Excuse the bad pun up there, but something got me thinking… In a conversation about GW2’s content drought, somebody wrote (I don’t have a link, so I’ll paraphrase here out of my memory): MMOs aren’t meant to be played exclusively. They are made to play with breaks in between.
But when I started my first MMO, World of Warcraft, I don’t think anybody would have said that. In fact, it was the contrary. When you left for a month or two and then came back, you certainly had to find either a different raid group or try to catch up somehow as the others were ahead of you in the fights and working on the next raid boss or bosses and you had to learn the mechanics of the fight or even worse, they outgeared you. I heard a lot of people say “I would love to try World of Warcraft, but I don’t have that much time to play.” To be honest, I don’t think I heard people say that about Rift or Guild Wars 2 lately.
Saying “I need to take a break from WoW, I’m burned out” was also something I regularly saw back in those days. Even I felt like that, although I never was in any big raiding group. I was part of a Saturday evening raid which consisted mostly of people with their alts and a handful of people with their mains (me included). It was a rather casual laid-back raid. Then I joined a Sunday Karazhan raid group which was originally made to “just enjoy the content”, but we soon noticed that the raid leader had actually wanted to speed-run through the raid. Which wasn’t possible, because the tank and the healer (yours truly) were neither experienced nor geared for it and he had known that in advance as we had asked if that would be okay with him and he had been happy to take us (as usual, the lack of tanks and healers probably left him with no choice). It started to feel like work and having your weekend evenings booked with raids was just too much for me.
But maybe this mentality has shifted in the meantime. I cannot speak for World of Warcraft as I haven’t actively followed this game in a long time. So I will take Rift as my example instead. I left Rift for a couple of weeks as I had lost interest in the game and returned when I felt like picking it up again. I stay far away from raids in all my MMOs, so that part is out of the equation for me anyway. I know that Trion is adding new raid content every now and then and I know that my guild is doing raids. But it just doesn’t seem to be as it was back in WoW. I hardly ever see them talk in guild chat about needing this or that piece of equipment. It also doesn’t seem to be a problem if somebody disappears for a month and then returns. Maybe it’s because they are even more laid back than my Saturday WoW raid was, but maybe Rift is also just “slower” and you don’t feel left behind that fast.
Looking at Guild Wars 2 and at the original statement, it seems to back this up. True, Guild Wars 2 has been adding raid content. So if you do like raids, your content drought isn’t as strong as everybody else’s. But even with raids, it doesn’t feel like you need to catch up. One big reason for this is that Guild Wars 2 is not gear-dependent. So you do not get outgeared by others if you take a break.
Maybe MMOs in general have changed to not require you to play all of the time. Or it is related to the game’s payment model. After all, with no mandatory monthly fee attached to GW2 or Rift, there is no need to get you to keep playing and paying. I guess it just becomes a problem if you get too bored with it and then never return, no matter what gets added to the game. In my case, I got too bored with Rift, but I did return, because as much as I dislike the world and its lore sometimes, I just love too much about this game (mostly the way the world looks – other than the Nightmare region – and the dimensions, of course). The same goes with Guild Wars 2. Even though I am currently very bored and don’t care about the content I haven’t experienced (like the raids), I know I will return to the game and actively play it again.
I guess this is much better – and healthier – than playing too much and getting “burned out”. And maybe, in the long run, it’s even better for the developers. Because if you leave burned out and stressed, there is a negative feeling towards the game. Leaving because you are bored is a more “indifferent” state and as soon as they add something that sounds interesting, you may want to jump back in with enthusiasm and fun!