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.