I remember back in my glory days of MMO gaming, I could play for a solid twelve hours or more and have it feel like twenty minutes. Of course back in those days (I should probably toss out that I’m only talking about seven years ago), I really didn’t have any responsibility other than showing up to work on time. Now, it’s a completely different story. My free time is fragmented and scarce due to overwhelming amounts of real life responsibility. These days, it feels like I have more free time at my job than I do at home.
Here is how an average day for me played out “back in the day”: Wake up, go to work, fake being busy for eight hours, eat something that is packed with fat and calories, return home, and then see how many quests I can complete and levels I can gain. Most nights I could have played until my eyes started bleeding or I just passed out on my keyboard. On the occasion that my eyes did bleed and I passed out on my keyboard, a new keyboard would need to be procured the following day. But that’s okay, because I had little else to spend my money on.
That was how my life looked Monday through Friday and some weekends for a good couple of years. Then, much to my surprise I developed a social life outside of the MMO world. I know there are a bunch of people who just got super pissed at me and are strapping on flamethrowers. I’m not trying to say I’m better than anyone or that the hardcore gamer can’t also have a social life that doesn’t revolve around MMOs. I’m also not saying that a social life inside an MMO isn’t as good as a one on the outside. So please, stick those weapons back in their holsters. All I’m saying is that I cannot juggle both like some people can. I’m also saying that you should avoid latching onto any additional responsibility at all costs if you want to keep playing MMOs anytime you want.
Trust me. I barely have time to for even an hour of gameplay in these days thanks wife and kid! I agree it is my own fault for getting married and procreating, but the opportunity presented itself so I took it. The only time I get to game anymore is when the kid is taking a nap and if I have already cleared it with my wife (I swear I just heard a whip crack… anyone else?). She isn’t a gamer so she doesn’t understand why I feel this compulsion to run around in a fantasy world killing things. My wife just gives me dirty looks and sighs disappointedly when she asks me to do something around the house and my answer is, “One sec, wait till I’m out of this dungeon.” Or this gem, “Just let me finish this quest first.”
I’ve tried to get her into MMOs; tempting her with lines like, “You can be a girl in this game.” Or ,“You can make clothing!” But my personal favorite is, “It’s not just about killing things…. You can heal people. That’s like, the opposite of killing right?”
Needless to say even with my expert negotiation skills, my wife remains totally uninterested in almost every MMO ever created. She will never get to enjoy all the things that offering your free time to the MMO gods have to offer.
Take for example, something as simple as gaining a level. Leveling up is like heroin. Who doesn’t love the achievement of leveling up? It’s probably one of the best feelings ever, especially if you know you’re going to get a sweet new skill. You’ll excitedly run back to your trainer or what have you, get your new implement of death, and then scamper off giggling like a child. During those moments if there was a button for “skip merrily,” you would find a field full of daises and press the hell out of that button!
Another great feeling, depending on the game, is leveling up during or after a fight and having your heath completely refilled! It’s the closest most of us will come to kicking the Grim Reaper square in the nuts. I personally get hooked on that feeling (
then high on believing). Then, when that euphoria from leveling gets pushed further and further away because of some arbitrary leveling curve, the less interest I have in playing that character. Grinding does not equal fun for me. Every quest becomes a hassle because I just want to level and I want to do it fast! I’ll do just about anything for that next fix. ANYTHING! (Insert prostitution for XP joke here). I’m an achiever I guess primarily… but a lazy one with nary enough free time to spend gaming. The quickest way to get that fix, most of the time, is just creating a new character and starting from scratch. So I have a lot of alts that need my attention. I’m an addict there too, I guess.
Recently, developers have been doing those of us who are “time impaired” a solid in various ways. A quest tracker is standard with WoW right now and it works just as well, if not better, than most outside source mods do. It really does speed up the process of questing quite a bit. It would be better if WoW’s tracker was a little smarter in chaining objectives together to stream line your quest completion, but beggars can’t be choosers. Rest XP is also a good time saver and is commonplace in most MMOs right now. I have always been a big fan of it and Funcom has taken the rest XP concept to new heights in AoC by actually giving you levels while offline (Yes, I know other games do it too). Not just the promise of future XP at a double rate like most rest XP, but they just hand you level! It’s not even character specific (assuming the character is over level 30)! How awesome is that?! Even death is changing in our favor. Guild Wars 2’s death system is incredibly reasonable; they just toss you back to a way point for a little gold. See my previous entry for reasons why I think that’s awesome. At least it’s comforting to know that the industry isn’t completely numb to my time related dilemma.
Wait a minute… I just thought of something! Those alts are kind of like kids, right? Maybe my guild-mates can be my brothers and sisters and I can use that against my wife for more play time! No, that probably won’t work because her response will be something along the lines of, “Why don’t you play with your actual child or spend time with your actual family?”
And if I say, “Because he is boring and only levels up once a year and you don’t even like video games.” Then I’ll probably end up divorced… again… but at least I’ll have more time to play MMOs. Right?