Vague Patch Notes: A wake for the MMOs that were


2022 is nearly over, and for me, at least, it’s been an incredibly challenging year full of some really dark points. This is the first time that my holidays have be structured like they are in over a decade. I lost something important to me, an element of my life that I assumed was immovable, and now it’s gone and it’s never coming back again.

That doesn’t mean I’m asking for sympathy, though. Literally at the time I’m writing this, I’m still on a cloud over getting some absolutely wonderful news, and it looks like 2023 is already poised to be a significant improvement. The year has been challenging, but it’s had bright spots, too. But it does mean that I’m waving goodbye to a life I lived for a long while.

You know, just like you’ve probably had to say goodbye to a lot of MMOs. Like I’ve had to say goodbye to World of Warcraft at least half a dozen times. No, not in the “I’m leaving and never coming back” sense; that’s performative nonsense. I’m talking about the WoW that’s never coming back because it wasn’t ever really about the video game alone.

The first character I played was a Paladin, and I made a group of friends. We formed a guild, and it went really well for a while. Then personal issues came between us, arguments happened, things were said that you couldn’t take back, and when it was all over I was logging out and not really planning to ever log back in again. I was 23 or so; back then performative nonsense was kind of on-brand. Growing up means looking back and realizing that you used to be a twit.

Obviously, I didn’t stay gone. I went back, and then I drew my future wife in, and we made another group of friends and connected with them and then that ended for various reasons, again. We moved on. Another group. We had good times. Things ended. Rinse and repeat, time goes by, and while our relationship stayed strong, the same group of people did not remain our bosom buddies from launch until now.

This is not unique to WoW and is not really about that, either. The people I play Final Fantasy XIV with right now are almost entirely not the same people I met when I first started playing the game. Do you remember the FFXIV RPC? I definitely do because it was formed specifically to ensure that roleplayers congregated and had a server and could find one another, something that Final Fantasy XI had made difficult to impossible. It was unique and it was special.

And it’s gone now, having shut down earlier this year. Some of those people are my friends; some were my friends but aren’t any longer. And even the reasons for that vary; some were people I don’t dislike but have nothing in common with, some were people I now look at with a big yikes. So long, and thanks for all the fish.

All things go, all things go.

Yes, FFXIV v1.0 actually did shut down. But that’s not the point, and you know it; even the people for whom the RPC was foundational and helped found the site – people who often reached out to me personally because I actually wrote columns about this stuff, I had a platform, it was special – have noted that the RPC just wasn’t relevant like it had been at the start. That game is gone now.

Do I want that game back? Am I sad that at this point there are all sorts of new people roleplaying in FFXIV on a regular basis, many of whom I’ve never met to this day, and there are always new people to meet and learn about? Of course not. I wouldn’t trade that for roleplayers being a small clique in a small game where we’re all equally passionate about a not-very-fun MMO for our own reasons. But that game is still gone now, and all I have left of it are memories.

City of Heroes is gone. Yes, I know, great rogue servers! I love those, too. But I haven’t remade my characters from the official game because, well, those were characters of a specific time and place. The first best friend I had in an MMO in FFXI? Gone, I wouldn’t know him if I saw him in another game. The guild he helped me join? Just as gone. Friends I made from that guild who followed me into another? Gone.

People I had crushes on, laughed with, joked with, bonded over shared pain with? All gone. Every single one of these games is gone. Oh, sure, I can log into FFXI right now with my original character, but Armythea and Zatrad and Doron and Lyistra won’t be there waiting to see me log on. They’re gone, I remain.

Do I cross their minds the way they cross mine? I have no idea. I hope so, maybe. But they’re gone. And the people I am close to in FFXIV, just the same… one day, we’ll log off for the last time, and we’ll say goodbye without realizing it. I’ve done it a hundred times before and will do it a hundred more.

Life – and games – end.

We all become.

But here’s the thing. This column isn’t about how that sucks because the reality is that this isn’t about MMOs. It’s about life.

And the end of things matters only because they were worthwhile in the first place.

I miss all those names I wrote above and many, many more. I miss people who meant the world to me at one time, and I can’t even remember some of their names. Those worlds, those times are gone now. And yes, part of me is always going to be a little sad. I’ll see something that reminds me of them, and I have no way to find them again, and that’s how it is.

But these people brought light into my life. They made me happy. They were shoulders to lean on when I felt weak, reassurance when my life seemed to be going off the rails. Sometimes I had no money and no hope of things changing, sometimes everything seemed like it was an uncontrolled disaster. We bonded together. We influenced each other. We made each other have richer, better lives.

I did meet one of the people I had lost track of years ago… and he was still running in place, being bitter about how life hadn’t changed the way he wanted it to but doing nothing to change it, just as petty and in need of a fawning audience around him as when we lost touch in the first place. And that was the closure I needed there: because I’m not the person I was back then.

Maybe you are still playing with the same people you met back when you first played WoW, and that’s fine. But I don’t feel any anger at what I’ve lost because it’s something I’m thankful to have had at all. Many times I felt like I was being welcomed into a world, like people were happy to see me and have me around. Me! A weird, lonely nerd who’s never had an easy time having friends.

So here we are, at the end of 2022, and it’s been a really bad and challenging year in which I had to say goodbye to a lot of things that were fixtures in my life. But I made it through the challenging year, and I did what I had to do to make sure that my wife and my cats and my own self were safe. And it was frightening, and it was hard, and we had to say goodbye to things.

I’ve had to say goodbye to a lot of games over the years, games made up of not just systems but people. And sure, whenever I fight a ghoul in FFXI, I’m going to think of you. When I see the moon over Westfall in WoW, I’m going to think of you. A color of hair in FFXIV makes me think of you. Songs, jokes, looking at WildStar screenshots, going to Boston, reading White Wolf games, playing Persona… these things make me think of you.

And they always will. And I miss you.

But that’s OK. There is a value in missing things. Just because you miss people doesn’t mean you’re missing pieces. And recognizing the joy in things that are temporary, that do change, that aren’t forever?

That has to be all right. Because it’s going to happen no matter what, so you need to find the light in it.

Have a good holiday, peeps. I’ll see you on the other side, same as always.

Sometimes you know exactly what’s going on with the MMO genre, and sometimes all you have are Vague Patch Notes informing you that something, somewhere, has probably been changed. Senior Reporter Eliot Lefebvre enjoys analyzing these sorts of notes and also vague elements of the genre as a whole. The potency of this analysis may be adjusted under certain circumstances.
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