Wings Over Atreia: The ties that bind

Flaws. Bugs. Annoyances -- like a level 45 slaughtering you while your little level 18 self is quietly going about gathering Lumesia. Moments that just make you want to find a dev and toss him off the nearest high rise; all games have them, no one denies this -- not even Aion players (although they usually don't feel the need to discuss them with those who don't play).

So why is it we stay in games that, at times, make us want to rip our hair out by the fistfuls? With such a plethora of games catering to a wide variety of play styles, how do we stay faithful to a particular one over the long haul, even when we know it isn't perfect? No, it isn't because we are all secretly masochistic. Or because we detest our barber/hairdresser. Looking around me in games both past and present, watching those who could be considered die-hards stay in (and enjoy) games long after the masses have fled, I found themes that mirrored some of my own reasons -- because, alternately, there are the moments that make it worth it. Not the art, the features, or the wittiness of the quest dialog. Rather, the ties that bind us: Friendships, epic memories, and just plain stubbornness.

Charge across the bridge and we'll delve into my top reasons for sticking with a title, even in the face of the raging malcontents.
Friendships

This reason, hands down, keeps me playing an MMO. I happen to be one of those crazies who plays the games specifically for the MM part of the moniker. Who woulda thought, eh? As simple as it sounds, if i wanted to be alone in my own universe, I would choose a single player game or do something constructive, like finish writing a book. Whether it be real life friends who dive into the new world with me or companions I have met in cyberspace, I find that my enjoyment of any game increases dramatically when I play alongside others. Whenever enough friends start to drift away, that bind that keeps me interested in a game seriously weakens. After all, who wants to subscribe to MSO (massively single player) empty world? I, like many others, become a part of a community and make attachments in and to the world. The attachment can be to loot and coin, to people, or to role-play stories. It doesn't matter what the attachment is, only that it has tethered you to the game.

Great communities -- large or small -- can bring so much more to a game than just the grind, the gear, or the glory of accomplishment in and of themselves. Besides, what good is glory if you can't flaunt -- I mean -- share it? Working with people towards a common goal both server-wide (a call-out congratulations to the Elyos of Lumiel for last night's successful conquest of Divine Fortress!) and within smaller groups/guilds/legions is much more fun than tramping about even the most beautiful bug-free world. No AI can replace the dynamic interactions available between two living, breathing players (go with me on this, I am assuming all players are actually still breathing!). I cannot tell you how many times a glance at LFG chat made me laugh (or bite my tongue) and broke up the monotony of some task.

Large scale community involvement is well and good, but more personal interactions are also key to my keeping interest in a game. I will admit here and now that I am one of those -- gasp -- role-players. I enjoy having an alter-ego living out a life in a world other than the one I occupy. Currently, this new life includes waging war and slaughtering furbacks. In-game interactions (role-playing or otherwise) further enhance the experience of a game. Being a part of a legion and goofing off in Ventrilo while accomplishing the more mind-numbing parts of any game helps keep my interest. You may be stabbing your 400 thousandth Krall or Mau in the back, but you are also cracking jokes with friends, sharing stories, and listening to the antics of others. Maybe you're just participating in general chit-chat about nothing in particular -- whatever the case, these interactions forge real bonds. Long after some people bail because the game just doesn't "do it" for them, those who have strong connections with other players continue on, finding enjoyment in camaraderie and still working towards goals.

Epic memories

Exploring my own reasons for staying in games long after I feel half-bald, I found myself immediately reminiscing about specific memories from gaming. I have stories from Star Wars Galaxies that I shared with my family, and to this day we laugh when talking about them (if you want real amusement, ask about the first time I tried to pilot a ship in the Jump to Light Speed beta!). Same with EQII, Lineage 2... oh the list could go on. When I recall these with friends or family, I may laugh or even roll my eyes, but the point is I still speak of them many years later. I look forward to what new memories are just around the corner in my gaming future. And besides, being immortalized feels good -- even if it is just in a gaming community!

Aion has its own share of iconic memories. Currently, the one that burns brightest in my mind is a long and drawn-out hunt while protecting our land from invaders. Now, please know, that while we don't play faction favorites here at Massively, all of my experiences to this point have been as an Elyos. Don't worry, I shall soon be fitting myself with beautiful black feathers as well!

The hunt began as a simple patrol of Eltnen. Here we were, a band of mid-level 30s, pounding the dust as we searched high and low, following every lead to try and rid our land of the Asmodians. The hunt was uneventful at first, as prey either eluded us or was just a phantom in the mind of a trembling level 19. And then it happened. We came upon a bow-wielding intruder, which sparked the most intense chase I have experienced to the day. Only myself and one other from our group could maintain enough speed to have any hope, and we immediately took off, popping every scroll, activating every sprint, and charging towards our receding AP cookie. We would catch ourselves a fistful of black feathers one moment, only to have him speed again out of our grasp. Switching to a bow, I could pluck off a few hits, just holding my breath until Ambush would recharge, then I could spring ahead and stun him, we could get in a few more hits, and he'd break free with a burst of speed that started the whole cycle over again. This went on for what seemed like 30 minutes, but couldn't have been too much more than ten. While the thrill of the chase was intense, watching those black wings fold over the fallen body was oh-so-satisfying; it was the sweetest victory.

Other fond memories include my first double PvP kill (with opponents higher level than myself no less) and an impromptu dance party in Morheim with a large group of enemies that surrounded us just moments before , my companion and I expecting our slaughter was at hand. Each memory brings back a bit of the rush of the original experience, and gives me something to reflect back on with my friends and family. Common experiences and the sharing of those stories forge and strengthen bonds even more.

Stubbornness

Ok, maybe this one is just me. But to be perfectly truthful, sometimes I absolutely refuse to let something get the better of me --especially a game. Like the time I was trying to glide from point to point in Mist Mane Village while rifting; the soul debt was -- shall we say -- hefty by the time I managed that updraft just right. But, I avoided those invisible elites and managed to wrap my hands around the neck of that shugo and complete my objective. Sometimes, satisfaction is better than kinah.

As stated so well by a reader, sometimes the satisfaction that comes from reaching a difficult-to-obtain goal means more. While it is true some people prefer to have super easy advancement and fluff for their game time to be enjoyable, others actually find enjoyment in a real challenge. Some people plant gardens, others go bungee jumping.

I admit that sometimes I get discouraged in certain aspects of games, or long for a game that has my ideal set of features. But wishes aren't fishes, and I do not want to starve in the meantime. So I find reasons to enjoy the games I am in. Toss in some friends, spice it with some great memories, and add a dash of stubbornness, and you have a dish fit for any Daeva.

So tell me, what are those moments that keep you going? Feel free to share them here, or send them along to mj AT massively DOT com. We may just highlight some of the best moments you, the readers, experience in Atreia.

This article was originally published on Massively.