On Revisiting Experiences

This weekend I did something I wasn't expecting to: I re-downloaded Final Fantasy 14. I played for nearly 5 years in the past; I started playing during the beta testing period in 2013 as a way to reconnect with a friend from high school, and after initially getting overwhelmed and putting it down for a few months, I picked it up in the summer of 2014 and was off to the races. I played seriously through my junior and senior years of college, and for a few years after I had graduated and started my career. When I think of that part of my life, I think of many things; some good and a lot of not-so-good. Final Fantasy 14 was one of the good parts, though. I met a lot of people while playing, and that game lead me to have experiences I wouldn't have had otherwise. A few months before the pandemic, I went to Japan with two of the people I met from that game. We met in 2014 just after I returned to the game after my hiatus, we played together and raided together for years, and even after we all stopped playing, we all kept up with each other. We have a discord together and chat once a week. I don't want to think about what my life would be like if I hadn't started that game, or hadn't done one of the things I had done to lead me to queue for that exact dungeon at that exact time, where that one person asked if I wanted to join a guild and I thought, "Sure, what the heck" and joined, which is where I met these people. The friends I went to Japan with live in another state and country, respectively, so if I hadn't been playing this game, I wouldn't have met them and my life would be a lot different than it is now.

I hadn't planned on re-downloading the game. Back in 2018, after 5 years of playing (4 of which were spend raiding 2 to 3 nights a week), I had gotten tired of the game and put it down. I went back for a brief period in 2019 (before this weekend the website said the last time I logged in was February 2019!) to play the expansion that had just been released, but I quickly got bored again and put it down. My friends started raiding in a new group, and whenever I'd listen to them talking about it I'd think, "I don't want to put that much time in, I have so many other things I want to do; I can't imagine sitting there and raiding 9 hours a week." They only raided for a few months or a year before stopping, and then no one was really playing the game.

Fast forward to this year, approximately 1 week ago. The newest expansion is coming out (expansions usually come out every 2 years or so), and my friend - the one who originally got me started way back in 2013 - is playing again. I haven't been able to see him all that much during that pandemic. He has a young daughter now who isn't yet old enough for the vaccine, so my friend and his wife are trying to limit her exposure to people. I've been extremely careful (read: "obsessive" in my case) during the pandemic as well, so even though I'm vaccinated and boosted, I haven't seen friends too often since the pandemic began, and have been looking for some ways we can socialize online.

The new expansion seemed like a perfect opportunity, and so I re-downloaded it. I logged on right after downloading, and the memories of all of my experiences came flooding back; memories I hadn't thought about in years. It was a little rough starting up again; there are a lot of different actions that can be taken in Final Fantasy 14, and dozens of skills and abilities to memorize. After running some dungeons, though, I felt like I started getting back to form, and I've been having a great time. It feels good to have a friend to play with, and gives me a way to reconnect with people that involves some teamwork and problem solving.

I'm under no delusions; the game as I experience it now is a shadow of what it once was to me. Many of the people I played with back then aren't playing anymore and won't be coming back for the expansion. I also have no intention of playing as seriously as I once did, but that's okay. Playing like I am now creates opportunities that I didn't have before, and comes with its own unique experiences. When I played before, I would usually rush through the story to be able to play with everyone, so this time I might take it slow and engage with the story more than I have in the past; I might play as a different role and try to play a tank or a DPS class instead of a healer; I might stop playing in a week. Nothing's set in stone.

What this does tell me, though, is that I think I want to go back and try to revisit experiences I've had in the past. I want re-read books; I want to travel to places I've been before; I want to go back to projects I've worked on in the past. I want to experience new things too, of course, but revisiting experiences creates depth that I feel like I miss the first time around. I get to look at things through a whole new lens as the person I am now and potentially create new memories. Even if I'm revisiting experiences, they can still feel new and exciting.

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