Ask Massively: Format changes for big questions

VHS just isn't going to cut it for Ask Massively any longer, so it's back to Beta.
Potaco asked a great question two weeks ago for Ask Massively, one that I'm going to just post right here:
"As a contributor to a gaming site that involves keeping up with many, many, many MMOs, do you find it harder to commit to a single game than before being forced to be exposed to so many?"
Naturally, I could have answered the question simply for myself. But we're a diverse bunch here at Massively, with different tastes and opinions and experiences. Any answer I gave wouldn't reveal the whole picture, so I turned to the rest of the team and posed the same question. The resulting column was so big that I had to steal an entirely different feature's format just to make everything easy to read. (Hopefully the guy who does it won't mind.)

As always, if you've got a question you'd like to see in a future installment, mail it along to ask@massively.com or leave it in the comments below. Questions may be edited for brevity and/or clarity.

Beau Hindman, F2P and Mobile Columnist
I think the more important question is "why is it important to be loyal to one game in the first place?" In my opinion, it's not. The brilliant thing about today's market is that it is more accessible, easier to run on a variety of devices, and filled with a wider variety of people than ever.

What does it even mean to be loyal? Does that mean you have to put in a certain number of hours per week or commit to grinding out a certain number of levels? To me, that sounds suspiciously like a job. I'm not worried about gaining levels or "getting somewhere" in any one title. I think it's more important as a gamer to play a lot of games. I wouldn't be much of a foodie if I liked only a few dishes!

It's also important to note that you can actually maintain several titles over time. Sure, it might take you a year to hit the halfway point, while other people hit max level in five months, but who would want to burn through content that fast anyway? I feel bad for any player who spent $60 or more on a title like Star Wars: The Old Republic only to have burned through every quest or class within a few months. What's the point? I find my exposure to all of these titles to be exactly what I want.

Bree Royce, Senior Editor
"Commitment" is exactly what it takes to become a columnist-level expert at many games and endgame systems. But we're not forced to commit or dabble at Massively; it's just that columnists benefit from specialization and non-columnists benefit from a generalist's knowledge. I prefer to have played many games to a reasonable depth rather than one to extremes or hundreds just a tiny bit, whether I work here or not, primarily because the systems I like to write about and compare tend to fall in the mid-game.

Eliot Lefebvre, Columnist Extraordinaire and Senior Contributing Editor
As a pretty prolific writer here, I find it's not always possible for me to focus on one game over another. I have three different games that I write about, I do stints on Choose My Adventure, and I'm constantly exposed to new titles. I also have other people pulling me along into adventures -- I'm looking to get back into Guild Wars again because fellow writers Elisabeth and Matt are going to be taking a tour of the campaigns, and there's stuff I need to clear out if I opt to get in on Guild Wars 2.

However, while it's certainly more difficult to focus on one title to the exclusion of all others, it's also freeing in another way. Rather than being forced to simply play one game and expect all of my MMO needs to be fulfilled by a single game, I play several and allow myself to enjoy each based on what each game does best. It's a net positive in my mind.

Elisabeth Cardy, Guild Wars 2 Columnist
I enjoy dabbling in different games, and I'm always looking to try new ones, but I definitely have one or two games that are home. That hasn't changed much since joining Massively (not that it's had a lot of time to), and I don't really expect it to change much in the future. While it's fun and possibly important to try out new things and see what's out there, there's something very nice and cozy about a game you're familiar with, with people you know and a world you like. That said, it's hard to find one game that really scratches all my itches, which is sometimes all the nudge I need to hop out of my comfort zone and pick up a new game for a little while.

Jef Reahard, Columnist Extraordinaire and Senior Contributing Editor
I don't think it's harder to commit to a single game in my case; it's more like there's no single game that's worthy of that type of commitment. I'd love to stop game-hopping and settle down in a single virtual world, but since Star Wars Galaxies is gone and since all of these newer titles have decided on a less-is-more approach, on a personal level I kind of wander to and fro looking for a mixture of games to approximate that deeper experience.

On a professional level, it's helpful and probably even necessary to be well-versed in all of the major MMOs (and quite a few of the minor ones), so as long as I'm getting paid to write about games, I'll be logging at least a couple of hours in five or six different ones every week.

That puts a damper on my ability to PvP well, lead a guild, or do some of the other time-intensive things that make certain MMOs interesting, but I'm more of an explorer than a competitor anyway.

Jeremy Stratton, Contributing Editor
I don't think loyalty means the same thing it used to within the MMO market, and I'm only guessing, but I think that developers understand that. If I had my own MMO, I'd definitely want you to keep playing my game, but I wouldn't want you to feel obligated to stay while staying away from other games. Today's free-to-play businesses have the ability to attract someone like me to stay longer -- or more importantly to me, come back -- whenever I want, on my own terms. For those reasons, I don't think it's harder to commit to a single game, unless perhaps you're a guild leader.

I certainly don't have a tougher time committing to any one game, but I do struggle with remembering some of the different rotations and nuances unique to each MMO. Those usually come back to me within one play session, though. As Massively writers, we are given a lot of freedom to be true admirers of the games we focus on. I've never been big into endgame or min-maxing. I don't avoid it like the plague, but I've always tended to concentrate on leveling and horizontal content.

Matt Daniel, Contributing Editor
I'm with Bree on this one, more or less. I'm a lot like Patrick in that I enjoy having mastery over a single game, which obviously requires a certain degree of commitment. That being said, I've always been a "dabbler" since I started playing MMOs as a wee lad. I don't think working for Massively makes it more difficult to commit to a single game, but it doesn't rightly matter because my interest in general game design makes a more general type of knowledge a lot more useful to me anyway. I like to be able to analyze a game's design, to see what works and what doesn't; having multiple frames of reference is useful for that. I think working for Massively hasn't really affected my outlook so much as it's reinforced it. Since I'm just a general news writer and not a columnist, I benefit more from having a broad knowledge without a ton of depth rather than having a narrow focus that reaches the depths of hell itself.

Patrick Mackey, League of Legends Columnist
I'm really more of a one-game guy. It's much harder for me to play multiple MMORPGs because I'm very focused on developing mastery. Mastery of a game takes time, but MMORPGs are very complex games that have a lot of nuance, generally requiring a year or more to fully grasp. If I play multiple games, I end up fixating on one for months while I learn and practice everything I can.

Terilynn Shull, Star Trek Online Columnist
One again I seem to be the odd woman out. I am loyal to one game because it's the only game that has ever interested me. I'm a Trekkie, and when I found out that someone was making a Trek MMO, I purposely tried it for that reason.

That's not to say others haven't piqued my interest. I have played Champions Online a few times and have thought about giving Lord of the Rings Online a try but haven't done so yet mainly because of time constraints.

Star Trek Online is my happy place. I belong to a great fleet that's very casual and social, and I co-host two podcasts, one of which focuses on the game, so I think it would be highly unlikely that I would devote too much time to another game.

Looking for some advice on which class is best for soloing in Aion? Not sure who this Raph Koster fellow is? Curious about the release date of NCsoft's newest MMO? You've come to the right place! No one knows MMOs like we do. If there's anything you'd like to know about the MMO genre or the site itself, Ask Massively is here to help every Thursday afternoon. Just ask!

This article was originally published on Massively.