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Why MMOs Aren’t Compelling…To Me

With the release of The Elder Scrolls Online, I began to think about all of the MMO’s I’ve played over the years and the reasons why I still don’t play them.  I haven’t played T.E.S. Online, so I can’t comment on whether it is a good game or not, but it certainly looks entertaining.  More than a few times, I have been drawn in by the lore of MMO’s and then left massively disappointed just as fast as I became enthralled.

I’ve played an eclectic group.  World of Warcraft was the first to grab my attention, as it is for many gamers, Guild Wars 2 was a viable choice for a little while, even its sequel, Guild Wars 3, held my attention longer than most.  Star Wars: The Old Republic came around and I thought this would be the one to lure me into the appeal of the genre; however, that only lasted two weeks.  Lets not forget Conan and Final Fantasy XI.

Many people claim to feel connected to their characters and I honestly don’t know how.  MMO’s aren’t like most story driven games where you see your character experience emotional changing events.  Character development, such as in The Last of Us, isn’t going to happen in any MMO, at least not in any that are out now or within the near future.  Plus how can one build an emotional bond with a character that is forced to go and fetch apples for an NPC or kill a certain type of monster for dozens of hours?

Similarly, I consider myself a story driven gamer and unfortunately most MMO’s have extremely weak plots.  Star Wars was supposed to be the MMO that brought single player gamers into the genre, but the appeal didn’t last.  I thought that the fully voiced characters, which are still quite impressive for the massive scale of the game, and a story that is altered based on your choices, was one of the most fascinating things about it.  All of this was on top of my being a huge Star Wars fan.  While the story of my Sith Warrior was pretty good, the bogged down gameplay became tedious.  In order to expand the story, I kept pushing myself through it.  However, I simply couldn’t do it anymore and eventually stopped playing around the 30-hour mark.

Some people will consider 30-hours a long time to devote to a game, thus it must have been an attractive experience. But in the grand scheme of things, 30 hours doesn’t get you very far in an MMO.

After my Star Wars debacle, I decided to give the genre another shot when I bought Guild Wars 3 on the first day of release.  Character creation was smooth, gameplay was pretty fun, but the story lacked far behind.  I continued to play long after I should have quit, just because the gameplay was so much better than my experience with Star Wars.  However, that can only take me so far into the game.  I eventually felt like I was running around for the sake of attacking creatures.  The grind never stopped and although the community events made me feel involved, I never got the sense that my character had a purpose.  Again, where was the emotional bond between the character and I?

I will admit that RPG’s are my favorite type of video game.  Most of the appeal is the level of exploration that comes with most role-playing games.  But can a game be too vast? I believe it can.  The older I get and the more responsibilities I have, the less time I have to devote to video games, let alone ones that take hundreds of hours to get through.

Lastly, the most fascinating aspect of MMO’s, especially the ones of the RPG variety, is the interaction with other individuals.  The ability to meet and then join other players to take down a boss is thrilling.  However, in all the experiences I have had, there is little interaction between the party and I.  One person is always bound to run around and do their own thing, which ends up getting us killed and them being booted from the party.  Likewise, most people either do not want to use voice chat, or they don’t have the means to, but either way, I can’t stand trying to communicate with somebody via text chat.  It tends to interrupt the flow of the game, and I lose my train of focus.  Maybe it speaks to the type of player I am, or the types of guilds and parties I join, but it never ends the way I intend.

Conceivably I will try my hand at The Elder Scrolls Online and things will be different. But in the mean time, maybe it is best if I stick to single player experiences.

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