Here’s a situation that I’ve been wrestling with for a while now, which is the question of why jumping into an MMO that I’ve never played seems about ten times more prohibitive and intimidating than picking up a single-player or limited multiplayer title. For me.
And that’s always, always struck me as strange, seeing as how MMORPGs are my preferred game genre. I love them. Once I get hooked on one, then it becomes a good prospect to return to after absences. But MMOs I haven’t played much or at all have a difficult time getting into that exclusive club.
Strange enough, while I was making dinner the other night, the solution to this popped into my head. I had assumed that it was primarily the barrier to learning a new MMO — the annoyances of setting up an account and figuring out the different systems. That’s still a valid obstacle, but single-player games contain some of that learning curve too.
No, I think the answer has in what I look to get out of gaming.
You see, with non-MMOs, I’m always in them for the moment-to-moment experience. They’re fun games in what they offer me right in the here and now, whether that be the joy of arcade action, the narrative of an unfolding story, the relaxing thrill of the build, or what have you. That’s generally easy to pop in and play, because the game isn’t asking much of me beyond my immediate attention. Without the social component and with a generally more focused nature, these non-MMOs are strings-free experiences. They don’t ask of me more than a small slice of my attention.
That’s not how MMOs are at all. Above and beyond the learning curve of these games looms a massive mental obstacle that has everything to do with its social, massively multiplayer structure. These games ask of a long commitment from me, because it takes time to learn, navigate, and progress through them. They promise social connections and other features that could establish roots and “stickiness.” What I want to get out of these games is character permanence, real relationships, and long-term investment. MMOs are made for us to dive deep into them, not to dip in and out.
That presents a huge problem when I’m either sampling an MMO or contemplating trying one out. My mind is doing all of these checks before I even get to the loading screen. For starters, does the MMO look like it’ll actually last for years to come or is it on death’s door? Is it the type of MMO that might appeal to me? Is it user friendly? And if I actually end up liking this game, do I have the time to really commit to it?
In the case of that last one, if the answer is “no,” then the immediate follow-up is “then why bother trying it?” Am I going to torture myself with a game that I’d do best to just ignore lest it try to suck up my attention and precious limited game time?
I’ve found that it’s all but impossible to get a handle on an MMO with just an evening or two’s worth of playtime. You need to commit to a week or so to really get the shape of it, and that’s a lot more to ask than a flirtation with an offline title that doesn’t care how often you log in. Sampling or trying out an MMO ends up being frustrating because mentally I haven’t decided on it, and so I’m not really doing all I can to learn it and get the most from it. I’ll avoid other people, I’ll just rush to go fight things, and I’ll walk away unimpressed. For the most part.
Obviously, some MMOs have made it through this mental gauntlet of mine to be viable candidates, but as of late I’ve wanted to explore some of the lower-tier games and kept getting held back from really getting into them. Maybe that’s also why I haven’t been fully immersed into Project Gorgon’s world either, despite professing my love for many of its mechanics.
I’d like to try out more MMOs. I probably need to develop some patience and commit to a testing schedule, but so far this year that hasn’t happened that much. Any other MMO fans find it hard to try out new games? For the same or different reasons?