Dual Wielding: A series featuring two bloggers writing on one topic and answering the question, “If the pen is mightier than the sword, what happens when you dual wield?”
Make sure you don’t miss Kunzay’s take: Dual Wielding: one or many?
Is it wrong to play more than one MMO? More specifically, if you are playing multiple MMOs by cycling through several throughout the week or switching titles from month to month, are you “doing it wrong”? That’s the question Kunzay of Party Business and I set out to answer this week with our first pair of posts in a cooperative blogging project we’re referring to as Dual Wielding. Both Kunzay and I have spent time searching for that one MMO to call home operating under the assumption that this is the correct way to approach the genre. It wasn’t until I began reading Massively-that-was (now Massively OP) and the many adventures of Justin Olivetti who often plays four or five games over the course of one week that I began to consider the legitimacy of this alternative.
Having now approached the genre both ways for at least a year apiece, I would argue that both are valid approaches, but like many things in life choosing one way will limit your experience of the other and for some that potential loss is haunting. However, for the sake of enjoying the hobby of MMO gaming, you must ask yourself, “do I prefer depth, or diversity?” and once answering the question, press onward without looking back.
In order to establish the difference between depth and diversity, let’s consider combat classes in MMOs. There are those who exclusively play a single class in one MMO; Matthew Rossi of Blizzard Watch comes to mind. Matt I believe has four or five max level warriors in World of Warcraft spanning both factions. Before WoW Insider (his previous writing gig) shut down class columns, Matt had written weekly about warriors for roughly seven years. Very few people could tell you the ins and outs of the class not only as it stands now but also as it has been over the life of the game as well as Rossi. He exhaustively understands how the class works, where its weaknesses lie, and how it can best be utilized in any given situation.
But let’s assume hypothetically that Rossi is a WoW purist and has never played a warrior in any other MMO. While he may totally understand the strengths and weaknesses of the class within the context of the game he plays and the historical iterations of that class over the years, that context is quite narrow. Another player focusing on the same class but across six or seven MMOs would lack the same depth but would have a far better grasp of the warrior “essence” as an MMO archetype overall. This player who favors diversity will more quickly identify blind spots in Warcraft’s execution of the class and will have a broader resource of experience to draw from when considering improvements to class design. Depth of experience enhances your ability to fix the object of your expertise. Diversity better positions you to reinvent it.
One set of characteristics isn’t “better” than the other, but they are different. And the decision to focus on one must of necessity be at the exclusion of the other. There is only so much one can learn and experience in a lifetime; even less when it comes to MMOs because you’re talking about a single hobby amidst many other needs and interests generally of greater importance. And so you have to make a decision as to which specialization you will pursue (even choosing diversity is a type of specialization) and come to terms with the consequences or else you will find yourself quite anxious over all those imagined or real missed opportunities. Instead, I say place those “what ifs” on a raft, set them out to sea, and torch that pyre with a flaming arrow from shore so that you can get back to the business of enjoying your hobby. It will always be either/or, not both/and. Coming to terms with this reality and figuring out where your priorities lie will help you determine how you want to approach this genre and grant peace of mind over what you will be missing.
Some of you will notice that I have not touched on the social aspects of MMO gameplay. For many gamers that is the primary reason this issue comes into question in the first place. It is assumed (rightly, I think) that playing multiple games inhibits your ability to build lasting relationships with other players in an MMO community. Personally, this does not have a large impact on my gameplay and so I see it as a secondary issue. When I first started playing MMOs I spent a large amount of time in a single game and developed ties to my guild but not strong enough to soothe my wanderlust. Since then I’ve developed a kind of community through websites like Massively OP, the blogosphere, Twitter, and by participating in a multi-game guild. It’s not the same as my first social experience with MMOs, but it suits my preferences and goals within the genre and I’m happy with it. When you’re a virtual world traveler, the best you can hope for is to find a few people who enjoy traveling as well and share stories along the way.
Is it wrong to play multiple MMOs? Does it go against the spirit of the genre? No, but it is a limiting factor and will change your gaming experience, as will focusing on only one MMO. The important conclusion to draw here is not the rightness of whichever side of the line you fall, but that you must chose an approach that best aligns with your preferences, interests, and goals and say goodbye to those things that will naturally be excluded so that you can enjoy all the genre has to offer in the way you decide to explore it. Renowned local historian or pervasive world traveler? The choice is yours. Choose wisely and be content with your choice.
Otherwise, you’re doing it wrong.