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Bill Murphy: MMO Breathers

Column By William Murphy on December 09, 2010

As you can probably tell from my recent beta journals, I've been playing a lot of DC Universe Online. Way too much, probably. I had an appointment where? Sorry, I was busy hunting down heroes as Houdini the Malevolent Magician. Work started at eight? I don't think so, Boss. I'm always working... in tights. With a staff. And magic powers. Why go outside and face the harsh reality of the real world, when I could be at home in the safe, warm glow of my monitor while I make the fake world a worse place to live by injecting cops with poison as Ginger Man? Yeah, I've been playing it a lot alright.

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The beauty of me spending so much time with DCUO is that I can often chalk it up to "work" in that I need to write articles on the game (and any game I play really) fairly often. But all kidding aside, as I didn't really ignore the entire real world because of how fun I find flying around Metropolis, my beta fun has reminded me of one very avoidable mistake that MMO players fall prey to easier than other gamers: we need to take a breather once in a while.

Writing for MMORPG.com is actually a double-sided sword (+1). I may get paid to play and write about these games, but more often than not I spend most of my time writing as opposed to playing and enjoying the games. I'm not complaining, as the perks of plentiful (E3 is only 8 months away, wee!), but rather I'm thankful that my job as a writer here keeps me from getting too exhausted on any one game. When I first started out in MMOs, I did nothing but rove around in Asheron's Call 2 (yes 2) for hours on end until I found myself incredibly bored with the very thought of logging in. It later happened with City of Heroes, World of Wacraft, and so on until I landed my first job writing guides and articles at IGN so many years ago now. My main hobby really isn't playing the games anymore, it's writing about them. So now when I do get to play, as with the DCUO beta, I tend to enjoy it more than I used to.

But not everyone has that luxury. For many in the MMO crowd, this is their chief hobby. And because of the very nature of these games we often only play one title at a time. The problem of MMO oversaturation usually comes (for me at least) around the holidays. Living in the Midwest, winter usually brings with it subzero temperatures and snow... and a very welcome large amount of Irish coffee. To combat the fact that I can't get out and walk the wee little dogs we have or go biking/hiking/whatever-ing, games take the center stage. Movies come in a close second, but MMOs and a slew of titles I've missed due to the busy nature of life during the rest of the year come in first.

But this only aggravates the problem I'm writing about in this long and rambling column: ennui with my MMO of choice sets in and I'm left feeling even more bored and cooped up than before. Short of moving to Hawaii or the south (my wallet can't afford the first, and my patience can't afford the latter), I'm left twiddling my thumbs in boredom while I wait for April or May to come around and make things bearable outside once more.

But I feel like I'm really getting off track here, so let's stray from my own complaining about my great state's weather and get back to the task at hand.

Every so often it's important for us to take a step back from our drug game of choice. We need to let go of the little things that annoy us, and maybe stop playing for a few days, or even weeks. Whether it's the way one class always seems to be played the most or steamrolls over you in PvP. Or maybe you've gotten to the point where your eyes glaze over when you're walking across the map to a frequently visited area. My point is that while MMOs are absolutely meant to be the type of game you completely lose yourself in, they're still just games. And if you play just one game for too long, you will find yourself tiring of it no matter how much you're truly invested.

Avoiding MMO ennui isn't as easy as it sounds though. I get that we all become attached to our characters, our friends, our fake worlds. I understand the need to log in and make sure you're not missing out on something. But that's the beauty of the persistent worlds: they're persistent. They will be there when you can go back with a renewed sense of interest. Run away from the official forums, don't read any blogs, or news pieces about what's coming around the bend. Just back off entirely from the game and its world. Take an MMO breather. I always found the little tips on World of Wacraft's loading screens to be mostly humorous, sometimes helpful, but mostly forgettable. The one that I always smile at, however is the one that says something along the lines of "Take all things in moderation... even World of Warcraft."

I have a somewhat addictive personality. I long ago learned to deal with this. When that itch to keep at something when I know I have other responsibilities arises, I can fairly easily push it aside. But every so often we shouldn't be afraid to let ourselves get lost in a good game. Just be sure you know what your own signs of fatigue are and how to combat them. Me? I think I will take a nice long trip to Maui. Yeah, that sounds like a good cure.

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