There is no right way to enjoy a game. Despite the fact that our comments section is often filled with people letting others know what they "should" or "shouldn't" be playing based on their affinity for certain in-game functions, having fun is a very personal experience that depends entirely on your tastes and desires. If you're having a good time in a game, you're doing it right.
It's all about the little things.
As anyone who has ever watched one of my streams can attest, I am not a very serious gamer. I tend to attack games with a sense of raw curiosity more than steadfast dedication, and I rarely fret over lost time, lost gear, or lost lives. Fun in games, at least for me, comes from certain tiny interactions and elements that may not necessarily click with other players.
Creating win conditions
One of my favorite ways to focus on the smaller parts of a game is by creating unique win conditions. Basically, this means that whether or not I'm accomplishing any real in-game goal, if I perform a specific action I consider the session to be a victory. Whatever is supposed to actually happen doesn't matter much to me as long as I'm winning by my own terms.
In Battlefield 3 (a non-MMO, I know), I count smashing my jet into someone else's jet as an instant team victory. In Smash Bros., it's playing as Donkey Kong and dragging people off the edge with me. In EVE Online, it's simply the way ice asteroids look as they float in space. Every game I play has a special subset of things that I consider rewarding that exist outside of the main narrative established by devs and the community.
We are creating our own fun, and this helps extend the game's lifespan.
Appreciating the subtle
Every game, MMO or not, is packed with tiny details that often go overlooked. Developers put these things into games for a reason, but we gamers usually don't pick up on them in any conscious form. Think about the level-up animation in Aion or the tiny snowflakes floating off a frost spell in WoW, and see if you can remember the intricacies of the designs. Sometimes it's nice to slow down a bit and really take in the cool things in front of us.
Immense thought is put into the tiniest elements of the games we play. It almost seems like a disservice to overlook them while crashing our way from one level to the next. When's the last time, for instance, that you really looked closely at an enemy's appearance before you smashed it in the face with an axe? How many tiny details, carefully placed by a world-class artist, are you missing in your lust for loot and XP?
In short, maybe it's time for us to stop and smell the roses. There are so many beautiful and unique moments in our games just waiting to be discovered. All it takes is a willingness to break from the grind and give yourself a moment to create something new and compelling in a game that perhaps you believe holds no more surprises.
I promise you that your favorite games still have secrets. I promise there are new ways to have fun. And I promise that spending a few hours making your own rules or really feeling the subtleties of a game's design will give you a deeper and longer-lasting love for the title.
It always works for me.
Everyone has opinions, and The Soapbox is how we indulge ours. Join the Massively writers every Tuesday as we take turns atop our very own soapbox to deliver unfettered editorials a bit outside our normal purviews and not necessarily shared by Massively as a whole. Think we're spot on -- or out of our minds? Let us know in the comments!