Final Fantasy XIV’s Unique Way of Onboarding New Players is More Profound Than You May Think
When I was a teenager, being called a noob (or newbie) was an insult in the gaming community. This is an example of how what is sometimes referred to as “Nerd Culture” can often be filled with cruelty and a gatekeeper mentality that is not welcoming to outsiders. However, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn has successfully built a culture that welcomes new players and incentivizes treating new players with kindness and helpfulness.
This atmosphere for new players is great news right now, as there is a huge migration to FFXIV, in part due to an exodus from World of Warcraft (which has included prominent WoW content creators like Bellular and Asmongold) and the general quality of FFXIV’s most recent expansion, Shadowbringers. Anticipation for FFXIV’s next expansion, Endwalker, is extremely high ahead of its November 23, 2021 release date. The game has recently seen peak numbers of concurrent players on Steam (despite the most recent content update being in April). The digital copy of the game even sold out on the official website, and new character creation had to be locked on every North American realm to maintain server stability.
IN FFXIV, a Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG), new players have a green leaf icon next to their names, which causes them to be called sprouts by the community. While the sprout could become a scarlet letter of shame, stigmatizing new players, it has actually fostered an environment that allows veterans to assist them. Through several systems, such as the daily leveling roulette, players can do one random dungeon each day for great rewards (such as experience and currency that can be exchanged for max level gear). There is an additional bonus for the party if there is a player completing that activity for the very first time.
This gameplay system (and others like it) leads to interactions between new and veteran players that can be absent in other MMORPGs. For the most part, veteran players are helpful and respectful to new players, and they often share tips in advance that new players tend to make. For example, a sprout tank might lovingly need the advice to face enemies away from the party and not to spin enemies around so that damage dealing jobs can more effectively use their positional skills (which do increased damage based on relative position to the enemy). Sometimes, veteran players will preemptively share information about dungeon-specific activities or mechanics like be sure to interact with this device before advancing to the next area.
It is also pretty common to see new players share with the group that it is their first time doing that dungeon or raid so that they can get information on fight mechanics, and what is surprising, is that there is no shame involved in it. There is a humility and a willingness to learn demonstrated here. It can be obvious that a player is new because the party list will show that player as “Viewing Cutscene.” Veteran players are generally kind and patient, waiting for new players to finish viewing the cutscene before pulling a boss. For most veteran players, this is what was done for them when they first ran the dungeon, and it is a pattern they continue.
There is also a mentor system that pairs extremely experienced players with new players to help guide them along the journey. The requirements to become a mentor are quite steep (including having several max level jobs, receiving commendations from other players, and completing a significant number of dungeons). However, the game incentivizes being a mentor through granting unique and prestigious rewards.
These interactions are extremely common in FFXIV, and they are a beautiful picture of what Christian discipleship is like. Christian discipleship should be older or more mature Christians coming alongside younger or less mature believers to prepare them for the spiritual battles and experiences that are coming. In FFXIV, if one member of the party is performing their job poorly, it can cause the group to fail or, at the very least, slow progress. In the Christian faith, every believer is a part of the body, and when one member fails to use his or her gifts well, the whole body suffers. Alternatively, when all members are growing and faithfully following Jesus, the whole body benefits.
When mature Christians disciple younger believers, the younger believers become better equipped to serve their families, their churches, and their communities. Jesus’s ministry was focused on preparing disciples who would follow Him and then go and make more disciples (Matthew 28:19). For 2000 years, the faith has passed from one generation to the next so that children yet to be born can know and love Jesus and that people scattered around the globe will know that Christ is Lord.
It can be frustrating in FFXIV when a sprout tank pulls too many enemies or when a sprout DPS doesn’t use the limit break on the final boss of a dungeon. But, a kind word of correction and encouragement can help them become better for next time. And when they are in a party with a sprout in six months, they can pass on what they have learned. New believers will make mistakes.But loving correction and encouragement can help them grow in holiness and help them be more faithful followers of Christ. As Christians, we need mentors to help guide the sprouts, so that one day those sprouts become mentors and can call new sprouts to live for the glory of God.
For those of you who may be interested in giving FFXIV a shot (there is a free trial that includes A Realm Reborn and the first expansion, Heavensward, with unlimited play time up to level 60), come join me, Varian Wilmore, on the Malboro server on the Crystal data center. I’d be glad to guide some sprouts along.