The Trouble with MMOs–Or Why I Haven’t Touched One in 10+ Years

Well, dear Squiders, I have a bit of an addictive personality. This sounds like a lovely thing, like people think you’re so great they just want to hang out with you all the time, but unfortunately what it really means is that it’s easy to get hooked on something to the detriment of the rest of your life.

Luckily for me, mine has always been pretty minor, and I’ve trained myself to be responsible even when I don’t want to be. It’s also extremely sporadic, and my “addictions” don’t tend to last very long.

Video and computer games tend to be a weak point for me, but I’ve found ways around this, such as playing games with episodes (typically beatable in a few hours as most) or online games where you only have a set amount of energy so you can’t play for that long. And I am royally terrible at any games that require me to use a joystick to move around, so that frustration also helps.

But MMOs–especially MMORPGs–are the worst. Basically, these games are giant worlds where you create your own character and run around doing quests for NPCs. There’s also a main storyline, if you want, and you can join guilds, fight other players, or work beside them to take down bosses and dungeons.

There’s always something more to do, and there’s no set break points, so it’s easy to run around for hours, killing spiders and carting letters between villages and learning how to farm or make armor.

In college I played an MMORPG called Dark Ages of Camelot, which was brilliant and lovely and very interesting, but it ate up all my time. Sure, I made it to class and practice, but I would get sucked in and eke out play time whenever I could. It wasn’t good. I swore off MMOs.

And I hadn’t touched one since. Til yesterday.

I’ve talked about Coursera here before, but I started a class that compares video games to literature and also explores storytelling across different mediums. (Or so the course promises, anyway.) And I’ve been really excited for it. But part of the class is to play Lord of the Rings Online which is, you guessed it, a MMORPG.

So I installed the game, created my character, and completed the tutorial. And then I spent another three hours running around, killing spiders, yelling at hobbits (hobbit errands are theĀ worst, I’m going back to Bree-land), and also getting my butt handed to me by said spiders.

On one hand, I’m really interested to see how playing LOTRO ties into the subject matter of the course. (Maybe we’ll even discuss the tendency of people to get addicted to MMOs. That would be helpful.) But on the other hand, I’m worried that this is a bad idea, and that I’m getting myself into something that is going to negatively impact my life.

On yet another hand, one long gaming day does not mean anything. I mean, I played five hours for two days on Skyrim, and then never touched the game again. (Skyrim is fairly similar to an MMO, except without the other people. Also, you can teleport between places you’ve been, which MMOs should really get on because boo to running all over the place.)

Should I get out while I still can, Squiders? Or do I give myself the benefit of the doubt for a little longer, see how the gameplay ties into the the coursework? (In the interest of full disclosure, playing the game is not a required part of the class, though it does seem like you’re missing out on most of the content if you don’t.)

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