"I don't really have the money to try a new MMO," a friend told me recently. "I guess I'll keep playing this one, even though I don't really play anymore." When asked why she didn't just quit, she told me, "It's boring, but I still have some friends that miss me and I like to pop on and chat with them once in a while." I couldn't convince her to quit, even after relating my own stories of how I'd gone through the same feelings repeatedly, to find I was just wasting time and money.
The MMO Industry doesn't want you to quit, of course. It makes money by your loyalty to its game styles and brands, just like any other entertainment business. By that logic, I shouldn't encourage players to quit either; writing about the industry pays my bills, and if they don't prosper, neither do I.
The fact is, however, that players quit MMOs every day. Not just specific MMOs either, but the entire MMO gaming industry in general. Some are serious with their vows. Others take back their words at least once as they try out new "candy" in the MMO store. Everyone is different of course. I've known one player who stuck to the same community for eight years before finally resigning and returning to his previous entertainment of television and reading. On the other hand, I've known someone who has the tendency to stay in a game no longer than a year before calling it quits on the entire MMO scene, only to return again within months when a shiny new MMO catches his eye. There are those, too, who quit conditionally, and linger in MMO communities such as this one for years without playing an MMO, waiting for a knight in shining armor to win their heart over.
Many players who are considering quitting MMOs tend to sit on the fence about it for a long time, not really sure if they want to quit. They've got that hook still buried deep in them, and can't quite convince themselves that they don't want to play anymore. There are four good signs, however, that quitting MMOs is a step for you.
Sign number one: You get bored easily. This sign alone isn't indication enough that MMOs have lost their appeal, but it can be a good start. To state the obvious, if you're bored, you're not having fun. If you're not having fun, then it's not serving its purpose: to entertain you. The boredom could just be a sign of a particular game wearing you out. Perhaps in a lull between new content or a lack of people to play with is causing it. If the boredom is recurring, however, and you've stuck with it just to see what's next or to hang out with friends, the boredom might be something more than a passing feeling.
Sign number two: You start looking for new ways to play the same game. As a long time World of Warcraft player, I've been guilty of this myself. Of course, rolling an alt can be a great way to re-experience the game from a new perspective or have another character to help friends out with and have fun. Rolling alts isn't what I'm talking about, however. I'm referring to self-imposed challenges such as leveling without quests, leveling without killing a single creature, or the ever popular "hardcore mode" or leveling until you die, and then deleting the character. Those are just some of the more common challenges. Dozens more can be invented based on the nature of the game being played. If you have to resort to new and unintended or convoluted ways to play games to have fun, you're probably on the edge of quitting.
When you start trying new games, even ones you used to laugh at, you've got a strong third sign that quitting MMOs is in your future. Sure, there are times that we check out new MMOs to see what the buzz is about, or perhaps to see if it's really as bad as what we hear. Going to a different MMO with the actual intent of trying it out to see if you might like it, particularly one that you have previously had no esteem for, is like the MMO player's way of selling their soul to the devil for one night of pleasure. You've wronged yourself, your very code of gaming, and whether you're proven wrong or not doesn't matter - you've taken a step into a dark alleyway, with no turning back.
Of course, the most obvious sign is that you decide to take a break, without calling it quits. I've gone through several cycles of this myself between several games and with MMOs in general, and I'm sure many of you have done the same. There have been times, too, when I've called it quits with MMOs. Sometimes, a break is just due to a lull in MMOs that appeal to you, or due to things going on in the real world that you'd like to leave behind. A break is always a good time, however, to evaluate your gaming habit.
Let's say, though, that you've already figured out it might be quitting time. How do you know if it really is quitting time, though? There's a few relatively simple questions you can ask yourself to figure out the answer.
Is it the game or the grind?
You can easily test this out by trying to play other MMOs for a few hours and seeing how they feel. If you enjoy the new things you're introduced to, or find yourself comparing and ranking the game to other games, it's probably the game you've been playing that's gotten you down. If you start feeling, or thinking, that it's "the same old," it may just be the MMO formula and not the game itself that's getting to you.
Are you staying for yourself or someone else?
With the incredible social power of MMOs, many players find themselves staying in a game even though they no longer enjoy the game itself. They pay their money (or time) not to play the game, but to spend time in the company of other people. If you're logging on to spend time with people, but not much else, and quickly log off if none of your friends are on, the game may have lost its appeal. Now, if it's your significant other, there might be a more compelling reason to keep playing; but if it's online friends and guilds you can't let go of, there might be a problem. You can argue the worth of social interactions, but if gaming itself has lost its appeal, it's probably a good time to call it quits.
Have you forgotten what "other games" are like?
This may sound like an odd question to ask, but take an extra moment to think about it. MMOs are spawn of a much more experienced lineage of video games. If you've been missing some of the great video games out there, not out of disinterest but because you've been too wrapped up in your MMOs, this is a good time to at least take a break, if not quit completely. I recently went through one of these "offline revivals" myself, and spent many hours enjoying the games I'd been missing over the years. There's a lot that non-MMOs can offer, such as a lot more innovation in the field, and even just taking a while to catch up can bring a whole new perspective to your MMO gaming when you return.
There's always a lot of other factors to consider when planning to go cold turkey: what you're going to do with your new free time, who are you going to affect by leaving, and plans for if you ever do decide to come back. Don't feel ashamed as you log out one last time, though. For every person that quits for good, there are plenty more who don't know when to stop.