Guild Chat: The best way to deal with MMO burnout
Welcome along to another advice-filled edition of Guild Chat, the column through which the Massively OP commenters can help solve the guild drama of their fellow readers while also reading my take on the scenario at hand. This time, reader B is wondering how best to deal with burnout and the usual peer pressure to keep playing his MMO of choice. While he used to absolutely enjoy playing and has not needed to take a break before, recently B has been reluctant to log in and the daily grind is becoming more of a chore than a hobby, To complicate matters, B fills a vital role in the content his guild plays and is worried that taking a break — or perhaps leaving the game entirely — will mean his friends have to stop playing too.
Read below for B’s full submission and my response to his situation below, and don’t forget to leave him your personal advice in the comments section.
“I find logging in a chore and it wasn’t always this way. I think I’m burnt out on my favourite MMO and I want to shelf it for a while, but I have my guildmates to think about, so I log in anyway. I’m just bored to death right now, and I get no actual enjoyment out of playing. While I’m not a guild leader or anything, I know for a fact that my guild would struggle without me because of the specialised role I fill in our game, which puts me off leaving and keeps me logging in for one more day every day, Where does this end though when I don’t want to play right now? I just never feel like it’s a good time to go.”
This is an excellent question, B, and you’ll be pleased to know that it’s one that has a very simple answer! No matter how specialised your role or how close you are to your guildmates, you must keep in mind the context of your gaming: Remember that gaming is a leisure activity and in the vast majority of cases, if it ceases to be fun then it’s time to switch something up. You’re far from the first MMO fan to face burnout, either, so although it’s always difficult to take leave when you feel as though other people rely on you, I always think it’s best to act on your urge to take a break and put some enjoyment back into your gaming time.
Having said that, I realise that this is much easier said than done in such socially involved games, so I’ll give you my best pointers below, hoping that you’ll soon be feeling much better about dealing with your burnout. Good luck and happy gaming!
MMOs are designed to keep you playing
MMOs are cultivated to keep players locked in for a prolonged period of time because it is through this engagement that a studio floats future development. I’ve written in MMO Mechanics about barriers to exit in MMOs, but this is possibly more easily observed in the recent lockbox kickup where development teams use the mechanic so heavily because microtransactions are funding development more successfully than expansions. No matter where you witness the developer’s desire to keep players playing, the fact remains that you feel guilty about leaving at least in part because MMOs are designed to make you feel that way.
In the case of your chosen MMO, the role you fill is important to other people who also have a desire to enjoy their gaming time, which is what makes your decision a difficult one to follow through with. I want you to reconsider the problem and, rather than placing yourself in the firing line for blame, reevaluate whether or not the developers have actually engineered the content you enjoy to make each team member indispensable to one another in order to keep them playing. Does the pressure genuinely come from your guild, then, or is it pressure from the very nature of the game?
Feeling irreplaceable is an illusion that you don’t have to buy into
I want you to carefully consider something else: Unless your particular guild is highly specialised and has sought world firsts or something equally epic, chances are you aren’t as irreplaceable as you think, B. I don’t mean that to sound as harsh as it no doubt does, but being realistic about just how many other people are running and succeeding at the same game content we are puts it into perspective. Guilds rise and fall perpetually, and even games with diminishing communities will have a steady stream of talented players who are looking for a guild in which to enjoy group content, so I want you to realise that feeling guilty about leaving because of the role you feel isn’t something you need to do.
If you’re very concerned, you can phase out of the guild gradually or you can perhaps help train a newbie to fill your position in whatever content it is you clear. I want to make myself crystal clear: What you should never feel the need to do is keep spending your precious free time and energy on an activity you’re not enjoying. This should never be an “if” but rather a “when,” especially since true burnout can have much longer lasting ill effects than simply thanking the guild for everything and taking the time you need away from the game.
I’ve just mentioned that burnout can impact on more than just your personal enjoyment of the game if it is ignored, but what do I actually mean by that? Well, it turns out that when people are forced into situations they don’t wish to be in, there are psychological cues that happen in our brains that make us become less than a pleasure to cope with in daily life too. If you’re not benefiting actively from leisure time, this will have an impact on your mood throughout the working week and make you more prone to suffering from stress and its plethora of symptoms. Your mental health can certainly decline because you don’t get the contented buzz you need to truly wind down and the leisure time quickly becomes an extension of work time.
If you don’t take action when you begin to feel that the game is a chore and you need a break, you’re leaving yourself open to letting your guild down in even more dramatic fashion: Chances are you’ll rage quit or do or say something in anger that makes you unwelcome to return to the guild again, and it sounds as though that’s not what you’re seeking at all. Take a break on your own terms and you can return when (and if) you feel refreshed: Push yourself to the point of snapping and you’ll burn those bridges you’re trying so hard to protect.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder
I’ve taken breaks from certain MMOs that have spanned anything from a few days right up to several years: My tastes change or the amount of leisure time I have varies and something has to give, and I try to make sure it isn’t my happiness. One thing I have noted, however, is how true it is that I never truly quit any MMO; I always have the urge to return at some point in time. Taking time away from a particular game gives me the distance needed to actually appreciate why I found it so compelling in the first place, and that often is enough of an incentive for me to play again when I feel ready and attempt to reignite that spark.
Sure, leaving a guild behind can be tricky and goodbyes are never easy, but most people aren’t so two-dimensional that they play only one game for years on end. Chances are you will have the opportunity to game with some or all of your guildmates in another game that you all enjoy. The friendships you have might have been forged in one particular game but they exist between two real people outside of the gamespace and can be taken anywhere with you, so don’t let that wonderful community become a burden.
Over to you!
I do hope you take a clearly much-needed break, B: Even the most MMO-obsessed people I know have shelved the odd game or two when the fun factor becomes glaring absent. I’m sure if I polled the MOP staff that every one of us has quit a game that lost its appeal and felt like a chore to play all of a sudden, so I hope you know that you’re not alone in feeling this way.
What do you think, readers? Do you agree with me that B should absolutely take a break, or have you a special strategy that reduces burnout without stepping away from the game? Let B know in the comments below.
Many thanks to B for this edition’s submission. If you have a guild-related issue that needs solving, email me your submission for consideration.