and the soft purple effulgence from the stonework  is almost perplexing. Did Tolkien describe all this? How long did some artist spend simply designing trellis after trellis, expertly blending form with function– because you can believe that it is the Last Homely House and that it is the home of Elrond Half-Elven.

I didn’t spend long in the game since it was already 2AM but I did a few quests and got a couple chapters of Book 7 done. The enjoyment I had coming back felt just like coming home. That struck me, since I’d never previously considered it my home game; I don’t even have a level capped character.

Playing and so much enjoying simply being in Middle-Earth again really underscored something for me, though: tying yourself to one game is simply a sad thing to do. Don’t misunderstand, I certainly understand that not everyone can play multiple games or would even want to do so. Still, there’s something akin to growing up once you break out of your shell and see what the MMO-world has to offer. It’s eye opening. Each of these games has something unique to offer, something that, even if you choose not to stay in the long-term, enlightens you as a gamer and makes you a little happier for having experienced it.

I guess that’s why I might understand players who are bitter or find it hard to be optimistic, but I have trouble joining them. It’s simply not worth it. When a game turns out to not be for you, it’s disappointing, but I can’t help thinking that there’s already so much good out there, it’s hard to hold out against one single title.

I like FFXIV because it’s different. I like LotRO because it’s similar, yet still unique and beautiful. I like WoW because… well, it’s WoW and they do what they do very well. It’s not about making things new for them, it’s about making things fun, and I like that.

The point is, we get different things different ways. It’s possible to like many different games without being devoted to any single one. When we can embrace each game’s differences for the good they bring and the people that enjoy them, we make the gaming community stronger.

Try an old favorite, guys. It may not grab you like it once did but the feeling going home gives sure is nice.

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