By February 19, 2007

Chore gaming

Until last year, I played massively multiplayer online role playing games for the better part of six years, starting with EverQuest during its launch in 1999. I spent the bulk of my time in Dark Age of Camelot and World of Warcraft. I also played quite a few other MMOs, including Shadowbane, City of Heroes, Lineage II, EVE Online, and the beta for Star Wars: Galaxies.

Besides being online, these games had a few things in common: they kept me busy, and they kept me from feeling socially isolated. Whether I was living in a small mountain town in Oregon or working from home in Virginia with a very small meatspace social circle, MMOs were a way for me to jump online and adventure with friends. While MMOs are a significant commitment and aren’t always fun, I will not deny their entertainment and social value. Not only have MMOs allowed me to keep in touch with friends across the country, but they have helped me make some very real friends in “meatspace.” For some, like Alexa and Fathir, their real-life relationship started in-game.

I felt like online games were keeping me from doing other things, like writing for Gibberish. So I hung up my avatars for good last July. I haven’t regretted this decision, although Lady Jaye and I joke about rejoining WoW. After almost a year off, I’ve noticed that something strange has happened to me and my video gaming: console games are not nearly as compelling as their online role playing counterparts.

I’ve been console gaming mostly since my MMO hiatus, after a brief unpleasant experience with Galactic Civilizations II on the PC. I’ve tried to complete a few games that were must-haves for each system, such as Halo for the Xbox. I haven’t found them compelling enough to keep playing. I am probably 1/3rd of the way through Halo and have given up on it. Same thing with the latest Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess game for the Wii. These aren’t bad games, but I’m not excited enough by them to keep playing.

I zipped through Call of Duty 3 for the Wii, and that was fun for a few four-hours-at-a-time sessions. But then I finished the game, and sent it back to GameFly. There’s no reason to play this game again, and I’m glad I didn’t buy it. My CoD3 experience was what sparked the idea for this article: after being spoiled by MMOs, other video games are not nearly as emotionally, physically, or virtually engaging. What used to be commonplace, playing four or five hours at a stint without realizing it, is now a rarity on a console. I used to spend a significant part of my day just in the Auction House of WoW, making deals and engaging in economic warfare with fellow players. Even fun console games like Rayman: Raving Rabbids weren’t captivating enough to hold me for more than an hour or two at a time. I doubt that Rayman will see much replay, either, despite generating a lot of laughs and “OH MY GOD!” moments that were enjoyable.

Guitar Hero is the closest thing I have that is an addictive-type game similar to my MMO experience. I got it as a gift from Lady Jaye during the holidays, and it was all I could do to put the game down while company was around. And sometimes, well, I’d look over my shoulder to see two couches full of people watching me play. Sorry about that, I should have been a better host. I wish Guitar Hero II had a /played command, as I’m interested to see how much time I’ve spent playing “Killing in the Name Of” over and over. I’m on a quest to finish all of the standard songs on “hard” difficulty, and thanks to my fumble-fingers that should take quite a long time. Lady Jaye hooked me up with the original Guitar Hero for Valentine’s Day, so mercifully this gives me another game to play when I tire of or give up on GH2.

Because of my MMO years, I have a huge backlog of “must-play” console titles. I mentioned Halo. I also have some Splinter Cell and Rainbow 6 games to play, as well as God of War and Stubbs the Zombie. I don’t know if playing MMOs have instilled a sense of “quest completion,” but I feel compelled to finish any console game I start. It took a pretty serious conversation with myself to stop playing Halo, and I bet I’ll pick it up again in a few months to work on it some more. And therein lies my complaint: I’m not playing games any more, I’m working on them. I feel guilty for starting something I haven’t finished, and feel compelled to set aside time to clear a chapter or two of Halo.

I know that some of you either still play MMOs or have abandoned them like I have after a long history of playing. What has your experience been with console games vs MMOs? Granted, I am involved in game playing of some sort these days — mostly RPGs of the tabletop and virtual variety, but the long waiting period between sessions keeps the games from having the same feel as my MMO days. When I got home from work or had a spare moment, I couldn’t wait to log in again. These days, it’s a chore to just push the power button.

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5 Comments on "Chore gaming"

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  1. Ed says:

    I always had trouble with mmos because of the time requirements. To really do anything in them you had to put real time into it. When I ralized that I felt at my heart that I was wasting my time with them, essentially escapism that was a little destructive (since I wasn’t getting things done that needed to be done), I pretty much stopped playing them.

    Now I discover that the games I enjoy are either rpging games (which once you figure out the exploits and patterns are a little too easy), and the repeatable strategy games.

    I just don’t seem to enjoy the games as much as i used to. Also,All the games seem pretty inferior to pen and paper.

  2. Agreschn says:

    I’m heavily involved in EVE being the CEO of the Ars Empire corp, and I definitely enjoy the social aspect of it as well. As quoted on omgrawr.net, “Sometimes you are not sure whether you’re playing EVE, or you just have a very expensive version of mIRC”. Which is all too true. A lot of the time a person can log on to ‘just change a skill’ and end up chatting for 2 hours. However as Ed stated, they can be time-consuming and, while EVE is less so than others, it can still eat away at ‘free’ time or time that could be better spent when focused elsewhere… like schoolwork or real life, in my case. :p

    If you want to get the full enjoyment out of console games there’s only one way to go, I’m finding… games with co-op! Co-op co-op co-op! Single player is fun, multiplayer is fun if you’re up for that, but nothing is better than the social aspect of being able to play through a campaign or some missions with a buddy.

    Which is where everybody seems to fail when compared to the Xbox 360 and Live, IMO. I picked up my 360 on Boxing Day along with Gears of War. Played through the campaign by myself on casual, went back and did it immediately again on hardcore and then insane, this time with buddies and it made the game insanely more enjoyable. Not only do you have somebody who can actually listen to commands and make things a billion times easier, but you can keep up a conversation the entire time you’re doing it. Hell, I’ve talked more with a friend of mine in the past month thanks to Xbox Live then I have in the previous 2 years!

    With the release of Crackdown yesterday, I know that me and some buddies are making plans to play through that together at various times. I believe that Halo 3 had better have co-op functionality as good as Gears or it’s just not going to be able to compare. I’ve played through Halo 2 once by myself, and twice on co-op. The only way I managed to play through Halo 1 was thanks to the co-op. The best part about playing through Halo 1 and 2 co-op was the couch and just ‘chilling with a friend’ aspect of it. Way better than playing through it by yourself.

    This is probably part of my reason why I’m not finding myself as attracted to PC games as I used to be. Don’t get me wrong there are still some that I desperately want/need (I’m really really hoping my copy of Supreme Commander is in tonight), but the lack of co-op games for the PC is influencing where I will make my purchases in the future. If I can choose between latest, greatest game ‘X’ on the PR or 360 and the 360 offers co-op, I will get it there unless there’s something obviously wrong with it.

    Of course, the whole co-op aspect of gaming sorta fizzles when it comes to the Playstation 3 and the Wii, at the moment. I’m not sure what either company’s (Sony and Nintendo) plans are regarding the online approach and multiplayer gaming, but I’m damned sure that Microsoft will continue to push this aspect further with the 360 and Live.

    And holy crap… that ended up being a lot longer than I intended it to be.

  3. drfaulken says:

    It may have been a lengthier post than you expected, but it was still a great one. 🙂 Thanks for taking the time to write it out.

    I may pick up a 360 with my bonus this year. That will solve most of the economic situations/requirements I’m trying to resolve before I dump another block of money into entertainment. I really feel like the 360 has the “right” way to do online gaming. The Wii’s “friend code” system is similar to the Nintendo DS system, which is not very user-friendly.

    After the “issue” with ArsC, I am considering starting my EVE subs up again (don’t tell Bond).

  4. Chris says:

    Hey Doc,

    I stumbled across your site looking for reviews on the Kel-Tec PF-9, being a fellow ccw, I was looking for a small single stack 9mm.

    Looks like you also have good taste in PC games. I have been a Wow player (aka addict) since a couple months after it came out in 2004. I have played other MMOs such as guild wars, everquest and lotr. They just don’t do it for me, I always come back to wow. I think the seamless world, the auction house, huge assortment of armor and weapons, the different professions, the interface, and sweet special effects pretty much seal the deal. I’m a hardcore wow fan, but at the same time I really hope someone comes along and makes another MMO that has all the great features of wow, but in some way, even better.

    I suppose every person has their preference. Most people that bash wow have never played it though. Over the years I have been able to recruit a couple friends that swore never to play. Now they play it more then I do.

    On another note, seems like most people these days have abandoned PC games. Tons of people have flocked towards consoles and don’t look back. I think it’s kind of sad, but that’s just me. People opt for the simple. I guess all those buttons on the keyboard are confusing, I don’t know. You can’t deny that an up to date computer has much better graphics then any console and with a mouse and keyboard you have much better control of your character or whatever you are controlling.

    Well this response sure darted off subject. I just wanted say go MMO’s! Oh and thanks for the PF-9 review. Later Doc.

  5. drfaulken says:

    Hi Chris, welcome to Gibberish and thanks for posting. 🙂

    It’s funny you posted this weekend, last week I was talking with a co-worker and buddy of mine about how we used to ambush people in WoW. I miss that game, but know not to go back. I was just spending too much time raiding or playing in large-scale PVP to break away from it when I need to. Same thing with EVE Online, especially since they supposedly made performance improvements to the game engine.

    It’s also interesting timing because I started playing Fallout 3 for Windows on Friday. This is the first PC game I’ve owned since Galactic Civilizations II came out in 2006. I started playing and glanced at my watch — four hours later.

    The majority of my computer gaming is done on the 360, but Windows gaming is still alive and well, especially for games that have modding potential like FO3.