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

    
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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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MilitiaMasterV
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MilitiaMasterV

I can’t. The old man who owns(ed, he’s 95+ and won’t be around much longer and put the building in the care of a property management company which ‘paid off’ his FHA loan so they can take it to a residential building that doesn’t support low income housing anymore.) the apartment building I live in told me to stay off the grass.

(Also, I second Bryan Correll’s comment down there.)

…but no seriously, I can understand this sometimes. I know I way over-do at times/get stuck in a pattern where I’m no-life-ing hard. I try not to get on people about stuff like this though and tell people to play at their own pace. If that’s burnout central, or so slow that the snails are passing em by, whatever.

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Jim Bergevin Jr

You’re almost spot on, Eliot. The one thing you missed is that not only do the Content Locusts ruin the game for themselves, but for everyone else as well. Invariably, the Locust will be the one crying on the forums about how the game’s (fixable) issues, lack of content, sucky end game, etc al. They tend to gain traction by bei g louder than anyone else, so the word spreads.

The devs then panic, because more and more Locusts are gathering ( as they often do). So instead of focusing on things that benefit the game as a whole and the majority of the playerbase, the devs start working on things to quiet the Locusts down. This of course leads us down that all familiar path we’ve seen hundreds of times before.

So let’s not beat about the bush. Content Locusts are bad, and do not deserve one iota of our sympathy nor time.

EmberStar
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EmberStar

Oh, like how usually a single digit percentage of the playerbase actually interacts with Raid content (beyond maybe “do it once to see the cutscene with their own character instead of a youtube playthrough”) and yet devs seem to spend *most* of their effort making such content?

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Hikari Kenzaki

Anything to excess is too much. Of all the things I failed to impart upon my children, that is one they actually seem to understand. This of course is the object lesson you use to give your children sugar without having them become obsessed with it.
It then expands to food, soda, video games, TV shows, and even objectively ‘good’ things. We didn’t restrict our kids activities as long as they self-managed and got other things done. That also meant we didn’t need to ‘force’ them to eat healthy foods or bargain with them on this or that. Heck, my youngest requested sushi for his 10th birthday party (and his 19th).
Alas, I think a lot of people grow up without learning that crucial self-regulation.

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Hikari Kenzaki

It should also be noted that I also play dozens of games as a side benefit of my job. If my boss asks me about a particular game system or function, I can rattle off how that mechanic is handled in 20 other games (I literally did this last month) from memory.
This also means I tend to realize when a game I’m playing is causing me more frustration than fun faster.

So sure, go touch the grass. Or just play something else for a bit.

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Utakata

…I much prefer play over work though. >.<

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Andrew McAteer

So, while I haven’t personally put much time into New World, I am aware enough of the game to notice the issues that sparked the discussion here (People no-lifeing the game to the point that they burn out) and happen to agree completely with Eliot.

But.

New World has a fair bit of the blame here. Particularly with the way it’s zone control PvP works. At launch, zone’s were first come first served for whoever had the cash, and they take more work, more gathering, more play, to develop if your guild gets the zone. And the more developed your zone, and the more skilled your character, the better you can defend it from threats (NPC invasions who want to break it and PvP wars to take it away from you).

And if you aren’t in a Company (read guild) with a zone, the better your skills (weapon to use gear, crafting to make gear) the better your chances to TAKE a zone from someone else.

And there are severe advantages for owning a zone, in terms of income and discounts, so your Company WILL want one, if they can take it and hold it. So you need to get as strong and wealthy as you can, as fast as you can, because the rest of your guild it trying to get bigger numbers so they have a better chance at actually taking land, and you know that every OTHER Company is trying to do the same, either to hold what they have, or take some land themselves.

So there’s this real social pressure, if your want to engage at all with the territory system, to push yourself as hard as you can to get as powerful as you can as soon as you can. And if you decide to take it slow… well they you weren’t earning money for you Company to buy land, or your falling behind the curve and won’t be able to help your Company take or hold land, and the rest of the company will be staring at you and…

Well, I think you see the issue. For all the the PvE side of New World is actually quite neat, the PvP side put’s some real pressure on players to play way more hardcore than may in fact be healthy for their long term enjoyment of the game.

Just a thought.

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Hikari Kenzaki

Think you basically made an argument here for why it’s bad game design.
If the structure of a game is so balanced toward pressuring and receiving pressure from other players to the point where a game becomes not-fun, then it’s no longer serving the purpose of the game. To have fun.

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Jim Bergevin Jr

Pretty much spot on. It’s amazing how people will rationalize poor game design to justify what in reality are poor playing habits.

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Ray O'Brien

So I’ve asked this a few times so if anyone at all knows please tell me where I can find Elliots reviews that are not on this site. I really enjoy the man’s writing and would like more! Anyone…..please…

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Hikari Kenzaki

Click his name above.

creationguru
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creationguru

I can agree with this 100% I am grateful that I have so many distractions in life that it becomes more of an issue to find the time. I also love the journey of leveling so I like to go through it at my own pace.

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kody

Quoting proverbs in the same article you’re judging people for spending their time playing a game? One where they’re enjoying themselves?

PlasmaJohn
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PlasmaJohn

Soooo…

tl;dr: Game binging isn’t the whole story. There are other motivations for the race to level-cap.

One of the serious problems with MMO leveling is that it makes playing with people outside of a very narrow band of your own level very painful if not outright impossible. Of course NW is too young to have the other problem. When a game gets old enough your largest active player population is at level cap so the obvious thing (to MBA’s anyway) to do is make tons of end-game content for those people. Nobody has solved this in any satisfactory way.

Part of the problem is one of progression. Progression is a core attraction for RPGs. Meaningful progression can make dull content palatable and its lack can make even well done content a drag. Case in point: XIV’s 7th Astral era quests.

Many games have attempted level sync (up- and down-). If you properly upsync a lower level person such that they get all the appropriate skills then level progression loses impact as a reward. Improperly done (just stat scaling) and you could be missing core skills (eg. interrupts, stunbreaks) required to finish the instance. This cautionary tale brought to you by SW:TOR’s roleless conversion of their dungeons.

Improper downsync (simple scaling again) makes older content trivial because it wasn’t designed for full toolkits. Proper downscaling feels bad.

EVE almost got this right. Given two ships if the hull sizes differ too much (eg. frigate vs. battlecruiser) there’s almost no point for them to fight. The frigates don’t have the punch and the BC’s can’t land hits. So frigates would mix it up with other frigates and destroyers which are both reasonably easy to skill into as a new player. The fly in that ointment are T2, T3, and faction variants. Essentially end-game versions of those hull classes which require some very focused and lengthy training plans to skill into.

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Bryan Correll

It’s making you miserable.

Nuh uh! I was already miserable.