MMORPGs Addiction Before and After: A Personal Case Study
The big feature I wrote in late 2017 for HubPages needed a little taking off the MMORPG-goggles and seeing the situation from a different perspective.
In the period that has passed since then, I had a lot of time to think about MMORPGs. I haven’t been playing them, and that is cool progress to me.
I say, for me, because I played more than 3000 hours to online games, most of them MMORPGs, and I consider I outgrew my online video gaming phase. I can’t see my online video-game playing as nothing else than something that I tried, and it failed.
The games and the communities failed, in the sense of falling short of my expectations. But before the vitriol, a few notes on agreeable players.
I talked about some good qualities I saw in MMO players in the previous feature, but I didn’t say anything about natural digital leaders.
I knew a few like them, they were the best. Unselfish, lively, friendly and loyal to a tee. The leader version of those I named in the previous feature.
Persons who read your chats in the global channel about what grind is to travel all the trips you have to make, gather all the elements you need, and all the things you have to purchase, assemble and craft to create a vehicle, that on reading your laments will send you a high-value vehicle for free, in a game like Fallen Earth.
A person like the one in the above example (which happened to me), and the kind of people I wrote about in the previous feature aren’t difficult to find.
But then there are the others and a lot of them. The toxic, attention-seeking ones, the chatty-Kathies, the sissy-dissing kids, and a whole other slew of negative personages like them.
Couple that with the annoyances that designers and developers create and the value of these kinds of games must be questioned.
Before: Getting Addicted by Anything
When I started playing MMORPGs, I played the most dangerous, in the addiction department, ones. Second Life and Entropia Universe. But I wasn’t putting any money into any of these two. Happily, my obsession with them didn’t take root.
These games are notorious for being two sinks of time and money. Paradoxically, I didn’t get much addicted to them. I got addicted to a very inferior game. It was an MMORPG called Tantra Global. That was my first fall.
It was a Korean fantasy MMORPG, that touts (it still exists) itself as informed by Hindu mythology. I feel sorry for the Hindu gods and demigods because that game was cheese.
To begin with, it featured animal cruelty from level one. I don’t want to even remember it!
The worst thing was that it was very unpolished, and lagging in graphics technology like 3-5 years, when I played it.
The general story and design of the game irritated me, rather than making me enjoy it. When I played to it, I was all the time thinking: “This is a game about Hinduism and tantra? I don’t see how!”
Other than dropping a few Hindu names (areas and characters), it was as Hindu as Wendy Doniger.
Life As a Confirmed Online Video Gaming Addict
I leaned more towards Entropia Universe. I played a lot to it, like. When I got into Dungeons and Dragons Online, Lord of The Rings Online, and other games like them, games that didn’t require money to be fun, I completely lost it.
From then on, my life gravitated around my playing to MMORPGs in anxious races to reach the glory of level cap.
I played a character in a private server of WoW until I capped it. It took me no less than two years. When online games begun to adopt the free-to-play (F2P) model, I created characters in every game.
- City of Heroes/CoV
- Anarchy Online
- DC Universe Online
- Everquest 2
- Star Wars: The Old Republic
- Age of Conan
- Fallen Earth
- Shin Megami Tensei
- Champions Online
- Pirates of The Burning Sea
- The Secret World
- Marvel Heroes
When I was starting to get hopelessly addicted, the online gaming subject cropped up with friends as a conversation subject. One friend, one night the subject came up, reacted with the most negativity to my bringing up the subject.
He told me, “Don’t talk about online games, because last week my kid brother slashed my mother’s credit card buying five hundred dollars worth of trash in Dark Orbit.”
In a way, to hear a story like that, helped me. The day after he told me that, I checked that game out. I already had a well-rounded idea of where was the money in the online gaming market.
I didn’t install it, just read what others had to say about it on the Web. It was crazy, a game that by its looks reminds you of Eve Online, but with item prices like it was a real-world economy MMO.
I searched conversations about it, and others were saying that Dark Orbit was a very expensive pay-to-win scheme. A knockoff of EVE even at the price level.
Now that I think about Dark Orbit, I think it wasn’t at the level of EVE. The last time I checked it looked more like a missing link between Unification Wars and EVE, if such a beast exists, so no reason to have such expensive items.
To know how irrational these games can make one, through the mishaps of others, made me suspect them during the remainder of my multiplayer gaming phase.
The Beginning of The End
In 2016, 6-7 years after I became addicted, I had more than a dozen MMOs installed.
Something around half-terabyte in hard disk space. In 2016, the hard drive that had those MMOS crashed, but I continued playing to a few.
But In early 2017 I started to dislike the unspoken message of MMOs. I had already been playing a lot. In March 2017 I realized I had spent more than 3000 hours playing online and decided I was done with it.
If we take each day consisting of sixteen utilizable hours (the hours awake), the total of my time as an online video gamer was more than two-hundred days or around, six months and a half wholly inside MMORPGs!
That’s an awful quantity of time to waste playing online video games. I guess I learned all there was to learn from them, for me.
The hardest lesson for me was the closing of CoH/CoV, a game that was like no other in design, and that had an awesome art.
I was one of the ones that stood connected to the last when the servers went offline and let me tell you it wasn’t pretty.
A trauma like that, to have experienced live the death of an MMORPG, a virtual cataclysm like that, was something that gets grafted into the psyches of those that loved the game.
But the point I want to make is that the game that made me decide to stop playing MMORPGs was Neverwinter.
I felt very, very depressing, scarring thoughts when I played this game.
The worst part was that it was made by Cryptic (the publishers and subsequent killers of CoH), a company that I see as the clumsy-for-business example of what not to be in the gaming industry.
To come clean with my feelings about Neverwinter. I just felt that I was spending time with something that didn’t compare to its real counterpart. To me, the worst underlying message of Neverwinter was the look of some female avatars.
Some female avatars of that game may look as what might be called the super-hot type of girl character. It was painful to me because I’ve seen too many stunning girls and young women like the avatars of Neverwinter where I’m staying.
I rather be out mingling with them, rather than sitting in front of the PC all day, playing a game, compromised with a guild and pretending to like what I was doing.
Cured From It
It has been more than two years since I stopped my anal-retentive ego trip with MMORPGs. I didn’t stop video gaming, though.
For that matter, I didn’t stop playing online games, but I don’t play MMORPGs anymore, nor strive to be a hard-core videogamer in general, like I used to.
I’ve curtailed my video game playing to weekends, generally Sundays. I’m playing single-player things, even retro ones and feel much better than to be immersed in the emotional rollercoaster of online, multiplayer games.
It’s a rewards-and-punishments, brain-chemistry-modifying world, and I didn’t want to form part of it anymore. I think that non-massive videogames are an obstacle per se if they dominate you.
Also, the integration of other things into them, like marketing techniques, makes them too wicked for me.
Finally, I must put something bluntly, I just felt like an idiot still playing to them instead of doing things either more productive or fulfilling.
At the end of the day, I know video games and knew that I could have a much funnier leisure time if I returned to single-player games.
Yet, it wasn’t just about returning to single-player games. It was about totally stopping to play them during workdays.
The final irony is that when I decided to not touch the things anymore, City of Heroes, my favorite MMO, returned. I see what happened as some much required social justice.
I think it’s one of the top three examples of an MMORPG well, and more importantly humanely, done.
It seems that many others think like I do because they revived it after around seven years of absence.
I don’t want to preach against online video games. Still, I’m proud to make public that my life took a turn for the better when I ditched all kinds of video games during workdays.
I finally could read the books I wanted to read, and start focusing on pursuits that I had been putting off for ages. Even my rest and relaxation time improved.
Shortcomings of MMORPGs
In this section, I will share my perception of the disadvantages of playing MMORPGs due to their nature/design and the way they should be played.
Need to Learn The Games
Most MMORPGs are so deep, that they would benefit from someone creating a course or similar approach to their playing. Be ready to spend hours reading from the web, or to annoy the community with questions you could have found by yourself. That or risk becoming a gimpish character who can’t progress, or who takes forever to do it.
The performance of online games is erratic at best. Online games can’t compare with single-player ones in the performance department. They never will. Not even if you have bleeding-edge hardware and live just blocks from the server.
The internet-based latency, what everybody calls lag, the server load, quirks of the game’s software, bugs and configuration disorders are all out to get you and lower the quality of your time.
They are consistently more laggy, annoying and toxic on weekends when all the riffraff is connected. The more advanced the time of the day, the laggier and more toxic the environments are.
Most MMORPGs aren't satisfying if not played in a hard-core way. Add to the great gameplay time investment required, the downtime required to study the game world; reading about it.
If one checks a game’s business model, and the developing company’s plans for the future, one may find that many are designed with a tactic of making them increasingly valuable over time. This is problematic if the game is an MMORPG.
With some, it’s a case of no end in sight, because, in their business model design, they plan to keep that game going on. Thus they add content constantly to meet that objective.
They get more revenue and keep themselves relevant. Still, users pay a price that is not just economical, but also psychological. Users that want a definite experience, not a life-membership in an alternate reality can never find closure with this design.
On launch, MMOs tend to be way more expensive than single-player games. In the sense that unlocking all the content may take, bare-minimum, around three hundred dollars. This is a rough estimate by me of a couple of popular games.
But they’re designed in a way as to not let the players see the final price. Not without some investigation and calculation to arrive at a figure that’s not in plain view.
Sadly, the lack of interpersonal skills of some ruin the fun for many. The example that came to my mind is when one plays a game that requires teamwork. The ideal is a content steamrolling party that works coordinated as a single unit. It's not that this isn't easy to achieve, but sometimes the lack of consideration of one player ruins the task for the whole group.
One example would be a healer quitting in the middle of a quest or, worse, a raid. It's probably a wipe-out (failing the quest or raid) if the game doesn't offer the feature to re-queue the healer's position for someone else to join ASAP and fill the void.
If you don’t know the term, it stands for those that are connected to an online video game for the sake of ruining the experience of others. It’s generally used in Second Life, and I didn’t see it used practically anywhere else.
My interpretation of griefer is something more than a simple text chat or voice chat troll. A griefer is a full-blown 3D troll, with the capacity of not only insulting you verbally but also changing your avatar or the environment as to put your game-play in a disadvantageous, annoying or embarrassing situation.
Many online games have them. It’s kind of indignant, especially in a scenario like this one, where trolls are the lay of the land.
Figure one is playing, soloing because one is what’s classified as a casual player. One makes a point of not reading the chat. In this way, one has two or three days having a blast with the game, until the chat is brought into the equation.
One reads the chats for a few minutes and realize that the community is rotten. A griefer is flooding the chat with unwanted spam.
Instead of letting him be without reacting, there’s a little group of chatty-Kathies that feed the griefer/troll with hate replies. I have seen this situation hundreds of times.
The worst part of griefing is that in most MMORPGs, this kind of behavior is tolerated. There’s the griefer, the ones that react to him, and the ones that react to the ones that reacted initially, telling them not to feed the troll.
It snowballs into a cascade of unwanted, decadent chat. It ain’t funny, and generally, persons on the payroll of the game’s company hired to monitor the trollage don’t do anything unless a complaint (report) is filed.
Cheaters, Scammers, and Digital Thieves
In games that integrate monetization, called “real world economy”, and in those that develop an alternate economy there is the risk of scams or dead ends.
You have to be aware that once money is involved the possibility of falling prey to a scam with real-world consequences is to be considered.
There are many known techniques to steal from others using crude social engineering schemes and pseudo-commercial deception.
Most of what I’ve read about boils down to the scammers wrapping you up and making you transfer to them credits or items.
The worst ones are the ones so wickedly well thought that they make look the transaction completely innocent, and no proof in the system to incriminate them.
Greed-Based/Dishonest Business Models
Unless the business model is transparent and the publishers deliver it as advertised, I wouldn’t trust them. Even those that say that the game is wholly free and getting its revenue from cosmetic micro-transactions.
I’m not against this kind of game, but the F2P+Cosmetic Item Shop business model seems to me as having a great potential for (corporate) abuse.
A proposition like this may sound very attractive to some, but it’s dubious that the publishers will honor it.
Why wouldn’t they honor it? Because they own the game, and they can do anything they want with it, which they usually do.
In an online game, when you’re the publisher, not being true to your word can be achieved discreetly.
Thus, when you read or hear that a game is F2P+Cosmetic Microt-ransactions, you can never know if that’s true, beyond the fact that they can change it at any moment.
I think players should dedicate more time to reading the terms and conditions of each game they play.
At the bare minimum, one has to lurk in the conversations of the community. Like searching the web to see if someone analyzed and thought out the terms of service document or similar documents of the agreement that binds the player to the game.
The business mechanic of adding updates with new content indefinitely makes these games pretty much undefined. You have to dig deep to find the time the company pretends to keep exploiting it. Most aren’t something with an end in sight.
Take for instance Entropia Universe. They have a hundred-years plan, to me, that’s something to think over. I brought this as an example because it shocked me to find out how they planned to evolve over the years.
Every company should have transparent future plans. Every player should check them and evaluate the company and the game based on said plans.
When one finds something like Entropia’s/Calypso’s 100-year plan, it takes one to learn other things about the company against which one can decide about exchanging one’s hard-earned dollars for their take on multiplayer video gaming entertainment.
If someday, you decide to regulate your online playing to a specific amount of time per day or week, then be sure that your game client is up to date well in advance if your gaming session.
I lost count of the times my allotted daily playtime was diminished by the time it took the game to update before starting. A chunk of ten minutes to half an hour or more waiting before starting to play is an annoyance if you have allotted only 90 or so minutes to your daily online playing fix.
A way to deal with this is to have the MMORPGs launchers scheduled to run on system bootup. If it’s a gaming machine, you must turn it on half on hour before your playing time. This consumes energy.
If you think the launcher always on is okay, and you use that computer to work, then you have just created additional overhead in your digital environment.
There are all kinds of things to resort to if you decide to cut video games. Like professional treatments, courses and online communities.
We should assess ourselves first and see if we are going to be able to do it by ourselves. Otherwise, we should seek professional help.
For those who think that they can do it by themselves as I did. I’d like to give a few pointers.
Depending on the grade and magnitude of the addiction you suffered, there is a high chance of at least one area of your life having been neglected due to excessive gaming.
One as baseline, but probably more than one. The best thing you can do is to be honest with yourself and face the ugly truth.
What in your life did suffer as a consequence of your video gaming? Was it your career, your day job, your education, your leisure time?
You should identify what it took from you and, as a first measure, start working on that field of your reality right away. Invest the time you used to play, and do the things that need to be done. Try not to even think about videogames during the week.
Play videogames on weekends only, and see how that makes you feel.
I would recommend 2-3 months completely off video games at first. That might be too restrictive for some persons, though.
That’s why I think that if you can limit them to weekends only, that’s some good progress already.
If you can resist 2-3 months without playing video games the whole day, great. During this detox phase do what needs to be done. Organize your work, fitness plans, social life, and leisure, without considering video games in the leisure plan.
After two or three months of doing this, it’s a good moment to take a little time during your leisure time to just think about games.
Fifteen minutes to half an hour might be enough. Think about what you learned while you played them, and how that relates to what you learned and did when you stopped. If you think you need to break your video gaming fast, go for it.
I know that once you withdrew from video gaming to relapse, even if one has a plan to regulate the time one spends playing, has the potential of producing a setback.
It does, but for some persons, playing video games is a part of their identity. The point is to stay a player, but stop being an addict.
For some, video gaming might be something that they should do for life for their mental, physical, and spiritual health. Yet, I’m sure that the quantity of playtime to fulfill any of these three needs doesn’t compare, even remotely, to the quantity that an actual addiction demands.