The Drama Effect and MMOs


I don’t want the title of this post to be misleading — it’s going to have nothing to do with drama in MMOs. It’s just a private label that I apply in my life when it comes to consuming various forms of entertainment: The Drama Effect.

For me, it goes like this. Entertainment — books, movies, TV, and games — lands on a spectrum. One side tends to offer meatier fare, but it’s also more serious, more emotionally involving, and more difficult to get into. I call this the Drama Effect because while I usually get a lot more out of dramatic films, it takes a lot of motivation to get me to watch one. There’s like this up-front emotional barrier that requires me to steel myself for heavier, thicker content to come. And since I’m often coming to entertainment to relax, I find myself shying away from stuff exuding the Drama Effect and gravitating toward lighter, more positive, or shorter fare.

It’s why my TV viewings these days are almost exclusively 20-minute cartoons and sitcoms. Yes, I know Daredevil and True Detective would be totally worthwhile to watch, but I get exhausted doing that and would rather crash at the end of the day watching Arrested Development or Futurama.

Books, since they require a hefty time investment, usually contain a cutoff point where I evaluate whether or not I’m going to keep reading due to my enjoyment of the story so far and how it’s emotionally resonating with me.

And then there are games — most specifically MMOs. These land on the spectrum too, and the Drama Effect is part of what keeps me from logging into Game A instead of Game B on most nights. World of Warcraft is popcorn gaming; I can turn my mind off for most of it, enjoy the pretty colors, and eat those breadcrumb quests up. Yum yum. The Secret World is almost opposite of that, and as much as I truly love that game, it takes a bit of a running start to get me to log into it when I’m selecting titles on any given evening.

Oh, when I’m in the game I usually am very happy to be there, but it’s that up-front emotional barrier. TSW requires more thought, offers tougher combat, and has themes that aren’t always comfortable or uplifting. Getting through missions in that game can sometimes feel like finishing short marathons.

I was just thinking about that last night as I closed out a record-short five minute TSW session when I knew I wanted to write up a post on that game this week. But I wasn’t feeling it — I just wanted the popcorn gaming to help relax. And so it went.

6 thoughts on “The Drama Effect and MMOs

  1. Tridus May 12, 2016 / 11:31 am

    This covers a lot of why I watch stuff like My Little Pony. I can sit down when I’m exhausted and miserable, and I know that no matter what episode I watch, I will be happier at the end than I was at the beginning. There’s no fear of my favourite character suddenly going through a 20 minute torture porn exercise before being killed.

    More power to people who like that stuff, but I get enough exhausting entertainment out of XCOM 2.

  2. Mexi May 12, 2016 / 11:55 am

    It’s interesting how people are different. To me, what you’re saying sounds quite alien. I completely get being too tired for some things, especially if work or school has been crazy. For me though, there’s no emotional barrier. My spectrum I guess is different. So sometimes I want to sit there and play FFRK which is an investment of a few to 30 mins.

    I read most evenings, last thing after gaming. Simply because books take me out of the real world and somewhere else. I like them because you can pick em up and put em down where you want to. I’ve fallen asleep over my Kindle. I feel like you’re probably saying something important about what’s going on with you if you’re actively avoiding stuff you’d know you’d enjoy because it’s emotionally heavier. Or maybe I’m making too much of it 🙂

  3. Pasduil May 12, 2016 / 8:54 pm

    I have a similar experience as you, though not with the same things. The things that often feel too demanding for me are things like science and politics shows, or recently there’s been a lot of Shakespeare on as well. Those are all things I love, but often I feel I don’t have the mental energy to do them justice. Whereas something like The Walking Dead is fine to watch.

    I suppose in part its how much we want to get out of the thing. With something like the Walking Dead, I’m pretty happy to along with the ride without too much thought about it.

  4. baldwinp May 13, 2016 / 8:13 am

    I think a lot of us use that same standard. As good as all of those intrigue shows probably are, I work with serious material all day and just want to let my mind chill at night.

    I was wondering if you also have some sort of “toggle” rating for games. I have two monitors and so I usually have a game going on one and a web browser open on the other. Often I decide what to play on how easily it is to manage both at the same time.

  5. wolfyseyes May 15, 2016 / 11:41 pm

    This is pretty much the focal point of Blade and Soul and WildStar for me – fun, crunchy, heat it and eat it fun. While I miss a lot of the communal aspects of the genre as a result, I have to admit, there’s something cathartic about playing a class that can bodyslam a bear.

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