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Reading v. Gaming: Here's How I Spent The Last Bit of 2013

I used to be an academic, which meant that I got three weeks off around Christmas. Sure there was the class planning and such, but I still didn’t have to be anywhere or go to my office unless I wanted to. Those days were great. I was lucky enough this past year to have a job with flexible hours and a lot of downtime around the holiday season, which means I still got an almost two-week break where I didn’t have to go to my office and could do almost anything that needed to be done from home. It was great; I got to spend time with my kids and my family who visited for Christmas. And I had all the days to work through my TBR pile, which included some pretty massive books, such as The Luminaries and The Goldfinch.

Except I didn’t. I played Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (FFXIV:ARR) ALL BREAK LONG. Of course I ignored my family completely fed my children and got some quality family time in, but otherwise, I was parked in front of my PS3 slaying monsters and running dungeons (I wished my Free Company Happy New Year at midnight). This is the fruit of my labor:

Screen Shot 2014-01-02 at 12.33.05 PM

A level 27 Lancer, with sub classes Marauder and Gladiator leveled to 15 and 17 respectfully, and both Archer and Pugilist to 8. 7 of the 8 crafting classes leveled t0 12 or higher, and both of my gathering classes are 15 or higher. That is a lot of time logged for a casual gamer like me. I’m sure others know how to level crafting more quickly, and can craft HQ gear by level 15, but I’m still learning the crafting system of FFXIV:ARR. It’s time consuming and ridiculously addictive, especially the gathering aspect. Instead of “one more chapter,” it was “10 more cotton bolls.” Instead of “Oh, I’ll just finish this section,” it was “Oh, I’ll just finish this crafting log.” The hours piled up, and slowly but surely, so did the xp.

Is it sad to say that I am proud of this? I don’t know, but I can say that I feel guilty for not reading a single book over break. I finally got Nicola Griffith’s Hild from the library, right before christmas, and I was so excited! It was like a Christmas present from the library! And yet there it sits, forlorn and unopened on my desk along with all the other neglected books in my TBR pile. But I am two levels away from being able to convert items to materia and then attach it to gear to make the gear even better! I am on the verge of being able to make HQ gear and gather HQ materials, I feel it! And I finally have my own fucking chocobo (that’s all I really wanted from storyline play; totally useful when running around gathering mats). I feel very close to accomplished (just need to unlock Dragoon).

Gaming culture has gained quite a bit of legitimacy over the years, as is evidenced by FFXIV:ARR itself. My husband played FFXI for years, and the differences between the two are somewhat astounding. FFXIV:ARR is much more user friendly and is geared toward a much broader audience, so people like me can play and feel comfortable. I would never have touched FFXI because it seemed like it was way more nerd-core and towards the end just became ridiculous (a 99 level cap? Camping mobs for literally DAYS?). There’s definitely still a nerd-core aspect to FFXIV:ARR, but it feels more optional for regular gamers. My husband and I can play together and have fun with the game (he’s on PC).

And yet I still have this nagging worry that I wasted my time, and will continue to waste my time on something that is not real, for accomplishments that are virtual only (Veteran Gatherer!). But how is sitting and playing a video game that different from sitting and reading a book? Both are sedentary activities, yet both engage specific parts of the brain. One is totally solitary, while the other has you working with people all over the world and encourages coöperation. Reading supposedly broadens one’s horizons, yet I’ve been to Horizon’s Edge (it’s very dusty and not very pretty, but that’s where the Moko Grass is). Reading is a necessary skill, one that should be practiced over the course of one’s entire life. Unlike other necessary skills, it can be a pleasurable one too (breathing? Where’s the fun in that?). Gaming, however, is pure pleasure. It’s not educational (no, no it’s not, really), it’s not necessary to become a functioning human being in society, it’s not going to save the world. But it is imaginative and immersive; it opens up worlds, just like literature can. So, really I just need to allow myself to feel okay about spending my free time doing something I like, just for pleasure. Maybe I’ll finally finish The Luminaries, but only after I get my Weaver to 19 and unlock Dragoon (three more levels!).

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