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The Mog Log: Blackout

Eliot Lefebvre

It's really hard to find the heart to talk about anything related to Final Fantasy this week.

Last week, things went intensely cross-eyed for Japan. If you've somehow missed it, the short version is that a massive earthquake struck, killing a huge number of people and sending Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plants into a crisis that's still escalating as of this writing. There's the very real possibility of the plant's suffering a meltdown, resulting in a disaster some people are likening to the explosion at Chernobyl.

And yet the Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy XIV teams are working. We've seen communication out of the teams, and while Tokyo wasn't directly hit by the quake, it's hard to believe none of the employees has family in the region. The country faces rolling blackouts and a nuclear threat, and yet the teams keep working at making the games better for everyone. There comes a point when dedication doesn't adequately explain what keeps someone working through a crisis.

"Generally speaking, this would be the perfect sort of time to dive into a game and just forget all about the current unpleasantness."

As of this morning, we've found out that the games will both continue to be down for at least another few days, until the 22nd. This is beyond all right with me. As many people have noted in comments, the real story is that Square-Enix employees are still going to work despite the crisis in their country. That's a lot of dedication, and yet it makes perfect sense as something you just do -- a time when you need to put your head down and get to work despite everything going on around you.

I can only imagine what the situation is like on the ground there, and I'll be honest: I don't really want to think about that more than absolutely necessary. Part of me imagines that it must be similar to what it felt like here on the east coast back in September of 2001, a sense that everything is suddenly unsteady when it made sense before. But at least then you had the notion that there was someone to blame, and some of us could flee into a comfortable refuge, believing that finding the people responsible and punishing them would make things all right again.

Japan doesn't have that luxury at the moment. No one is "behind" the earthquake, and even though Tokyo might seem far removed from the events, there's no way to ignore any of it. The people behind these games need to do something that still makes sense, anything that still fits into a rational pattern.

Thankfully, the response on the brand-new official boards has been overwhelmingly positive. Considering how fickle gamers can be at times, it's heartening to see a positive response to the crisis and the inconvenience. And if you have the spare money to donate to Japan's disaster relief fund, I implore you to take the time to do so. Every little bit helps.

We haven't seen this sort of thing happen often. Generally speaking, the server farms that host our games sit comfortably ensconced far from any major natural disasters. Not much is able to shake us from our little personal virtual worlds, and generally speaking, this would be the perfect sort of time to dive into a game and just forget all about the current unpleasantness. But the game is offline, and that's something that affects us uniquely as fans of the franchise.

Unfortunately, amidst the good wishes and the general hope, there has been cynicism about Square shutting down servers purely as a result of governmental restrictions or as a business decision or the like. While I've been searching, I haven't found any concrete information to suggest that the Shibuya area, where Square's offices (and presumably their server farms) are located, is in any way subject to rolling blackouts. That may change in the future, but it seems to support the idea that it was a decision rather than a forced shutdown.

Square is also donating money for relief efforts, which is mandated roughly nowhere. (There's also talk of allowing people to donate money to relief funds via the Crysta service, which is nice if a bit unnecessary.) There's no arguing that, on a whole, Square is a heartless corporate entity that wants your money, but that's a bit like getting angry at a lion because it eats gazelles. Failure to do so results in its dying. Square isn't always the best company to deal with from a consumer level, but its actions during this crisis seem to have been born out of a genuine desire to help the nation it calls home.

It's unpleasant, and it's unlucky, and it means that there isn't much to talk about when it comes to the games this week... because they aren't around at the moment. All we can do is wait and hope for the best, and it's pretty nerve-wracking to just hurry up and wait in this situation.

My apologies if you were hoping for something more happy-go-lucky about playing a Thaumaturge this week, but I didn't feel it was appropriate to ignore the elephant in the room. Feel free to disagree with that in the comments or via mail to Hopefully, next week will be a little less unsteady and we can start talking about what's on the plate for both games.

From Eorzea to Vana'diel, there is a constant: the moogles. And for analysis and opinions about the online portions of the Final Fantasy series, there is also a constant: The Mog Log. Longtime series fan Eliot Lefebvre serves up a new installment of the log every Saturday, covering almost anything related to Square-Enix's vibrant online worlds.

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