Am I having fun?

Piggy backing a little bit on yesterday’s post, I started thinking about why I play MMORPGs and how my reasons have changed over the years.  Back when I played The Realm (1996-1999) and EverQuest, I played for fun.  It was something totally new and a pastime that gave me great enjoyment simply by being able to log in and play with hundreds of other people.

My motivations gradually changed over the years.  Around the time of Dark Age of Camelot I started to play because of this transcendent sense of pride and duty.  Still, it was about having fun.

When World of Warcraft came around, things for the entire industry changed.  I know some of you are going to reply and say how no matter what you always play for fun, but hang in there and hear me out.  WoW introduced MMOs to a younger generation of gamers who don’t play for “fun” or “realm pride” or any of  that — they play to be the best.   That’s why raiding is successful and the arena formula works for PvP: Deciding who is the best is almost black and white.

I think it goes beyond people simply preferring to slay big monsters over decorating houses.  There’s no way to say you are the best if all you do is collect resources or make hot tubs out of baubles.

Back when I was a serious WoW player, getting server first kills of major bosses and leading some of the top raiding guilds, I played to be the best.  I can look back and say from experience that the mindset exists and people fall into it without even realizing what they’re doing.  One day you wake up and have this epiphany that what you’re doing isn’t fun.

I’m only closing in on 30 years old, but I get the sense already that I’m one of the older players.  I still have plenty of free time, but my mindset has changed completely.  I’m back in that “I play for fun” mentality.  Everything I do is driven by asking myself, “Is this fun?”  If it’s not, I stop.  This helps me squeeze enjoyment out of some games, and stops me from playing others entirely.

That’s why I ask questions about what kind of activities are available to players at the max level.  I want to know that I can do something other than raid for gear three hours every night of the week.  I want to know that the game is designed to make the crafting, housing, PvP, exploring, gathering, etc., experiences just as fulfilling as the raiding.  I want to know that there will be many ways for me to look for the ‘fun’ without being trapped by what people expect from every MMO.

  • For every fun aspect there will be some inconvenience which will lead to the drop of a system. The game will be refocused towards only the direct consumption of content created by the developers. Anything that impeded that direct consumption will be widdled away into meaninglessness.

    There is too much carrot and too little stick in modern games.

    • @Wufiavelli: I totally agree. Though I say I play to have fun, I want there to be difficulty, effort, and investment. I don’t consider those things to be deterrents.

  • Although I’ve long since left behind the high end raiding, being not fun and all, ever since I’ve gotten into Minecraft this past year, the whole idea of doing the same killing and questing in WoW I’ve done for the past 6 years doesn’t have the appeal either.

    I once asked one of my friends who plays EVE Online: “What do you in the game?” His reply was “Whatever you want”. Although once in a while having things be completely open can be paralyzing, creating your own fun, your own goals in a game where you set the pace has its appeal.

    I hope that Landmark/EQNext lives up to its promise. A place to do whatever you want, until you have the desire to go on an adventure of someone else’s design.

  • @Kerazi: Landmark has a lot riding on it for me. I think that’s where I’m putting all of my “I just need a game I can log in and do what I want” for the time being.

  • Yeah this has been my contention for a long time now, that is people can convince themselves they are having fun with a token economy intermittent reward cycle, when basically they are experiencing conditioned addiction.

    A simple “fun” test is to ask the person if they would still play the game if the token rewards were removed, in a themepark context often meaning all grind and no loot.

    If this seems like a completely foreign concept to some then just maybe they are part of the operant conditioning demographic that I am referring to.

    For myself an example of playing for fun would be ping pong without keeping score; I can play for hours not because I am winning or losing, but simply because it is fun.

    Another example might be open world PvP without experience gain, leaderboards, or drops, just playing because the PvP environment is so much fun and maintains your interest.

  • I think sometimes you can still recapture that older way of feeling about games if you don’t play them as intended. A lot of times RP guilds have a close network with other RP guilds and they are a sort of community that has their own goals and dramas. Not all of them are super strict about the actual roleplaying if you aren’t into that. Once you get off the rails the game wants to put you on, there is still fun to be had.

  • And what if, in order to achieve something fun, you must something that is not fun? I don’t mean something difficult..for example, dailies for 20+ days…

    I also have dropped raiding long ago and I play the games only if I have fun of them. What I do find fun in all MMOs is crafting and leveling. Sadly, leveling is nowdays is not only linear, but also very fast. Although, even as it is, it is still fun because there are many things to “discover” while playing. You gain more skills for your character, you see the world, e.t.c. But as I said the experience last only for few days or mostly a week and due to linear experience, the replayability value is always low..

    So, reaching the max level is often the end-game for me. It is strange that I find much more things to do in skyrim than in any MMO. Final Fantasy had an interesting crafting system and I loved the fishing and all the different baits, fish, locations to fish, different fish on Night/Day, fish you can only catch while raining…

    Anyway, I hope EQN will offer a “sandboxy” experience without the ffa pvp which I hate..

  • @John: That’s a great question. I hate dailies so much that I’m not willing to get to the fun stuff if it’s gated by 20 days of dailies. I totally agree with you about leveling going the linear route. I feel the exact same way.

  • Am I having fun? Nope…

    I want to be having fun, I want MMOs to be what they used to be for me… but the current crop is just not.

    I want a social driven game where all there is to do is whatever you want. I dont mean the game has to have everything, what I mean is I want a game that does not have a singular goal. I want the goal to just be to log in, and see where that takes me. I want to log in and decide “What do I want to accomplish today”

    MMOs now a days = 2 things

    LVL to max
    Progress in gear

    This is why I am not having fun.

  • @Table: I think you know I agree completely. I think it’s hard for people to understand that it’s not enough to simply have housing — housing has to be as viable for my time as raiding. As fully developed. As important. Etc.

  • Giving in to the Achiever side of your personality can definitely be a trap. At first, it IS still fun, you’re enjoying the game, and you’re enjoying achieving your goals in the game even more.

    But if you’re not careful, it can really lead to you spending a lot of time doing things that simply are not fun, just because there’s a goal at the end of them that you want to achieve.

    I’ve been there, done that, and would like to think that I’m more able to notice it happening now. Not saying it never happens to me any more, but I think I’m more likely to spot it and pull myself back.

    • Sitting here right now, in a post I wrote about not wanting to do this stuff, I too am even tempted to say to heck with it! WildStar is coming soon and the raids there are going to be fun at first. I personally love the challenge of a good boss fight… but I hate the mentality it requires you to fall into to get gear to fight bosses to get gear, etc.

      I have to remind myself that although it may appear like it on the outside, this isn’t like the oldschool adhoc giant groups we would form to slay dragons. This is a raiding mentality.

  • At 30 you may be one of the older people in your circle, but there are plenty of older gamers out there. We (I’m 46, for example) have different goals and I tend to find lots of grandmothers (grandfathers too, but women seem to be more common) when I’m off doing the things that I find interesting in the game.

  • I actually think you might have this a bit backwards. The focus on just fun is the issue IMO.

    ‘Back in the day’ not all days playing an MMO where fun. Some days you made little to no progress, and other days you took major steps back (big death in UO, realm loses a relic in DAoC, etc).

    But you need those slow/bad days to make the good/great days meaningful. If every day is great, none of them are, and if we look around the genre today, how many MMOs even allow you to have a bad day?

    Even raiding falls into this; if we are competing for server-first stuff, it means something to you because there is a very real chance you WON’T be the first. This somewhat goes back to the point about inexperienced or weak-willed developers listening too much to current players; very few players will outright say “Man I hope the next MMO kicks me in the balls at least once a week”, yet that’s exactly what made people play the older games for so long, and have such vivid memories.