MMOs – Fun Or Just Habit?
It’s been my personal experience that MMOs are hugely habitual things. They provide us with a constant activity and unending goals all of which combine perfectly with our innate human desire to form routines. In many ways they’re like a giant comfort blanket and throughout all of my years of playing MMORPGs I’ve found that I easily (and totally subconsciously) create a routine around my chosen game. Whether that was my core games like Everquest in my hugely free student years, Everquest 2 in my early working years or now games like WoW and EVE in my more busy family man years, I always end up with some sort of scheduled game time that I stick to like clockwork or suffer the consequence of ultimate nerd shame. I am obviously a man of habit but how much of my gaming is actually motivated by fun rather than simply routine?
I guess the reason for this question is that I sometimes find it quite difficult to return to a MMO – any MMO – after a reasonable period of absence. It’s like once the habit is broken there is little else to attract me back or urge me to pick up where I left off and continue playing again. In fact, sometimes even the feeling of freedom from being enslaved to my routine can be quite liberating in itself. Obviously there are clear triggers that will pull me back in such as new games coming out, expansions launching or interesting patches going live. Likewise I can apply my mind and it’s limited capacity for thought to come up with a new alt or roleplaying character to stimulate my latent gaming muscles once more. This simple act alone can be enough reignite my desire for gaming.
I suppose in many ways this habitual form of gameplay almost borders on addiction, a word certainly associated with MMOs and the sway they hold over people. I think there is a clear distinction though because addiction implies inability to cease, regardless of desire, whereas habit is more of a willing capitulation. We could stop playing at any time, we just don’t want to and thus continue with our activities in our daily pattern.
Definitely there is a sense of fun to be had from any MMO when we first play it but I’m curious if it truly continues on a constant basis for every hour we play for every day on end. Doesn’t there just become a point when the fun factor wears of and our actions in game become one of habit and routine rather than a true sense of enjoyment?
For me, I’ll play an offline single player game for a period of time (two weeks or so) and then stop because I’m bored of it. A MMO, however, could last me years. Maybe it’s got something to do with the increased amount of content or the social connections I make or simply my love for the industry but it is also entirely possible that I continue to play somewhat because of the way the game has worked it’s way into my daily schedule. Unlike a single player game, a MMO will never end so it makes for the perfect distraction between 8pm and 10pm every work night. But am I having real fun every night or simply doing it out of habit?
Quite a strange concept, I suppose. What are your thoughts?