Just thought I’d follow up with my experiences so far on FFXIV.
I’ve been playing now for about two weeks. I started out in English the first day, then switched to doing one hour in English, one hour in Japanese (because, as I’m not even an experienced MMO player, I needed time to really understand the instructions or I would have been hopelessly lost). Now I’m playing almost exclusively in Japanese, only switching back to English now and then if I’m really confused about something.
Folks on my server (Asura) are very quiet — I’ve never seen a shout, and almost never see anybody talking. I suspect talking goes on privately in “LinkShells” (little invitation-only chat groups). So I made it my mission in the last couple of days to get invited to one of those. This was daunting — everybody seems so much more experienced than me, in FFXIV and of course in Japanese! I thought nobody would want to waste their time with me.
But today I had success: I used the Player Search feature to look for players in my area, found a level 20 Lalafell whose language settings (if I understood the UI correctly) seemed to indicate they spoke English, and then located them in the trading hall. I went up to them, bowed, and asked (in English) if they had a moment to help a newbie.
I got no response, so I waited a bit, and tried again in Japanese. Still no reply, so I sat down and waited, figuring he was probably just away from his keyboard.
A few minutes later, he greeted me — in Japanese! And we struck up a conversation. I understood about 90% of what he said, and he seemed to understand my Japanese just fine (though I was probably making mistakes). He ended up inviting me to his “Enjoy Mornings” LinkShell (quite appropriate since when I play on my lunch hour, it’s morning in Japan), and introduced me to his comrades (よろしくね！). Then he invited me to join his party, and after some fumbling around (I’d never done a party before and had trouble figuring out how to accept), we went off and hunted some beasties that were causing trouble for Gridania — all in Japanese.
I can’t describe how thrilling it was to have this success. This guy and his friends welcomed me into their group and were patient as I struggled to figure things out. But moreover, I was actually communicating in Japanese, with the brain kicked into high gear because I had to — it felt very much like my six weeks in Japan, the feeling you get at the コンビニ cash register with a line behind you. A bit of pressure does wonders.
Ever since I got back, I’ve been missing Japan and especially missing the high-intensity learning that comes with immersion. I think I’ve finally found a decent substitute. I can’t go to Japan that often, but I can go to Eorzea every day!
P.S. If anybody cares, I’m going to try to blog briefly about my adventures — in both English and Japanese — here.