Gas and Meat
Over the last few weeks, Bree has mentioned on the Massively OP Podcast how she’s been farming both gas and meat in Star Wars Galaxies (played via an emulator. No pedantry please). Co-host Justin has naturally ribbed her and raised the question as to whether this is a valid and more importantly, fun use of her time while gaming. This is some of the light-hearted banter that makes this particular show so enjoyable. But there’s an old adage that states “many a true word spoken in jest”. Most people who have played any MMO, even in the most casual fashion, have at some point found themselves farming specific commodities for crafting or sale. Or they may spend time repeating a task as a means of gaining experience points. Perhaps they’ve gone so far as to undertake some extensive project for something as arbitrary as a title or a reward that simply amuses them. The bottom line is at some point we have all done the “gas and meat” thing.
There was a time in The Lord of the Rings Online, when there was a healthy trade in ore on the auction house. People wanted to craft but didn’t necessarily have the time or inclination to do it themselves. Hence, I would spend hours collecting Dwarf-iron and Platinum ore in Western Evendim, circulating through the zone in an orderly fashion to ensure the various nodes had time to respawn. Often, I’d have music playing or I’d listen to a podcast while carrying out this somewhat ponderous task. Yet the results were tangible. The ore would sell and the gold would come rolling in, allowing me to then buy gear to improve my build. I would even go so far as to suggest that this task (and those similar in other MMOs), if approached in the right fashion, can be quite relaxing. In the same manner as a clicker game.
I suspect that “gas and meat” syndrome (as I shall now dub it) probably serves several other purposes and may indeed say something about the gamer who pursues it. It becomes very clear after reading gaming blogs, written by grassroots level players, that MMOs often serve as more than just a game. They can act as a means of therapy and de-stressing. Repetitive acts that yield results provide a clear sense of purpose. They are also something that you can control and manage. They may even serve in a symbolic fashion, as a way of imposing order upon a chaotic world. Games offer us a degree of control and stability that is not always found in our real lives. So we grind out Task Force Operation in Star Trek Online. Or we farm Dolmen in The Elder Scrolls Online. All of which can provide a sense of accomplishment and offer a brief Dopamine hit.
Finally, I recently discovered the UK TV comedy, Dead Pixels. It follows the lives and experiences of a group of friends that play an MMO called “Kingdom Scrolls”. It’s surprisingly well observed and is clearly written by people who have played MMOs, rather than being a non-gamers perception of MMO players. Here’s a clip in which Nicky (Will Merrick) is depressed after his favourite Kingdom Scrolls streamer has died and decides to “pick up every leaf in the game” as way to keep himself busy. There is a ring of familiarity to this “act” and what happens next is also very relatable. Bear all of this and the above in mind, next time you decide its time to go farm some “gas and meat” or whatever your equivalent is, in your favourite MMO. And if you see someone in-game doing something like this, give them a /cheer to show your solidarity.