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Beau Hindman's MMO Thoughts

My name is Beau Hindman: a freelance writer, developer, artist, drummer and gamer from Austin, Texas. I've been gaming since '99 and writing about them since 2006! This is my blog about ducks. I mean MMORPGs.

Author: beauhindman

Why I continue do the MMORPG thing

Posted by beauhindman Monday November 17 2014 at 7:52PM
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Hello everyone. A quick introduction before I get into my heavy-handed blog post for this week. My name is Beau Hindman and I have been playing MMOs for 15 years and covering them in some way for eight or so. I tend to prefer sandboxes over themeparks, but you can just as easily find me in a linear, quest-based MMO as you would in an epic open-world exploration game. I've written and blogged all across the internet and on many different sites (including this one, years ago) but now that I work for an MMO I wanted a more public place for my personal blogs. So, here we are. Read on!

I often wonder why I continue to be so fascinated with MMORPGs. I see other players come and go, some of them because they are angry at recent developments or because their favorite game left them burned out, but I continue to chug along. Along my 15 year journey in MMOland I have found other people who seem to enjoy them as much as I do, and these people often act as a helpful shield against the rage-filled landscape of bloggers and players who seem bent on destroying their own hobby.

I was discussing this topic with my wife the other day. The great thing about being married to someone who also works in the industry and who has been in gaming literally as long as I have (I brought home our first copy of Ultima Online in '99 and haven't looked back!) is that we can get right to the meat of the matter without explanation.

She brought up the holidays and the wintertime and described how it reminds her of World of Warcraft. She can remember taking off time from her job to play with the new expansions, usually around the fall and winter. She’d just bought the latest WoW expansion and we were discussing the reasons for continually purchasing the aging game.

I talked about how those feelings of nostalgia -- helped by the time of year and the literal changing of the wardrobe -- all connect with the game to help cement the event into the brain and memory and emotional core of the gamer. While both my wife and I have played so, so many titles over the years, we each have those special titles that really stick to us for some reason or another. She originally said that she was not going to buy the new WoW expansion as her work on another MMO tended to pull her away from all others, (and, let's face it, Dragon Age Inquisition had something to do with her distraction) but the nostalgia and excitement pouring out of the internet -- even the whinings about the problems with connecting to the WoW servers -- made her very aware of her sudden need to buy it. So, she did.

These connections can be felt in other genres, sure. Perhaps you are a shooter fan who stands outside of a local game store to buy the latest chapter of your favorite shoot-em-up, or you are a Nintendo fanperson who obsessively collects digital stickers and virtual medals. MMOs, in my opinion, can form an even stronger, stranger bond between the gamer and the product because they are the only genre to offer the massive worlds that you might find in an Ultima Online, RuneScape, Defiance, Eldevin, Mabinogi or World of Warcraft. MOBAs are instant-on action and not much more; single-player titles offer truly in-depth character building, but generally only while the player is alone. Only MMOs offer that real-time, massive connection.

Consider also the look of your favorite MMO. It's probably stayed the same for many years. It would be a safe bet to say that most of the MMOs you can think of have looked basically the same -- minus a few updates to character models or tweaks to UI -- for as long as you can remember. Think about the sounds in your favorite MMO. Imagine the gurgle of a murlock in WoW or that insanely loud DING from EverQuest. MMOs are some of the few games that can not only be played for years -- if not decades -- but that continue to look, feel, play and sound the same way for much of that time. When you a buy a new standalone title, you are often buying an entirely new title with new characters and mechanics, even if it is in the same IP. 

MMOs are not just worlds that we visit, they are worlds that are contained within our real world. There are several layers of living that go on within an MMO. The player lives her life but comes home to live another while she is living the first one while she is making friends and killing baddies in the second one while she is eating at her PC in the first one. This layering creates not only a sense of nostalgia for the activity of playing the game, but nostalgia for the gameplay and the world in which it takes part. It's fascinating, and will only become more fascinating as these worlds become much larger, more common and -- hopefully -- more original and interesting.

So, I sitll have many reasons to love MMOs and no matter where I find myself in life -- attempting to write a novel, sinking myself back into art or trying to relearn the drum lessons I forgot -- MMOs are a staple. The longer I play them, the more locked they become in my memory. I’ve tried other games, and MMOs are the only genre that make me feel so connected.

Beau

 

Grakulen writes: Welcome back to the site Beau. Mon Nov 17 2014 8:00PM Report
ChrissyTheBlesser writes: Nicely said and well written.  Your expertise will always be looked up on as I learn from you almost every time I read something from you. Thank you for giving to all of us.  Mon Nov 17 2014 11:15PM Report
lebongirll writes: Good to have you back Beau! Tue Nov 18 2014 12:04AM Report
Madimorga writes: I know what you mean about holidays in MMOs. I still think of Anarchy Online every Halloween even though I don't play anymore. And I keep playing instead of going back to single player games because even though I'm relatively anti-social in MMOs, I like seeing other people running around the world. Tue Nov 18 2014 7:09AM Report
Cazriel writes:

A friend of mine was saying the other day, as we cruised through a low-level 12-man dungeon at max level in LOTRO, how many memories the place held.  We laughed about some of the antics and recalled  the initial experiences trying to get through it.  He said, "It seemed real."  And indeed, it was.  The emotions and the memories and the people are real, even if the place itself is nothing but a code in the ether. 

Tue Nov 18 2014 9:31AM Report
Cramit845 writes:

Thanks for the thoughts.  I must admit this time of year always pulls me to MMO's.  Even though I have been playing them since 99-00, this particular time of year holds that same nostalgia as you mentioned.  Specifically for Wow, although it's not the game or anything like that, that pulls me back but the people I played with.

 

Back before wow released, before I played any MMO, I was at a friends house doing a LAN party.  As I'm sure, those of us who grew up in the 90's remember, if you wanted to play a bunch of friends in the same game, there was no better alternative than have everyone meet at someone's house with their pc's to play.  While there and switching between C&C , Duke nukem or any of the other many games we played back then, a friend showed me Everquest.

 

I laughed at him extremely loud and hard and said, "Why the hell would I play monthly for a game?!?!?  Screw that, I'll play Diablo and call it a day, thanks."  How ironic those words are now...

Fast forward a couple years and I find myself moved in with another friend, in an apartment in the middle of NY, playing DAoC with gusto and awaiting the release of the game we have been playing in Alpha and Beta on the back burner but been waiting years for, World of Warcraft.  I had previously spent a month living at a friends house, on his sofa, to play DAoC, while paying rent at another apartment that I only stopped at on occasion to pick up clothes/shower, so times had definitely changed.

The day finally comes that Wow is released, and out of the multitudes of friends that we have shown the Alpha/Beta phases of the game too over the past couple months/years, we have 2 of our very good friends take the day and couple days off to go get the game and play together.  The four of us stay at our house that night and wake up bright and early to make the 45 minute drive to the mall to pick up the game.

Of course, during the drive, one of our friends is apparently not used to driving long distances (never thought a 45 min drive was a long distance, but to each their own) and pukes all over himself in the car.  Luckily our destination (Albany NY) is where most of us lived previously and where some of my friends grew up, so upon arriving in Albany, we stop at the home of one of the guys parents house, grab some extra clothes and allow our buddy to change.

Finally we go to the mall and each pick up our pre-ordered copy and then after a quick breakfast at a local diner, we head back home to start playing.  Of course we run into a ton server/network issues throughout the next couple weeks, but having all 4 of us in the same apartment leveling up together was one of my best memories of a MMORPG.  It was either that year or the next that we all stayed home for Thanksgiving to continue to play Wow.

 

These are some of my best MMO memories and pieces of nostalgia that I go back too when I remember the "Glory" days of my MMO experience.  These days, all of our lives have changed.  I have a family now and don't get to see my "gamer" friends all that often being that I now live farther away.  They have lives of their own, most still doing the gaming thing when they can. 

This time of year always brings me back to these particular memories because of the fun we had.  4 guys, in a circle of pc's, leveling, grouping, pvping and running a guild together.  Every thanksgiving I remember back to this trip to get Wow and the time we stayed home for Thanksgiving and played together while we cooked turkey and all the fixings to eat right in front of our PC's. 

These memories come back in waves every holiday season and even though I long for their return I know that won't be happening any time soon.  I keep playing MMO's now, although for much shorter periods.  I find without my buddies being right next to me, yelling at me to pass the bottle or whatever, it's extremely hard to get back to that level of enjoyment.  Maybe it's the games not having the same hype I had for wow (it was like 2--3 years coming for me) or more likely its not having those same people that were as passionate about the games as I was right there next to me.

I have yet to find a game that I really love to play for long periods as I did with wow, Daoc or EQ even.  The games just don't grab me but I think without having those RL friends to sit and play with is a big part of it.  Give it to the holidays to make me remember those great times in MMO's and time will tell if that era is over, at least for me.

Tue Nov 18 2014 9:43AM Report
Zarkin86 writes: For me its the opposite of everything what the author said. Not only is the game the same, which is a very bad thing after so many years, but the whole genre is stagnant. Since 2004 we've seen basicly WoW copycats. And for me, the whole point of themeparks is absurd. In one sentence: MMOS are the most uninmmersive games ive ever played. not only is something like day/night cycle missing (rpgs have it since mid 90s, some), but the whole world is destroyed by instancing lobby game at endgame. even worse, every icon flies to your face, huge ! and ? in wehat should be a immersive world. why dont you force the players to actually talk and read to the NPCs, like in real life if you want information. but it doesnt matter.. MMO gamers are one of the most disillusion bunch ive ever seen so far. how many of you can understand what im talking about? happy WoD time... Tue Nov 18 2014 11:58AM Report
hercules writes:

hmm, seems we mmorpg players becoming older and older with less new faces joining.

Yes i am semi retired only fooling around from time to time on a "SWG server" and planetside 2.

But the memories is what makes me remember mmo.I never can remember which raid was what or how that boss died.

I remember the interaction .How we celebrated opening the first mini mall on our SWG server.

How i turned to online people for comfort to talk to when i lost my father.

how others turned to me for comfort  when they had problems.

How i could shut my brain off from real life troubles to  enjoy my "second life"(not the game by same name).

Wed Nov 19 2014 2:23AM Report
romby32 writes: I always love your reflective articles about online games. They show new, unexpected and interesting perspectives about online games. Your articles explain to me why I love to play mmorpgs and they often give me a deeper understanding how it really feels like to play a certain online game. Especially if it is about rather unknown mmorpgs. I read a lot of reviews about upcoming games but often a description of game mechanics and storyline cannot explain the atmosphere of a game, its social design or how playing this mmorpg would feel like. Your articles are like reports from unknown worlds and some make me curious to discover those worlds :) Wed Nov 19 2014 4:52AM Report
Arawulf writes: Bumped for great justice! Great to see you here at MMORPG!  Wed Nov 19 2014 7:08AM Report
Suilebhain writes: I'm with Herc on this. It's nice to have a game that brings in new content but what makes a MMORPG worth spending any time upon is the community and frankly the new games lack that element. It could be the player base, or the way the games are actually played. WOW style raiding, which I recall actually showing up in DAOC Shrouded Isles first, with the huge groups and the person telling us "you stand there and draw aggro while all healers heal the tank" blah blah took the adventure right out of the experience. Then came the "solo based" missions that allow people to wander around but never team, never communicate. The viddy kiddies also started outnumbering people who actually read the dialogue offered by NPCs (I wish I could smack the person who dumps a team in the middle of a SWTOR mission because someone who never did the mission refuses to spacebar through the text). I would rather play Skyrim by myself than spending $15 a month to waste my expectations with a bunch of people who won't actually extend themselves to form teams like we used to in DAOC and SWG, where hunting formorians or rancors required people to watch each other's backs. It's just not worth that one resource that can never be replaced - time. Wed Nov 19 2014 11:32AM Report
shava writes:

More happy beauness in the multiverses! :)

 

Wed Nov 26 2014 2:28AM Report
gylnne writes: Nice to see you back kind of Beau.:) Always appreciate your articles no matter where you write them. Fri Dec 05 2014 1:27PM Report

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