The best and most perfect video game genre of all time
From the first time I picked up a controller (a “paddle” at that time) I knew gaming was going to be an important element in my life. Without question or contest, easily my most preferred form of entertainment.
A close second was my love for Dungeons and Dragons and tabletop role-playing games (TTRPGs) in general. I dreamt of a day when TTRPGs and video games would intersect.
My first taste of that potential was The Legend of Zelda and Dragon Warrior. I had a deep love of console RPGs and quest-based PC games like King’s Quest, Police Quest, Space Quest… basically anything Sierra put out.
When internet tech reached a point where I could play these types of games online with other people I was hooked. It began with Sierra’s The Realm and it was game over (or game on) for me.
How MMORPGs became the best, worst thing to ever happen to me
I faked sick from school for two days so I could play The Realm with my new friends online in The Muse & Merriment (M&Ms) guild. Not a great look, but I was a kid. Don’t even try to tell me you haven’t dodged work for a release or two.
In my late teens I went from chubby nerd to rock-band frontman and shelved video games for a time, except on Halo or Goldeneye nights with friends on weekends.
In university, I re-discovered the next gen of RPGs with Fallout 3, Ultima Online and a number of other 3D dungeon type games.
In early 2002 MMORPGs evolved into an entirely new beast. I never got into Everquest, but Dark Age of Camelot was the beginning of a blissful spiral into the infinite vortex. The insatiable time vampire that was the modern 3D MMORPG.
My flat mates and I ALL went deep into Dark Age of Camelot, but when Sony Online Entertainment announced their upcoming StarWars MMO project, I was doomed.
As an avid Star Wars fan and fledgling MMORPG addict, those three little words: Star Wars Galaxies were ripe to cause me a lot of joy (and more than a few problems) over the years.
How to quit MMORPG gaming – girlfriend, fiancé and wife edition
Over the course of my hopeless StarWars Galaxies (SWG) addiction, I threw myself at any and every MMORPG to hit the market over the following decade, and there were a LOT of them. World of Warcraft, City of Heroes and City of Villains, Age of Conan, Aeon, even a short-lived Matrix MMO.
Eventually World of Warcraft (WoW) got me good. I was a main tank in a progression guild.
Translation: The intensely most ridiculously super-sweaty way to over-invest in an MMO you can imagine.
While my social life had long since been willingly forgone, I had somehow managed to keep myself in work, find the amazing person who would become my best friend and life partner, complete my second university program and start my career.
Hey, I had to pay for those subscription fees didn’t I?
But eventually my dedication and commitment to my ‘guild’ and community continued to create a LOT of friction in my personal and social life. And from the time we met until the time I eventually quit, MMORPG gaming was and would always remain a sore point of contention between me and my wife. I would say she was far more tolerant than I deserved most times.
One day she was cleaning dishes and cut herself on a broken punch bowl in the sink. I didn’t hear her calling out for help until the third time because – you guessed it – I was raiding in WoW with my headphones on blast, trading raid commands while the most important person in my world needed me.
We raced to the ER, she got stitches. I quit World of Warcraft that day and never went back.
Acknowledging the danger of “keeping up” with the curve in MMORPGs
Therein lies the rub: the inevitable MMORPG grind. The sense of being left behind, the incessant NEED to keep up and the endless striving to be relevant in a genre that has virtually no choice but to punish the casuals and reward the hardcore. This is what traps you into feeling like you always have to be online ALL-THE-TIME just to keep up.
You can deny it, but you know it’s true. The one thing that every single MMORPG has in common is that your ability to participate, progress and thrive is directly tied to how much time you are willing (not necessarily able) to spend in-game.
After WoW, my wife and I had more open dialogue about where gaming lives in our lives – she loves gaming too, just not “those kinds of games.” We acknowledged that the only gaming-related tension we had stemmed from MMORPGs specifically.
I realized I was in a loop with this genre that I simply would never be happy with:
- I loved playing with my online guildmates and community members, but in order to do that I had to spend a LOT of time and effort staying relevant and competitive so I would be included in ‘end game’ experiences conflicting with…
- Prioritizing and honoring things that deserved and required same time and attention, like my personal relationships, career goals and other more important responsibilities
It became more and more difficult for me to justify spending even a few hours a day on a game that would be much better served towards my career, content, music, wife time… literally anything. Feeling punished for not being able to participate in a game with my online buddies is a dangerously unhealthy sentiment.
I allowed myself to feel like gaming was something I was constantly falling behind in.
I do want to play MMORPGs, I just never will
I took a significant break from gaming altogether to “detox” from MMORPGs and realized how much further I could go and better off I would be applying those 40-60 hours per week on literally anything else. Don’t misconstrue my revelation as anti-gaming – that would be a disappointing communication failure on my part and to the point of this article.
I greatly missed playing with a coordinated group and clearing content as a team but my wife and I made time to play Diablo 4 together and I realized that I didn’t need 40 people to play with, just one. My perfect guildmate was right there the whole time.
I’d be lying if I said she wasn’t more than a little bit happy when I finally told her I was never playing another MMORPG, ever.
Since then, I’ve had more fun smashing through games with her, single and multi-player, when and how our priorities allow. I am far more relaxed when I play, knowing that the same game I left will be right where I left when I get back to it. No “levelling curve” or “power thresholds” or “inactivity penalties” or “waitlist” in the raid or toxic fandoms.
I’ll always remember the thrill of a world first or clearing a raid dungeon or putting world bosses on farm, cheering and experiencing truly hard content with a tightly coordinated group of 20-40 players but all I need now is my one best guildie and a date night or two with some great titles on the horizon.