We return to MMOs a lot, don't we? There are so many reasons we do it and they're mostly boring, so I'm not interested in talking about them here. But what I do want to chart is the progression I've seen in myself and others as we've come back to an old MMO flame.
I've identified 10 stages (well, 11 really) that the returning gamer goes through, and in the interest of SCIENCE, I want to be the first to write the defining document of this significant process.
"Huh, a new expansion is coming out for World of Manatees? Wow, that's a game I haven't thought of in years. I wonder if it's still any good? I mean, it must be, if they're still releasing expansions for it. I barely remember why I quit. Was it the PvP? Maybe that's better now. Oh what the heck, I don't have anything better to do today -- sign me back up!"
"Oh man, this is so great! It's all coming back to me: the music, the authentic manatee sounds, the detailed seaweed crafting, everything! Is it... is it three in the morning already? Oh well, I can call in sick tomorrow, for I have epic deeds to accomplish tonight!"
"Huh... I guess I don't remember everything. Like all of these buttons. What do they do? And why is the user interface different? And how dare the game developers add 16 patches since last time! That's a lot of reading to do, and we sea cows don't read; we graze content! Man, I guess I need to head to the forums and do some reading up."
"Or I could just throw it all away and reroll a new class, learn it all again from the ground up! I heard the Dugong race is pretty awesome; I should give that a try. I'm going to do it right this time, all from scratch. And thus, Murdertee is born!"
"OH MY STARS THIS IS THE GREATEST GAME THAT EVER WAS, IS, OR SHALL BE! Who needs those newer games? This baby has all the oomph that I need! I need to go write a long and enthusiastic post on my blog about all of this! It's a discovery that is easily on par with finding the New World and the formula to New Coke!"
"And yet, there is a hollow in my soul. I am but adrift in the social scene, for my old guild disbanded and/or was cut to shreds by speedboat propellers. I used to be the person who knew everyone, and now I'm just a faceless schlub in the crowd. Will... will anyone hold my hand?"
"I can't believe I was gone for so long. I could have had a max level character three times over by now! Now I'm behind the curve and I'll never catch up. Everyone else is enjoying the expansion, and here I am slowly swimming through the opening bay, fighting level 2 jellyfish. What a waste of time that wedding and subsequent honeymoon was!"
"No use crying over spilled oil slicks; it's time to roll up my flippers and get to work. I've got the game up on my main computer, some theory crafting going on with my laptop, and enough dollar tacos to sustain me through a marathon session. I will catch up -- I will!"
"Crap, they didn't fix this bug yet? And I totally forgot how primitive this is in comparison to Platypus Online. That game had area looting, while I have to paddle over and slowly digest the loot here. Ugh, I'm starting to remember why I threw that snit back in 2008 and tossed my computer out of a fourth-story window, allegedly maiming several schoolchildren. Some things are better forgotten, methinks."
10. Second heartbreak or newfound love
"Here we are, game, as naked as the day we were born. We know each of the other's virtues and flaws, the pimples and moles, the good habits and the bad. There are no secrets between us, just the raw truth. Are you something I can live with again, or shall I cast you off and be done with you for good this time? I will need to think on this, but in the meanwhile I have a raid. Let's get cracking!"
When not clawing his eyes out at the atrocious state of general chat channels, Justin "Syp" Olivetti pulls out his history textbook for a lecture or two on the good ol' days of MMOs in The Game Archaeologist. You can contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.