GuestBloggerMania’10: Dealing with MMO Burnout

Today’s guest post is from Professor Beej, who isn’t actually a professor of anything, but a wonderfully-themed superhero.

Dealing with MMO Burnout by Professor Beej

I love MMOs.  Love love love them.  In the past twelve years, I’ve played superhero MMOs, science fiction MMOs, Triple-A titles, and Free-to-Play disasters.  The ones I’ve stuck with the longest have been Ultima Online, Star Wars Galaxies, and World of Warcraft.

I never really felt the need to take a break from UO or SWG.  However, when WoW came along, and I put in an equivalent amount of time as I did before, I found myself burning out on the game.  No matter how much I loved it or wanted to play, I just couldn’t find the motivation to care anymore.

Being the overthinker that I am, I came to the conclusion that my burnout comes because I am playing the game wrong.

I didn’t burn out in UO because I only logged on when there was something I wanted to do: PvP.  It was always changing (because it wasn’t instanced), and there was always something new to learn.  In Star Wars Galaxies, I didn’t burn out because I was hologrinding a Jedi.  The professions I had to train and master were constantly new and different, and once I became a Jedi, there was a ton more for me to do.

But I approached WoW differently.  I rush all of my characters to max level, and then run the same instances over and over again until I stop having fun, then I cancel my account for a while.  I burn out on the same content.  Even PvP in WoW is a grind of doing the same objectives repeatedly to get the gear one needs to compete…at running the same content.

So you see my conundrum.

Luckily, I noticed the rut I was constantly falling back into, and I found a way to it.  I realized that setting small goals for myself was the only way I would be able to enjoy the game again.  Sure, “gearing up for PvP” is a goal, but it’s so open-ended that I didn’t enjoy the road to get there.  “Getting 4-piece gladiator set bonus” is a lot easier to work toward.

So I learned that to keep me interested in MMOs, even theme park MMOs like WoW that lead players by the hand through content, I need to set myself goals that are easily attainable and that mean something to me.

My most recent MMO goals include:

  • Getting Exalted reputation with The Argent Dawn in WoW to get the title “Beej the Argent Crusader.”
  • Getting to level 26 in Star Wars Galaxies so my fledgling Jedi could get his first lightsaber.
  • Get fully equipped in Wrathful Gladiator gear in WoW.
  • Getting enough favor in Dungeons & Dragons Online to avoid having to buy 32-point characters from the store.

Now, these are not game-changing goals.  They are not end-game goals that require countless hours of dedication to achieve.  They are goals that are attainable through relatively normal gameplay.  I never really have to go out of my way to work on them.  I might have to set some time aside and work on specific tasks to make sure I reach the eventual outcome before the game goes offline, but these small goals are done as a kind of self-imposed quest as I go about my business in game.

The more I breadcrumb myself along, the more I find that I enjoy myself.  Sure, having long-term goals is great.  That gigantic capital ship in EVE or DDO? Dream away.  You want to kill the Lich King 25-person Heroic? Work toward that.

Look forward to whatever you have to look forward to, but I implore you not to be like me.  Don’t look forward to the end of the game to the exclusion of actually playing it.  Don’t become so focused on something you might never actually get and forget that, for all the grandeur and epicness, you’re still playing a game.

MMOs are so huge, so expansive, that if players cannot find small, everyday goals to work toward that they almost invariably become lost.  By breaking the game down into digestible chunks, the overall experience becomes much more enjoyable without the player ever losing sight of the big goals at the end.  Bite-sizing content also helps alleviate burnout because when I get tired of working DDO favor or WoW Honor/reputation, I can give it a rest, take a break, and enjoy one of the other sections of the game.  That way, I’m still having fun and the developers still get my $15 a month.  It’s win-win.

What about y’all?  What do you do to prevent burning out on your favorite MMO?

7 thoughts on “GuestBloggerMania’10: Dealing with MMO Burnout

  1. I have to do the same thing. I can’t simply play a game without direction or I get bored and a little aggravated, which also makes playing a new game a bit difficult as I don’t know what goals I should set for myself. But once I’ve set a goal and given myself specific direction, I find it enjoyable to acheive that goal in game, and if I feel like there’s another goal I want to acheive after that I keep playing the game, otherwise I know it is time to unsubscribe for a while.

  2. I am not an achiever type of player, so setting some goals to achieve is not something I need to do all the time. I might have some goals some parts of the time, but a lot of the time it is just “let’s go to X, or try Y and see what happens”.

    If I see something new, run into some nice people or learn something, then it is all good.

  3. I guess my main strategy is “stop playing the game you burned out on and play something else”. There are so many excellent games out there these days both single player and multi-player that it really doesn’t make sense to put up with a game that isn’t entertaining you.

    Trouble is there are SO many games now I sometimes find myself flailing endlessly from one game to the next without getting immersed in any one. Multi-game burnout arghhhhh.

  4. I wish I had a way to avoid burnout in games but it seems my way to avoid it is to run myself into the ground on them and then quickly turn to another game, roughly rotating games every 3 or 4 months. Bad way of going about things indeed!

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