I find that when a new and moderately successful MMO is released (like Rift at the moment), it shakes all MMO players up a little bit as if asking them to figure out why they are playing their current game of choice rather than the new one. Tobold for example feels that Rift is too like WoW to satisfy anyone who is bored of the latter.
I also find that MMOs in the past have tended to reward people who dedicated themselves to a single game. If you stick to one game, you have better chances to form deep relationships with a guild, to get into raiding/ end game if that is your interest, to really master the game and get familiar with all of it’s geography, theory, mechanics, tweaks and extras. Also MMOs have tended to reward people who put more time/ effort into them, if only in terms of being more elite in game.
And yet, as a player, I enjoy the perspective of having played several different MMOs. I wanted to sum up some of the reasons why I do feel it’s good to try different games (not necessarily all at the same time!)
This could also apply to playing single player games when you’re feeling burned out (or when a single player game comes out that you really want to play :) ).
1. Learn more about what you like about MMOs. Trying new games is great for helping you to figure out what you like or dislike about the genre. Sometimes, if you are burned out on your old game, this can be an overwhelming feeling, enough that you forget what you enjoyed about MMOs in the first place. This is why I disagree completely with Tobold about ex-WoW players trying Rift. If you are bored of WoW, then why not give it a go? Or LOTRO, or Age of Conan, or EVE, or Star Trek Online, or Pirates of the Burning Sea or any other MMO. Playing in a new game world, with different people, a different style of endgame, new character classes – it may relight the fire!
2. Meet new people. This won’t hold for people who always play in fixed groups but joining a new MMO and possibly a new guild is a good way to get involved with a new, enthusiastic bunch of players. Sometimes burnout is because of guild drama or old stresses and dynamics between players just blowing up. While there are other ways to meet new people (i.e. switch servers, join a different guild), playing a different game means a chance to find a bunch of people with different types of aims and goals. For example, any progression raid guild in WoW is going to have similar views on raiding – if you’re tired of that, and don’t want to join a more casual WoW guild, trying a different game with different ethos can be exactly the break you need.
3. Become a more flexible player. Sometimes burnout comes because you’ve learned to play all the classes, finished exploring the game world, and just feel that you’re done with the old game and there’s not much left to do. Starting a new game where you can be a noob again gives plenty of chances to grow and learn as a player, to practice those learning skills again and experiment with new classes, tactics, and mechanics. It can also be good for your confidence as a player, and help you feel less bound to a single game. After all, why shouldn’t you be able to pick up a new game if you want a break?
4. Learn more about what you dislike about MMOs. Maybe it really is the other players. The more you play other games, the more you will see some of the patterns forming. Do more hardcore players always end up being more elitist? Will you always feel pressured to keep up with your friends? I have been thinking a lot about this recently. I enjoy Rift but between flu and Dragon Age 2, I haven’t been playing a lot recently. Already I feel that I’m behind, that there’s no point crafting because people in my guild will do it better, that I wonder if people will even recognise me when I get back. That kind of pressure IS inimical to MMOs.
5. Find a new home. One of the nice things about tying yourself to a single MMO is that the game can feel like home, like a bar where you log in and always find people that you know, like a world where your character belongs. But when push comes to shove, burnout hits, you aren’t happy with something that the developers have done or are doing, you can feel suddenly rootless and homeless. A new MMO can be a chance to find another home, whether it be for a long stretch or even just the equivalent of a respite break.
And the final reason is that once you have a little distance between yourself and your old MMO home, you may feel more able to offer criticisms and to explain why the burnout hit, why you had to leave, why you needed that break.
I have been mulling over a fairly insightful post that Keen wrote in which he claims that MMOs are not ‘built to last’ any more, and he calls them ‘3 monthers’. A few people in the comments said that they thought Cataclysm felt like a 3 monther for them, which I think is a fair point – a lot of players seem to have felt done with it after about 3 months. But what does it really means if an MMO is built to last, is it something players really want any more? The only way to answer these questions is to play different games, talk to players who have played them for longer, and find your own answers. This will tell you more about the general direction of the genre than any amount of kvetching on blogs …