Massively Overthinking: Self-imposed ‘rules’ for MMOs


I have a couple of rules of thumb when it comes to MMOs. When I start thinking about watching a video while playing an MMO, it’s boring enough to be over and I should move on. I don’t buy gambleboxes, ever, no matter how much I want the foozle. I turn off toxic general chats because nobody there is going to say anything that helps me grow as a human. And I try to play the way I want to play, not how the game is pushing me to play, because this is supposed to be fun and I don’t work for a game.

I don’t really think hard about these rules or put MMOs through a checklist, but these are the things that guide my basic play.

For this week’s Massively Overthinking, I thought it would be interesting to hear what self-imposed “rules” our writers and readers have. Do you have time limits? Rules about guild participation? Content you won’t do? Let’s hear it.

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): I think these days, the big rule for me and clear-cut MMO is “Will this positively affect how I deal with other people in the real world?” Especially during the pandemic, I need to make sure that the game(s) I’m playing are going to help my social needs. It’s probably a big factor in me playing smaller-scale online games, as they tend to be more accessible for the general population. Sadly, at this point in my life, most of the MMO players I gamed with seem to largely play intense games I couldn’t hope to bring a RL friend in to play, or they’re not playing anything anymore. Oh, except for my brother, but I just can’t get excited for WoW Classic and even he’s sounding burnt out. We’ll see how Crowfall goes, though!

Ben Griggs (@braxwolf): Not buying gambleboxes is one that springs immediately to mind. It’s a holdover from one of my real-life rules: Know what you’re buying. I don’t buy the “mystery flavor” Doritos for $5, so why would I buy the mystery game shiny for potentially much more?

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): In addition to my rules above, I have more that are a little more granular! I seldom Kickstart MMOs and definitely not games that have a wisp of dodginess to them. I don’t do overt gankboxes anymore no matter how interesting the rest of the mechanics are (I did my time and got the t-shirt; nobody’s doing anything that wasn’t already done 20 years ago, I promise). And I usually won’t bother with betas unless I want to see something specific for an article. Oh, and if a studio’s acting like trash, I take a break from its games. It’s not a formal boycott or anything; I just don’t like feeling dirty when I game.

Carlo Lacsina (@UltraMudkipEX, YouTube, Twitch): The only personal rule I have when it comes to MMOs is that if I find a punnable opportunity, I take it.

Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, blog): Honestly, I’m having a hard time answering this question. I generally go with the flow for the most part, though there are certain habits I have like disengaging global chat and trying to come up with a vaguely lore-appropriate character name (just in case RP is encouraged or proliferous enough).

I guess the only self-imposed rule is to try not to worry about what waits at endgame, assuming an MMO has one. Metas and raid requirements and demands of gear score are alnost nothing of consequence to me, and if I find a game is that limiting, then I move on.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): I don’t play if it becomes a chore or an obligation. I don’t raid. I don’t do Elves. And I try really hard not to let FOMO or peer pressure keep me from playing what I actually want to play.

MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie, blog): My main self-imposed rule is to never join a guild run by someone else. I started my MMORPG journey in one, and while I met a couple life-long best friends (and birthday twin to boot!) and some amazing memories, the inevitable drama fallout that came with it nearly broke me. Even though I helped run the guild, I had to deal with a scary copycat and the wrath of a guild leader whose advances were rebuffed — both things that blasted into my real life. I literally fled to another game and holed up with my best friend. By running my small and cozy guilds, I can keep a lid on drama and toss out those who want to inject it. I did relent and break this rule once for Aion, and while I have good memories there as well, adding a psychotic and paranoid wife of the leader who targeted all women in the guild in game and IRL as well… and yeah. Just, no. Even if I am a guild of one, I am not going to give up control of who has that kind of access to me and my game experience.

Another steadfast rule of thumb is that I keep my private and roleplay and my streaming/public characters completely separate! See aversion to drama reasons above. The last thing I want is someone from RP to hunt down the real me, nor do I want my private play to reflect on my workplace. Other rules of thumb ebb and flow with the needs a situation/game brings up. Watch, I will remember three more the moment this gets posted…

Sam Kash (@thesamkash): I promise I’m not saying this because I’m the PvP columnist, but I always start my inspection of an MMO by checking out what sort of PvP will be available. If there isn’t any, I basically write the game off. It takes a Herculean effort by my friends to convince me to still look into it more.

Next, the game needs to have a gear cap or some method of capping max player stats so that strength isn’t determined by when you started playing.

As far as content I won’t do, it kind of ties into time limits. I basically won’t look at content that a single session needs to go over two hours. I typically don’t have that much time available at a single sitdown without interruptions, and I can’t put that on other players to deal with.

Every week, join the Massively OP staff for Massively Overthinking column, a multi-writer roundtable in which we discuss the MMO industry topics du jour – and then invite you to join the fray in the comments. Overthinking it is literally the whole point. Your turn!

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my surpreme directive emerged from a very existential perspective. at some specific situations in my career, gaming became the to-go-drug in the sense of virtual crack. although my daily structure was (consequent as i have to be) always maintained, gaming (culture) escalated into an unhealthy (mental) fixation. RL felt like a (horror) fantasy, where my IG avatar imagined a RL persona(lity), always on the search for an emergency exit to return to (its virtual) reality.

aware of this psychological issue, after a thourough analysis of the specifics ofc consequence was exercised and established an at least therapeutical, if not a new perspective:
dont allow any game to dominate – ur day, ur thinking, ur life.

the inherent question – y any game is so important, that it not simply dominates, but defines every aspect of an individuals life – it grew a procress of analytical self- and also cultural reflection. cuz what is the meaning of games? (which at some points was metaphorical to my personal meaning of life)

games have a diverse, but always social spectrum for society, ranging from education to grouping, gaming was as existential for culture as bonfire-storytelling. Uluma, Olympia, Tali, Merels etc. all were social activities to reproduce the cultural values in an educational, but gamified setting.

personally the meaning of games was not an exit drug, but an educative upgrade to my daily structure, as i embraced the new media as the next evolution of art. (Sid Meiers) Pirates! made more sense to my 10y old brain than math homework, as i already knew my career could never ever be norm, i didnt simply felt special, but already was in my development(, cuz my parents werent any, so y became like them?).
games meant to me an interactive tour to my inner museum, to challenge my imagination and overall cognitive capacity, as i didnt trust the most obvious determination of my career (path). even worse i denied it, as income wasnt any challenge for me and those easily achieved successes also made me happy.
until i realised i wasnt (happy), until i realised iam obliged to a very specific career, which chose me.

i allow literacy to dominate my thinking, my daily structure, my life, not that i have any call, there is no option left to overcome the feeling of nonsense if i dont progress literarically. it chose me and all the exits were mere backdoors redirecting me into the (book)shelves, where i always felt at home.

this progressive process of self-respect changed my understanding of fun, while before gaming was identificational, an affirmation to my snobbish (self)image (Pirates! instead of math homework) gaming evolved from challenge to field science to cultural reflections – as arts (as any product, so do games,) reflect societies values. it is fun to me to experience (aka to analyse) the social impact of Corona in a gamified environment, to analyse performance society in WoWs hierarchy etc.

but not any game could offer me this fun, as there is a third aspect to respect: gameplay. although every product, so every game reflects society, there simply is gameplay without any appeal (to me).
(sry, i skip definition of gameplay here, as this would at least require an essay if not a (doctoral) thesis)
my personal preference is responsive, fluid and somewhat metaphorical, immersive, invested and optional, progressive, aesthetic, educational and social – it has to be more than just a game(play), but a metaphor, an attitude. (what explains the last brackets) – i would not play a game designed by Bourdieu(, Pierre himself), if the gameplay wouldnt be sexy.

in conclusion, this may be one of the most essential, if not existential lessons any game(, and therefor gaming culture) has to offer: dont waste ur time with nonsense (activities like math homework): HAVE FUN!

Hikari Kenzaki

Play what is fun.
Play what looks good.
Try to play all story with as little foreknowledge and research as possible.
Other than that, if I’m having fun doing something, I’m going to keep doing it.

Andy Turner
Andy Turner

I’m usually the guilty one but only if provoked I’m trying to reduce that small ugly behavior of trading blows


I have 5 criteria for selecting an MMORPG that must be met before I will commit:

1) It must be massively multiplayer. This may seem obvious, but many games listed as being massively multiplayer just aren’t. It can take quite a bit of digging to figure out whether this requirement is present or not.

2) Must have an IP that I’m interested in. If I’m going to be playing the game for at least the next 6 months, I have to want to live in that world.

3) Must have deep combat mechanics. I’m a combat-focused player, so having mechanics that have some serious depth to them is important for keeping me mentally engaged for a long time.

4) Character progression must be horizontal, not vertical. I’ve seen vertical progression ruin long term enjoyment in every MMORPG I’ve ever played, its just something that isn’t suitable for a massively multiplayer game.

5) Must include objective-based open world PvP. By this, I mean the PvP must occur in a location which isn’t player capped (i.e. open to everyone), and we must be fighting for control of something, like a keep. Large scale multiplayer is the unique selling point of the genre and PvP tends to be the only time this USP is actually used. The PvP should be consensual.

Sadly, this list of criteria means I haven’t found an MMO home in many years now. Horizontal progression has not been adopted yet, and the switch to action combat means most mmos have quite shallow combat mechanics which leave me bored as hell after just a few hours. Luckily, Camelot Unchained does meet all this criteria, so if / when it releases, I’ll be very happy!

Once I’m in a game, the only rule is “Am I having fun?”. I will then assess why and where I’m having fun. If the fun is only being provided by the other players, and not the game itself, then it’s often a sign that I’m ready to move on. But, if the game itself is still providing the fun, then I’ll keep playing it and enjoying myself.


I guess I actually have a ton of self imposed rules. (Or self inflicted crippling limitations, depending on perspective.)

I don’t join Guilds. In the case of Warframe, where a ton of weapon and even Warframe blueprints are locked behind Clan research, I made a solo clan and paid the resource cost to unlock the blueprints by myself. In Star Trek Online I made solo fleets redside and blueside, but mostly for the purpose of blocking random blind fleet invites. (They eventually added a menu option to block them, but it wasn’t available at the time.) Fleet progression there is far to expensive for me to even bother – it takes tens of millions of resources and credits.

I do not PVP. Ever. I do not even enter mixed PVP zones. I have tried PVP. Which was adequate experience to determine there’s absolutely nothing about it I enjoy.

I do not do “raid” content. See above.

I’m not interested in teaming with strangers, and avoid “team only” content whenever possible.

The first thing I do when making a new character is disable any form of General/Zone/Region chat, along with Trade, Looking for Group, and especially any PVP channels.

There’s probably more, but I doubt many people care to hear me recite the “Litany of Things That Annoy Me” from “The Codex of No One Else Cares.”


I mean, I think that’s the point of this thread. To discuss.

I’ve got my own awkward lists, but I’m not going to list em in here..just making this tiny comment to read others.

David Goodman

The game has to be fun in the first 10 minutes that I play it.

Not “wait until you reach X”! Not, “the game picks up a lot once you get to Y zone”, the first. Ten. Minutes.

If you cannot make a game fun for the brand-new, out-of-the-box, first-time lowbie, then even if your game IS fun after that, i’m not interested.

I’m kinda tired of the old trope of MMOs that demands you start off in the literal garbage bin of gameplay. It only worked for the earliest MMOs because there wasn’t competition. There are choices now, I don’t have to suffer through tedium and mediocracy.

This isn’t just an MMO thing though, this applies for any game. “Where is the fun?” is a question a developer should ask themselves in every aspect of every game, at every stage, in every area while they work.


Ignore the assholes in chat.
Try to play as best as you can (i.e. prepare for a raid if you need).
Help people asking for help to the best of my knowledge.
Have fun and leave the daily shit out of the login page.

Bryan Correll

The only personal rule I have when it comes to MMOs is that if I find a punnable opportunity, I take it.

I have that, but I wouldn’t call it a rule. It’s more of a compulsion. If I see a chance to deal out some punishment I just do it.

Houston Sanders

My biggest rule of thumb is to avoid the “flavor of the month” classes at all cost and never look up the current meta all the pro players are pushing. I focus on playing a class I want, building it in a way that I think will be best, and considering more than just looking up how everyone else plays the class.


The pigtail rules of 2:

1) If I am too sleepy, I don’t play. Unless I plan to die alot. >.<

2) I am there to have fun. So if I lose it while playing, time to quit and go onto something else.

…I am sure there's more. But the head can't really sport more pigtails. :(