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Do You Have An MMO 'Comfort' Game?

Returning to familiar worlds

Joseph Bradford Updated: Posted:
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To say my life has been hard the last six months would be an understatement. From multiple family emergencies to stress from work, being a single parent, and more, life can and has hit me hard on multiple occasions just this year.

I often think of this idea of a "comfort" medium. Something that transports me away from the problems of life, if only briefly. I have this with TV shows (from The West Wing to Rick and Morty), music (basically anything Coheed and Cambria), and books (The Lord of the Rings, obviously).

However, I started to notice this past week, as some particularly hard times have fallen again on my family, that I was gravitating towards a comfort game - Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Normally, when I need an escape, I travel to Middle-earth. It's the first MMO I truly ever dove headfirst into when it launched back in 2007, and nothing ever made me feel more at home than running around Bag End back in the day. While I went through my divorce in 2019, this was the MMO that kept me sane during those hard months of back and forth, signing documents, and picking up the pieces around me and my daughter. 

However, in recent years, LotRO hasn't had the same magic for me, which is something I've documented here before. I'm not entirely sure why, and it's still a game I play, but it no longer holds my attention like it once did. Maybe it's the lag, maybe it's my changing tastes in MMOs, but I found it surprising when it wasn't my automatic choice this past week to escape the world.

Instead, it's been Star Wars: The Old Republic.

I never quite played this when it was first released - I was too into LotRO then. I dabbled a bit when we did our re-review a few years back, helping my brother through the early levels of his Jedi playthrough. But it never grabbed hold of me. Funnily enough, too, I could never get into the BioWare single player Knights of the Old Republic games either - despite trying on multiple platforms. I always felt that this part of the Star Wars universe was just forever lost to me.

However, after cosplaying a Jedi with my daughter a few weeks back at the LVL Up Expo here in Vegas, I became somewhat hyper-fixated on Star Wars (maybe the lightsaber I bought for the costume energized me). We had been going through a lot that weekend, and indeed, the year itself has been rife with emergencies, hospitalizations, and more. That weekend (which I'll write more about in an upcoming article) was special, and I think I subconsciously wanted to grasp onto that.

However, as the days have gone on, I found myself increasingly needing an escape, and nothing really did it for me. I downloaded Star Wars Galaxies: Restoration in an effort to compensate for one of my glaring MMO blindspots, but the lack of true 4K support made it next to impossible to navigate the UI. 

Star Wars: The Old Republic became my next best option.

I think the reason this is sticking with me right now is purely down to BioWare's storytelling in this era. I started from level one, opting not to take the boosted character when I paid my subscription fee (I wanted to see whether the perks were worth the price of admission). Starting out with a Sith Assassin, I've been hooked ever since.

I get that this job is cushy by comparison to others (trust me, I used to work in storage units in the Las Vegas summer heat - this job is a godsend by comparison), but it can still be stressful - especially as Google seems determined to destroy sites like ours. I hadn't actually planned on writing about SWTOR for work; yet here I am. But more and more I found myself turning to the MMO when things got stressful around the house as well.

Sitting down at my desk, throwing the MMO on my screen, and running through planets like Dromund Kass early on, Tatooine, Nar Shadaa, and SWTOR truly transports me to a galaxy far, far away. I think part of what I'm finding comforting, too, is that it's not a particularly difficult MMO to get into—nor have I felt the need to be social when I'm not exactly in the mood to be. 

It's been really easy to just spend my evening hours, putting the cares of the world aside for a bit and just decompress with some Sith lightning, a flick of my double-bladed lightsaber, and watching Vette squirm as I play a hardcore evil Sith character. There is something calming about all this. 

It also made me curious if others had discovered they developed a "comfort" MMO, a game where it just allows the cares of the world to vanish for a time. So I ask you, reader - if you do have one, what is it and why do you find it so comforting? If you don't, do you think it's because something else fills that role for you outside of gaming? I'm very curious to read the responses.


Joseph Bradford

Joseph has been writing or podcasting about games in some form since about 2012. Having written for multiple major outlets such as IGN, Playboy, and more, Joseph started writing for MMORPG in 2015. When he's not writing or talking about games, you can typically find him hanging out with his 10-year old or playing Magic: The Gathering with his family. Also, don't get him started on why Balrogs *don't* have wings. You can find him on Twitter @LotrLore