Last week for the first in a series called Dual Wielding, I wrote on the pros and cons of both staying with one MMO and playing multiple titles. I’ve been hopping around between games for a little over a year now and have been quite happy with the approach. What my post did not cover were the times I was dissatisfied. When I first began exploring new MMOs, leaving the comfort and familiarity of World of Warcraft, I was expecting to find a new long term virtual residence. Instead, I found every game to be lacking something critical and after a month or two I would move on. However, the exposure to other MMOs revealed the flaws in World of Warcraft as well such that when I returned I was still restless.
For a long time I approached every new game or revisited old ones hoping I had found “the one” only to be disappointed by the game or enticed away by another, seemingly better title. Wanting to find a home but jumping from game to game was what made me dissatisfied, and eventually I chose to embrace the multi-gaming approach and stopped looking for a home. But what if I did want to go back to the old days, what if I wanted to make a more permanent home in an MMO? Having experienced the breadth the genre has to offer, what features would I look for and which could I live without? More importantly, what changes would I have to make in my own thinking and habits?
Elliot Lefebvre of Massively OP linked this article in the comments of Kunzay’s first Dual Wielding post. It’s an older article of his in which he describes the problem of finding “the one” MMO home to be primarily with our own expectations and approach. He then compares the process of finding an MMO home to finding a long term romantic relationship. While I may have a terrible track record with staying with a single MMO, I have had success with being married to my beautiful wife now for almost eleven years. When we first met in 2001, in my youthful arrogance I thought, “if she could only see what a catch I am, she’ll date me for sure!” Now, fourteen years later, I’m painfully more aware of my own flaws and foibles and marvel at my good fortune in having married someone who is vastly my superior.
Once you’ve been exposed to the MMO genre more broadly, it’s much more difficult to be satisfied with a single game. However it isn’t impossible, and I think applying some of what I’ve learned over the years as a bumbling husband may shed some light on what it would take to find happiness in a single MMO, imperfections and all. The following are several questions that I think need to be asked if you are wanting to find a home and stop wandering through a sea of virtual worlds.
- Are you looking for a home?
This is the most obvious question but it is important to stop and answer it. Do you really want to “settle down” or are you content with dabbling in multiple MMOs? In the world of romantic relationships I would encourage anyone to pursue a lifelong, monogamous marriage over casual, nomadic dating because of the incomparable blessings that can only come from that kind of commitment. But when it comes to MMOs, it doesn’t really matter in my opinion. As I wrote before, it’s not which decision you make, but that you make a decision and stick with it and stop worrying over what you’ll miss. Maybe you’re looking for a home but when you stop and ask yourself this question, you discover you’re quite happy playing several games, in which case you should continue to do so.
- Are you willing to go without, in exchange for a home?
There will be consequences to choosing a single MMO over multi-gaming— features, mechanics, and expansion excitement that other games will offer (and which usually are more appealing in their potential than in reality) you will have to go without. Are you willing to forego those things in order to gain the benefits of playing one game long term? Would you rather experience the depth of a single game and the perks of being part of a single community or are the other options out there just too shiny?
In the world of relationships, once you are married your options for intimacy have been narrowed to one individual. There will be a lot of other interesting and attractive people out in the world and you will, of necessity, miss out on experiencing that kind of relationship with them. You can either spend your days in the fantasyland of “what ifs” or you can make the decision to ignore the rest and prepare for a lifetime spent exploring and enjoying the heart and mind of a single human being.
Similarly in gaming you will miss out on the broader genre but you will gain a deeper understanding of a single game. If you cannot let go of the fear that another MMO might be offering something better and that you’re missing out, you’re going to be unhappy playing a single game, no matter which one you chose.
- Do you enjoy the game and community enough to stay, even when “fun” is harder to come by? In other words, are you willing to work for a home?
This question is critical, and is the other side of the coin from question two. You may be enticed away because another game is offering something novel, but you may also begin to wander because the game you are playing has not offered anything new in a while and continuing to have fun requires making your own.
Relationships are no different. When the honeymoon phase is over there are times when making it fun, romantic, and exciting will not come easy. You’ll have to work for it, and your spouse may be going through a season in life in which they are not contributing much to that work. I’ve been on both sides of that situation and it is well worth it to carry or be carried in order to move forward because there is a depth of intimacy on the other side that you miss out on if you go the easy route and just find a new “honeymoon” phase.
The same will be found on the other side of sticking with a single game when the development cycle is desert dry. In fact, making your own fun with guildies or the community at large may provide to be a more fulfilling experience than waiting on the development team to do it for you.
- Are you the problem with the “stickiness” of an MMO, rather than the game itself?
Do you remember when I said what a catch I thought I was when I first met my wife? It would have been real easy for me to start courting the idea of dating other women rather than marrying her had I continued to blindly think so much of myself as her own weaknesses became apparent. Instead I became aware of my own flaws and of the difficulties she would naturally encounter being married to me and we both learned to extend grace to one another. As gamers, the situation is different. We are entitled to approaching MMOs as we would any other market, searching for the best product and expecting the developers to do all the work in keeping us happy. But if you want a home in a single MMO, you have to stop thinking like a consumer and start thinking like a community member.
When you are dissatisfied you will want to take a good look at yourself to see if some (or all) of the problem is your own habits, patterns of thought, or blind spots. Hopping from one game to the next is not a new problem for me, I’ve done the same with hobbies throughout my entire life. For years I have been jumping from one to the next looking for “the one” hobby or skillset that I can master and be the best at. Only they all end up feeling like work at some point or another hobby becomes more appealing and I move on. However the problem was never the hobbies I was choosing, it was me. I lacked commitment and I know that about myself now. That doesn’t mean I have overcome the mindset, but it does mean I am aware and can no longer blame the problem on external factors. The problem is me.
You may come to the same conclusion as you examine your own thinking about MMOs, both the one you are wanting to stick with and those that you are not playing. Is it really that game “A” is better than game “B” or is it a character flaw of your own that causes you to jump ship? Perhaps it isn’t a missing feature or a lack of new story but rather your own expectations.
Choosing to play a single MMO or to play many is not a choice you should spend many sleepless nights worrying over. If you enjoy playing multiple titles and are not interested in the benefits of playing a single game, then you should continue approaching MMOs as you have been; there is no ethical obligation to do otherwise. Regardless of your choice there are things you will miss out on and others you will uniquely experience. If you do decide to focus on a single game, be prepared to ask yourself some difficult questions and to have to make some changes in the way you think about and play MMOs. Yes, you will miss out on features and expansions in other games, but on the other side of all that limitation and hard work will be an understanding and experiencing of a game and community that you otherwise would have missed. Embedding yourself in a single game will not be easy, but if it’s what you are looking for from your MMO experience it will be well worth the effort.