Vague Patch Notes: All MMO play and no work makes Jack a dull boy

Not the point.

Here is my hard-hitting New World review: I haven’t played it and don’t have any urgent impetus to do so, but maybe it’s great. It certainly seems to have no dearth of people who are playing away, after all. But it also has a number of people who have spent the past couple weeks playing it as if this game were their job, noting that after a hundred hours it starts getting pretty repetitive and the endgame isn’t terribly developed.

And for those players, I ask you a simple question from a place of love and understanding: What are you doing to yourself?

We need to have a talk about how much game time is spent in the midst of active play, folks. For that matter, we need to spend some time talking about how you’re approaching these games, and as mentioned above, this comes from a place of love and understanding. Because I totally get the impulse to go full-on into a game and no-life your way through the title until you can really slurp the marrow out of the bones, but… well, let’s not mince words here. It’s making you miserable.

There’s a proverb that you’ve probably heard before now: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Its origins are a bit unclear, but it was recorded as being in use back in 1659, so it probably predates even that. It’s prominently placed in the middle of Stanley Kubrick’s film version of The Shining, so you’re more than likely aware of it from cultural osmosis even if you’ve never seen the film.

Here’s the thing, though: The inverse is true, too. All play and no work makes Jack a dull boy. It also makes Jackie a dull girl and Jaq a dull non-binary friend.

Let's do the life thing again.

I’m going to say something that might be a bit controversial on this site, but I’ve never been one to shy away from hot takes, so here we go: Video games are fun. I really like video games. I’ve liked video games for as long as I’ve been aware that they were a thing, and these days I make money talking about video games here and reviewing them elsewhere. Video games are neat.

But the reality is also that video games are a hobby. Video games are not going to fill up the entirety of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for you, and this isn’t some sort of failing of a video game. This is how these things are designed. They’re supposed to be a supplement to your real life, a hobby, something to do aside from working and chores and preferably part of this balanced full-featured life.

I know I’ve used this analogy before, but it’s a bit like eating a can of frosting. It’s fun at first, but by the point you’re halfway through it, you’re sick of frosting and you realize you’ve made a mistake. Getting mad at the game at this point is like getting mad at the frosting for not being more nutritious, ignoring the fact that the frosting is not the problem here. It’s doing what it was supposed to do. It never told you it was going to morph into steak and potatoes when you needed some actual nutrients.

Now, anyone who knows me in real life would point out that it’s not like I am devoid of times when I no-life my way through games for a bit. Heck, when Endwalker comes out, I fully intend to spend my days logging in to Final Fantasy XIV and then playing until it’s time to curl up in bed, pausing only to eat food, feed the cats, and use the bathroom. How can I say that it’s wrong to do that when I myself am doing precisely this without being an enormous hypocrite?

To that, I point to the following three things:

  1. I’m not doing this no-life nonsense for a week or hundreds of hours; I’m doing it for a couple of days as a break from my usual routine.
  2. This is done in no small part as a direct function of my job. It behooves me to be able to say something informed about a game that I am supposedly an expert about, and that means that rather than casually exploring the expansion gradually over time, I should put my effort into knowing what the heck is going on and being ready to say something coherent about the expansion sooner rather than later.
  3. The problem here isn’t a societal ill; it’s a personal one. This isn’t primarily about you ruining the world; it’s about you ruining the game for yourself and making things less pleasant than they could be.

Yes, to a certain extent there are sides of this that can absolutely cause issues at the societal issues. Down this road lies the people who send death threats to developers because there isn’t good enough anti-aliasing on a particular game title because you are far too invested in video games. But that’s not my focus for this week; I’m more concerned with the people making themselves miserable by no-lifing a title until it’s no longer fun.

Here we go again.

Again, the point here is that I get it. You want to enjoy all of the fun stuff a game has to offer, and that’s not only a defensible impulse but a normal one. Especially when you’re old enough and have the disposable income and/or time to just devote yourself to a game, I can understand wanting to just start in and not stop playing until you’ve seen everything on offer. It’s like a feast!

Except… you’re now feasting faster than the developers can address issues and before the community can really coalesce. You’re compressing what should be weeks or even months of playtime into days, and then you’re getting bored because there’s nothing to do. You’re stripping the game bare and then wondering why you aren’t having fun, neglecting how your own habits have made things less enjoyable.

This isn’t a situation wherein you are ruining the world and should feel bad; this is ruining something fun for yourself by gorging until it tastes like ashes in your mouth. But it’s also one of the easiest problems to fix as a result, because there’s no external force in charge of you. You can just… not do things like that.

One of the things my wife and I will frequently say in our house is that we need to go touch grass because left to our own devices both of us can happily wind up spending hours playing video games and doing nothing else. But while that might make us happy, it eventually starts to become unpleasant along the way. Our lives are improved if we stop to see a movie or watch a show together or read or cuddle on the couch or take a hike or do something else with our lives.

So put down the mouse for a bit. Stop playing for a while. Go do something else. Explore another hobby. Learn about something new. The game will still be there in an hour, and you’ll be happier having given yourself a little break to appreciate what it has to offer instead of consuming it all as if it were your job.

Go touch some grass, please.

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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