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I feel that many hold to the belief that MMORPGs are games, and as such, have a responsibility to force players to have "fun" the entire time they are logged in.
In my opinion, this is dead wrong. MMORPGs are a hobby. To me, calling an MMORPG a game is the same as calling a graphic novel a comic book; it is a designation of medium rather than a description of the content.
I will not argue that many modern MMORPGs are trying to be games (in the more traditional sense of the word), filling the player's time with a ton of "fun" things to do, but I think that the rather mediocre reception and low staying power that plague the genre show that there is something deeply wrong with this philosophy.
Really, I think the problem is that game developers and players alike haven't quite realized that what they do is a hobby rather than a game. To my mind, a game is something a person plays for fun, doesn't last an extremely long time, and in which the player isn't very emotionally invested. A hobby is something that a person has a passion for, and that becomes part of who they are. It is ingrained in their lives.
I believe that MMORPGs, in their most basic form, are conceived to be alternate worlds in which a player's avatar lives. This doesn't mean fun all the time. In fact, it sometimes means the necessity of tedious work to reach a goal. When viewed as a hobby, tedium itself can be fun (as counter-intuitive as that sounds). This is because the MMO has become a part of the player's life, and any life that is nothing but constant "fun" will dull with time until absolutely nothing is actually fun anymore.
So, what I'm saying, I think, is that if you want to enjoy MMORPGs, don't just play them; live in them. This doesn't mean you have to spend any more time than you do now with your MMO, but it does mean respecting the genre as something that is intending to create a larger picture than a weekend board game. If you go into an MMORPG believing that it is a developer's job to thrill you at every turn, then you will always be disappointed. If you go into an MMORPG looking for a world to get lost in, you may find that you have discovered a new hobby.
This isn't about "playing the game as it was meant to be played," or "PvE is > or < PvE" or any of the other lines drawn in digital sand within the greater MMORPG sphere. In fact, I love all sides of these arguments. I think the hobby is large enough to encompass many playstyles, and I believe that healthy debate can only bring greater things.
This IS about a simple shift in perspective. Stop thinking about what you do when you log on to an MMORPG as playing a game. Think of it as you would building a model train, painting a picture, collecting stamps, or any of the other (sometimes admittedly baffling) hobbies in the world. Some people garden, you kick arse in another dimension.
As long as developers and players alike view MMORPGs as simply games, every new MMO will be short-lived and shallow, simply because it is made to eliminate tedium and be constantly “fun.”
It's not about originality, IP, or whether an MMO is casual or hardcore. It is about how players and developers approach MMOs as a whole.
MMORPGs can be bigger than fun. They can be great.