It’s been a while since I wrote a column that comes out on Thursdays, which means that it’s also been a while since I’ve had the opportunity to do my usual holiday nonsense on Thanksgiving. Time was, of course, that I would wish everyone a happy St. Patrick’s Day and call it good, but when I suggested listing several holidays that aren’t being celebrated today, Bree fired back a confused look and a reminder that we are an MMO site, not a place for me to just leave bizarre lists.
This is also why you’re not getting a list of my favorite Transformers, so it might be a mercy.
I could just go with a list of games that I’m thankful for, but I don’t really want to just be doing that every year all over again when it’s really just one list with the names changing. What do I mean? Well, there’s a lot of different actual titles, but the fact is that I think there’s a pretty consistent list of games to be thankful for in terms of reasons.
1. Your first MMO
Sure, having Final Fantasy XI in my history has kind of screwed me up in terms of what I expect out of games, but boy am I glad that I bought it. I’m glad that I own it. I’m glad that I went to the mall with my then-girlfriend and bought two copies, one for myself and one for my roommate. I’m glad that I convinced him to start in the same city as I did, even though we never really focused around the same game schedules or anything.
In short, I’m thankful that I had an experience more than a decade ago that led to my current career. And even if you haven’t made these ridiculous games into a living, they’re still something you care about, so that’s pretty great too. You’d never get into MMOs if you didn’t have a first.
2. That hot mess of a game
There are so many games that I have played that I consider to be complete messes at any temperature. The launch versions of Final Fantasy XIV and Star Trek Online. Warhammer Online, right up to the shutdown. TERA, with is surprisingly fun combat, surprisingly good writing, and surprisingly middle-school attitude toward the existence of women paired with bland actual questing and awful dungeons. Heck, Final Fantasy XI.
The thing is that the messes are actualy kind of a good thing. You learn things about what makes a game straightforward and playable from games that fail at those goals, and you have the weird sense of pride that comes from playing these games when they don’t fit together or make a heck of a lot of sense. I’m thankful for the games that come out as a total mess: They can develop into something great over time, and it’s by throwing rough edges together that you get polished stones.
3. When life was awful
4. One you’ll never play
The reason I’m never getting back together with Elite: Dangerous is that we were never together in the first place. It’s not the sort of game that I like to play. But boy, is it ever a cool-looking game. It has so much to recommend it, there are lots of really keen features in place or on the way, and I can’t wait to see how its first expansion improves the game as a whole. It is a really cool game I don’t want to play.
That’s worth being thankful for, too. There are so many MMOs that are really great examples of genres I’m not super interested in, and I’m thankful for every single one of them. We all should be. The games that exist for people who are not you is a good thing, and it doesn’t make those titles “lesser” than the ones you do like.
5. The departed
I’m never going to stop missing City of Heroes. I loved that game, and I still do. It’s gone, and I recognize that, and I grieved and moved on. There are many bright lights in the sky, and while nothing will ever be the same, it’s unhealthy to just stare at what’s lost forever. My rapidly diminishing number of living family members kind of prepped me for dealing with loss.
Still, I’m thankful for it. I may not be super thankful that it’s gone, but I’m thankful that it was here at all. I’m thankful for the characters and memories I had with it. And while I would prefer it had never left, I prefer having it and saying goodbye to never getting to say hello.
6. The one that’s really stepped up
I am done with Star Wars: The Old Republic, but the development team has really pushed forward on trying to make the game more comprehensively deliver on its original design goals over time. The game has expanded a lot from its launch state, it makes better use of the Legacy system, it has tons of additional options… I think back on my time with the game, and I’m impressed by how far it’s come. So here’s to giving thanks to the games that have gone from their original state to something far better.
As an aside, for those of you wondering where an obvious potential game for this entry went, just keep reading.
7. Your almost-favorite
Star Trek Online is a freaking great game. It is marvelous. I am so happy it exists. And I am even happier that it is not my main game because I love the fact that I’m spoiled enough for options that I have multiple games that totally fulfill that “really awesome game” quota.
Seriously, though, STO is a grand game now if you can get over its initial opacity. Someone should write a thing. Hmm.
8. Your secondary game
Not everyone I know has two games. Nor three, nor four, nor whatever. Some people have 12 games they play on a rotating basis, and that’s their deal.
Me? I play World of Warcraft. It’s never going to be my first love again. It can’t be. There are now MMOs that do what I loved about WoW’s best expansion far better than it does itself. That’s a bit sad, but it’s also the reality. But a game with as much history as it has, with all of its options, with a bunch of cool stuff in it… yeah. It’s not a game I would want as my first-and-foremost go-to, but it is a game that I like to play on a more casual basis as a place to tool around.
9. The hope for the future
You know what I like writing about? Crowfall. At the moment, a lot of the game looks to be firmly in the Not For Me territory, but I want to try it because there are a lot of really neat ideas in play with the high-level concept without resorting to the usual “innovation is doing the same thing with more nitpicking detail” that creeps around the corners of design like a plague.
This game makes me hopeful for the future. Not necessarily because I can’t wait to play it, although I do want to play it at least a bit. No, it’s because it shows the directions that games can go in the future, and that in and of itself is a positive. It’s a look at something new, something unlike that which has come before, a game that didn’t exist before it was proposed rather than a rehash of old ideas but harder or more complex or whatever. I give thanks.
10. Your current favorite
Man, Final Fantasy XIV. This game. It launched a hot mess, relaunched when I was pretty sure it was going to crash and burn all over again, and has wound up firmly entrenching itself as a force to be reckoned with. It’s a freaking great game, and I’m thankful that my current main game is also a game with so much to do, so many things to see, and such a vigorous development schedule.
In fact, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’m going to go stomp some things on my Au Ra Dragoon. Happy Thanksgiving, enjoy an extra helping of Power Surge into Jump, baby.