MMORPGs use Burnout. Burnout crits you for 9,999.

It is time I admit a truth to myself that I have long been hoping to prove a lie: MMORPGs aren’t for me anymore.

Some of you who have read me closely, especially over the last few months, might be thinking, “Well, duh!” It is a tough sentence for me to say out loud because I have been playing and following this genre for more than a decade. For the longest time, I believe MMOs were a part of who I am as a person.

But people aren’t simple amalgamations of their favorite things. There is depth and nuance and (dare I say) soul that glues the disparate identities into a collective whole. Without MMOs in my life, I am not a lesser version of myself.

Love isn’t the same as gravity. It isn’t an effortless force built into the way reality works; it isn’t timeless. Love is contextual. It requires constant sacrifice and constant renewal to keep it going. At some point in the past, MMOs and I took separate paths. Our passions, then disentangled, sent us further and further apart until all that remained was a distant shadow on the horizon fighting a setting sun for relevancy.

It might be argued that it’s “just a game” and that my grand hyperbole about love and identity is misplaced. I speak with absolute resolution when I say, “MMOs were always more than games.” Checkers is a game. Super Mario is a game. MMORPGs are something more.

For its biggest fans, MMOs exist in a space beyond games that is hard to accurately describe. In part, its their ephemeral nature. Ultima Online and EverQuest are still around, but returning to either is closer to going back to high school after college and a brief flirtation with adulthood than a triumphant return. Your friends have left. Things are familiar but not. The place that was once so important to you persists, yet the reality of that persistence is far diminished compared to your memories.

The thing that makes MMORPGs such a powerful and compelling experience is their capacity to create community. Somewhere between game and alternate universe, you are tasked with created a virtual representation of your own identity. From there, you meet others and overcome trials cooperatively. Most games excel because they are rooted in your subjective experience and your own imagination. MMOs challenge that idea by creating worlds populated with unscripted actors that exist with or without your involvement.

For the past several MMOs I have tried, those old feelings weren’t there. Attempting to return to old loves has had similar results. With zero excitement for the genre’s near future, I can’t see this ship righting itself anytime soon. My burnout may have begun as a general disdain for World of Warcraft, but over time, the flames have gotten bigger, brighter, and all-consuming. Themeparks burn bright, but now its spread to every corner of the genre. In other words, I am burned out on the idea of MMOs.

I suppose it isn’t the first time that I’ve given up on a genre. After Super Mario 64 made 3D platforming the go-to for its era, a steady supply of the bastards quickly made them appear more and more alike. More recently, FPS games were seemingly releasing once a month ever since Halo proved that consoles can handle the genre without compromise. If you want me to play a FPS now, it damn well better bring something interesting to the table.

The silver-lining is that the burnout I experienced for those genres was short lived. My burnout from MMOs may follow a similar pattern. Or, in keeping with the much longer period of my life that I have dedicated to the genre, I may be in for a long falling out. It’s safe to say that I am skipping The Elder Scrolls Online and WildStar. I have zero faith in SOE and their next EverQuest game. I am interested in Destiny but only because Bungie’s name is attached. I suppose I have become a little more interested in Warlords of Draenor though not seriously. Besides, that’s far enough away that my life may be entirely different!

Blogging won’t stop but MMORPG articles will be rarer. I don’t intend to quit reading about the MMO experiences of my fellow bloggers, as well as commenting. I’ll likely continue to throw out reblogs on occasion. You may never notice a difference, but considering MMOs are why I started blogging in the first place, it is strangely surreal to have come full circle. One hobby has overwritten the other, I suppose.

In the future, I hope to look back on this moment and realize, “I just needed to step out so I could have the perseverance to be patient.” I am tired of standing around, but its far too difficult to stop waiting completely on such an old love. Especially when the fire is nothing more than coals and embers, barely warm enough to notice.

14 comments

  1. In some ways consider it a benefit that you arrived at this point sooner rather than later. I’ve radically changed my outlook on MMOs and they’ll never be as significant to me as they were in late 2008, early 2009.

    Change is all part of life rich pageant and other old bollocks. Just keep blogging because I like the cut of your Jib young man.

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    1. I’ve legged it out for a long time trying to get back to where I was, but the failings of Guild Wars 2 and the genres inability to appeal to me since were the real final straws.

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  2. The older I get, the more life seems like a series of snapshots. Point-in-time slots that can never be fully reproduced. This is especially true when you have children. You tend to spend so much time steeped in the kid “stuff” (some of it very annoying stuff, like diapers, car seats, potty training, sleeplessness) and then one day you wake up and realize that you’re in a different phase of life, and you will never experience that other phase in exactly the same way again.

    I attended a reunion this last summer for my high school class. The first hour or so was pretty fun, catching up with people and the like. Unfortunately, there was a whole day’s worth of activities planned, and as the day wore on, people eventually gravitated towards the groups with whom they were already familiar and comfortable. Since I have moved away, I didn’t really have one of these ‘groups’ any more. I knew these people at one time, but I don’t any more, Like you said, it’s the same, but different. I’m in a different phase of life now, and by the end of the evening, I couldn’t wait to get out of there and back to my family.

    The funny thing is, I’ve pretty much learned to enjoy the phase I’m in at the moment, because it will never happen exactly this way again. Perhaps it’s time for a new “phase” for you. It may be just as rewarding and fulfilling as the one you have just exited.

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    1. That’s probably the case. I am in a really inbetween funk pretty much across the board right now. Not sure where to go, what to do, etc. I am floating!

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  3. Is there an MMO today that even resembles the ones that you played in nostalgia times? Market has shifted, we’ve grown up, it’s ok to move on. The good news is that in terms of game options, we have more than vanilla and chocolate. It’s ben and jerry time.

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    1. I’d be curious to see how you explain Ben and Jerry in a market that only serves neapolitan. Every big MMO is a poor attempt at tossing every flavor into one bowl.

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      1. stop playing big mmos? I’ve had more fun in Nevewinter than any other MMO in 2 years (outside a stint in ff14). Some other niche games are great as they focus on 1 or 2 things.

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  4. I recently came back around to playing MMOs, but I refuse to play them like a job, and that’s what the grindy MMOs require. I didn’t touch one for 3 years, though I’ve been back in EQ2 for a couple of months and really haven’t played all that much. I see glimpses of games that look intriguing enough, and I’ll always enjoy other’s adventures, but I’m not sure when/if we’ll ever see another that really sucks me in and creates a great community.

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  5. I think many MMO players wish they could capture that feeling they had when they first started playing. That feeling of there being boundless possibilities, and endless adventure. I felt it back when I first started playing text MUDs, and someone who just discovered their first MMO today probably feels that exact same feeling.

    But, another game cannot easily live up to that. Especially for anyone who cares enough to start blogging, you start to understand the scope and limits of what can be done. The boundaries become obvious as you run into yet another invisible wall.

    It probably doesn’t help that MMOs are in the doldrums currently. New games don’t seem to have that spark that get people excited. It’s possible the audience is just too jaded, it could be that other genres are stealing away MMO players, but I’d like to think that new games aren’t really pushing boundaries like they should. It seems new games are trying to be too big and trying to go for too wide an audience.

    So, I wouldn’t give up on MMOs yet. Keep an eye out. I honestly think that EQ Next is going to seriously shake things up; it may not be your cup of tea from what you’ve read yet, but my gut feeling is that it’ll get people interested in the potential of MMOs again.

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  6. I with others saying the market, has unfortunate changed. I’ve just started playing mmo’s llike they are games, occasionally diggin in but them being supplemented with far more.

    I still believe prospects for the genre are high though, there is a lot to be excited about coming up in the industry. maybe not dramatic shifts but there is a certain trajectory towards more sandbox elements. It’s dramatic but it’s coming.

    There are still a lot of smaller interesting titles around though if you want those elements.. you wont get amazing graphics thoguh

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