Play the game, don’t let the game play you!

I spent a lot of time playing LOTRO this weekend. For the first half I was playing my baby Rune Keeper (who hit 26) and having some fun but after a while I got the urge to see some new sights, so I switched back to my Champion “main” who, you’ll be amused to hear, is level 41. Yes, I’ve been playing since launch (though he wasn’t my first character), and yes, he is my highest level.

I’ve been avoiding playing him though. Every time I do, I feel like I’m treading water and not making any progress. I’d play for a few hours and it would seem like the exp bar hadn’t moved. I remembered my Champion being really fun, so what happened?

Finally tonight it dawned on me. I wasn’t playing LOTRO. LOTRO was playing me. When the Yule Festival hit I started hanging out around Bree to do daily quests to get tokens and my horse. After that I rode up to the North Downs and started chipping away at those quests. I have a ton of Fellowship Quests that were green or even gray, but I was trying to solo them. That meant they’d take a long time, and often I’d fail. Even if I didn’t, the experience I got for the quest wasn’t much, and the experience I got for killing baddies along the way was even less.

So why was I doing them? Because I have this freaky A-B-C personality. I don’t like jumping around in a sequence so I always find myself trying to complete my lowest level quests no matter what. Even though I was having no fun, I felt compelled to try to finish these quests. In effect, LOTRO was controlling me, rather than the other way around (OK really my own neuroses were controlling me, via the structure of LOTRO).

Tonight I finally shook myself loose from that mentality and headed to Evendim, an area that has lots of solo quests that are light blue. I immediately started finding the joy in LOTRO again, which is why I’m writing this post when I should be in bed.

I’m sharing this mostly for my future self. Maybe the next time I let a personality quirk start sucking the fun out of a game I’ll come back and re-read this post. These are games we’re playing. We should play them in such a way that they’re fun for us. Not the way someone says we’re “supposed” to play, nor should we approach them like they’re a chore to be dealt with. If you’re playing and not having fun, go find something else to do in your game. And if there isn’t anything else, then just take a break.

Now all that said, I’m really going to miss out on a lot of content if I skip all the Fellowship Quests (with the skirmish system we can all level to max without doing Fellowship Quests if we choose to). But I’m not a big fan of PUGs. So I’m thinking it might be time to find a Kinship on Landroval. But I’m not sure there’s a Kinship out there that I’d be comfortable in. Nor am I sure it’s the right time to be looking for a Kinship with Star Trek Online a few weeks out. I figure I’ll be playing that one pretty heavy when it launches, and LOTRO will go unplayed for a month or two (the beauty of a Lifetime Sub).

Side-tracking and late night blathering at this point so I’ll just stop. But future me (and dear readers), don’t make the mistake I made. Don’t do in-game things that you *should* do. Do in-game things that you *want* to do and that are fun!

14 thoughts on “Play the game, don’t let the game play you!

  1. Reading this reminded me of the fact that I’m having some feeling of ennui right now with regard to gaming.

    I talked about it in my own post at but basically, I felt as if I was playing games because they were there, even if it wasn’t fun anymore.

    Then I realized I needed a change, so I unsubbed LOTRO and tried EQ2, and the fun came back. That, or maybe it’s because the new experience is refreshing, or something like that.

  2. I definitely done my share of grey quests and deeds where it started to feel like work. That said, I’ve found that either doing them with people or just varying my activities helps. With crafting, skirmishes, and so many different areas available it isn’t too hard to do a little A one night, then B the next, then C, and then back to A or B depending on your mood. The whole thing about playing in a way that’s fun for you is a great way to look at it and gave me flashbacks to EQ and “the Vision”, so glad that’s gone.

    On the kinship front, come on over to and try it out. You can join me, Azz, Merric, and Goldenstar. It is a pretty relaxed group and might be a good fit for you.

  3. Hear hear!

    This is why I’ve stopped logging in to EQ2 this weekend. Bonus xp weekends are almost hateful to me — if I feel I HAVE to do a given activity when I log in, I don’t want to log in at all. And that nagging isn’t as easy to ignore as I hope, since everyone else is wittering on about making use of all the yummy extra xp.

    It finally hit me. What for do I need bonus xp? I have no problem whatsoever levelling crafters — I enjoy the process, so I don’t need to shortcut it — and as for adventurers, bleh. They’ll level someday, or probably not. Why level anyway? I have no need for maxed-out chars and I have absolutely no need to max them out just for the sake of it — that’s never been a valid goal for me in MMOs.

  4. Thanks, Pete! This is something I’ll ALSO be referring to when I start to get that “I don’t want to be here” feeling in my games.

    I’m not an altaholic, so I usually let myself fade away when my only character runs into that wall that I can’t seem to progress beyond. I’ve since started creating at least ONE alt, in a totally different area and totally different class, just to get away from the annoyances of my main. The only issue I have with LotRO, though, is that it converges at some point for all races (which is understandable, given the story).

    But as a traditional soloist, I understand what you mean about the possibility of kinding a kin to join with. Most of the time, I join but never get to actually JOIN…It’s mainly for the conversation (since general chat is such a cesspool :D), and that makes the game feel a little less lonely when traveling, or slogging through repetitive content.

  5. @Ysharros Oh man, I remember that feeling in EQ2. “I was going to do X but since there’s bonus XP I’d better do why and not fritter around…gotta get max use out of the bonus XP!”

    Luckily for me, LOTRO generally couples bonus XP with welcome back weeks, and welcome back weeks historically have meant queues so I avoid the game during them (no idea if it still means queues).

    @BlueKae I have a friend in Secret Fire who comes back to LOTRO about once a year, for about a month, and is always amazed that he hasn’t been booted from the Kinship. So if they keep him around maybe they really would put up with me! 🙂

    @Victor – Exactly the same with me. I find myself playing a game, or doing some particular thing in a game, more because that’s what I have been doing than because its what I really *want* to be doing!

  6. @Scopique – Opps, we cross-posted. I’m just the opposite when it comes to a Kinship. I want a pool of players I can reach out to so that we can all help each other get group content done, but I don’t really want to talk to anyone. 🙂 As chatty as I am on services like Twitter, in-game I’m fairly quiet and — I don’t know how to say this without sounding mean — I don’t really want to listen to other people go on about their kid spilling his milk on the floor or their car needing a new transmission.

    I find the whole concept of “Let me join a guild and then become friends with people on it.” to be very cart before the horse. I’d much rather make some friends and then join a guild with them. I wish our little twitter-group could all get into the same game, for instance. But in the meanwhile I’ll keep my twitter client running at the same time I’m in-game!

    @Stargrace — Maybe one of these days we’ll both be online long enough to do some adventuring together! When I saw you the other day I was trying to finish up some stuff in Far Chetwood. I didn’t want to ever have to ride back out there again, and anyway I couldn’t place where you were. Some Dwarf or Elvish sounding place. 🙂

  7. At your level you sould head up to Aughaire and the quests in that area (Angmar).
    Even with our skirmishs there are numberous ways to level to 50 without doing each area. That way when you being an alt up you can level him up with different quests.
    Misty Mountains (Western area) and Trollshaws are good for your level as well.
    My champion is level 47 and just entered Forochel. I could use another track and take him in to Eregion and start him on the legendary item quests and get him in to Moria.
    So many paths….

  8. I stopped playing LOTRO regularly when I realized that I was no longer questing for story, but had begun questing to level. Unfortunately I’ve never been able to get back to questing for story, but that has become my standard: if I’m doing something just to increase a bar and not because I’m genuinely interested in the outcome, I’m out. As you can imagine, I tend to shun XP weekends like the plague, even in games like Guild Wars :).

  9. The quests for the later chapters of volume 1 are just outstanding but one needs to be in the mid 40’s up and in groups to finish a lot of the chapters. We tried with three level 65’s to do one of the chapters in book 15 and we could not do it.

  10. Hmmm, I was first thinking when I read this “I never do that” But then I realized I DO do that Pete. I do it when I work so hard to build up a guild or friends just so we can have some fun together. Now, sometimes that really pays off and sometimes its just fun to help. But I need to be careful not to insist that everyone make it. People need to pay the price on their own (at least until games become less grindy) And I need to have fun regardless of if they can all make it or not.

  11. I really enjoyed this article. I find I force my self into this position often. I turn the game into work, so I burn out. I find it happens when I create an alt. Me and my two room-mates ALWAYS start new games together. We always end up leveling up pretty evenly. I then decide to roll alts, and get behind. I then start thinking I have to catch up and it turns into work and I stop having a desire to log in.

    Not the same thing, but similar. The next game I try, I am going to make my goal to player, enjoy the scenery, and just be merry! 🙂


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