Answering the siren’s call

Beau Hindman’s siren songs have been playing seductively in my ears for years now.  For the record, he’s been singing them a long time.  In fact, he now sings them from the shores of Massively.  In case you haven’t heard, here’s the gist of what he likes to sing about:

When it comes to your gaming, slow down.  Don’t worry about your level.  Explore more.  Rely less on maps and fast travel.  Get into the experience.  Role-play it up a bit. 

I can’t tell you how appealing this play style sounds to me, and yet, the way I play couldn’t be more opposite.  

Unfortunately, the speed of life that bleeds into every facet of my existence dictates my play style.  As there is very little down time in my daily routine, I’m constantly aware of the time, where I need to be in the next half hour, what needs to get done before I move on to the next task.  And that’s how I tend to play my MMOs.  Where do I need to go next? Bee-lining from quest hub to quest hub.  What quests can I knock out there?  Are the XP and the quest rewards worth it? 

I wish I could check my real world baggage in at the door before entering my gamer’s mindset.  However, that’s usually not the case.  When I do find the time to game, I’m always aware of the time (and what little there is of it).  I constantly feel the need to make the most of it and that there’s not a moment to waste.  Sadly, exploration, following the story of a particular quest chain, and simply enjoying the experience of being in an online world all take a hit during these sessions.

In other words,  my gaming has become less of an escape and more of an extension of my real life.  And that’s not really what I want.

I would be lying though if I said I didn’t enjoy what I’m doing in game.  This treadmill approach to gaming has served me well for many years, and it keeps me logging in, that’s for sure.  The sense of accomplishment is intoxicating and quite fulfilling.  But here’s the catch: this constant grind is exactly what burns me out on a given game.  I simply can’t sustain the level of drive needed to keep it all going.  And before I know it, the bottom drops out.  I’ve lost the momentum and simply stop logging in.

So where does that leave me now?

At the very least I plan to make a concerted effort to slow things down, to take more time with the whole questing experience.   If that means taking a slower form of travel from time to time or resisting the urge to constantly check my map and XP bar, well then, so bit it.  Speaking of which, I wish MMOs would come with the option to hide your XP bar (not necessarily turn it off).  That would be a feature I would definitely take advantage of.  At the moment I’m leveling—err, adventuring through Middle-earth with a captain.  He’s staying in Rivendell but has plans to move north up into the MistyMountains to see if he can lend a hand to Gloin and his dwarven crew.  Adventure is yet another siren’s call I find difficult to ignore.

For the time being though, I’ll remain chained to the mast of continued leveling, quest grinding and chasing the armor upgrade prize.  And even if in the end I’m not successful in slowing things down, it’s still nice to know that there are players out there who have.

Thanks Beau.  Please keep the songs coming.

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Posted on July 20, 2012, in Gaming life, MMOs. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. A couple years ago, I sat down and tried this with WoW.

    I did two 30-minute runs, both of the same class, race, and starting area.
    One was focused on powerleveling.
    One was focused on immersion.

    It was spectacular how much more fun I had when I turned all the mods and UI off, and just DID things. I looked up at the Sky for the first time. I turned on “slow quest text” to make me read each word. It turned out to be one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in that game.

    • Randolph Carter

      It’s nice to hear that. An immersive experience is definitely something I try to have when I game, but it’s almost too easy to get into the numbers grind and ignore the rest of the game. As I said, I’m making a concerted effort to slow things down a bit.

      Thanks for posting.

    • I wonder how to design a game that rewards you for intentionally immersing yourself. There’s got to be a system that can provide the incentives for doing this…

      A very simple example:

      http://www.zovirl.com/2011/12/20/forest_meditation_game/

      A more complex objective-based game would be harder, but you get the idea. Instead of “slow down” the goal could be “enjoy yourself and feel heroic”, or any other host of emotions. Now that’d be neat!

      • Randolph Carter

        I have to agree with you there. That would be awesome. I wonder if we will ever see anything like that though. I, for one, would welcome such innovations.

        Interesting meditation game too. Thanks for the link.

      • I suspect that many of us would. In fact, I’m trying to put together a little research project for an MMO that markets exclusively to MMO bloggers and jaded forum-goers. We tend to think very much alike, and there might be enough of us to support a little 3,000 player MMO sometime in the future.

        Focus on heavy exploration, immersion and, actively progressing the world’s story in a simple sandbox setting. Might make a fun venture someday, since it’s a very different take.

      • Randolph Carter

        Best of luck with that. It does sound intriguing, and I would certainly give it a go.

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