Isn’t That What You Do in Every MMO? Have Fun?

Happy Holidays... from not-so-spikey charr...

Back when I was a serious [insert game here] player, [...] I played to be the best.  I can look back and say from experience that the mindset exists and people fall into it without even realizing what they’re doing.  One day you wake up and have this epiphany that what you’re doing isn’t fun.

- Keen [editing in brackets, mine]

Some days you just want to laugh. And chuckle. And grin a lot.

Keen might be someone who gets immensely hyped for the next big thing and then just as promptly deflates in three months because it wasn’t the dream sandbox MMO he was looking for, who then proceeds to do it all over again without learning from the last time – but I guess even the young grow old some day.

He’s closing in on 30, he says. Me, I’m kinda past that mark quite a while ago.

The story and the epiphany is the same. It’s not the MMO per se. It’s the mindset.

Yes, some MMOs have a design that skews you towards this “win” “be the best” “be prestigious” mindset a lot more swiftly than others. True, in some games, it’s the one main road, the linear flow that channels everyone towards to it and it’s much harder to step back or away from such things.

Yes, your very first MMO (or online game), the one you walk into wide-eyed with a blank slate, ready to absorb the majority way of thinking about what’s the “right” (efficiency optimal) thing to do is the one where you’re most prone to tumbling down that pit of gradually-becoming-not-fun-but-endure-to-be-the-best.

The irony of it is that Keen holds up Everquest as the game where he had the most casual, sandbox fun. From his previous posts, it seemed he even indulged in a bit of roleplaying as halflings there.

Me, I avoided Everquest like the plague because it was looking to be a carbon copy clone of a MUD I had already burned out on, just in graphics form. A world at the beginning, which gradually narrowed again at the top to be all about gear and raids and being the prestigious first to drop a big mob and drop RNG loot.

I’m dead certain you can find players out there who did play EQ as their serious raid game and then subsequently burned out of raiding and gave WoW a miss.

It’s not -solely- the fault of the game.

It’s also about where we as players were at that point in our gaming lives.

I, too, used to think it was down to me to save everybody else’s souls. Lemme tell you, being the minority burned-out cynical voice in a sea of awestruck WoW newbies often meant being drowned out in the face of fanboy fanaticism.

Eventually, I learned the value of patience and letting folks arrive at their own wisdom in their own time.

For some, raiding was something they would never burn out of. It suited their personalities and their preferences to a T. Little wonder they would be perfectly fine with a game that holds up that minigame as the ideal to always strive toward.

For others, their epiphanies would hit them years down the road. But it was a road they had to travel to learn it. Just as we did.

I’m not much of a list maker, so I won’t be posting long numerical lists this holiday season.

But on this Christmas eve, I’d like to ask all of you to spare a thought for your inner child.

When you play a game, what exactly is it that you find fun?

Playing with others? Playing against others? Playing with your friends or family? Playing by yourself?

Learning something new by discovering it yourself? Learning something new by reading up about it? Learning something new by being taught by someone else? Or preferring the comfort of the old and familiar rather than the new and unknown?

Being the best? In what way? Richest, most powerful, most pretty, most well-known, most well-liked or hated, most eccentric, most OCD? Or “mosts” and “bests” don’t interest you at all?

There are games out there that match better to your preferences than others. Go find them, and have fun – your special brand of fun – rather than be stuck in a game where you’re unhappy because it’s the only one you know.

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2 thoughts on “Isn’t That What You Do in Every MMO? Have Fun?

  1. The wonder years always pass. that doesn’t mean all games got worse – a discussion I recently had with Doone. there are players right now, starting their first MMO ever and to them it’s as overwhelming and magical today as it was for us, a long time ago.

    I’ve accepted that my “wow years” cannot be reproduced for many reasons far more complex than just “poor games today”. but I will indeed continue to hunt down my personal fun in different MMOs, those special and magical moments that made the genre so great for me. I’ve not given up on that just yet. :) we can still enjoy ourselves in MMOs if we allow it.

    Happy Xmas, Jeromai!

  2. bhagpuss says:

    I’ve always liked Keen’s blog but it used to be that I tended to disagree with him or find he was just talking about things outside my experience or interest. For quite a long time now, though, his posts almost exactly match some of my own thoughts and feelings and I find myself agreeing with him, especially on an emotional level if not always on the practical, about 90% of the time.

    Really, you could sum his whole current viewpoint up as “Everquest got it right”, which is exactly how I feel. After nearly fifteen years I am pretty much at the point of believing that no MMORPG will ever surpass EQ. I love many modern MMOs but I no longer imagine that I am yet to play the best one I ever played. I think that ship sailed a while back.

    On the age thing, I find it interesting that Keen has come to the position he has as he approaches 30. He was a teenager when he played EQ in the way he is now eulogizing and holding up as a model. I was 40 when I began playing EQ. I played it from the beginning with the attitude Keen is arriving at now. I’m sure that if MMOs had existed when I was 15 my experience would have been utterly different and I’m not at all sure I’d have come as far around to maturity in a decade and a half as he has.

    I count myself very, very lucky that I was the age I was when I discovered this hobby.

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