Going it alone

Once again I’m riffing off other blogger’s titles. This time Moxie’s.

So I’ve kind of organically slid into a break from MMOs. I’m down to logging into Rift about once every two weeks at this point, generally with Angela who is still dabbling. Otherwise I’ve been playing single-player games.

I wasn’t sure why I’ve stopped being excited by MMOs, really, which lead to some introspection. What is it I’m looking for from my games? I think the answer to that question changes constantly, but here’s what I came up with right now.

Progress. There’re two levels of progress that I enjoy. The first is in-game. Advancing to a new zone, reaching a new level, learning a new skill. Basically ticking off a checkbox from a list. I think that’s a basic ‘itch’ in a lot of people; I’ve known folks who’ll go back and add ‘interrupt-driven tasks’ to their To-Do list after they’ve been completed, just so that they could then check them off.

I’ve had this itch since I was a kid, really. Before there were video games or personal computers, I’d undergo weird projects like re-typing a dictionary or a volume of an encyclopedia. Why? Well, clearly I was a crazy child, and loved the satisfaction of finishing a letter or whatever (in theory…I never got very far on these projects). Plus any excuse to use such a cool gadget as a typewriter…

The bigger Progress is finishing stuff. I love the feeling of satisfaction I get from finishing a game (or a book). I don’t (in the case of games) do this very often. I’m very ADD when it comes to games; my interests are extremely broad and my time is fairly limited. I literally don’t have time to play even a fraction of the games I’m interested in. But in a single player game, the possibility, at least, exists. You can certainly be ‘done with’ an MMO but you’re never going to see those closing credits, right?

The second thing I’m looking for is Narrative, or story. As has been pointed out by many people, a mediocre single player storyline is generally better than the best MMO stories, just because the world can morph and change to support the story and that one character who the story revolves around. MMOs have lore, but not a lot of story. This, at least, is true until you get to higher levels; I’ve heard about some pretty interesting storylines that happen in dungeons in some MMOs.

But I never get to dungeons since I play solo, so all the content in the dungeons of MMOs, which is often the best content (from what I read, anyway), may as well not exist as far as I’m concerned.

And that’s another issue. I’m a single-player gamer. I always have been. Again, going back to the days before video games, I used paper & cardboard chit wargames as a place to escape to in the way a lot of unhappy kids escape into books (I did some of that, too). I always preferred tactical games because I’d have stories in my head about the various units. Essentially I translated the make-believe games little kids perform with plastic army men into more elaborate make-believes stories about soldiers involved in house-to-house fighting in WWII, or the captains of tall ships sailing under Nelson’s flag. I was role-playing before there were role-playing games, I guess.

Here at the other end of my life, I’m reverting to the same kind of thing, in a more adult manner. After a long day of work and chores and work, I’m really enjoying slipping into someone else’s skin via playing a single player game. I *can* do that, to a certain extent, in an MMO, but it isn’t as peaceful. I always have people jarring me out of my reverie via just being people, y’know? (This is also one of the great strengths of MMOs; it’s all about context and what you need.) For the same reason, I have zero interest in playing non-MMO multiplayer games, even though when I hear twitter friends talking about their gaming sessions I feel a bit envious because it does sound like they’re having fun.

I generally get around to gaming time about 10 pm, though, and by then I’m feeling pressed for time so don’t want to have to fiddle about, and I’m sick and tired of dealing with people, even people who I love, so really need that alone time to recharge.

I’m also, honestly, tired of the MMO community as a community. There are a lot of MMO players out there who I am very legitimately fond of, but the ‘chorus’ of the community is starting to grate on me a bit. We just seem to recycle the same old arguments and debates and, when playing, I can’t help but be drawn in, almost against my will. Now that I’m not playing MMOs, a lot of the discussions (Is SW:TOR just WoW reskinned!!?!) just wash over me. I hear them, but I don’t really care about them enough to get into it.

Like Scopique, I’m just kind of tired of the bitching. Single player gamers bitch too, but I don’t know many of them so I don’t hear it very often. 🙂

Of course, the downside to all of this is that I no longer have a lot to say to my friends, which makes me worry that I’ll lose them as friends.

I also know that my gaming habits are like a huge pendulum, and eventually what I want from a game is going to be a vibrant, living world to explore, and those can only be found in MMOs, so eventually I know I’ll go back and I’ll be posting here about how lifeless and dull single player games are!

11 thoughts on “Going it alone

  1. Friends are always friends, no matter the space or distance between conversations. 🙂 I rarely ever play something that the masses are playing, and some times I have nothing at all to say, but I know that if I’m having a bad day my friends will still be there. Even if they are only on twitter 😉

    Have fun doing what you love to do – it doesn’t matter where you do it! 🙂

  2. Absolutely. I’m finding less interest in gaming these days, oddly enough. I sit down at the computer, or look at the TV and can’t think of anything I have that I want to play. I’m kinda worried, because this IS my primary hobby; I don’t watch TV, and I’ve found that prolonged reading gives me a physical pain in my neck (I apparently need some kind of rig to hold the book over my head XD ).

    I like being passionate about games, even though it’s recreation, which I find no different from those who spend a lot of time thinking about, talking about, writing about and experiencing sports, or TV shows or what-have-you. But I agree 100%: it really feels like we’ve said everything that really needs to be said. I don’t read the “mega-bloggers” (you know the ones) because they seem to be the worst offenders of rehashing the same arguments about the same games.

    Still, the MMO world isn’t really moving forward in any meaningful way. I enjoy playing LotRO with my wife, now, and CO with my local friends, but otherwise, I’m finding it difficult to want to log in to anything. I probably won’t renew Rift after the 6 month sub expires, and despite the attractive $20 price of the Station Pass, I don’t know if I’ll bite at the current time. Heck, even the games I was working on making have fallen out of favor. I apparently need a new hobby 😀

  3. Something has fundamentally changed, but I can’t really put my finger on it. I would just say that we the gamers have changed, but problem is I am seeing comments like this from all manner of “public” gamers like ourselves and “private” friends. Some are quitting wow, some are quitting eq2, others rift, but across the board they all seem to have this indescribable feeling that something is just off.

    It has been a pretty jarring change for me, while I am not quite as far down the rabbits hole as you describe, I am definitely thinking this is probably where I am headed as well. I went from leading a 600+ character guild, and leading raids in wow to not caring about any of those things in a one month rapid progression. I moved over to Rift, almost as my Methodone to the drug that was WoW, but even here I find myself not really caring about the game as much as I did wow. I think I am more enamored with the company behind the game, and seeing the kind of support they give the community rather than the gameplay itself.

    I find myself restlessly flitting from game to game on most nights, looking for something that doesn’t give me that “been there, done that” feeling. There is alot of the console market I have not explored, but ultimate most of those games give me the feeling that I am playing an interactive movie. Cut scenes perforated with brief moments of gameplay just are not fun for me. I miss the days when you could turn on a game and get into the gameplay in moments, rather than having to wade through 30 mins of cinematics.

    I really don’t want to be done with gaming, it has been “my thing” since the Atari. It was that thing that broke up the lonely boredom of being an only child. However more and more, it just feels like there is something missing. I still like hanging out with my friends online, and I still enjoy moments of games like rift, but across the board I just can’t see myself ever being that committed to any one title.

  4. After getting thoroughly pissed at LOTRO’s announcement that Isengard would raise the level cap by 10, I haven’t played at all since then. Just the bits of STO and CO once or twice a week. APB did a number on my RSI, but at least I know now that even after a decade of being careful, I need to time myself to roughly 30 minutes of heavy mouse gaming then call it quits.

    So, back to the 360 for me. Personally, I love the majority of single-player games out there because they’re so engaging in ways MMOs haven’t come close to yet. Multi-player obviously, I love. Especially co-op.

    Oh, and just because you claim you’re anti-social or don’t like other players, etc. I fully expect you to get your (how’d you say it? Anti-social and whiny-voiced? LOL) self into Dead Island with us because I have PROOF: http://twitter.com/#!/pasmith/status/78528964020281344 MUHUHAHAHA so we’re holding you to it. OR ELSE! LOL :p~

    The only real problem I’ve had recently is Oblivion. That (and Fallout 3) is the only single-player game I can think of where I just feel so incredibly alone and bored. I ended up forming an XBL Party with Aaron just so he could talk to me while he played his Oblivion game too. I hope Skyrim ups the ante with having an engaging, interactive world WITH STUFF TO DO because the previous two games I’ve played certainly leave much to be desired in that regard.

  5. Unlike a lot of gamers, I didn’t play MMOs to be social. I played them for the massive open worlds so rare for single-player games. Oblivion is infinitely better in that regard. Games like Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Just Cause 2, Crackdown and Saints Row also fill that niche for me. I’m an explorer-type gamer, so I love being able to wander around interact with virtual worlds in a wide variety of ways.

    Scott and others seem to prefer more linear adventures… but not the interactive film crap you mention. Quicktime events are a joke. Mass Effect 2 is good middle ground between open and linear gameplay. Arkham Asylum is the best game of last year, in my opinion.

    Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is apparently intended as a prelude to a future MMO. It seems worth keeping an eye on.

    Anyway, I’ll probably pick up Dead Island along with Scott and Paul. One of the reasons I’m interested is that, unlike Left 4 Dead, is seems fun as a single-player experience as well. I might wait for reviews before grabbing it, though.

  6. I use to look for the social interaction in MMOs. I have made a few friends in the past from playing WoW etc and although I still keep in touch with these folk, I don’t playing in an MMO with them.

    Due to time differences, multiplayer with friends from the US never seem to get off the ground – not that I’m altogether bothered by this.

    Single player worlds are what interest me the most in gaming these days. I do hope devs look to advance the boundaries of single player experience & not dismiss it in favour for multiplayer.

    I too go it alone…

  7. I too have lost enthusiasm for Rift and haven’t logged in for days. I recently enjoyed Assassin’s Creed II but my main pastime has been World of Tanks. I used to play BF1942, and WoT is like BF1942’s tank battles done right.

    I’m looking forward to Guild Wars 2 because it seems ArenaNet is innovating and improving many of the things I don’t like about MMOs. Conversely, nothing I’ve seen about SW:TOR seems the least bit interesting.

    @Belghast, so true that “Cut scenes perforated with brief moments of gameplay just are not fun for me.” Why can’t more developers emulate Valve’s method to eliminate cutscenes?

  8. I could have written the same things. I stopped logging into Rift a couple of weeks after I hit 50, because I ran out of things to do. I loved the journey, but it was way too short. I have characters at the level cap in a handful of MMOs (WoW, Rift, AoC, LOTRO, EQ2, WAR), but my favorite part is leveling. I don’t have the time or patience to commit to the raiding endgame thing that’s the goal of all these games now. So I level up, kick around for a bit and then move on to something else.

    I don’t have the patience for the community anymore either. I’m just a cranky old lady, I think. I’ll start being a more social player when the majority of people stop acting like asses. (Now excuse me while I tell some kids to get off my lawn!)

  9. this post and the comments by Scopique and Belghast echo my sentiments as well. i’ve practically quit video gaming. but i’ve found another drug – Warhammer tabletop gaming. reading the gotrek & felix novels piqued my interest in the lore or “fluff” as the tabletop gamers call it. right now i’m thoroughly enjoying reading about the various armies in addition to starting my own army(modeling and painting included) and playing a game or two. i think the main reason i’m liking it so much is the fact that it is something real coupled with the fact that imagination is required and even encouraged. i doubt i ever “seriously” play video games again (at least as long as i can find someone near to game with).

  10. I wrote this post on my lunch hour and right after that my day kind of went to shit, so I didn’t have time to respond in any thoughtful way to all your comments, and now it’s getting late.

    But I wanted to say thanks to you all. It’s nice to hear that I’m not way out on the fringe and that there are other folk out there who feel the same way.

    I will say in particular that I share this feeling that being a gamer is kind of part of who I am. If I stopped playing games, I don’t know what I’d do besides work. Watch TV I guess. But that sounds like a dismal existence.

    I love the idea of Warhammer tabletop because yeah, there’s something physical to it. I even tried to get into it once, but I didn’t have much of a knack for painting minis, and now my eyes are too bad and my hands aren’t steady enough to take it on. Getting old sucks!

    Guild Wars 2 does sound like it might be something different enough to draw me back in. I’m also thinking about LOTRO a bit just to go through the solo versions of the story missions (they all have solo versions now, right?)

    Anyway, thanks again to each and every one of you. You all really were the only bright points of an otherwise crappy (due to work stuff, nothing wrong in my personal life) day.

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