Quitting vs taking a break

There are two types of gamer – and by gamer I mean people who would list gaming as one of their main hobbies. And this is valid across different sorts of games; board games, RPGs, computer games, etc.

1. One main game at a time. You might not actually get married to your current game of choice but your involvement is very deep. You probably spend a lot of time thinking and chatting about the game when you’re not actually playing it, whether it’s about running guilds or scenarios, or reading blogs or mailing lists.

2. Lots of different games on the go, possibly with a common bunch of friends.

If you are a type #1 like me (although I have bursts of type #2 and I think I’m drifting more that way with age also), then sooner or later you’ll get familiar with burnout. That game which has been an important part of your life for months/ years/ etc just … isn’t any more. Maybe it’s because the community has changed, maybe your life has changed, maybe something else caught your attention, maybe the game itself changed.

The first time, it may take you awhile to realise this has happened. People are resistant to change, especially when it might affect their social network, and moving on will leave a gap.

But does moving on have to be a permanent thing, or is it more like putting the old game on the back burner for awhile? I’ve done both before, and a lot of it comes down to the emotional situation you were in when you left, plus the state of the game/ community when you are thinking about returning.

Taking a break from WoW

It’s probably been obvious from the content here but my sub to WoW ran out a few weeks ago.

I’m not writing a long and impassioned post about severing all my ties to the game because I think it’s quite possible that I’ll go back sometime. It just won’t be in the foreseeable future. This did make me think about the difference between quitting a game for good (“I’m never going to play this again!”) and not making that final decision (“I don’t want to play it right now, but maybe sometime in the future…!”)

Clearly, developers would prefer the latter because it means that the people who were just taking a break can be lured back. It may not be until the next expansion but they’re still potential customers. And this is particularly key in F2P games because there’s no subscription fee to act as an extra barrier for returners.

On the other hand, we know how big a factor the social networks in games are in keeping people playing. By taking a break, even a fairly short one, a player is probably breaking off those social networks. No raid guild, for example, will keep a spot open for more than a few weeks (if that). Many players have short memories online and if you take a break for over a month or two, you may log back in to find that you are remembered by a few, but things won’t be the way they were before.

Why take a break?

For me, taking a break from a game is when I still like the game itself but I just don’t want to play it any more. It’s when I still like the guild but the burnout means I can’t bear to log in.

It’s not you, it’s me. Or maybe it is you (if you are the game) but I could forgive you in future, I just need a break. I don’t know what would have to change to make me want to come back. I just know it isn’t something I’m planning any time soon right now.

I’ve been through this before with WoW, personally. When TBC launched I was playing in a 40 man raid guild. It dissolved messily over a few months, and I was so invested in the guild (I’d been a class leader) that I just wanted to get away from the whole scene. I think I took about a year out, and when I did return, it was with a different server/ faction and I was astounded at being able to reconnect with my old guild (pre-40 man raiding on alliance, I mean).

It’s happened before, and it could happen again. So it’s goodbye, but not a final burning of all the bridges. I’ll miss my guild more than they’ll miss me; they’ll still be running the same instances and raids, chatting in gchat, working on guild achievements – just with one fewer grumpy person who was half burned out to take part. But then again, I have other things to do, games to play, people to meet. I wish them well.

Because this isn’t the first time I’ve taken a long break from a game, I had a rough idea what the issues might be in returning later. Those are mostly:

  • Can you pick up your old social network or is it time to start again? This is particularly tough for raiders. A casual raid group might be able to find a spot for a returning player, but you can’t rely on a more progression minded raid doing the same thing. This is especially true in a 10 man raid where they won’t be so big on having substitutes and rotations.
  • And can you catch up with your old character or would it be easier to start again? Blizzard are trying to make it easier and easier for a returning (or new) player to catch up with the current endgame, so as long as you don’t mind LFD, chances are that this won’t be an issue in WoW.

For example, I haven’t used realIDs in a big way in WoW, but once I decided I was taking a long break, I did swap realIDs with a lot of guildies and in game friends. It’s a practical issue at that point. If/ when I go back, they may be on different alts or in different guilds but I’ll still be able to touch base. It’s not quite like going cold into a new (or old) game where you don’t know anyone or can’t find anyone you know.

Plus I know I will want to play Diablo III when that comes out, and it will be cool to be able to chat to my WoW friends on battle.net when that happens too.

Have you taken a long break from a game and then returned? What issues did you face?

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9 thoughts on “Quitting vs taking a break

  1. Well, I played Aion for a good part of a year or so before I finally took a break in January. My reason for breaking is that I’m waiting for them to decide how to handle the whole pvp thing(they’re trying several things.) I do miss my nine foot + tall taloned enormous dude and the pretty world, but really that was a game i more or less solo’d or casual grouped anyway since most folks i knew who started had already left. So I have no real ties either way.

    Well, it’s partially that, and now that Rift has taken over my backup…yeah. But I just love Aion’s visuals and music a lot, damnit! Rift though I have some actual social ties to now.

    And I’ve taken WoW breaks as well, though not for like a year, maybe 4 months tops at my longest. I take 1 month a year off for visitiing the US. For extended breaks? Sometimes I think it’s fun to try something new-I did that after my 4 month final break, I had rolled my paladin and decided to focus him on my new main(way back in TBC). So I definitely think it’s fine to start anew-it’s easy either way, to be honest. If anything I think starting anew can be a big help, it helped me get back into it playing nearly the complete opposite of what I ran in Vanilla. (I was an undead mage, and I went belf paladin, so a cloth ranged pure class-he was an ugly SoB too-to a plate hybrid who is still quite the handsome fellow. :D)

    Rebuilding a social network? This can take time, and keep ini mind these days it’s different. In Vanilla, we didn’t have server transfers until very late in it’s cycle, and I noticed it wasn’t used *all* that often. Now Server Transfers, Faction Transfers(with possible upcoming Guild Transfers) can leave a server looking very different-I know MG has changed a lot since I rolled my pally there in the first few months of TBC. Real ID will keep you in touch with friends-but they might all be scattered about. It’s kinda freaky to think about, but it’s definitely a thought for these days. People you knew might want to find greener pastures on other servers/factions or both.

    So I think it’s possible to take breaks and still get back into the game. But I think right now the way WoW is changing….if people left due to generally feeling burnt/etc with how the game is going now-I have a sinking feeling it won’t be getting much better. In other words, I have a feeling that people who are taking time off now, waiting for things to ‘get better’…won’t really find that upon coming back unless they have a big change in design philosphy.

    • Yup, if people are leaving because they’re burned out at the state of the game, that probably won’t improve (although you never know).

      But if people are leaving because they’re bored, then waiting two or three patches should at least bring in some new content.

  2. My WoW also expired this month, I’d seen my friends leave and the social guild I was in collapse due to lack of direction and players leaving hand over fist. However, now I am enjoying Rift. I have no friends in there yet but my most high level character is only 14 so it’s not like I’ve invested a huge amount of time in it yet but I am vastly enjoying breaking from something I was so familiar with.

  3. I’ve taken breaks from WoW before, but this one is permanent and I’m pretty sure of it. The people I liked in my guild there are also friends on Facebook now, so I can still chat and keep up with them.

    I’m playing Rift now, but it’s more of a break from LotRO than WoW. I had been raiding in LotRO for about 5 months when Rift was released and needed a break. My WoW ties were severed when my pally mount that I quested for was changed to an Elek. Yes, it was the elek over the pally mechanics, which I got use to pretty quickly. And that is what it will likely take for many to leave a game permanently, a change that breaks how you look at that world.

  4. I just re-subscribed to WoW about 2 weeks ago, after being gone from the game for the last 3 months. In those 2 weeks, I’ve played 3 times, for a total of maybe 5 hours.

    I’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’ it seems.

    • I’ve always found that if I try returning to a game after an extended break… I can’t. Even if my old guild is there, or I hook up with people who remember me, it’s that “this isn’t home any more” feeling.

      Which is why I must find time to take an evening or two off Rift and go play LotRO very soon. Once Tremayne the cleric hits 50 I’ll spend a couple of evenings back on Tremayne the loremaster, trying to come to terms with the LI changes and maybe paying a visit to some of the new instances with a kinship group if I’m lucky. It probably helps that I’m in a “social kin that raids” rather than a hardcore progressive outfit, and I’ve not been a regular raider – so there’s no feeling that I left a regular raid in the lurch and am noe trying to take a spot back.

      Interestingly, I’ve had no problems with dipping into and out of Champions and Star Trek Online – probably because I never put roots down there in the first place.

  5. This is me also. I’m a “launch day vet” of EQ2 and I’ve loved it all along, but I took a break for about 3 months just before Sentinel’s Fate came out, then resubbed for 9 or 10 months, but am now taking a break again. I bought the DoV expansion just before canceling the sub for the break, becuz I know I’ll be back to it. It’s just that Rift is my new shiny for a while.

  6. I’ve just stopped playing WoW. I might go back to it, one day, maybe, but probably not. I’ve played since launch. Six years is a pretty good time for any game to hold my attention.

    I might try SWTOR and am definitely going to try GW2.

  7. Long-term relationships with games are a bit of an aberration in my experience anyway. Sure, I’ll play a Final Fantasy for 60+ hours overall, but even that is only what, three weeks of typical WoW play? I actually think it’s healthier *not* to get neck deep into a game to the exclusion even of other games, much more whatever passes for a “real life”. Games are great, certainly; I’d not work in the industry otherwise… but they just shouldn’t be monopolizing time, whether in the short term or long term.

    Breaks or breakups are healthy in this case, methinketh. If you can maintain interpersonal contacts through breaks, hey, the people are the best part anyway.

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