MMO Soul Searching: How Do You Learn to Relax at End Game?

This post is a part of Blaugust 2016!

I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching about my MMO of choice: FFXIV. I’ve come to a number of conclusions, which I wanted to write about… but then I realized I had so much to say that I should probably break it up over a number of posts.

In some of these posts, I’m turning to you grizzled MMO end-game vets. I’ve never played any MMO to end game before, and I’m struggling with things that I think other players may have more experienced perceptions of.

Low Energy Player

Jeromai and Bhagpuss wrote some posts that really resonated with me last week. They both talked about Low and High Energy players. It only took me a moment to identify with being a Low Energy player — I like safe, comfortable and relaxing game play.

I tend to be easily overwhelmed, and a generally anxious person. I use games to unwind and shed stress, not to add to my stress. Only, in my perception, being at end game in FFXIV doesn’t really promote that coveted tranquility and relaxation.

Part of this is because I’m inexperienced with dealing with an end game in an MMO. This is a game of many firsts for me. My first raids. My first BiS gear grind. My first time consistently running group content (with strangers)! My first really serious guild with people who want to run content that I’d normally shy away from. And I’m the guild leader to boot!

Normally, my MMOs consist of:

  • questing (often solo)
  • hoping there’s a good story attached to said quests
  • crafting or gathering (if it’s fun)
  • building/decorating a plot/house
  • collecting cosmetics/pets/mounts
  • exploring and learning about the world/lore/NPCs
  • rolling a million alts to test new classes and do it all over again

What’s missing on that list? Pretty much everything FFXIV end game is: dungeons, raids, gear grind, etc.

But despite the fact FFXIV’s end game activities don’t mesh with my gaming personality, there’s something (that I just haven’t identified) that keeps me enthralled with Eorzea. Next month will mark 3 full years of being subscribed to this game, consistently month after month, without a break. This is the longest time I’ve subbed to a game. I guess you can consider FFXIV my equivalent of most people’s WoW.

So here’s where my soul searching comes in.

How Do You Relax at End Game?

FFXIV is a game that has always been stressful for me. Though it pushes me out of my normal boundaries with group play, and that’s a good thing, there’s only so much of that I can handle before the game becomes perceived as another source of stress that I want to avoid. I started to feel this stress most acutely during Heavensward, when end game was suddenly upon me, and I found myself struggling to do what other people do.

Because that’s what people at end game do, right?

This week, when work stress was getting high and I was looking for any way to relax and escape that, I came to a realization.

The way I think about FFXIV has changed. And not for the better.

When I log in, though I crave relaxation, all I can think about is progression. Did I do beast tribe dailies today? Did I get a drop in Weeping City this week? How many more Lore Tomes do I need for the next piece of gear? Do I have enough seals or tomes to buy one more item for my Relic?

Wow. No wonder I feel stressed.

I like progression and goals, but when I view a game like that, then it’s bordering on turning into work.

I considered rolling an alt just to get a fresh perspective, like I’d do in most MMOs when I need a change. But FFXIV really discourages alts, and several things stopped me:

  • I felt like I was wasting time on an alt because I wasn’t progressing towards what’s important on my main
  • Leveling forces a million dungeons on you just to progress through story
  • There’s no classes that I’m that curious about that I haven’t already played or leveled on my other high level characters… feels like a waste of time…
  • I already have a number of alts that ended up ignored because of all of the above…

In fact, rolling an alt just feels like even more work. Especially since I’d never be able to gear that alt up at end game.

Man. This game’s really messed with my head if all I can see is the end game.

How about crafting? Well, now that all my crafters are at level 60, all that’s honestly left for me to do is craft-grind for gear and book upgrades. And I’m just not really in the mood to tackle that. Sure, there’s lots of things to craft, I guess. But I just don’t have the patience to gather from timed nodes, and keep up with all the materials right now. I’ve taken a break from crafting after getting burned out on levequests.

So, I guess my question is, what do other players do to shake that end game mentality and learn to relax again?

I’ve come to the conclusion that this is all me and my perception of the game. I want to keep playing, and I’m not looking for “take a break” as an answer (I have taken small breaks). I want to have fun. But somewhere down the line, my mind has labeled FFXIV as “stressful content” and I need to undo that in order to have fun again.

So when you feel MMO end game getting to you, what have you done in the past to find fun and refresh a game? How do you stop letting end game goals be the only things that matter? How do you find that spark or passion you had back when things were simpler?