A week or so ago, two of my MMO blog buddies posted essays in which they, at least for now, had turned their back on this particular gaming genre. Syl discussed her rising despair over “broken” MMOs — usually in early access state — littering up Steam, and Wolfy mentioned how his weekly D&D session had started to take on more meaning than his previous MMO expeditions. Both have stepped away from MMOs, and both are saying (in their own way) something I have witnessed many times in following online gaming.
The general formula to it is this:
- Be a very dedicated MMO player for a long period of time
- Have some measure of burnout or find some other distraction/hobby
- Exit the MMO genre (temporarily or permanently) and then feel a need to turn around and bite the hand that once entertained you
I mean this last statement as VERY tongue-in-cheek, by the way. There was once a time that I would have considered such players mild traitors or somesuch, but that’s just silly talk. You don’t “owe” loyalty to MMOs or suddenly find yourself unable to criticize them if you stop playing them. In fact, sometimes when we experience a change in our gaming routine or step away do we gain a new perspective. We should use these moments to reprioritize, to reassess, and to understand our own habits and desires.
What does mildly frustrate me is that these epiphanies usually aren’t as deep as we’d like them to be. I mean, pick any video game genre, play the crud out of it for years, and then experience burnout. You’re going to have some harsh words to say. We often are the most hard on those we once loved, after all.
It’s true, MMORPGs, even the most fully featured ones, can’t be all things to all people. More specialized games can do some of these elements much better — the combat, the story, the graphics, the ingenuity. But when we come to MMOs, we’re looking for an overall package that, combined, we can’t find anywhere else. We’re looking for progression, persistence, and people. That’s the magic combination that makes these games work.
But to be utterly fair to Syl and Wolfy and anyone else who has taken a short, long, or forever break from MMOs — I get it. It’s good to have that break, to try other things, and to demand something better of the MMO genre. I completely agree with Syl that the early access phenomenon is a plague that’s hurting rather than helping the genre. I would totally love to see more MMOs take a deep look at what makes pen-and-paper adventures special and try to emulate that past the combat-centric DIKU design. I concur that MMOs can be very time demanding and can start to take time away from other, more important areas of our life.
Stepping away is your choice, and it’s fine. And criticizing in those moments, although not always productive, is equally your call. Maybe it’s one of those therapeutic moments that lets us get off our chests everything that we wanted to say and can see clearly now.
But I just would urge those who do find themselves in this position to get it all out at once and then leave MMOs alone until or unless you’re ready to return. I’ve seen so many bitter former MMO players who can’t seem to find anything else to do but lurk on forums and Reddit and grouse about the evil they now see in these games. After a certain point, it doesn’t help, and it definitely makes for an embarrassing situation if you end up slinking back to a game and have to eat all of those words.