Perfect Ten: Why do players keep playing MMOs they hate?

Into the unknown.

Hating your recreation is an oddly common hobby for a lot of people. It’s not universal, of course, but after any given new game releases you don’t have to search long to find people who hate it and will loudly tell you how bad it is now that they’ve played 80 hours of it. A new movie is out? A lot of people who bought access to it will tell you how it turns out they indeed hated it. Some people seem to just enjoy being unhappy about some stuff.

The same is true for MMOs; we all know people who have nothing good to say about a given game but keep logging in. But today I don’t want to talk about whether or not these people exist; I want to talk about why. If you really do hate a given MMO, why keep logging into it on a regular basis? Why do players keep playing MMOs they hate? Let’s break that down into list format.

Roast somebody.

1. Unconscious inertia

The first rule of cartoon physics is that an object in motion tends to stay in motion until it realizes that it should no longer be in motion, and the same can be true of people. It’s all too easy for someone to just keep playing a game and having nothing positive to say until someone actually says, “Hey, if you hate the game so much, why are you still playing?

What’s less good is that this usually means the person being asked this will just leave the game immediately, so… you know. Swings and roundabouts.

2. Conscious inertia

In the former case, the answer to “why are you still playing” is a dawning “I don’t know” and a decision to just stop playing the game in question. Satisfying! In this case, though, the person who hates the game knows that it’s not fun to play any longer. They’re sticking with it more out of a fear of losing out, trying to soldier on and hoping that all of the animosity is more due to burnout than anything else.

In other words, this sort of player is well aware that leaving might mean leaving forever, and that means losing out on everything already accomplished. If the person in question is a friend, it falls on you to make it clear that you can take a break and rediscover the love much more easily if you give yourself time to recover.

Oh, right, I hate this.

3. Social pressure

Of course, sometimes you don’t keep playing because of raw inertia. Sandra isn’t playing because she just can’t bear to lose her stuff or anything; she’s playing because this is the only way she can hang out with Mike, Simone, and Sam. And she still has a huge crush on Sam, even though she’s not sure if Sam would be interested.

Wow, this hypothetical just got really depressing. Sandra, you need to make a move.

Anyhow, the point is that this situation is reliant entirely upon social forces. Your friends all play this game, or your guild requires your leadership, or you manage a community… in some way, you keep playing for others. You’re not having fun, but they are.

4. Financial dependence

There are two sides of this one. The first is that you keep playing this game because in some way, your income relies upon it. If you’re a popular World of Warcraft or Fortnite streamer, you probably need to keep playing even if you’re tired of the game. On this particular site we don’t have that problem, but if you work for a site where the only games you cover are made by a specific company, it doesn’t really matter if you no longer enjoy the games in question. You have to keep getting paid.

The other possibility is if your financial dependence is more about the cost of playing moving forward. Yes, you kind of hate Star Trek Online at this point, but… you bought a lifetime subscription ages ago, you can’t afford to subscribe elsewhere, and thus you have a vested interest in still playing STO after all.


5. Lack of options or awareness

It’s very easy for people to either not know about all the MMOs on the market or just not have an accurate picture about what they all offer. I have certain friends who I am certain would love other games, but either consciously or unconsciously they’ve decided those other games feature X or Y which they hate (or they think they lack feature A or B, which they love).

And sometimes it’s not even just a lack of awareness. It’s hard to find a game that’s like EVE Online other than EVE itself, for example. If you want heavy economic focus with open PvP, you may not have a whole lot of options for games to play even if you don’t really like your one option.

6. The methadone factor

This is tied in to the last one, to a certain extent, but it’s also distinct. See, it’s quite possible that you recognize that you really want X, and the game you’re playing doesn’t provide much in the way of X. But it provides more X than any other option, so even though you hate the game, you’re going to keep playing to get that little bit of X along the way despite the diminishing returns.

Into the exceedingly well known.

7. Kamp Krusty syndrome

Picture Bart Simpson, curled up and rocking back and forth, repeating the mantra to himself: “Krusty is coming. Krusty is coming. And he’ll bring food, and water, and smite our enemies.”

These players really do hate the game right now, but there’s the vague hope that at some point in the future the game will be better in some way. Sure, everything is bad right now and there’s nothing good to say, but the next expansion or the next major patch or the next DLC or heck, even Krusty the Klown will arrive and make everything better. And then everything will… probably not be all better, realistically, but that’s still the dream.

8. Spite and nostalgia

There are times when you keep playing an MMO chiefly out of spite. This is probably not healthy, but it seems to be real all the same. Sure, you haven’t had fun in ages and the developers keep changing the game in ways you find to be materially worse… but that’s not going to drive you off. It wasn’t always this bad! You are staying here and not moving and the developers are just going to have to listen to you, eventually!

If this seems like it’s a bad idea… well, it kind of is, especially because it’s a close cousin to our next option.

I mean, if you're choosing this one...

9. Misery seekers

Some people really are only happy when it rains.

I don’t get it myself, but the evidence bears this out. Some people are at their happiest without happiness. There are people who want, more than anything, to consume things that make them angry and unhappy. This is not a failure state, even if it seems like it. The point was always to have something infuriating and misery-inducing so that these people could incessantly complain about how bad the thing is with acute vitriol.

Your best bet is to avoid these people as much as possible. There is enough awful stuff in the world without seeking out more things you’re going to hate.

10. Turns out it’s not hate!

And last but not least… well, sometimes the people you think are playing a game they hate actually don’t hate the game. There are a lot of people who have lots of complaints but also have some nice things to say, genuinely love the game, or just care enough that there’s lots to criticize. So it turns out that the problem isn’t really why these people hate the game, but why they focus on the negatives.

And sometimes the answer to that question is pretty obvious. Have you looked at Blizzard lately? It feels like Warcraft III: Reforged was years ago, I know, but that was January.

Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten takes an MMO topic and divvies it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. Got a good idea for a list? Email us at or with the subject line “Perfect Ten.”
Previous articleBlack Desert dates O’dyllita release for October 7, adds Garmoth’s Nest to the Red Battlefield and new events
Next articleBook of Travels promises gameplay footage this fall, delays early access to Q2 2021

No posts to display

oldest most liked
Inline Feedback
View all comments