Why MMOs keep drawing me back in

I don’t really have many wants for games to purchase and play.  I’m pretty fortunate in that my budget set aside for gaming has allowed me to buy just about every game on Steam that I could possibly want, leaving me with over a hundred unplayed-yet-purchased games that I could install at any time.  Even right now, I’m sitting here with a pit of guilt for not finishing the last 2-3 hours I have remaining in Bioshock Infinite.  And there is currently a sale on The Witcher 2, a game that I’ve had on my Steam wishlist for awhile.  I’m avoiding buying it though, because I know that I won’t actually get around to playing it.  Iwill end up going back to various MMOs instead.

I have a few standbys that I stop into and get relatively invested in for weeks at a time before disappearing again.  WoW is the biggest culprit here, as it’s a game that feels dear and familiar to me every time I log in.  My characters are always there waiting for me, the world is vibrant and I love the lore and the achievements.  I have been subscribed to this game since 2004, so clearly I have a tie to the game.  Another common culprit for me is EverQuest II, a game that always feels like the best complete package of features that appeal to me — great character outfits, the most robust housing system, tradeskill classes, achievements, the old familiar EverQuest lore.  My current hobby is actually EverQuest 1, where I’ve started a little Half Elf Druid and I’m enjoying exploring EverQuest in a whole new way (they have actual QUESTS now!).  Another common one is LotRO, where I stop in now and then and sightsee but have never gotten over level 15 (much to my dismay — as it’s a pretty damn great game).

I think I know why I do this, why MMORPGs always pull me back in and seem so exciting even if the excitement is fleeting.  I just love the feeling of knowing that while I’ve been gone, a world and its community have continued to flourish without me.  I know that my character is a part of something bigger, and even when I’m not making meaningful changes to the world (after all, who really does in MMOS?) I still feel an obligation to see what has changed and who is inhabiting “my world”.  Single player games just exist in a vacuum for me.  No one knows if I logged in, if I finished the game.  There aren’t conversations happening around me, people to interact with (even if wordlessly questing in the same zone with them), monsters dying while I’m gone and loot being acquired.  I just love how I can stop in and the game has changed since the last time I played — new content, new players, new forum posts to read, new quests and achievements and expansions.  They feel like dynamic growing pieces of art that I can dip in and out of to smell the roses and expect them to feel familiar and cozy and wonderful.

Who knows how long I’ll be playing any given MMO.  I do wish I could get to max level in more of them and hop around from game to game at max level instead, but with my gaming style and my waning excitement I know that I probably will be doomed to alts in various worlds forever.

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