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Community Blog Spotlight - Stop and Smell the Roses

This week, Laura Genender looks at what can happen when players don't take the time to enjoy their MMORPG and burn out.

One of the great aspects of an MMORPG community is finding and relating to similar people. In the real world, we are confined (mostly) to our town, city, college, workplace, etc. to meet people – with the internet we can find people with similar interests, goals, and ideas through games, guilds and forums. This week on the blogs I found a kindred soul in user Interl0per.

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Interl0per’s new blog Entering Pod deals with his casual gamer experience in EVE Online and other MMOs. Interl0per tells his story starting in the twilight days of SWG, where a carefree, fun-lovin’ Rebel Scout got the idea in his head to go train up pistol skills. From there, Interl0per stopped having fun and started having jobs. Said Interl0per, “Even before the NGE, after that day, the game never really seemed the same for me.”

Things changed for Interl0per though about a year and a half ago, when a google search brought him to MMORPG.com – and EVE Online. “After browsing reviews, forums, and game sites, I wound up downloading EVE Online - not the trial, I bought the game sight unseen based on its appearances.”

It took 18 months of EVE gameplay, but the game is starting to have an impact on Interl0per. “It's taken me this long to really begin to grasp the power of EVE's unique advancement system and how it frees players like me to truly play my character and experience the world. It's not perfect, but it's just about the best I could hope for, plus it lets me live my actual childhood dream of being a roguish captain of an interstellar vessel plying a trade and vaporizing pirates. In that sense, I guess you could call me an 'immersioner' to steal CCP's phrase. The fact that my character can advance while I wash dishes and go to my kids' basketball games (not to mention earning a living!) is the core of its genius, not that I'm saying anything new here.”

“I don't care a bit for texting in accent or dialect, or working out a complicated bio that paints me as the ultimate universal warrior when I can't fit medium turrets, then spouting my anti-insurgent propaganda in local at every opportunity. I do want to embrace my aggressive, uncouth side that would rather slap your port bow with a missile than discuss politics. What's wonderful is that EVE accommodates both types of players, I just didn't see it for so long worrying about starting behind other players and trying to properly metagame my character. Ironically, if I had, I'd have a lot more SP right now.”

For me, this story hits close to home. I started my gaming career off as a very casual roleplayer who enjoyed community activities and basked in idle chatter. I’d spend my time setting up fireworks displays for the New Year and organizing “cake lovers vs. pie lovers” arena events. I spent time mentoring newbies. I hosted an in-game peaceful protest at the banning of a prominent community member; I invited friends to my home in A Tale in the Desert for a wine tasting and flower viewing.

Over time though, I’ve developed a hardcore streak which has always resulted in the quick cancellation of my game. In Lineage II, I spent months saving for an expensive helmet, grinding Adena for hours until I could afford it. I quit the week after I got the helm. In A Tale in the Desert I took an artform I was well known for and more importantly enjoyed and turned it into a job. I spent weeks organizing data in excel, then abandoned it all in disgust. In City of Villains I spent so much time organizing my villain group’s salvage that I started only logging in to sort it. One day I decided not to bother anymore.

I still enjoyed MMOs, but there was always an unpleasant factor: I want X good thing, so I have to spend hundreds of hours doing Y boring thing to get it. And by the time I got X, all that buildup was let down in a crash of “what do I do now?”

When Vanguard released, I took my first positive step in reversing this cycle. For the past two years I had played MMOs in a guild; in Vanguard, I started out alone and suddenly discovered that I had no one to impress but myself. I played casually, progressing somewhat behind the upper curve; ironically, this was what likely saved the game for me, since I didn’t rush to upper content just to find out it wasn’t there! I roleplayed again, cheerfully continuing even when my group mates were speaking in l337, and by the end of the night my persistence would have them “th33”ing and “th0u”ing. I was having a total blast.

Until a sudden bout of luck put me in possession of a rare and expensive bit of ore. Examining my shoddy soloer gear, I decided to purchase myself a new weapon: a gorgeous hammer out of one of the best weaponsmiths in the game. It fit me perfectly – except I couldn’t use it. I was level 31, and I needed to be level 37 to equip the hammer.

I spent two days grinding in a non-stop EXP frenzy, trying to reach level 37 to equip my new toy. I made it to 34 before I stopped playing, and cancelled my account. Damn it, done it again.

And now, like Interl0per, I’m playing EVE. I’m trying to keep casual with it – it’s hard to resist my corpmate’s temptations of EVE-mon and EFT and planning and scheduling; it’s hard to continue my lazy skill selection and on-a-whim actions. The “optimal” actions for a new player are to train up learning, focus on one goal ship and role, beat out the long time players by intense specialization. Part of me wants to break out the spreadsheets and the parsers, but I know it will ruin my game.

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