The Daily Grind: Which MMOs give you the most space for letting your mind wander?

We still care.

One of the things I regularly like to do with playing MMOs is to put something else on my second monitor to watch while I play. This might seem completely contrary to what others enjoy doing – after all, isn’t the whole point of playing a game to enjoy yourself with just that one game? But for me, it’s kind of nice to be watching a familiar movie I enjoy on one monitor whilst idly grinding up levels in Final Fantasy XI. One of these things doesn’t require most of my concentration, so why not treat it as a sideline?

But not every game really supports playing it this way. Games like WildStar, for example, are too active for you to really put them on as a background activity (the fact that that game in particular is no longer around is not the point in this particular case). So which MMOs do you find give you the most space for letting your mind wander? Which games are the best for just idly playing while you do other things?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!

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Elynaer Deiros

Yeah that’s FFXIV for me at the moment. Levelling crafters makes a lot of downtime when I’ve set up the macros, so I’ve caught up on a few things in the meantime.

Daniel Miller

Ffxi here as well, sure for reasons you said, but also i started back in the day before wiki guides or update notes.

So things like blue mage spells, or new gear stats, buffs, or game job nitches were always up for the finding.

I was always known for this on my sch. Skillchaining weapon skills and magic long before the trend, or aoe banish cleve killing, and such.

Now days mmos hand all to you on a platter. Now days i just put a podcast pr YouTube on in the background.

Tom De Laet

I like doing this in BDO since it’s a grinder but I might try it in E:D from a roleplay perspective.

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I tend to stay engaged even when doing “mindless things” (e.g. grinding). Some of the old school full-bodied MMO’s like WoW and LotRO have long stretches when you’re using the in-game travel system though, which can be 5-15 minutes of doing nothing. That is generally enough time to:

– make a cup of tea
– put away a dishwasher’s worth of dishes
– fill a dishwasher
– fold a dryerful of laundry
– fill an empty washing machine
– move the washed contents of said washing machine to an empty dryer

You get the picture. This has the beneficial side-effect of your significant other not minding the hours you spend in Middle-Earth, Azeroth, Norrath, etc., as they translate directly to RL chores being knocked off. At least it’s worked for me over 25+ years of marriage. YMMV.


FFXI about 15 years ago! Camping world spawns for 12+ hours a day gave me plenty of time to do other stuff.

Nowadays it’s rare for me to be on any game more than a few hours so my playtime is more focused.

Leo Mauler

Lord of the Rings Online has the best of both worlds. While there’s plenty of active content doing quests and raids, the servers in general, and my server Landroval, encourage group parties at Middle Earth cities where a musical group plays music and people hang out, talk, and dance. If you just want to be by yourself, the extensive crafting system allows you to set up a batch of items to create, and then they are done by your character with no involvement from you until the batch is finished. Musical groups have also been performing in the main Bree crafting area.

Lord of the Rings Online let’s you do as much active content as you want, and as much idle playtime as you want. I prefer it for this reason, since other MMOs usually enforce one end of the action/lazy spectrum over the other, forcing you to switch MMOs to switch playstyles. You can spend a whole day doing Lord of the Rings Online, with part of that day spent doing chores simultaneously.

Finally, the landscape is still beautiful and stunning, even though the game has been out so long. Just wandering around in the landscape, away from the cities and dungeons, is an experience unto itself. In these days of being stuck indoors a lot of the time, it’s almost as good as running through nature yourself. One’s mind sometimes needs active wandering, and Lord of the Rings Online provides that experience too.


I used to sometimes do this (looking at other stuff on PC not related to game while having a game open) in EVE, when taking a very long travel route using autopilot in systems with high security while not having anything valuable in my cargo or in ship fitting, while my corp was not at war with anyone and my security rating was high enough. That’s the only time I did it and I did not do this often.

If any game frequently requires me to participate in extremely boring and long lasting activities which require absolutely no attention and which allow me to do things like watch a movie while doing it – I would just quit it and play something that requires more attention. I don’t even care if I can use third-party bot programs to automate processes like crafting (which is awfully boring in just about every MMORPG) or resource gathering or leveling character in open world – this would still be extremely boring and I am not interested in selling crafted items or resources or selling in-game accounts with leveled characters or creating dozens of alts.


I generally prefer management over first-person action. I like evaluating/issuing tasks and letting them playout while I attend to other entertainment or real life. Less chance for burnout.

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I try not to do that anymore. I started playing on a single monitor or my TV so I can’t multi-task. I want to read and pay attention to quest text in FFXIV. I will still glance at my phone since it’s always there, but I try to make it a take-a-break activity, not a multi-tasking activity. My ADD has gotten really really bad, and I’m trying to retrain myself a bit.


I don’t play that sort of game.

That’s just me, of course.

I prefer games that engage me and keep me engaged. Once they move to the level of mindlessness, I move on.