March 9, 2011

When Should You Quit?

I'm not encouraging gamers to quit. I'm encouraging gamers to step away from their computers and take a look at the real world. The time we are spending infront of the computer monitor could be spent instead on something more worthwhile. Don't miss out on life because you decided not to miss a guild war.

It's not uncommon these days to find an article that discusses the addictive qualities of an MMORPG or Massively Multiplayer Online game. We often read about how these games destroy relationships and livelihoods.

There is just no denying that MMOs can be harmful to psychologically dependent individuals, and it isn't a point I intend to contest. Plenty of research into the subject has proven just that, and clinics exist all over Western Europe to treat the very addiction.

That MMOs are dangerously addictive and potentially ruinous is a sentiment that I can agree with, as MMO addiction is a bad situation that I can actually relate to on a personal level, based on my experience with games of the genre.

Unlike chemical addictions like alcohol, cigarettes and other substances, the addiction to an MMO is not physical. However, it is both emotional and psychological. The MMO tends to fill in a gap hitherto left vacant by an unfulfilling social life. MMOs can, in many ways, bring some sense of false emotional satisfaction to the user. The addiction to MMOs can be difficult to overcome.

To indulge in an MMO is to indulge in an activity that simply makes pulp out of your free time by chewing you up from the inside out. It's an activity that's arguably self-destructive, especially when it starts to eat into the time you'd spend cultivating your social life, work life or the leisure time you'd spend doing other things, like reading, writing or spending time on any number of other productive hobbies.

An MMO can essentially replace your social life (be it online or offline), depending on how immersed you are within the game's "community". When you've got no social life or friends outside of an insular MMO server, it's hard to give it up because it becomes the only life you know. The friends with whom you spend your time in an MMO are nowhere to be found outside of the "realm"; if they're just as addicted as you are, you won't even find them on an instant messenger. Essentially, the MMO becomes the user's only window to a sorry excuse for a social life.

With all that I said in mind, when you're hooked, how do you quit?

Personally, I have been fortunate that my experiences with MMOs have turned out to be less than satisfactory. Unfriendly communities in addition to broken or downright arduous (grind-based) gameplay mechanics are perfectly good reasons to stop playing an MMO.

It's not too difficult for one to walk away when the MMOs in question make you feel uncomfortably anxious as you play. Stripped of its cathartic qualities, a broken game with an unfriendly community can make anyone feel all but unwelcome. That anyone would continue to commit themselves to a game, no matter how unpleasant simply beggars belief.

If you're currently an addict who intends to quit, or know someone who is addicted to an MMO, here are some thoughts you can think about which may make the decision to quit an easier one to make:

* Burnout - Is it satisfying to actually spend an entire weekend grinding Reputation points for that 'exalted' status with a faction, or harvesting materials for crafting some useless piece of equipment? Are you even having fun anymore?

* Time Commitment - Consider the amount of time you're spending in an MMO and reflect upon it. Is it worth it to spend 6 hours a night in World of Warcraft when you could be spending that time doing something more productive? You could be spending time reading, indulging in a productive hobby, or even spending some time out with your family and friends. Life is short, so why squander it? If you need to play a game for hours upon hours to get anything out of it, it's a good reason to stop playing it because it simply isn't worth it.

* Real Life Commitment - Is playing World of Warcraft getting in the way of your real life commitments? Are you neglecting your significant other to spend more time with your guild? Is staying up late causing you arrive late for work or class every other day? Is it more satisfying to kill a raid boss than it is to wake up to a warm cup of coffee prepared by your loved one? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you need to look deep into yourself and think about the things that really matter.

* Fun Time vs Boring Time - Are you at the point where you are spending exponentially larger numbers of hours trying to get your "fix"? If the ratio of the amount of time you're having fun is significantly disparate to the amount of time you're feeling bored by the game, then it's time to question why you're still playing the game. Why spend time in an MMO when you can spend less than an hour in a game like Team Fortress 2, Left 4 Dead or any number of single and multiplayer games and feel sated by the experience?

* No Spontaneous Gratification - Why are you even playing this game if you have to spend several hours in it just to get anything out of it?

* Having trouble keeping up? - If you find yourself having trouble keeping up with your guild mates and other players in an MMORPG, consider yourself lucky. Quit while you're behind.

* Meta-gaming - If you find you aren't a game designer, but you find yourself talking about how to down a raid boss for hours without end, or spend days researching the best "build" for your character class, then you need to examine who you are. Is this the person you want to become? Do you want to be a WOW-nerd?

* Are others quitting? - If your guild-mates are complaining that they're spending too much time in the game, just take it as a sign.

* Culture - If you think it's okay to make racist and sexist jokes because everyone does it in the Barrens Chat or refer to everyone else as '****' or suffix terms for them with '-***', then it's time to quit before you genuinely become a socially unacceptable person.

* Guild Drama - If playing a game causing isyou more grief than any experience you might go through in the real world, just ask yourself, "Is this worth it?"


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1 comment:

  1. Great article!

    I've been playing DC Universe for almost a year now and I feel I'm wasting my time. I'm not a total addict but I think I play way too much, around 1 to 3 hours a day, and I have the need to play it everyday to achieve my goal which is, getting my Marks of distinction.

    Like you said, I don't think I really have any fun in the game anymore, it's very repetitive and boring, I get anxious and angry a lot.

    Anxious because I spend a lot of hours just to get a few Marks of Distinction so when I reach around 40 to 60 Marks I can purchase another piece of gear that it's not going to make a big difference and that's frustrating.

    Angry because there are a lot of people shouting abusive stuff in the game, elitist sad people that you can tell all they do is play the game all day and like to put casual players down because they have amazing gear. So unless you become a total addict and forget about the real world, you will always be an underdog in the game and never really get to anything other than the same repetitive grinding for gear everyday.

    As of today I'm quitting the game. I used to play single player games and I was much happier with gaming. You buy a new game, play it for a few weeks, get total gratification for finishing the game and move on to the next one. It's a better experience overall, it's just ME time, no idiots shouting at me because I'm not a MMO nerd and have a real life, no repetition, no glitchy game playing. You play at your own pace and play for fun and relaxation.

    Competition in MMOs is a horrible thing because it's not about the skill, it;s about the time spent on it, so whoever spends the most time, gets the best gear, the skill factor is probably 10%.

    After I read this article I realized I need to stop and replace this MMO with a "normal" single player game. I thought I was actually having fun until I stopped to think about the time I spend on it.

    Thank you, this helped a lot.