Every year around this time, I try to produce a Perfect Ten about thankfulness. Those of you who know my writing also know that I don’t like repeating myself, and does anyone really want a list of the things I’m thankful for personally? Probably not. (It’s not a whole lot better even if I confine it to MMO-y stuff. Without that, cats feature prominently, perhaps unfairly so.)
But it occurred to me that this year I don’t want to just talk about the MMOs I’m thankful for. Instead, I want to take this from another angle because MMOs don’t just make us thankful. They teach us how to be thankful for things that could easily get missed in the hubbub of day-to-day life. So let’s look at that this year. How do MMOs teach us to be thankful?
1. Cherish good luck instead of cursing bad luck
Let’s be real here, when it comes to random chance, the world is neither on your side nor against you. Random is random. A coin toss isn’t exactly random, but the reality is that it’s meant to have a 50/50 shot of either outcome, and lots of things are basically coin tosses.
MMOs, meanwhile, pillory us upon random chance and usually leave us praying against hope for that 5% shot to materialize. This means that we also tend to stop hating bad luck and start celebrating good luck.
Bad luck is, well, expected. You expect that 5% shot to miss most of the time, and thus it’s not exactly bothersome when you lose again. But when it hits? That’s cause for celebration. And the same is true for a 50/50 shot. We’re so used to chance being against us that we learn to be happy when it works for us rather than upset when it works against us.
2. Value your friends
Friendship is, in part, about action, and MMOs give us a great way to see who our friends are. Who’s willing to go on a rather boring overleveled run with you to help you farm something? Who tells you “yeah, I have some spare crafting materials” and just hands them over because you need them? Who’s there to offer advice when you’re having a hard time with your rotation?
This isn’t to say that everyone you do things with in an MMO needs to be your friend. Lots of people won’t. But it means that you tend to value the people who really are your friend, often far more than the people who say they’re your friend but don’t act the part. Put your money (and time) where your mouth is.
3. Know that things are going to change
We are, as human beings, averse to change. But an MMO that isn’t changing at all is one that we know is dying. Not all of the changes are decidedly good ones, either for what we personally like or even the game as a whole, but we get a pretty firm picture early on that life means things change routinely.
This means that we’re thankful for things changing. Even if the changes are bad, hey, they’re a sign that things are still alive. And if they’re good changes? So much the better.
4. Value your time for doing things you enjoy
In the words of the great Kurt Vonnegut: “We are put on this planet to fart around. Don’t let anybody tell you differently!” And indeed, MMOs feature lots of farting around. That’s a good thing! If the farting around is fun for you, who cares how productive it is?
Good MMOs (and there are lots of them) feel like they’re fun to just exist in and make you want to play even for incremental progress toward overall goals. There’s a lot of time spent in MMOs wherein you’r ehaving fun even as you make slow progress, and that’s valuable. It makes you thankful for the quiet times, just keeping your head down and working along toward the next objective.
5. Seek out challenges and goals
Does anybody really want to do additional work? Probably not. But we’re all thankful when we accomplish more than we think we’re capable of, and waiting for the world to push us into that additional work tends to not work out super great. MMOs help teach us to actually seek out those challenges we’d naturally shy away from, and in the process we learn that we’re capable of more than we think.
Or we learn that the challenge isn’t worth the reward and thus we’re thankful for not wasting the time. Either way!
6. Feeling better for learning better
It’s hard to make someone thankful for feeling dumb, which is a problem because “feeling dumb” is how we learn to be not dumb. In order to learn something new, you have to first realize you’re wrong about something. You can’t be right until you’re willing to be proven wrong.
And yes, MMOs again provide a structure for that. We’re given countless opportunities to learn to how to play the game, how to overcome challenges, how to work with people, and so forth. It’s a continual game of being wrong and needing to learn about that, and so we can appreciate the end result of being better while hopefully not resenting feeling foolish along the way.
7. Enjoy the little victories
To a certain extent, this is tied into the first item. When the deck is stacked against you, you’re thankful for each success you have. But this extends further to savoring and appreciating every success, not just the big ones. Sometimes the success is having no irritations on your ride between zones when you could have. That is in and of itself a good thing and worth celebrating.
Heck, it’s worth feeling thankful over just having little good things happen, full stop.
8. Let go of irritations
Do you know what happens when you let all of your irritations continually stack up in an MMO? You get burnt out, ragequit, and your character probably gets eaten by wolves. It’s the flipside of celebrating the little victories, letting the little irritations slide away from you once they pass.
For that matter, it’s a good idea to let the big irritations slide away from you, too. Every so often I have to remind myself that the most toxic voices shouting about the game without a real platform are also the ones with no one else to listen. It’s not helpful to just be angry, and letting that go is something to be thankful of.
9. Spend your money on things mindfully
The point of voting with your wallet isn’t a matter of forcing a course change in an industry; the point is making sure that you feel all right with how you’re spending your money. And online games? Yeah, they’re usually full of different ways to spend cash and also give you the chance to think about whether or not you really want to. And that means you have to think about what you’re buying and why.
Some games… well, just don’t offer very good value for your money. Some games do. Thinking about how much enjoyment you’re actually getting from a $10 purchase and feeling comfortable after all is said and done? Yep. That’s thanks-worthy.
10. Focus on the good times instead of dreading the end
I wrote many moons ago about the idea that every MMO is going to die. This year saw one of my favorites die, too; I’m never going to not miss WildStar. I know why it had to go (and even defended that decision), but it’s still sad to know that it’s going away.
But you know what? I’m thankful I spent time with it. I’m thankful I learned to play it and made memories and internalized ideas and spent my time on it, because everything goes away. Everything fades and breaks down in time. Your new car will eventually be broken down, your new computer will develop problems, your new phone will one day feel slow and dated.
So what do you do? You enjoy it as long as you can and you stay in while it’s fun to be there. And you’re thankful for the time you have.