Perfect Ten: How to deal with MMO burnout

    
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It's fine, everything is fine, this is fine.

I remember the first time I got hit hard by the powerhouse slugger known as “burnout.” It was during my second stint in World of Warcraft, oddly enough, which by then had extended to a year-and-a-half of continuous play. I was clocking in three to five hours of game time on a daily basis (this was my pre-children era, obviously) and enjoying the cruise up through The Burning Crusade’s content.

Then one day, out of the blue, I realized I was sick of it. A cold trickle flowed down my spine as I couldn’t conjure up any feelings of excitement, pleasure, or interest in this game. All of the accomplishments and achievements I had worked so hard to get became absolutely meaningless to me in the space of a couple minutes.

I logged out, canceled my account, and then fell into a several-day funk when I was thrashing about as I tried to figure out how to fill this now-gaping void in my free time. Slightly pathetic, yes, but no less real for it.

In retrospect, I see how I stacked the deck for such an enormous crash, and many years after it, I now have a much better handle on how to deal with burnout than I did back then. In today’s Perfect Ten, I want to pass along my meager wisdom and experience about how to deal with this event… because it happens to most of us, sooner or later.

Pace yourself

Ironically, one of the best things that happened to my gaming career was my getting married and having children. In the space of five years, I went from having every evening available for non-stop gaming to grabbing snatches of playtime between making dinner, talking with my wife, changing diapers, and going out on walks. Life intervened in my MMO gorge-a-thon to limit my play time, and in so doing, gave what hours I could play more worth.

So my advice from the start is to pace yourself. No two people are the same, so I’m not advocating any strict number here, but just because you can spend five hours in a row gaming doesn’t mean that you’re strictly obligated to do so. By parceling out your leisure time, you’re going to be forestalling burnout and making your time in game that much more special.

Ask yourself, ‘Is this fun or will this lead to fun?’

Behind the many great aspects of MMO lurk a few not-so-savory game mechanics that prey upon our psychology and behavioral patterns to make us engage in activities that aren’t fun at all and keep us playing long past the point that we enjoy it.

Once I came to accept the hard truth of these mechanics, I embraced a simple yet effective maxim in my gaming time. I constantly ask myself, “Is this fun or will it lead to fun?” If the answer was no, I just stopped doing it. If I’m performing dull, repetitive tasks that aren’t fun now and in all honesty won’t lead to anything super-fun down the line, forget it. There’s always something else I could be doing in game, and if that’s not the case, then I need to find another MMO that elevates fun over the grind. Happily, the industry is shifting such that more and more MMOs are designed with accessible fun as a priority.

Try something new from time to time

One of the reasons I hit burnout is that I get tunnel vision with my in-game goals. I stick to one character way too long, doing the same narrow set of tasks (such as re-running dungeons to complete an armor set). It’s no surprise that sooner or later I become completely sick of it. It’s like I’ve voluntarily put myself to work in a factory where my job description is, like, three functions.

This is why I embrace trying new things in my favorite MMOs, such as rerolling an alt, experimenting with a different build, or trying an aspect of the game I’ve yet to touch. Sometimes we get so in a rut that we grow blind to the rest of the game world around us, and that lack of vision can hide the fun that exists out there.

Balance your gaming diet

Up until 2009 or so, I strictly played one MMO at a time — and this despite having way more gaming time than I do today. Now? Now I have a regular rotation of several MMOs, and I’m not hesitant to take an evening out of my routine to give an older or newer title a try.

It’s bliss, to tell you the truth. Sure, I’m no longer able to jet up to the endgame in two weeks and engage in raids all the time, but the trade-off means that my diet’s gone from one overeaten course to a virtual buffet of variety and tastes. As the industry embraces longer trials, free-to-play, and other affordable options, money has ceased to be the barrier it once was.

Be a part of the larger MMO community

Over the years, I’ve seen two types of MMO gamers: those who are so locked in to one title that other MMOs might as well not exist, and those who, no matter what they play, are at least somewhat aware of and involved with the larger MMO community. In my opinion, the former have a much higher chance of being brutalized when burnout happens because that one game has become their whole world and it’s suddenly gone.

Even though I don’t play every single MMO out there, or even all the major ones, I love being plugged into the community, reading up on what’s happening in these other virtual worlds, and keeping the more interesting ones in mind just in case.

Have a backup MMO on hand

Speaking of “just in case,” it helps to have a backup game on deck for when your primary one blows a gasket. Nothing is more disconcerting than experiencing burnout for a specific title while you’re still yearning to play an MMO and have no idea where to go. Even if you merely dabble in a second or third game, knowing that it’s there provides a safety buffer for your gaming sanity.

Join a multi-MMO guild

One of the reasons we stay with MMOs long past our personal expiration date with them is that we get attached to the friends and guildies we’ve met while playing it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read or heard players say that they’d totally leave Game X if it weren’t for the people. And while that’s an excellent testament to one of our hobby’s greatest strengths, it has the potential to make us miserable if we want to leave yet feel like we’d be abandoning friendships.

The best way to counter that, especially in advance, is to join a multi-MMO guild. These are guilds that have chapters in several games — including upcoming ones — and are completely OK with members game-hopping. This way you can switch between MMOs without losing those connections, with the added benefit of not having to look for a guild in the new game.

If your current guild is located in one game only, it can’t hurt to talk to the leadership about starting up a chapter elsewhere, especially if you’re willing to help get it going.

Take MMO vacations

Once in a while I’ll just up and stop playing games for an extended period of time. Occasionally this happens when I head out of town, but I’ve done this on a whim as well. I’ll go for days without logging in — or even playing any games — while I spend the extra time catching up on reading, completing a home project, or just being with my family.

You’d be surprised what a few days off from gaming can do for your interest level, since the old adage “absence makes the heart grow fonder” is true enough. On top of recharging your gaming batteries and forestalling burnout, vacations from MMOs can provide a valuable gut-check as to whether you’re addicted or not, as well as help you evaluate whether the game is so compelling that you want to come back to it.

Sitting around.

Step back and evaluate just why you fell for this title in the first place

I never, ever start an MMO with my mind full of excitement over endgame raiding or the gear grind. On the contrary, what gets me pumped are often the little things — the fun setting, the small details, the joy of a new class, the sense of wonder as I explore the world. When those are traded for advancement and leveling, I start to forget why I fell for this MMO in the first place.

So it’s never a bad idea to engage in a bit of nostalgia as you recall why this MMO is special to you, and as you’re doing so, see whether your initial focus has been sold out for something that you were told you needed but wasn’t that glamorous in the end.

Be OK with walking away

Finally, when the big bad beast of burnout pounces and you crumple to your desktop in misery, realize that it’s 100% OK to just walk away from the game. It is, after all, a game, not an obligation or a job or a life-and-death matter. If you’re not having a good time with it and have mined all of the thrill out of it, why stick around? Pack up your memories, say fond farewells to those you’ve adventured alongside, and move on with your life.

There are always other games and hobbies out there, and if you ever decided to return, chances are that your character will still be waiting — maybe with fully recharged interest as well.

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 justin@massivelyop.com or eliot@massivelyop.com with the subject line “Perfect Ten.”
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Stormsong Minstrel

No solution for me. Start new toon – ok, new class, new class quests, new impressions…untill I run into grind. Kill 128 rats here, slay 520 piglets there, then run daily 4 quests for scrolls, when you need some 200 scrolls…
It ends in my feeling bored with no alternative.
Sorry for offtopiv, but…i tried to think about alternative to Lotro. Tried many known titles: FF14, Rift, Guild wars2 (long live asuras, provided their Golems won’t destroy mankind), Age of Conan (long live half nude Tempest of Set), Neverwinter, Secret World Legends, then some lesser known types. None had feeling like “Oh, I belong there”. Istaria could have been an option, but it is so complicated with it, like installing stone-age software, mandatory logging into account each month etc.
If anybody has ideas about low fantasy f2p mmo – could really use some.

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Holden Nagata

I’ve always had a rotation of MMOs and it’s done wonders tbh. I have to pause my WoW sub for a bit, so now it’s time to enjoy some ESO and GW2.

I’ll have to look into multi-MMO guilds though; advice I didn’t even think about is exactly why I come to MOP!

Weirdly enough, the repetitive tasks/dailies that endgames offer are actually relaxing to me now that i’m at a 9-5, set schedule job. At something like retail where your schedule is stupidly variable, they didn’t work well for me. So to give back some advice: where you are in life will influence how and why you play MMOs too

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IronSalamander8 .

I burnout on MMOs, and as an extension, certain other games fairly often. I generally either move on to a different MMO, return to one I hadn’t played in years, or play other games.

EmberStar
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EmberStar

“Over the years, I’ve seen two types of MMO gamers: those who are so locked in to one title that other MMOs might as well not exist, and those who, no matter what they play, are at least somewhat aware of and involved with the larger MMO community.”

In my personal experience, there’s a third type. Although their nature means that they might be much harder to spot. That is: The kind of people who quietly play a game, either solo or in small groups with friends/family, and aren’t part of the community at all. They don’t aim for world firsts, they don’t join big raiding guilds. There’s something about the setting or world or game mechanics they enjoy… but getting into text-based jousting matches on the forums isn’t part of it.

It’s also hard to say if this group has any issues with burnout, since if they do stop playing a game it’s not going to be accompanied by some dramatic announcement or explosive guild drama. They’ll just… vanish. As simply and quietly as they existed to begin with.

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Cory James Hill

MMO Burnout? I’d have to find one worth playing that much to experience burnout. lol

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Schmidt.Capela

I mostly follow those because of WoW, though for most of them not exactly due to burnout.

WoW’s Zombie Invasion was the watershed moment for me; it showed me beyond any doubt that I should never, ever, blindly trust a studio, that even the best game could suddenly turn into a stinking turd, and thus that I should always have other options for my gameplay.

I did have a burnout episode later, mind, when I was already practicing most of the things you pointed; what changed after my burnout is that I learned to never, ever, allow others to depend on me, since having other people depend on me is what most effectively causes me to keep playing when I’m not having fun anymore. Avoiding that trap again means I will intentionally, and explicitly, push away anyone that I feel is starting to depend on me in-game, and if that doesn’t work I will simply vanish from the game for at least a few weeks, if not months or years.

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jealouspirate

Good article. I get burnt out on certain games and have to walk away for a while. Perfectly normal, perfectly healthy.

I was playing Shadowlands pretty hard for a few months climbing the Mythic+ ranks. Once I finally got Keystone Master (all dungeons timed at +15) I really felt ready for a break. I’m still subbed, but my playtime has decreased a lot. Meanwhile I’m playing other games and pursuing other interests outside of gaming. By the time 9.1 is released I should be ready to start playing again.

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Minimalistway

Tried playing many MMOs and it didn’t work, too distracted to advance in any of them, what i do right now is rotating between them, one MMO for 2 weeks, then another for 3 months, then another for a week or three.

Also playing single player games from time to time.

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Fisty

I balance it by playing different genres. I like to play an RTS or a 4x to put my brain in a completely different mode. Or just not PC gaming for a few days while I play on the Switch when I need a gaming fix. Mindless Diablo 3 runs are great.

I also have my last PC set up as a nostalgia rig. I have two profiles on it; one set around the year 2001 and another a little more recent, 2010ish. Ex: On the 2001, it uses a slow internet through my ancient extender with a more Win 98 appearance and theme, and old ass, but excellent games. The browser doesn’t have my logins stored, no social media or any of my fav sites of today bookmarked (like this one). It helps me to be able to disconnect a little bit and I will just take a break from everything modern for a weekend, or even a week.

I find if I just toss my phone in a drawer, pop in a DVD, read a book or do a little nostalgia gaming and in a little while my whole world burnout, not just MMOs, will start to subside and I can come back fresh.

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Holden Nagata

interesting idea, if my old PC wasn’t an electricity hog I would definitely try this :(

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Fisty

I just leave it off til those days. Then turn off the main. So, the trade off brings a bit of balance.

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Castagere Shaikura

I take a break by playing single-player games. GOG is having a sale on fallout 3 and new vegas GOTY editions for 10 bucks. So I have been enjoying them on GOG because they worked like crap on steam. GOG actually fixes older games to run on modern PCs. No bugs or crashes like the steam versions so far. I’m told GOG fixed the multicore issue and shut down the windows live crap. Steam doesn’t fix games.