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Monogamy and the MMO player

gamessssProbably one of the most common questions I’m asked is something along the lines of, “How can you play so many MMOs?  How do you have the time?  How can you stay interested in all of them?”  Well, one question if you smooshed all of that up and swallowed it.

I think I give the illusion that I have much more time than I really do.  My average day contains perhaps two or three hours of playtime, and that’s at the end of the day after everyone’s asleep (since my household goes to bed at 9 except for me, I’m in a rare position of having a few hours to myself even with four other people around).  I don’t make terribly fast progress in any game, but pokey my puppy on up, trusting that I’ll finish the race eventually even though I’m meandering while others are sprinting.  Right now I might give four games a half-hour apiece on a given night or just spend an entire evening devoted to a big project on one game (such as last night, when I knocked out two difficult slayer virtues for my Lore-master in LOTRO).

The multi-MMO aspect of this query is easier to address.  I play more than one MMO because I can’t imagine going back to the days of doing one and one game only.

Oh, there’s a huge appeal to being a monogamous MMO player, especially when you do have limited time.  Some days I think about how attractive it might be to just cast everything but one title aside and plunge fully into that game.  My Massively Speaking cohost Bree was telling me that that is exactly what she does, playing a single MMO for a month or two before putting it down and picking up something else.

I don’t think I could do that, and a lot of it has to do with the nasty feeling of burnout.  I’ve had really bad burnout experiences in the past, and it’s always the same story.  I’m super into an MMO, I play it constantly, and then one day I abruptly can’t bring myself to log back in.  The very thought of the game is like ashes to me, and I look at all that I’ve done as a massive waste.  I feel horrible that I’m abandoning friends and I feel lost in my gaming time as my mainstay is now no longer there.  Turning a game that I loved into something I detest is kind of sad and horrible at once.

But ever since I started juggling MMOs, I’ve found that I haven’t had that nasty crash-and-burn experience.  I think of it as having a diverse portfolio of games, spreading out my interest and relying on the titles that are more interesting to me at a given time to balance out the ones that have dropped in my esteem.  There’s little pressure to keep playing a single game, and instead of “leaving” I either cut back or take an extended sabbatical from it.  Other than losing contact with guildies, it’s worked out well for me.  Coming back to MMOs after a break is more refreshing and I’m almost never out of options of something new, fun, or interesting to do.

Prior to playing MMOs, I was never a monogamous gamer.  I doubt many of us were.  We were just gamers.  We might play one game extensively, but there wasn’t much baggage involved in putting it down to play another.  I didn’t own a console with just one game.  I didn’t only have one program installed on my computer.  So why should MMOs be different?

MMOs demand so much time from you to where they start messing with your brain, making you think as though you’re cheating on them not to be giving them 100% of your attention.  Sure, for some activities you’re probably going to have to go all-in or at least stop going to work — particularly if you want to raid or be highly competitive or get the best of the best gear.  But once I made peace with the fact that I wanted none of those things, I developed a lot of peace in my playstyle.  I cherished the experiences of an evening and the gradual progress toward a goal.  I slowed down to really get into a game instead of racing through it.  I can look back and see how stressed out MMO gaming used to make me when I was all about one game and one game only, and now I can see how I’m much more mellow and content about it.

Another mind-trap that we buy into is that MMOs are a one-and-done product.  Once we’ve played and left, there’s no reason to go back.  Yet we do go back, don’t we?  I’ve lost count of the number of weirdly apologetic blog posts from people sheepish that they’ve returned to a game that caused them to previously burn out and call the bride of Satan.  Hey, there’s no shame in it.  It’s actually pretty great to return to older MMOs, since they’ve established themselves more and have gotten away from the drama of launch.  Some of the unhappiest players I’ve seen are ones that rip through new games, grown bored with them, and are seemingly incapable of playing anything that isn’t cutting-edge fresh.  “There’s nothing to playyyyy!” they cry, surrounded by hundreds of MMOs.

With more relaxed business models (thank you, free-to-play and buy-to-play) there barrier of finances has been lowered and there’s no huge reason why we can’t game hop more.  For me, at least, it’s worked out wonderfully.

6 thoughts on “Monogamy and the MMO player

  1. Actually, I have wondered how you keep all your games balanced like you do. This is a really awesome way to look at it.

    I used to be a one-MMO gamer, probably due to paying subscriptions back in the day. I’d feel super guilty when I moved from one game to another. But it happened.

    Lately, I find myself sifting between 2-3 different games, picking them up for various gameplay elements. After spending months with dailies and working on getting end game armor in FFXIV, I’ve taken a break from that game to only log in to work on crafting from time to time. Meanwhile, I’ve picked up GW2 again, now that Season 2 of the Living Story has kicked off. Earlier this year, while GW2’s Living Story wasn’t as compelling, I was all about FFXIV. So it filled in the blank for me then.

    I dabble in things like Landmark, Trove, TSW and single player games on the side, when the muse strikes me.

    I think you have a good point here — play what is fun for you. Be careful not to overplay (so bad about this). Don’t feel guilty about having fun in more than one game at a time. I wonder if more people could learn to relax and just do it for the fun, if we’d all be better off in the end! 🙂

  2. I’m much more of a game-juggler than I used to be. Had literally years of playing one game and one game only (mostly WoW, but also long spells with LOTRO, Atlantica, various others). Now, I play several as the mood takes me, although at present hardly any of my gaming is MMOs.

    Do you ever find that, while not burning out on a game, you stop playing it without even noticing that you stopped? I’ve done that a fair few times since so many F2P and B2P games started filling my roster. I’ll just notice that it has literally been months since I launched one, and that I didn’t even miss it.

  3. “Hear, hear” to this post! I gave up on MMO monogamy after I started feeling burned out on WoW. I continued to play it because of friends but I’ve always had a side MMO to play ever since, sometimes two. I particularly like the point about going back, I’ve felt guilty about going back to LoTRO or EQ2 when I was sure I’d made a logical decision to ‘move on’ but hey, why should logic get in the way of fun?

  4. Thanks to all for showing that my habits are shared by many.

    Too many games! A good thing to have. But very hard on the psyche!

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