Final Fantasy XV and Slow Gaming

In the year since Final Fantasy XV was released, I think I may have played the game a total of six hours. I’ve been picking it up and putting it back down, mostly because it hasn’t been fun for me. I’m having a lot of trouble with this game, which I’m afraid is indicative of my failure to adapt to modern gaming. My biggest problem is that the map works in a way that isn’t intuitive for me, and the text and maps in the official strategy guide are not in the least bit useful in helping me navigate. I’ve been getting lost a lot, especially when the game decides it’s going to be night and I can’t see anything.

FFXV is an action RPG, and its combat moves extremely quickly. With four people and swarms of enemies, even the battles at the beginning of the game are chaotic. It’s almost impossible for the player to be able to see everything that’s going on during combat, and the fact that the player needs to control the camera as well as Noct does not help. Even in easy mode, the entire screen is filled with rapidly shifting information. Although you can pause the game, there’s no way to slow down the battles, and they are brutal. In other words, the player is expected to start the game at a fairly high point on the learning curve.

After every battle, the game grades you on your performance. I wish you could turn this feature off, because it makes me feel awful about myself. Even worse, every time you rest for the night (which you need to do in order to tally your experience points and gain levels), the game grades you on how well your exploration went that day. Because I want to explore the map and am constantly getting lost, this makes me feel awful as well.

You suck, FFXV keeps telling me. You’re barely passing. You’re bad at playing this game. You’re bad at games. What are you even doing.

A lot of the work I do in real life is invisible, and I don’t typically get a lot of feedback, positive or otherwise. I also don’t get much feedback from my creative work in fandom, which (as much as I would love to say that “I create for myself!”) is also tough to handle. One of the reasons I play games is because I need to feel like I’m capable of accomplishing something. Even if it’s just gaining a level or being told that I found 100% of a dungeon’s treasure, I need to feel that I’m making progress.

The constant stream of negative feedback in FFXV is hurtful and alienating, and I don’t know why the developers felt the need to structure the game in this way. I play Final Fantasy games to experience interesting stories and explore beautiful worlds while falling in love with quirky characters as I manage and customize their growth to suit my playing style. If I wanted to play a hyperdrive murder simulator, I would choose another game. There are a lot of them out there!

Because FFXV is so stressful, I’ve found myself fleeing from it into games that are a bit more forgiving, such as Pokémon Sun and Breath of the Wild. Go at your own pace. Take your time, both games say to me. You’re doing great! It’s not that the games aren’t challenging, but rather that they’re able to accommodate diverse playstyles.

I’d like to advocate for “slow gaming,” which I see as a more individualized and sustainable type of gaming. The style of gaming represented by FFXV, which is extremely goal-oriented and only accommodates exploration and experimentation if the player is already highly experienced, should not be understood as normal or standard or something that anyone can enjoy. I’ve resolved to play FFXV all the way to the end in 2018, but I’m going to take it at my own pace without spending too much time worrying about what the game expects of me.

( The header image is from eldi13 on DeviantArt )

One thought on “Final Fantasy XV and Slow Gaming

  1. I haven’t started this game yet (I recently picked it up but am facing my own struggles to feel compelled to finish Persona 5, which I’ve been playing off and on since April).

    I’m pretty accustomed to it in, say, straight-up action games like shmups and Kamiya Hideki’s action games (Viewtiful Joe and so on)–basically the kin of the hyperdrive murder simulators–where it seems to make a little more sense than an RPG setting (though I can see how it can be discouraging no matter the genre).

    Extending grades to “how well” you explored seems like something else entirely. It seems to not only admonish you for not playing well enough, but also for not using your gameplay time efficiently enough–or rather, it’s barking at you for failing to be productive enough. At this point, the game’s systems–which may be in tension with the game’s narrative or the player’s desires–becomes your boss, and I really don’t know that I want to sit down for periodic performance reviews with the game’s rules.


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