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?

On taking a break from your main, and then going back to it

It’s fantastic to have an MMO which has a single server. All your mates are there. You don’t have to worry about whether your server will end up being under-populated and dead, or whether all the hardcore gank guilds will pick it. You know that all the best guilds will be there, because there isn’t anywhere else.

But recently in WoW, I’m also seeing the advantages of having several servers. When you are tired or worn out on your main character and want a break, you can take a ‘server holiday’. I’m not tired of Spinks, but I am running out of endgame content for her. And rather than burn out or pay to be bored, I’ve been spending more time on alliance alts with friends.

So most of my experience with PUGs recently has been with various alts: the hunter I’m playing with Arbitrary (our duo recently hit Outland, which is the first time she has been there), the inevitable death knight (did anyone mention yet that blood specced tanks are overpowered?), the bank alt that got levelled just because, the lowbie fixed group that I’m playing with friends (ok, no PUG there).

Last week, I decided that I missed my level 80s and ran a few instances on Argent Dawn, just to get back into the spirit of things. My main reactions:

spinksbadass

  • Spinks looks insanely badass on the loading screen in her T10 warrior kit. I think I’d been used to the lowbies, who look OK but … wow.
  • Spinks is a also a total beast when I spec her fury and go hang out in PUGs. Picking up Bryntroll the other week seems to have launched her into the dps stratosphere. I’m encouraged to spend more time practising as Fury to get my raid dps up a notch.
  • People are just plain nastier in level 80 PUGs. Oh for sure, the majority are fine, but the general experience was much pleasanter with lowbies.

Note the Ulduar tanking sword, I hate Blizzard sometimes

For example, let’s take a random LBRS (lower blackrock spire) group – which for my money is the toughest instance for its level.

We have a wipe, no surprise there. The rogue uses vanish to avoid being killed. As everyone else is running back, he comments that he’s scared about being alone with all those orcs. The tank says, “Don’t worry lilninja (that was his name), I’m coming to save you!”

Can you imagine that in a level 80 PUG? For one thing, as soon as there was a wipe, half the group would disband. If they didn’t, everyone would hurl abuse at the guy who managed to avoid wiping. And the tank would probably curse the healer.

Even the rubbish groups I’ve had at low level haven’t been really aggressively nasty in the way that high level groups can. Here’s another example:

Level 80 PUG, and I’m healing on my druid. I’ve not done any level 80 heroics for a month or so because I was taking a break. The tank is racing through and not waiting for anyone, and he’s taking shortcuts I haven’t seen people use before. I’m no slouch, but I’m remembering my way around. We wipe at one point (yet another stupid pull, and I got some adds because I didn’t realise that they’d skipped a pack on the way down some stairs) and I explain that I haven’t been there in awhile and ask if he could just wait for me to be in range from time to time. Others in the group whisper me and tell me that he’s just being an elitist jerk. He says, “You should have said you were a fucking cripple who couldn’t do your job,” and I leave.

I’m tempted to put it down to people continuing to run the instances long after they’re burned out. Which doesn’t happen so much while levelling.

I love my main

So it all comes down to this. I love my main character, and even after taking a break (apart from weekly raids) I get a kick out of coming back to her. Sometimes absence really does make the heart grow fonder.

But I will look forwards to harder instances in Cataclysm, if only so that they will cut some of the current 5 man players who fancy themselves elitist down to size.

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