My name is Adam and I have a problem. I have a terrible addiction to MMORPGs.
I’ve been desperately trying to avoid this for years. I’ve reached the point where I just can’t even check new MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games for those who get off on having acronyms expanded for you) out, because before long I am spending all my waking hours (and a lot of the ones I’m supposed to be asleep for) pointlessly completing repetitive tasks and grinding for slight increases in armour and stats so that maybe, just maybe, I won’t die in one hit from some ridiculous multi-party boss.
I never actually tried out World of Warcraft, an omission that is probably the only reason why I haven’t totally fallen apart at the seams and become dangerously unhealthy like the kids in the ‘Make Love Not Warcraft’ episode of South Park. I know people who can’t play video games at all now because of how crippling their addiction to that game was, and have seen the childlike glee they have during a games night that confirmed that they can never go back, for fear of their work and personal life crumbling around them as they behead orcs, cackling like a serial killer.
No, my first fall was Final Fantasy XI. I have always been a big fan of the Final Fantasy series, so getting heavily into an online world populated by the mainstays of those games was easy. Even easier was that a decent group of my school friends started at the same time, almost making up a full party of character roles. I was the tank, a Warrior/Ninja ‘HannibalKing’ with dual axes and shadow clones. I’m not really sure why I chose that, because being a tank is boring as hell. During the weekends and holidays we would often LAN party it up, all set up with numerous TVs, consoles and PCs, all while endlessly watching Futurama episodes and eating Doritos. It was a simpler time. What made this possible was that we were still in school, with part time jobs that didn’t take up too much of our time, and had free evenings and weekends and zero responsibility. We were also young, and our bodies could tolerate all-nighter video game sessions without feeling like we wanted to expire the next day.
Eventually it largely became myself and one other friend still playing it heavily. He actually ended up getting further into the game, trying out a lot more of the end game content. I never reached the level cap at the time, I think it was 70 and I was still in the early 60s. When I finally gave up it was taking me all night to find a party to play with, and in the rare occasions I did it would then take about an hour to get to the rest of the group, across areas where anything could kill me in one hit, followed by an entire late night of stressful and focused gameplay where maybe, just maybe I would level up once. And that is if no one left the party, leaving us to search for a replacement for at least another hour. Anyway, eventually I quit. Looking back and trying to remember my stats at the end, I want to think that my in-game time had just passed 31 days of playing, but I fear it was actually closing in on 60 days. 2 months. And a lot of that was waiting for a party. I won’t get that time back.
The second MMO I fell very badly into was the action RPG DC Universe Online. Being a DC comics fan, this was essentially a perfect trap created just for me. There was a gorgeous Blur trailer, and two of my flatmates during my first stint of living in London tempted me in. Shockingly, I made a terrible Batman clone with a hood and a massive rifle, and played as a damage dealer (all the fun of damage, none of the responsibility of actually doing anyway helpful!). Getting quests from the various DC heroes in the Justice League Watchtower was fantastic, and joining a League with my flatmates meant we could play together in the end game content with other high level players. The level cap was 30, which you could get to through single player missions in a about week (*cough* a day). The end game content with raids was where the game opened out, and you could gradually, achingly slowly, improve your skills and armour by grabbing Marks to buy them. I was pretty fortunate to be in a good League, but it did mean committing yourself days in advance to a raid at a later night that week, and when you get invited out to the pub replying with “Sorry, I’m taking on Brainiac’s Avatar of Magic on Themyscira with my League tonight” is likely to confuse people.
I have no idea how much time I sunk into DCUO in the end. It was a lot. It became a massive time sink for me, signing in every single day to complete the same bounties or daily missions to finish sets of armour that didn’t even boost my stats, but would get me a few feat points that would mean I could increase my strength by one point or something equally undeserving of the hours I put in. But eventually, as with FFXI, I quit. And with both games it wasn’t a gradual loss of interest, and there wasn’t even a single trigger event that pissed me off. I just had an epiphany, a moment of clarity, and lost interest entirely.
I play a lot of video games, and I over-complete almost all of them. But actually completing a game, and finishing off its story (regardless of whether it has a good ending) is for me an essential part of a game, and that is why I do eventually, inexorably drop out of an MMO even if I am good at it. I realise there is no end to the game, no final battle and no conclusion. The only definitive end to one of these online games for me is to stop playing them, and unless it is a total cut off then I still feel like I’m wasting time in it without actually fully appreciating the scope of the game. On both occasions by this point there were at least ten new games that I really wanted to play, but fully committing to an MMO already meant that I was failing whatever level of education I was currently engaged in, or later neglecting my friends and slowly killing myself through sleep deprivation. So I quit, and despite the draws of trying out Final Fantasy XIV (after I heard good things following A Realm Reborn) or all the talk of the Elder Scrolls MMO, I drew a line under MMOs in all their forms. I’d never have time for them and I’d never finish them, so I would be far better served by keeping the time free for games with an actual ending. I was done.
Like anyone who has gotten so ruinously drunk that they have debased themselves, alienated their friends and are now suffering through the worst hangover ever, insisting that they will never, ever drink again, every time I leave an MMO I say I’m done. And just like every time I drink again after the previous aborted attempt to replace my blood with whisky, I somehow fell into another online game just by ‘checking it out’.
This time it was Destiny, and I was hoodwinked in by the game not on the face of it being an MMORPG. Except that it is. It’s a 1st person shooter, but upgrading your weapons and armour, collecting materials and carrying out bounties are all RPG stalwarts. Despite its many flaws, like being largely bereft of story or the server issues (being booted out of a mission I was playing on my own and having to restart the whole thing is ridiculous, and giving the error a whimsical name like ‘bee’ or ‘weasel’ only makes me more irritated) the gameplay is a lot of fun, and it is a stunning looking game.
I realised the other day that I had let it happen again. I found myself logging in to Destiny just to complete daily bounties, both PvP and PvE, for no discernible reason. Any armour upgrades and weapons I’m now likely to get can only be found by chance or in raids that I don’t trust my internet connection to get me through. I’m fully locked in to another MMO, but without anyone I know to play with, incredibly annoying connection issues, a story I wish was more fleshed out and without being part of a clan (also the lack of easy communication and matchmaking for some of the harder stuff too) means that I’m less connected to it than I usually would be. I care less, but I am still committing the same painful amount of time into it. Just one more Crucible game, maybe I’ll get that 5th Portmortem medal to complete my daily bounty, and get slightly closer to being able to get that weapon I don’t need and won’t use! Oh its 1 am.
I think I’m done with Destiny too. If anything writing this has been a catharsis and has released me from the need to play it. I don’t at all judge people that do play and enjoy online games, either MMORPGs or the multitude of 1st person shooters, that’s very important to point out. If that’s your bag, and you can engage with these games without it overcoming your life (or it does and you’re fine with that), more power to you. I just can’t do it. I don’t have the time to spare, because the amount of time I automatically commit to these games is so heavy that I never get anything else done. All or nothing, and I have to choose nothing. I’m done with MMOs once and for all.
Oooh wait, isn’t Firefly Online coming out soon?