It occurs to me that it is very difficult to find MMOs that I have literally never played before in some capacity. There are titles on the list, of course, but it’s a short list. Which amuses me, since anyone who listens to me on a regular basis knows that I have a small number of games that I consider “my” games, and usually there are just two that are fairly consistently on that list. But it’s part of the job; back when I first got this job in the time when dinosaurs roamed the Earth (the late aughts), my lifetime game count was at four. Maybe four and a half, if you want to count the Champions Online beta that talked me out of playing it at launch.
Of course, that’s one of the interesting elements not just of this job but about MMOs in general. You react differently depending on how many MMOs you’ve played, and considering that these games are big, long-term time commitments, that can produce some interesting dynamics. So let’s go ahead and take a look at what your personal lifetime count says about you and your understanding of the genre.
Someone who has been playing just one MMO for any substantial length of time is probably not someone who likes MMOs. I have a friend who had never played an MMO before Final Fantasy XIV and still just plays FFXIV, because, well, she doesn’t really like MMOs. She likes FFXIV. If she stopped liking FFXIV, she’d stop playing it and just not play an MMO. That’s a completely understandable point of view to take; it means that the specific game is what has you, and losing it means the end of your interest in the genre.
Naturally, this means that your experiences are limited to one game and what that one game offers. For some games, that’s fine; if the game gives you lots of things to do, you can get lots of points of comparison about what other games might offer. On the other hand, some titles offer a rather limited view of the genre landscape as a whole (see also the dedicated Champions Online player who thinks that this amount of post-launch content is normal).
This can be a real danger zone. No matter what, this player is going to have left Game A to arrive at Game B, but there are two possibilities about why. It could be the story of “I played Game A, but Game B offered me X, which I really wanted,” which is totally normal and not a problem. Or it could be “I played Game A, but then Y happened, so now I play Game B.”
The second type of player is usually a bit like someone who broke up with their significant other without ever really breaking up. You know that the said player is really just waiting for Y to change again or get fixed or whatever, and as a result any deviation in Game B from being “Game A without Y” is going to be sharply criticized. It’s like watching later seasons of Friends when you just want Rachel and Ross to stop this back-and-forth already so you can get back to characters you like. No one cares who was on a break, guys. Chandler and Monica are funnier and smarter.
Contrary to what Goldilocks taught us, it is rare that the third bowl of porridge is just right. It’s more likely that you’re starting to develop a sense of how porridge tastes instead, and you are tending to view each individual game as a stopping point for a time. That might not even be unidirectional; you might recognize that you’re playing Game A now, but in a year you’ll want to check out C, and then you’ll be back to B, then C again…
You still have a pretty narrow reference base, but you are at least starting to get an idea of the fact that it is a narrow reference base. You also tend to ask friends you like to game-hop along with you, because odds are good you’re going to game-hop at some point.
4. Four, obviously
“Isn’t four just three, but… more?” Technically, from an arithmetical standpoint, yes. But if you’ve played four separate games it’s far more likely that you’re embracing the idea that you don’t need to stay in a game when you aren’t having fun. At the same time, you also want to stay in a game. You’re willing to search and find the games that actually allow you to do just that.
It doesn’t mean you’re always successful, but it’s starting to be unlikely that you can bear any actual grudges against games you’ve left behind. Those were the games you played, and now you’re playing something else. The quantity tends to wash things down a bit.
5. Clearly this is five
If you aren’t doing this for a living, this is a pretty good number to sit at. You’ve tried enough different MMOs that you have a good sense of what’s out there, but you aren’t committed to trying everything. You found something that works for you, and it might have its flaws and sometimes you want to go backwards, but darn it, this is where you hang your hat.
6. These headers are a bit redundant, aren’t they?
Of course, sometimes you’re at five games and things are going all right (maybe not great, but all right) and then you find yourself starting to be enticed by something else, some new game that promises all of the stuff you wanted from all five games in one package. And you might not think it’s actually possible, but you’re willing to give it a shot, aren’t you? Just at the chance alone. So you wind up at six.
Will that sixth actually deliver on its promises? Well, maybe, maybe not. Which is when you can start moving into some darker territories.
7. Seven, fine, whatever
Remember how I mentioned that two games provides an interesting dichotomy? Seven does as well. The first possibility is that you’ve played seven different MMOs for the same reason that wine afficianados have probably tried at least seven different kinds of wine, or whatever is a reasonable number. (I don’t care about wine.) You’re trying lots of things to build up an appreciation and diversity, and while you don’t expect each individual game to necessarily become your main thing, you want to give a lot of them a shot. You never know when you might find the next big thing.
On the other hand, you might also be what happens when someone at two game has metastatized into a lingering dissatisfaction. It’s very easy to reach this count because each game winds up being not quite perfect, so you check out and hope that the next one will be perfect, except nothing is ever actually perfect. There’s always going to be some little irritation as you move on to…
8. You already know this is eight
All right, now this is maybe getting a little bit out of hand. Now you’re trying new things in the same way that a frog offers tadpoles, jumping into each one in the hopes that this is going to be what makes you stick. And yet none of them do, because as I’ve discussed elsewhere, this isn’t what commitment looks like. You’re not seeking to commit, you’re waiting for a game to commit you, and by the time you’re in the game you already are looking to greener pastures.
And here we’re looping back around, because if you count this many games on your “significant” list you probably are someone who prefers to hop from game to game. Sure, that means you’re never getting really deep into any game, but some people prefer having a lot of shorter experiences to any one really in-depth experience. You have just enough time and experience to know the general shape of the game, and then you’re off to the next thing.
That’s fine, too. After all, this just means you’re on the opposite end of the spectrum from the one-game player. That player really liked one game, not MMOs as a whole; you really like MMOs as a whole, not one game. Most of your friends probably don’t game-hop with you, but that’s just because no one can keep up with your hopping; your game friends treat you coming back around as a chance to give you a tour, more than anything.
10. A quarter of a million
Yeah, you probably do this for a living. Or you’re perpetually unsatisfied. Statistically, the latter seems more likely, but you can’t discount the other.