All of this is good, and not limited to holidays, since in order to be successful, MMO events need to feel like events. Leaving an event to happen all the time would just make it content. While one can argue that some games really do need a boost in the level of content, maybe there should be more events, but I digress. Having stepped into a couple of the holiday events again on a few games, I was repeatedly struck by how much fun they were, but also made acutely aware of the time squeeze on some of them. If you have a lot of free time and can play every night, this might not affect you, but arguments can be made that special event periods can exclude some players via level gating, or are too focused upon grinding things out. Still, to not have something players can show for their time spent can be a little disappointing, so the balance has to be there between the experience and the tangible reward.
Spending some time in SWTOR's Life Day event, I found this to be one of the ones that, on the surface, seems rather underdeveloped. Yet, it's actually fun. This event returns this year, but last year I was unable to participate. The fleet has a special vendor, along with NPCs that let you obtain a snowball throwing power. And then you let loose upon other players to have the chance of gaining parcels that you can trade for prizes. When struck, someone radiates snow for a little while. As long as your target is not yet spreading cheer by radiating snow, this makes him or her your best target, since this is the only way to gain parcels. The effect wears off after a while, so this event is limited by population and timing, but the pacing was good. In about an hour's worth of playtime, I racked up 11 parcels. This is almost half of the 24 I need to get a shiny, festive new mount, Sleigh I (nice nod there). Tossing the snowballs around is amusing, it gets people to concentrate together, and you have a good chance of getting a nice item for just a couple hours of time investment.
I also went to Tyria for some Wintersday mayhem. Guild Wars 2 has always been quite the beautiful game, and its events are no different. ArenaNet has really ramped up the events this year, with the promise to continually have new content, so this is one game that isn't just recycling its events. Wintersday 2013 is deep and has many branches to explore and possible rewards. If the Life Day event is underdeveloped, this has something for almost everyone.
Now, how do these events impact a game's community? Well, certainly events at any time of year offer an opportunity to gather and band together (or alongside one another) and take part in festivities or undertake a huge challenge together. Could it be argued that the limited nature of some events leave players out? Sure. But that's how you develop game lore even after release, and some more recent releases don't necessarily seem to be committing to. An emphasis on content you can repeat and that is open to most players is still dominant. Still, I can't say it isn't nice to have these reliable events due to the people they often bring back. It can be a boon to a game's population, especially around central hubs, and that almost always improves the experience for some time.
Are there any events in particular that bring you back to certain games? Any that deserve more attention for community impact or another reason?
Christina Gonzalez / Christina is a freelancer and contributor to MMORPG.com, where she writes the community-focused Social Hub column. You will also find her contributions at RTSGuru. Follow her on Twitter: @c_gonzalez