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I remember the day my father brought the game home. I remember sitting down on the floor, my eyes wide as he ran through East Ronfaure, unable to determine if that giant branch he was under was going to rise up from the ground, and kill him. I remember the gentle lull of the music, as I dozed off beside his chair, eyes fluttering, my mind reeling as it tried to prepare for the adventures that were yet to come.
I remember how my mother had started to play on his account. They were both Elvaan. Soon, she bought her own account, and my brother and I made our own characters on our father's. He got tired of us hogging the game when he was home, so he bought a new set that was labeled as for "Kids." I took over that one, and my brother got his own. All of this happened within the span of a year. I was in third grade, and by the fourth, I was completely and utterly hooked.
I used to bring the guide book into class and read it during my lunch break. While my parents did play, they were too busy trying to figure everything out themselves, along with raising two children, to really be able to guide us through. That little book was a wealth of information, and in it was the key to understanding this game. I scoured every page, piecing things together as best as my young mind could. I juggled school, my social life, out of school activities... and still, I had time for Final Fantasy XI.
From that game, I made lasting friendships. The memories I possess from my many, many hours are the ones I remember fondly. This game helped shape who I am as a person. It taught me patience, perseverance, and kindness. There were negatives, of course, and at the moment, they were devastating. Some of those friendships died, and the people that I had grown close to had strayed from the game, while I kept playing.
The game itself had not aged well. Servers were becoming underpopulated so they were merged. People I had seen running through Jeuno, for over ten years, no longer logged in. To be quite honest, the game was dying. Square Enix finally announced that they would continue to keep the game up and running, but they would no longer release content for the remaining users. They even went as far as dropping the compatibility for PlayStation 2.
Given that I had spent so many years on this game, it was disheartening. I won't lie: I quit. I only knew that it hadn't completely died off because my brother still played it. As it turns out, there is still a hardcore player base, and upon returning, I was met with the same passion that I had thought was lost.
FFXI was far from dead. It was alive and kicking, and while the game is different, the air of teamwork and community is almost overwhelming, and to be honest, it was refreshing. In my departure, I had played a great deal of other games, but none of them even came close to holding a torch to anything that FFXI had given me.
All in all, this is a fantastic game, with amazing people who are continuing to breathe life into it despite everyone giving up on it. Because of this, the developers have begun to release new content once more, and something that was left to wither and wilt away simply did not.