My love/hate relationship with MMO games

I am in a unique position, I both love and hate games that involve other people. It makes for some very difficult experiences, especially since gaming is one of my main hobbies. Let me explain…

I enjoy a variety of games, from First-Person Shooters to Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games and quite a few other genres in-between. The key thing that connects them is story (yes, even the FPS games like Destiny). The story is what keeps my attention. In a solo game, this isn’t usually an issue, I am free to get sidetracked by missions and work through the plot at my own pace. In any game designed to engage players over a long period of time, things are quite different and often frustrating. There are a number of reasons, but I’ll take a look at the biggest barriers that make it tough for me to play.

Having other people around means that I feel as though I cannot progress through a story at a pace that works for me. I have to “keep up” with them or risk missing out on content (this is especially noticeable in Destiny 2 where content is frequently “vaulted”). While I know that in most games the content isn’t actually going anywhere, that isn’t quite how my brain sees it. My brain seems to think that I have to keep up with others. I need to make sure that I have access to all the content that other people are playing with (this is something that many developers/publishers depend upon, it’s amazing how much money they can make through the fear of missing out). Having other people around is a constant reminder of the need to keep up, and that is before I mention the numerous visual cues (shiny gear/weapons, for example) that have the same effect.

Even if I allow my brain to accept the idea that there is no rush, it doesn’t stop the game finding some way to remind me that I am not at the same level as others. The visual cues can have the opposite effect than intended (something to aspire to), as it reminds me that I am unable to progress at my own pace if I want to have similar gear.

Of course, there is the other aspect. Random people are not reliable. Having a premade group (or an AI version) means I can learn patterns at my own pace. Not just combat related patterns, either, but the way the AI responds to certain things. I know that the healer is going to keep me alive and avoid leaving me with a low health bar (an approach that is perfectly valid, as the tank is the key to avoiding a wipe). I start to learn the AI’s patterns and that, in turn, helps me to understand how to alter my play style to be more effective in future content. Real people are the opposite, each has their own play style. There have been dungeon runs where the group rushes through the content with no time to even look at the scenery, or runs where people get angry because I haven’t fully grasped the mechanics of a boss I have never encountered. The answer to this is to find and play with a group. However, struggling to connect with strangers makes it tough, partly due to my not wanting to let people down and also because I find it tough to fully engage without a prior knowledge of the people I am playing alongside (I didn’t play any of The Secret World’s dungeons for years until I felt comfortable with the people I encountered).

There are many other reasons why I have a love hate relationship with multiplayer games, although the ones mentioned above are the two biggest issues for me. So, how am I managing it? Well, I have progressed to a point where I no longer unsubscribe from a game because I have to play with random strangers (I did this on the second dungeon of Final Fantasy 14). I have also learned that I need to pick my moments when it comes to playing with strangers, there is no point in going into a new dungeon or content when I am struggling in real life. Taking advantage of systems in place in games that aid solo players (Final Fantasy’s AI party is a perfect example) are also another approach that allows me to feel more comfortable when I do eventually play with strangers. One of the biggest things I have learned is that there is nothing wrong with ignoring chat or not joining in-game voice chat.

Since this has gone on longer than I anticipated, I’ll leave you with this. Everyone plays games differently. Learning to take that into account when playing with others is very important. Sure, try to adapt to other people’s play style when in a group, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t expect similar treatment. Accept that some people will want to take a different approach, and there’s nothing wrong with that (even if it means a dungeon run takes twice as long). In video games, death is not the handicap it is in real life. It’s more of a learning experience, and allowing others to learn at their own pace is going to create much better players.

Published by Kle

A busy bee deep into video games and other gaming related things

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