All day, and all of the night

One of the characteristics of MMOs is that they’re available 24/7. But I wonder how big a selling point this really is.

In MUD days, it was important because it meant that the game was accessible to people from different time zones. It was also a pain in the neck because if the game crashed and there were no staff from that time zone awake, you’d have to wait several hours to get a reboot. On the other hand, they were generally free…

I’ve read a few posts recently from people describing how they sometimes use the MMO as a kind of refuge. Anyone who is awake through the dead hours of the night, the 3-4am period where everything looks darkest and most depressing, when there’s no point trying to get back to sleep because morning looms just near enough to make it seem pointless, when you are sick or tired or just have too much on your mind to rest easy – that’s when the game can feel like a sort of waking dream. You can switch off, but stay on. Other players will be around, dream phantoms one and all, but no one expects you to interact at 3am. They all have their own nightmares to escape, their own time to kill, their own long wait until dawn.

Instances do run at these times. If you ever mess up your usual timeclock due to inadvertent partying, illness, or whatever, you may find them. People know that the others are tired, they tend to be calmer and less demanding, or maybe just too tired to really press for the fast runs.

It’s the MMO equivalent of when you stay up all night and take a walk around the streets just before dawn. The light has an eerie quality, you feel that the world belongs to you and you alone.

I don’t know if it makes commercial sense to keep the games open 24/7, surely there are times of very low usage. But I’ve been occasionally glad of it.

Do you like that MMOs are available 24/7, and have you ever logged in during the middle of the night?