Although I have played numerous other online games, LOTRO has been my main MMO for the last nine years years. I have invested a great deal of time into it, which is hardly surprising as that is the entire raison d'etre of the genre. I recently purchased the Mordor expansion for the game which offers a wealth of new content. Yet despite having all this available I have done precious little in the game of late and have made no significant progress. Currently, I have Guilds Wars 2, The Elder Scrolls Online, Secret World Legends and Star Trek Online installed on my PC. I have dabbled with them all over the last few weeks, trying to rekindle a sense of enjoyment and pursue content that I have not completed. Sadly, none of them seem to hold my interest. I log in to them in the hope that something will grab my attention but I always seem to find myself just kicking my heels and aimlessly wandering through zones with no sense of focus.
The social side of MMOs can also be an issue at times. You log in to a game hoping to find something you wish to do, only to be met with a barrage of welcomes and offers to join groups or participate in some collective event. In different circumstances, this can be a wonderful thing. The restorative properties of friendship can wash away the ills of a bad day and can replace a dark mood with a good humour. However, there are occasions when the attention can be somewhat overwhelming. There have been times when I’ve been upon the verge of logging in to an MMO but after reflecting upon athe gauntlet of upbeat cheerfulness that lays ahead, I’ve decided to do something else instead. Joking aside, there are times when socialising can be wearing and you just want to be left alone.
The consensus seems to be among gamers, as we get older we become far more particular about how we spend our time. I have purchased several games this year that I knew from the beginning would have a relatively short lifespan. Single player games often present a core campaign, online multiplay and DLC over a six-month period. You can effectively complete a game and gain a sense of closure that you’ve had your fill. Sniper Elite 4 has provided me with a solid five months of entertainment. I’ve progressed through all the content that I care to play through and have no desire to pursue it any further. Conversely, I have also returned to Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, in anticipation of the sequel that comes out in October. I have managed to complete a campaign that previously alluded me and now feel that I’m ready to move on.
It is this sense of finality, short and limited gameplay as well as the option to play alone, that MMOs cannot compete with at present. Gamers are fickle creatures. There are times when I want to invest time, work towards long term goals and chat with my fellow man. Yet after doing those very things for three to six months they can become somewhat smothering. Sometimes virtual worlds are a welcome respite from the daily tragedy and horror on real life. Yet I still cannot help but think that it is not healthy to make them too much of a focus and a permanent substitute for real world engagement. I tend not to regret the time I have spent gaming, yet from time to time, I do question the hours required to make progress. Often this happens when a new mechanic or goal is introduced into a game and I calculate exactly how many days it will take to achieve it.
As I am currently without an MMO, I find myself in need of an alternative distraction. However, when I look at the various titles that are currently available through a vendor such as Steam, the first thing that strikes me is the interchangeable and homogeneous nature of them all. This is hardly a revelation as most industries tend to follow tried and tested formulas. At present, mainstream films and music are staggeringly bland and uninventive, so it is almost inevitable that the gaming industry should follow suit. This perfunctory style is a major obstacle for me. For example, after pondering on whether to try Black Desert, I concluded that it simply didn't have sufficient difference from any other MMO to warrant a purchase. And of course, at times like this, EVE: Online raises its head once again, offering a wealth of perceived opportunities. Yet the reality of the situation is that I do not want to take on a game with such a steep learning curve. Neither do I have the time required to be successful at such a game.
So, it would appear that I’m currently suffering from a gaming, specifically MMO "burnout". Perhaps fatigue would be a better term on reflection. Although I have currently tired to a degree of the MMO genre, I still find myself interested in gaming. What I find trying is that I cannot seem to find that many titles, both new and old, to get excited about, especially MMOs. As a genre, they have so much potential but are simply hamstrung by a lack of vision and innovation. Perhaps single player game with co-op are the answers. Furthermore, I’m tired of the noticeable disparity in game engines between MMOs and other genres of game. I appreciate that developers have to lower the bar for entry to lower specified PCs but too many MMOs look and more importantly play as if they hail from a different era. It would be nice to have an MMORPG that had the combat of either For Honor or Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor.
Fortunately, I have not put all my eggs in one basket and made my online activities the focus of all my friendships and socialising. This can be a real issue for some people when confronted with potential burnout, as loyalties and social ties can compound the problem. Gaming by its very nature can be indulged in to a far greater degree than say fishing or other traditional hobbies. It is not seasonal and is accessible 24/7.You don't have to go anywhere, prepare in advance and be mindful of things like the weather. Subsequently, unless we consciously decide to regulate ourselves it will simply swallow all our leisure time. Burnout is not a term I associate with train spotting, stamp collecting or campanology. As gaming continues to become a more mainstream activity, burnout is a phrase I think we shall hear more often.