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Game Culture, Play

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

Happy New Year, everyone!  I hope your 2013 is already off to a wonderful start!  I’m going to kick off the New Year with a question regarding gaming that I’ve struggled with for years.  Ok, so this isn’t the most pressing of inquiries when it comes to gaming, but it’s one that really bugs me:  am I the only one who has a really, really hard time leaving a game?

Maybe it’s just for MMOs, since they involve subscriptions in order to play the game.  I mean, if you play games like Halo or Portal or Mass Effect, once you’ve bought it you can continue playing as long as you want; it’s just the newest iterations that cause you to shell out the moola.  But with (most) MMOs, you have to pay monthly to continue to play; otherwise, your account is suspended and you can’t even enter the game.

But this thing happens when I play MMOS – even if I’ve gotten tired of them, even if I’ve played them to the point of utter boredom, even if I get frustrated enough to determine that I never want to be in that world again – I have a very, very hard time letting them go.

So what it is that makes it so hard for me to leave a game, even one that means nothing anymore?  The simple answer would be that I don’t want to let go of the time invested, but I honestly don’t think it’s that.  I’ve done lots of things that have taken up much of my time and a lot of blood, sweat and tears, and I’ve walked away.  And it’s not that the story I’ve built with those characters is too precious to lose – the nice thing about RP’ed characters is that their stories will always live on.

Maybe it has to do with a sense of accomplishment.  Most things that I leave behind, I do so once work on them has finished, or when I have hit some kind of solid stopping point.  In MMOs, there aren’t that many places where you can draw a line and say, “I’m done, there’s nothing more to do”.  Sure, some of the best players can play the endgame out so that there’s precious little left, but I’m not one of those players.  And especially as an RP’er, the game can exist and be dynamic even without focusing on ingame accomplishments, so those tend to come more slowly than for a Mastery player, or any kind of power gamer.

So maybe it’s not the time vested or the characters crafted, but the sense of “I’m not done yet.”  Even if I’m not interested in going further, there’s still a feeling that I’m quitting before getting to the place I was supposed to get, be it an endgame or a particular level or badge of exploration of a world, or whatever.  I’m not convinced of this yet, but it makes the most sense so far.

What about you guys?  Do you feel comfortable just walking away from a game, and if so, when?  I’m especially interested in hearing from other MMO players, but any feedback from any type of gamer from any platform is welcome.

Am I the only one that can actually feel angst when leaving a game?

7 thoughts on “Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow”

  1. I tend to think of myself as a “balanced player”, so my ability to “let go” takes in a multitude of factors before my decision to break off my relationship with a game. Its better for me to reflect upon my own history to provide examples.

    My First MMO was Star Wars Galaxies, and my initial draw into playing MMO’s was the social aspect of the game. We didn’t RP much at all, but the bond of our guild was on the friendships with each other. With each major change to the game that SOE made, we lost a few more guildies and town members. For my “Self player” perspective I invested much in the game, I felt a responsibility to stick with it and try to hold things together. I was one of 3 guild leaders, and eventually was the only one, until eventually those of us who were holding things together mutually decided to leave the game. It was an extremely emotional time, we developed strong friendships with every person who joined our guild, so quitting the game felt like breaking off a friendship (multiplied by each friend I had to say goodbye to). For my “RP player” perspective I had less attachment, my character had evolved in every direction that was fun for me to pursue and I felt like my character’s “story” was at a satisfactory stopping point. And for my “mastery player” self I met every challenge & achievement I desired, the fact that the changes to the game made my achievements no longer mean anything made me feel angry and bitter. Needless to say leaving the game was a wise decision but it hurt a lot and along with many people who left SWG I left a rather lengthy forum post to communicate how upset I was that SOE ruined a good thing they once had. The neat thing is that I'm still friends with those guildies even though we all now play different games and have gone our own ways.

    My second MMO was City of Heroes/City of Villains. My big draw to the game was that I’d always been a comic book/super hero fan and this was a great outlet to interact more with that. After moving out of state, many of the local friends I played with, were not logging in. the stories and adventures were getting stale, and I felt after I had done everything once, that my character’s stories were just “more of the same”. This added with the peer pressure I later willingly succumbed to from my roommate to play World of Warcraft. I picked up WoW and was playing it concurrently with CoH/CoV. Not long afterward I was laid off from work, and I had only enough budget for 1 MMO subscription and I had to make a decision. My limited income forced me to make a decision, and I had to go where the fun was, which at this time was WoW. After regaining employment I was still in the mindset of keeping my "fun" expenses low to hasten my recovery from unemployment so I never reactivated my CoH/CoV account. When it was announced that CoH/CoV was going to close its servers I was sad to hear it, I would have logged into my old characters on the last day to say good bye to a great game, sadly I only heard about it after it had already been closed.

    The last MMO I left was World of Warcraft; WoW for me was a fun game, I was able to indulge in gaming variety (Raiding, Achievement, Crafting, Collecting, PvP, and even a bit of RP). If I liked it so much why did I leave? Well, multiple reasons; socially all my local friends stopped playing, I tired of server swapping to play with friends and having them stop playing. I tried my hand at being in an RP guild only to discover that while I really like tabletop RPG’s, playing in an RP guild was just not for me… I’m glad I got to give it a try, but I’m saving my RP side for Champions and LARPing. I developed a love for Raiding and after the first year of Cataclysm, raiding was exceedingly unfriendly and in some cases downright hostile. This was a part of gamer culture [insert rant on gamer elitism] I’m not proud of to have ever seen, and so when Star Wars: The Old Republic announced a release date, I took it as a sign that after acquiring the Ravenlord mount on my Blood Elf Hunter (FOR THE HORDE!) that it was ok to discontinue my subscription. That mount was a symbol of achievement for me that I sought for so long, and not acquiring it would have been the only thing I would have regretted. I’ve been told that the “raid finder” feature was added right after I stopped playing… it may have been enough to keep me a little longer, but it’s not enough to bring me back. I’ll keep the fond memories, and look back on it with no regrets.

    What will it take for me to leave SW:ToR? Only time will tell. The biggest thing I've learned from my experiences is “If it stops being fun, don’t do it.”; You play to have fun, no matter how you find your fun in that thing, continue to follow your bliss. If what you do for recreation feels more like a chore, don’t do it.

  2. I find that if an MMO (WoW & SWTOR i'm looking at you) get to be too grindy and just another job, i'll walk away. I miss the characters a bit, but i have the memories of them.

  3. Nice insight, Eric. Your path was much like mine (yet quite different, as I've found each gaming experience was), but I, too, mourn for what was lost in SWG, and will forever harbor bitterness in my heart for SOE and what they did to a game that I loved. When I heard it was closing, I was actually happy – it had died a horrible death long before the game closed, and having it end felt like the right thing to have happen. While I've enjoyed SWTOR, and appreciate all the work put into the environment and story, it pales in comparison with all the possibilities that SWG laid at our feet. Ah, well. As Mark says, we have our memories.

  4. I mentioned this on Twitter but if I really like a game or a movie or a tv show or a novel, I always end up missing the characters I've been "interacting" through that experience. This experience is perhaps just that much more profound with a character that I've been controlling in a game. I miss my characters from WoW but I don't miss playing WoW itself or I might have gone back to it by now. I never felt that kind of attachment to my CoH character even though I played that game for several months. I think it was the people I played with that made WoW what it was for me – a fun place to go spend a few hours and take down some bad guys with my friends.

  5. I'm the resident non-MMO player around here, so I thought I'd chip in with a thought or two. Games are magical experiences, and there are times that I have had a hard time letting go of one. If the story gets really compelling, or I'm just having so much fun goofing around in the world, I can play for hours, or even leap into a new game after beating it. I recently began doing that with Deus Ex: Human Revolution, but I managed to step back and remember that I had other games (AND other obligations!) to play. So it can be hard letting go, especially when you had such a great time.

  6. Perhaps that is the "curse" of the MMOs, Jerry – they don't really have an "end". Yes, you can get to the point where you have done virtually everything in the game, but there are always elements of uniqueness to so much, and for the best games, there is always new content happening. And the potential for something unexpected happening? Love me those MMOs. But yeah, like Regina said, you can miss the character but not miss the game. Sometimes, the games become a chore. Games should never, ever be chores. I mean, geesh – they're GAMES!

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