There’s a lot to be said in favor of the “messy” realm of dynamic events, PvP, and any other MMO system that embraces chaotic unpredictability. It’s never quite the same, it forces you to stay on your toes, you get your secret decoder ring that allows you to crow about how much more awesome your preferred playstyle is than the “normies,” etc. And all of this is great for what it is — but I don’t always want it.
On the whole in my life, I like things neat. When I read Choose Your Own Adventure books, I’d find that my mind would become obsessed with all of the pages I was not reading due to choices, and eventually I’d break down and read the book out of order, front page to the last. I needed to tidy everything up, you see.
Likewise in adventure or roleplaying games, I always become very worried that I’m overlooking a part of the game, missed some secret, didn’t do everything I should’ve, and so on. It’s what drove me more than once to walkthroughs, because I couldn’t stand completing a game messily. I know that sounds weak and “Gee, Syp, you need to relax and just experience life as it goes,” but I’m merely being honest here. I like order in my gameplay, as with my life. I’m a Hobbit, I suppose, taking great comfort in the routine and predictability.
So back to MMOs: I’ve never really thought about it this way, but I don’t like being “messy” in those games for too long. The questing system that dominates MMOs these days gets a lot of backlash and hate, but the “neat” part of me adores them. I love knowing that I’m progressing through the game at exactly my own pace and none other’s. Group content sometimes makes me feel rushed — okay, always makes me feel rushed — and I can never stop to really enjoy the details or mull over the story when I’m in one. It’s messy because it’s several desires and agendas all pulling and pushing at each other. Not bad in limited quantities, mind you, just not something I want for 100% of my gameplay experience.
Right now I’m doing a weird yin-yang thing with LOTRO and RIFT. LOTRO for me is as neat as they come. I’m chewing through quest and deeds at my own pace, and achieving great satisfaction from it. My progress is almost always dependent on just me. In RIFT, however, I’m taking the messy path by completely eschewing quest content in favor of dungeon runs, invasions, rifts, instant adventures, chronicles, and so on. It’s far more dependent on outside influences — the game itself and other players — and thus creates a very different dynamic to explore. I’m trying my hardest to let my quite short hair down and see if I can just roll with it, or if my old urges will kick in and I’ll scurry back to the local quest line.
It also makes me somewhat nervous for GW2. I love the idea of just adventuring and seeing what’s out in the world, but the neat guy, the completionist in me might be driven nuts by how random it all is and how I’m unable to access every scrap of content that I’d want to see before moving on.
But it doesn’t mean I’m OCD either. A little mess is acceptable, especially if you can come back later and clean house.