WoW and My Changing Attitude Toward MMOs

Lately, I find my feelings about World of Warcraft are changing, and it’s giving me a different perspective on MMOs. Two things have led to this.

My warrior socializes in Lion's Arch during Guild Wars 2's Halloween eventThe first is taking a break and playing other games, particularly Guild Wars 2 and The Secret World. These games both have the gear grind treadmill that WoW does, but in both cases, it’s a much smaller part of the game, and they’re generally much more friendly to a casual play style.

The second is changes to WoW’s design in Mists of Pandaria, also catering to a more relaxed view of the game.

The backstory:

Over all the years I’ve played WoW, I’ve basically played it the same way. I’ve ground gear at endgame in the hopes of seeing some raid content. Yes, I avoided raiding guilds and the culture of “serious” raiders, but I still wanted the content and the story.

So I’d just keep trying to get more gear in the hopes it would increase my chances of getting into a successful PUG. It created this sort of low grade but constant anxiety about the game. Gotta keep up with the Johnsons.

My bloodbathed frostbrood vanquisher reenacts the Wrath of the Lich King load screenIn contrast, when I played other games, I didn’t have this, and in some ways, that made me enjoy them a lot more.

Then came the implementation of the Raid Finder in Cataclysm. This largely removed the need for me to participate in the gear grind. I still need to gear up to be able to queue for the Raid Finder, but that’s pretty easy, and once I do, I can pretty much do whatever I want — including not play at all.

It’s taken until now for me to fully realize this. It took trying other games to get me to grasp that I no longer need to stress about staying competitive.

The joy of indifference:

There’s also the fact that Mists of Pandaria is, by any standard, a very easy expansion, especially when compared to Cataclysm.

I don’t share the community’s intense hatred of Cataclysm, but there is one thing about it I really disliked, and I didn’t even realize it until I was free of it.

My paladin tries to find a way to pass the time during the Spine of Deathwing encounterCataclysm’s difficulty had a terrible effect on the community. The increased difficulty made it a case of survival of the fittest, and there was no room for the weak. It made elitists of even casuals like me.

I remember obsessively checking my Recount to make sure I was doing enough damage. I remember inspecting every tank at the beginning of each dungeon to make sure they weren’t scrubs. I remember kicking many, many nice people from my groups just because they couldn’t cut it as gamers.

I don’t have to play that way anymore. I haven’t even updated Recount since 5.1 launched — though I’m sure I will get around to it sooner or later.

The point is this: I no longer care, and that’s a good thing. The only goal I’m still pursuing with any seriousness is the Wrathion legendary chain, which has me regularly valor-capping for the first time ever. Otherwise, I can play however I want, without worrying about staying competitive.

My changing attitude:

My warlock completes the first stage of the Wrathion legendary chainThese changes to WoW mean I’m essentially “done” with the game much sooner than I would have been before — heck, before I was never done; it was an endless treadmill. Some people might think this a bad thing, but I don’t believe it is. It frees me to expand my gaming horizons.

I’m still playing WoW, but I’m also playing TSW and whatever else catches my fancy. I even played some Diablo III the other day for some strange reason. But I’m not enjoying WoW any less. In some ways, I might be enjoying it more.

Blizzard seems to be of the belief that more time playing their game equals more enjoyment for the player, but I believe this is a flawed theory. I think quality of gaming time matters more than quantity.

By not feeling like I need to log onto WoW every single day, I appreciate my time with it more. I never just log on and sit around thinking, “What am I gonna do?” I play because I really want to, not out of habit.

My warlock showing off her town clothes in the Vale of Eternal BlossomsIf I’m being fully honest, the fact I’m no longer as enamored with WoW’s mechanics as I once was is also a factor. This is the result of playing other games, which I found much more enjoyable from a strict gameplay perspective. As I’ve said, WoW does feel a little archaic these days.

I could never give it up. I care too much about the world and the characters, and Mists of Pandaria is doing a very good job of rekindling that feeling. But it does leave me wanting more from a gameplay perspective.

As an aside, this is a great lesson on the importance of creating good lore and an engaging world. I like the game mechanics of Guild Wars 2 much more than those of WoW, but I’m playing WoW more.

I’m also working on lowering my expectations for what WoW is capable of, which I realize were unreasonably high. My love for Warcraft III and the years where I wanted to play WoW but couldn’t led me to put the game on a pedestal. I think I’ll enjoy it more if I accept it for what it is, rather than expecting it to be the gaming messiah.

How I became a game-hopper:

A Jinn in The Secret WorldThere seems to be a general perception among the MMO community that obsessing over one game is the right way to do things. “Game-hopper” is a term often spoken with a hint of derision, and the general feeling is that playing an MMO is like being in a committed relationship. I’ve even dubbed my series of coverage on other games “Cheating on WoW.”

(Expect at least one more installment of this series in the near future, by the way.)

But I’m starting to think this is a very flawed way of thinking. It makes sense for single player games, where focus on one and burn through it quickly before moving on to another.

But MMOs are a different beast. You never really finish them, and if you try to play one forever, you will eventually burn out. The truth is that there is no developer on Earth who can produce content faster than players can get sick of it.

Nor can one MMO satisfy all gaming desires, though some do an admirable job of trying. If you try to play one MMO exclusively, you’ll eventually get bored and want to try something else.

The Secret World's introductory mission in the Tokyo subwayI’ve come to the conclusion MMOs shouldn’t be thought of as an exclusive relationship. I’m thinking of them more as television shows.

I like Glee (less so since Quinn left, but I digress), but that doesn’t mean I want it to be the only show I ever watch. I also like to watch The Simpsons, The Daily Show, and the news. Similarly, I like WoW, but I also like TSW, and GW2, and so forth.

This is part of why I’ve come to disdain the subscription business model so much. It’s not practical for most people to maintain several subs at once. Part of me wonders if I can even justify paying for WoW when I’m not playing as compulsively as I used to.

I’m not saying my way is the only way. If you enjoy sticking with a single game to the exclusion of all others, that’s cool. But I will go out on a limb and say that “game-hopping” is probably the wave of the future for most players.

Horde paratroopers attacking in the "A Little Patience" scenarioI suspect this is a large contributor to the growing popularity of subscription-free games. Again, the “free to not play” argument.

What about you? Do you practice MMOnogamy, or do you prefer to sample from the buffet of gaming? Share your thoughts.

Edit: Apparently, this is my 200th post. Yay?

6 thoughts on “WoW and My Changing Attitude Toward MMOs

  1. Grats on your 200th post!

    WoW was my first MMO – before that I never played many games anyway except the occasional single player PC game. I have all the consoles – XBox360, PS3, Wii – probably played one or two games on the PS3 and Wii and nothing at all on the XBox. They are all packed in a box gathering dust except the PS3 – I need that to get Netflix 😉

    If I find something I enjoy I just play it and don’t worry about what I could be missing. I don’t feel particularly loyal to any game and I don’t go looking for the next-best-latest-greatest game-changing product. We’ve seen too many of those blast onto the market then fizzle and die when the next one comes out.

    To use your TV analogy, I might watch an episode or two of a new show and if I like it I’ll make a point to watch it. If not, I won’t. There have been entire TV seasons where I’ve only turned on the TV once a week to watch one show I like. I don’t need to watch a bunch of stuff I don’t particularly like just for variety. It’s entertainment – if I’m not entertained, then I’ll do something else.

    I approach games the same way. I’m willing to try something new if it looks interesting and I can play a trial for a bit before making a purchase. But I don’t feel as though I need a variety of games. I’d rather play one good game that keeps me entertained and engaged than a bunch of games that aren’t particularly fun for me.

  2. I play a ton of games at the same time. I have Steam, GOG, and a stack of 360 games. (My Wii never even gets turned on anymore..) I have a selection of 4 or 5 360 games that are sitting out on top of my box and the same number of PC games in a special category for my “flavor of the week” type games. I actually had to make a schedule of games so I wouldn’t forget to play good games because I had others to deal with. I’ve been into Madden NCAA Skyrim and DDO so much recently that I completely forgot about Assassin’s Creed III. When it’s been long enough since my last session, I tend to not want to play because I can’t remember where I was in the story. Still haven’t even opened Saints Row III. Now I’ve got TSW (thanks :/ ) and DDO fighting for time. TSW is very easy to play solo, though, while DDO I really only like playing when I play permadeath with my guild. If nobody’s online at a particular time of day, I can do something else. My list of games to finish is as long as my arm (times 3) but I’m still looking forward to the next wave of good game releases. I don’t know if it’s because I have some form of gaming ADD or what, but man… if a game captures my interest, I’ll play it forever… until I burn out. I played Skyrim for a couple months to the exclusion of everything else. I even let my DDO subscription run out because of it.

    • TSW is very easy to solo? Wait until you get past Kingsmouth. 😛

      This multi-gaming thing is rather new to me, and I’m not as bad as you, but it does occur to me I have developed a rather lengthy “to play” list. In addition to my stable of MMOs, I’ve got Mirror’s Edge sitting in my Steam account from the last sale, and I’ve been thinking I should swallow my pride and finally play Half-Life 2 at some point.

      And Heart of the Swarm is only a few weeks away. And eventually I’m going to get around to playing through Dungeon Siege III again.

      …God, I wish that game had gotten an expansion pack. ><

      • A special subset of gaming ADD that I have is alt-aholicism. I think this actually makes permadeath even better for me, because I’m never more than one mistake from a re-roll. I keep feeling like I need to reroll my TSW character because I’ve got such a better handle on ability selection than I did when I started, but then I am forcibly reminded that you don’t have to reroll in TSW… just start something else with the same character! I’m not sure how I feel about this, though… lol… so now I’m thinking about making one character for each faction just to collect all the uniforms :/ I played about 10 different character builds in Skyrim before I even completed a questline… and have tried about 50 in all. Same thing in all games.

      • I, too, am a chronic altaholic. At my peak in WoW, I had four max level characters covering two servers, both factions, and every possible group role — not to mention a small army of neglected lowbies.

        I’ve got three main characters in GW2, and two in TSW. I’ll probably have to get around to making an Illuminati one day, too, just because I’ve heard so much about Geary’s drunk texting.

  3. I’ve been playing WoW for almost 6 years, although this past year I have been relatively inactive. My main objective of the game was hard core raiding (I was raiding with a Top 50 US guild when I stopped raiding a year ago), and I had maxed out all my character slots (who were also all decked in raiding gear). Oh, and I’m a girl.

    I know this is a very WoW-hipster-elitist thing to say, but the last time the game was really fun for me was in TBC. I think that is because the game could easily separate casual from hard-core and your accomplishments felt like something. As the expansions moved forward and the game became more and more blended, those accomplishments dulled and there was no longer much gain in working hard when everyone around you- even the worst players- could have the same reward. I know they added hard modes and other elements to appeal to the people with higher goals, but the game hasn’t been the same and a lot of the people I used to play with have moved on to other games. These changes to the game have also that most casuals have higher pressure to do more since its accessible to them.

    For me, I stopped raiding because it had been like a second job for me for years. I was working 50 hours at the office and then an additional 20 in game. My real life job became more demanding and my raid performance slipped and then my real life work performance slipped. So I had to choose. Since then, I log in every now and then and run a LFR, or work on old achievements. Like you, I have trouble actually giving it up entirely as I have a huge investment in my characters, the story, and a lot of really good memories from playing the game as well. I know I don’t have time for other MMOs, and I tend to be a loyalist to things I love, so I’ll probably always stay loyal to WoW, even if that means only logging in once or twice a month.

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