November 4, 2012
I grew up playing fantasy role-playing games on my computer. I don't recall whether my Vic-20 ever had anything in that genre, but I fondly remember long hours spent in front of my Apple II playing Ultima II, III and IV. Ever since then I've always had one or three of these on the go.
Back then I wasn't trying to play through these games. I don't think I even realized that the Ultima games had a end-goal. To me, they were worlds explore and master. Immersive fantasy environments that I could live in, for a few hours each day. Finishing the games was something I did, or didn't do, once I got bored of playing them.
These days I have been playing Skyrim, World of Warcraft, and EVE Online. All fantastic games and truly immersive sandbox environments. WoW and EVE especially, as MMOs with epic scope and vibrant communities, fulfill my every wish of having an alternate world in which to kick back and relax after a tough day in the real one. Or so it would seem.
You see, I spend most of my work days happily sitting in front of a computer and a keyboard, sometimes talking into a headset, working towards individual or team goals that I have set for myself or others have assigned to me. When I complete those goals I am rewarded in larger or smaller ways, and I advance in my longer-term objectives and plans.
My job is an MMO.
And the games I play are looking more and more like a job. My quest list in WoW looks a lot like my task list at work. They both involve typing some things on my keyboard, responding to things happening on my screen, maybe solving a puzzle or problem, occassionally speaking with people on my headset. I enjoy doing both, but they both kind of feel the same.
The games I play now can't be called simple any more, or even relaxing. The mechanics, plotlines, strategies, and gear has become so expansive that they are their own field of study. One printed strategy guide for the latest WoW expansion, Mists of Pandaria, clocks in at 456 pages. And because WoW is a social game, you are expected to know what you are doing when playing with others. In fact, at the higher levels of the game, you are expected to practice.
So I consciously opt-out of these Alpha-groups and concentrate on having fun. Playing at my own pace. Enjoying the environment and the world, like in the old days. But I can't help feeling that I might as well be spending more time becoming a superstar in the real-world rather than a scrub in the virtual one.