I was toying with the idea logging in to The Secret World today. There’s been a lot of internet chatter about the game of late, mainly due to Funcom’s ongoing woes. I was smitten with a mixture of nostalgia regarding the game, especially the quality of its storytelling. Just for a fraction of a second I felt bad for not having played for a long time and even considered my current liking for other MMOs to be disloyal. However I quickly realised that such thinking is nonsensical and was reminded of the old adage about time being a finite quantity. The fact remains that you cannot play everything you’d like to. However I’m sure I’m not alone in having such thoughts and it got me thinking about the entire subject of MMO loyalty.
As gamers we do have a very curious relationship with the object of our affection. Despite games being consumer products, they’re seldom seen in such terms. Many prefer to imbue them with a greater sense of meaning than they actually have or develop a curious adulation of those involved in their creation. Because so many players are invested in wider activities associated with MMOs, there is a tendency to see the game as the source of these social interactions rather than just a conduit. However it cannot be denied that the very nature of MMOs brings people together. Guilds are the source of many a friendship so it is only natural that such feelings as loyalty will manifest themselves.
Such things as subscriptions and owning a life time account certainly influence ones desire to play a specific MMO. In the past I’ve frequently kept playing games that I was no longer fully invested in, mainly because I felt an economic compulsion to do so. “I’ve paid for this, so I want my monies worth” is still a common refrain. The spending of money has a curious effect upon player perspectives, often keeping an individual doing something they no longer enjoy, just for the sake of some misplaced sense of fiscal prudence. One of the positive aspects of the free to play business model is that it can free us from this mindset if we so choose.
Then of course there are the twin blinkers of nostalgia and “the grass is always greener”; two of the strongest imperatives that drive gamers. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve re-installed a game that I have previously abandoned purely because of the fond memories I associate with it. I returned to Rift recently to find that nothing had really changed since I last played it. There was plenty of new content but the mechanics were still the same. I’m not exactly sure what it was I expected to find, which segues nicely in to the “the grass is always greener” concept. I guess we all vaguely hope that the things we previously didn’t like have miraculously changed.
Although I’m not suggesting that we universally abandon all notions of MMO loyalty, I would certainly advocate tempering it. One of the things I’ve become more comfortable with as I’ve got older, is that it’s fine to stop doing something I’m not enjoying. If I don’t like a movie or a TV show, then I stop watching it. If a book is not sufficiently engaging me or I don’t care for the direction the plot is taking then I put it down. I never use to be able to do that. I guess that’s down to the traditional social conditioning that still prevails in Western culture. “Start what you finish” and “don’t be a quitter” being the usual mantras that get bandied about. However gaming is about leisure time and fun, not obligation or loyalty. If you are going to do something, then do it for the right reasons. If you have lost sight of why you’re doing something, then maybe it’s time to stop.