The Evolving Gamer: Time vs. Reward In MMO’s

I’ve really been thinking a lot over the past few days about what has changed for MMO players over the past few months that has really led to this slump in excitement for the games we love. While this hasn’t happened to everyone, there are still a great deal of gamers who can’t really seem to find that game that really gets their blood flowing. There are potentially dozens of reasons, but I want to take a closer look at one or two of the reasons here. Rather than look at the any events that have or haven’t taken place lately, I decided to look at the bigger picture. What has changed in the past ten or so years that has really caused our perceptions to shift and our desire to play our favorite genre less or with less enthusiasm?

I think one of the biggest changes that we have seen as gamers is actually not related to the games at all, but rather changes that have taken place in our lives. Many of our lives were radically different when we first started playing MMO’s compared to how they are now. Many of us were high school and college students when we first started playing MMO’s, but this isn’t the case anymore. We have graduated and moved into the work force with many starting families and buying homes. These things are all going to drastically change the way we play our games, both in terms of our perspective towards the game and also in terms of how much time we can realistically spend playing them. I want to focus most specifically on the element of time.

It should be pretty obvious that if we have less time to play MMO’s, we are going to try to do all we can to squeeze as much enjoyment and entertainment out of the time that we do have. I remember sitting in Fort Tethana in Asheron’s Call for hours during my summers in high school just going through vendors hoping to find good gear that people had sold. I would never consider doing this today. This then means that we aren’t going to want to spend several hours waiting for a group to form or grinding faction reputation or collecting crafting materials. We just don’t have the time for it. What this really does for me is create a system of importance. I see that I’m going to have to spend all of this relatively boring and uneventful time in game to advance my character in some way, and it causes me to question what I could be getting done away from the game. Even if it’s not something important, like watching a TV show or playing the XBox instead, it’s still is worth pondering.

While MMO’s are after all games and should be played under the assumption that they aren’t going to be filled to the brim with usefulness and importance, they are also quite different than console games in that you invest much, much more of your time and yourself into them through your character. If you have less and less time to spend gaming and you begin to see that your time isn’t going to be spent in a worthwhile fashion, are you going to be as likely to continue playing as opposed to spending time with your family or riding your bike? This is really becoming an issue for me, and I’m beginning to wonder whether it’s the fact that I don’t really have a game to get me to reconsider this philosophy or whether this is just a part of aging and re-evaluating priorities. I certainly hope that aging and gaming aren’t mutually exclusive and I don’t think they are, so I’m going to wait it out and hope that “option a” makes itself clear to me soon.

~Kanthalos

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3 comments so far

  1. cat5e on

    Yeah, I noticed this shift in priorities, too. Getting older is quite interesting, isn’t it?. ;P

    As for the future of gaming and aging, I think it’s going to be bright. Future retirement homes will have broadband connections and computers in every apartment. MMOs and other games will cater to the then-octagenarian r0xx0r crowd. Diablo 4 Baal-runs instead of bingo… 😉

  2. kanthalos on

    LOL @ the Baal runs 😉

  3. Tesh on

    I’d suggest that the subscription model is a big element of the problem. The impulse to “squeeze as much fun” out of the game is less about playing the game itself, and more about maximizing the fun per hour ROI for your sub money. Certainly there’s the impulse to go play with friends, the completionist urge, and the Pavlovian treadmill, but as gamers age and start to try to shuffle their time priorities, the cost per hour of subscription MMOs goes up.

    I suspect some of the same troubles come up for anyone who ages and gains new responsibilities, but I also suspect there’s a marked difference in attitude between a WoW nut and a Guild Wars nut.


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