Once You Go MMO…

… you can’t play anything else.  This was a comment made on episode six of the Shut Up We’re Talking podcast.  More and more I’m realizing that this is the case with me.  I’ve always been a gamer, starting with the Commodore 64, through a few different consoles, along with the PC.  I imagine that I would be quite embarrassed to know just how many games I’ve bought throughout the years and equally shocked to know how much I’ve spent on them.

It’s probably fairly safe to say that before EverQuest II, I bought, and played, at least one new game every month.  Nowadays I play EverQuest II pretty much exclusively with the odd game thrown in every so often.  Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean I don’t buy any other games, I just don’t play those other games that I buy.  In fact, over on the right side of this page I’m lying to you.  Under the heading “What I’m Playing” I have listed The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.  I haven’t played that game in months.  It’s a fantastic game, and I’ve loved what I have played of it, it’s just that when I get time to play on the computer, it’s the EQII icon that I click on my desktop.  I’ve got a whole stack of games like Oblivion, games I’d love to play, that just can’t beat out the lure to EQII.

Even on the rare occasions that I do play something other than EQII, I spend more time thinking about what I could and should be doing in EQII.  First it was getting my main character to max adventure level, then it was maxing my tradeskill level, now it’s maxing out my secondary tradeskill.  You get the picture.  Not to mention doing the same for my alts.  It really doesn’t leave a lot of time for any other games.

So why is that?  Obviously I enjoy EQII; I wouldn’t be playing it if I didn’t.  The content plays a large part in that.  EQII, and any other successful MMO, has a lot of content.  There has to be something new and exciting for you to do in order to keep your subscription.  I’m sure it’s not the same for everyone else, but personally speaking, even though I’ve been at max-level since September 29, 2006, there’s still lots of quests I’ve yet to complete and many instanced zones I’ve never even seen.  It feels to me like my goals are constantly changing.

The first “big thing” I wanted to do was kill Darathar, and after working away on the quests leading up to him, I felt a great amount of pride, anticipation, and a little bit of fear as I watched him fly overhead and settle down on the Isle of Refuge.  Were it a single player game, with Darathar dead the credits would roll and it’d be game over.  Instead, my goals shifted, be it killing Godking Anuk, gearing my character, or working on tradeskills.

While single player games usually cast you as the hero destined to save the world, I find MMOs feel more epic, even though you’re just one among thousands of potential heroes.  The reason I say this is in single player games, it’s more or less a given that you’ll eventually kill the big evil guy at the end.  With MMOs, there’s no guarantee you’ll even see the big evil guys.  In EQII specifically, not everyone will have the opportunity to kill Darathar, Anuk, Tarinax, etc.  So, if you do get those opportunities, it feels extra special.  I know first hand the work it takes to get to these encounters (well, still working on Tarinax), and it really does give you a sense of real accomplishment that I don’t think a single player game can provide.

The social aspects of MMOs also help to keep pulling players back to them.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve had a blast playing EQII just because of the conversations that took place through chat or Ventrilo, regardless of what we were actually doing in the game.  The fact my friends, and especially my wife, play EQII is also a strong pull.

So that’s what keeps bringing me back to EQII.  The fact that it makes me feel a part of the world like no single player game can.  The world is constant, yet ever-changing.  Heroes come and go, new challenges await.

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