Massively multiplayer online RPGs can be a blast to play. The unbridled potential of a new character in a new environment, with a series of epic quests, power increases, and a compelling endgame to undertake with friends is one of the reasons it can be so fun to jump into one of the many MMOs available.
But at what point does the fun stop? When does the RPG become work? Habit? Addiction? Here are some signs that it might be time to retire your adventuring mantle.
Image Credit: raikoart
The Game Isn’t Fun
This can be a hard realization to come to for some. In MMOs, the tendency is to play for a long period of time and invest a lot of work. What that means is that, even as the pleasure diminishes, the compulsion remains. It can be hard to come to terms with giving up all that work to move onto new horizons. That is the sunken cost fallacy or, as gamblers put it, being “pot committed.” Don’t think of the time spent as work. Instead, remember the game fondly for the joy it once brought.
The fact is, not all games can be fun forever. Eventually, the surprises fade. Sometimes, the content becomes stagnant. Which leads me to my next point…
The Developers Aren’t Innovative
With each patch, comes promise. With each expansion, the excitement grows. Perhaps players are hoping for a game changer that revitalizes their former passion. Either way, following new announcements and scheduled plans can be incredibly exciting. Just search the news section of google with the keyword set to any popular MMO and you’ll find a steady stream of articles covering the game. Final Fantasy XIV , for example, has regular shows and conferences that talk about the upcoming content.
Unfortunately, the upcoming content is often more of the same. Sure, it looks different. Yes, the story continues to develop and new challenges are presented. But when you boil it all down to its core elements, these changes often just feel like more of the same. I blame this on the “holy trinity” approach to MMOs wherein the jobs and classes hardly vary and can be easily sorted into the three groups of Damage Dealer, Tank, and Healer. Encounters are balanced around a specific balance of these three roles. And, because of the popular theme park design established by World of Warcraft and the prevalence of these roles in that game, innovation feels hampered. Most environments and fights just feel like slight, aesthetic variations on the same theme.
A Sense of Obligation Takes Over
Dailies. Weeklies. Ugh. These are elements of the MMO that are meant to incentivize logging into the game on a regular basis. They allow the players to gain experience or rewards at a faster rate than those who don’t perform these often menial tasks that are refreshed on either a daily or weekly basis. The monotony and simplicity means that a lot of players can essentially turn off their brain to finish their chores.
It can sometimes feel like an obligation. Perhaps you will fall behind the progress of your friends. Perhaps you are no longer having fun but you feel a duty to the game or your guild. Perhaps you have a fear of missing out. Either way, this obligation can feel taxing and the rewards are hardly ever, well, rewarding. You don’t feel like you accomplished something through an extraordinary feat; you merely put in your hours. Welcome to the grind. And you know what makes it all worse? The treadmill.
The Progression Treadmill Blues
Games sometimes have something that is referred to as vertical progression. This means that players constantly improve their gear with no real end in sight. Games rarely exclusively have that option but the ratio of vertical progress to horizontal progress is what defines them. The current trend is vertical progression which leads to what is called the content treadmill.
In days of yore, the trend for endgame was a lot of challenging encounters that would build a players’ toolkit, and those items would stay relevant for a longtime. On the content treadmill, players are constantly grinding, often through the aforementioned menial tasks, for currency or progression that will allow them to claim rewards that make them stronger. These rewards allow them to complete the harder fights in the game with relative ease. Within months, a slew of players have the items, they don’t feel special, and even better items are right around the corner. So, where’s the sense of reward.
Still, players can feel compelled to do this for a variety of reasons. Sometimes this reason is addiction.
You Have an Addiction
MMOs are designed to be habit forming. That is why progress at earlier stages is so rapid, why dailies area meant to incentivize logging in, and why rewards are generated randomly. Also, the bonds formed between players and the interaction with the game can fuse to be a surrogate for the player’s hierarchy of needs.
If you find that you are forgoing your responsibilities in life, ignoring your significant other, calling off work regularly, not exercising, not sleeping or, in other words, hurting yourself then it is time to give up the game. At the very least, it is time to acknowledge the problem and work to find a healthy balance. If someone suggests that you have a problem, consider your situation as rationally as possible. You might actually have an addiction.