In last week’s Daily Grind about whether or not MMOs are better the second time you play them, the topic of burnout came up.
“I find that MMOs have become, in my own perception, a kind of homogeneous mass in my mind that is a barrier in itself to involvement, like there is nothing new any more,” commenter Gibbins wrote. “Playing any MMO at this point is like going back to something I gave up and mostly I spend less time before walking away.” To which another commenter, Mukk, observed, “MMO burnout, it seems…”
But is it really burnout? How do you know when you can say, “It’s not you, it’s me”? How do you determine whether you’ve outgrown a genre, or it’s changed so much that it’s grown away from you? And are you suffering, or have you ever suffered, from MMORPG burnout?
These are the questions I presented to the Massively OP writers this week. Onward!
Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): This is something I’ve been struggling with myself. I love the idea of an MMO, but as long as I’ve played them, I feel like the formula should have changed more at this point. As Richard Bartle mentioned in his new books among other places, the original idea behind using levels was to make virtual worlds more of a “game.” The problem is that the levels feel like they’ve become the core mechanic rather than the worlds. Oh, there’s been an evolution, but it’s gear stats, which can be summed up in item levels, which also defeats the purpose of having a virtual world.
Not all MMOs are like this. Landmark has some great building tools, but I’ve realized I don’t have the patience to build on my own like when I was younger, especially when given so much freedom (to mess up). I really like the community aspects we saw early on in the genre, but haven’t gotten a good fit in awhile outside of (oddly enough) some single player games and less Massively multiplayer games.
I’m probably in a bit of a burnout situation, especially considering my real life situation was making me utilize a lot of the social skills I used to employ in games, but with any luck, some of the imaginative suggestions we’re hearing in some of the next generations of MMOs will bring me (and maybe some friends!) back deep into the action. For now though, I’ve got a few games that are at least massively popular and can be used to break the ice *cough* Pokemon Go *cough*
Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): I’ve gone through lots of little bursts of burnout over the years with individual games, sure. Early on in the genre, to move between games was seen as a mark of disloyalty to friends and guildies, so I think a lot of us were walking wounded, bored with our game but going through the motions all the same. I know, I’m a traitor to veteran MMORPGs players and all, but frankly, it was supremely unhealthy and did neither individuals nor the community any favors. Nowadays, when we’re bored or burned out, we stop playing — imagine that! And that’s allowed me to never get to the resentful states where I hate the game, never truly burn out — so eventually I have the urge to go back.
As for the genre itself? I went through a really bad period a few years back when four of my all-time favorite MMORPGs closed down in the span of a year. I wouldn’t say I was so much burned out as unmoored. Putting down deep, permanent roots in MMOs again has been really hard for me. I’ve kept them more at arm’s length, even when I love them. And I recognize the change in the genre too and can see that most MMORPGs are not being made for me. You’d think that would lead to burnout, but it doesn’t. Burnout happens when you invest too much.
Eliot Lefebvre (@Eliot_Lefebvre, blog): The tricky thing about burnout is that it is, to an extent, inevitable. I cannot possibly be as enthusiastic about a new MMO as I was about the first one I ever played. Final Fantasy XI could amaze me just by showing me other players existing in the same world as me whether or not I was there; Final Fantasy XIV has to work far harder to impress me. Thus, the more we play MMOs, the more burned out we get on the genre, which is the case for pretty much everything. And sometimes, burnout hits badly enough that we need to do something else, maybe forever.
Is that a bad thing? We treat it as such, but I really don’t think it is. I’ve never gotten so burned out on Transformers toys that I’ve stopped appreciating them, for example, but I went through a long period of time in which I stopped buying them on any sort of regular basis. I certainly did get burnt out on superhero comics, so I stopped reading them, even though I’ll always look back with fondness on my favorites. As time goes by and our tastes evolve, certain things become less important to us while other things become more relevant.
I know that I’m a bit burned out on a game when I log in, stare at the character select screen, and find myself thinking that the act of actually logging on seems annoying. Not doing things, but the process necessary to just do something. When my brain is coming up with reasons not to do even simple tasks, it means I want to do something else. So I do; I go play another game, perhaps another MMO or perhaps an offline game. Or I go read, I cuddle my cats, I watch a show, I transform a few of my aforementioned Transformers. I change gears, confident that I’ll probably want to do this stuff again in the not-too-distant future. If a week has gone by and I haven’t felt the urge, I’m on a break; if a month goes by, I might be gone altogether.
There’s no hard and fast rule, but there are lots of guidelines. In general, though, if all you have for the genre is criticism and exhaustion, you’re probably burned out. If you’re just tired of a particular game, you might just need a break.
Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): I used to suffer burnout when I’d exclusively, or near-exclusively, play a single MMO. For me, it was just the culmination of spending too much time in a single game that never changed fast enough to keep things from getting grindy and routine. One day I’d be totally happy in it, and the next I felt sick just forcing myself to log in. However, once I changed to munch on a varied gaming diet, recognize the signs of imminent burnout, and give myself permission to move on, things improved vastly. I might not be super-rooted in a single game, but I’m pretty happy just playing what’s fun for the moment and then letting it go when it’s not, always with the possibility that I might return some day.
I’ve been playing MMORPGs constantly since 2003 and I’ve yet to become bored with them. There are always new games to try, old favorites to return to, and different approaches to take. Once in a while I’ll take a few days or even a week off gaming to refresh and enjoy something different, and that helps as well. Balance, people. It’s not just for the Force and trapeze artists.
Larry Everett (@Shaddoe, blog): I don’t know that I suffer from MMO burnout. If so, I get it really quickly, and it’s likely because I don’t find RP in that game. I think I suffer from community burnout. All MMOs have their little pocket communities within the greater community, and for various reasons, those cliques will either implode or burn out on the game. At that point, I usually find another community to attach myself to. Sometimes, that can be in a different game, but most of the time it’s in whatever I consider my main game. The only exception to that for me has been Elder Scrolls Online, where — in the most literal terms — I play by myself as a kind of escape from the community in other games. (To be clear, I love gaming communities, but every so often I, like everyone else, need an escape periodically.)