The Soapbox: Joy in the little things

Aion Wings
Some people play MMOs because they love the challenge. Some are there for the social aspects. Still others stick with their favorite titles because they're deeply in love with the content or lore. Every single gamer reading this post has a different reason for logging into their MMO of choice instead of watching television, reading a book or choosing any other type of recreation.

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.

Sheep Island
Here's an example: In World of Warcraft, my main character is a miner and a jewelcrafter. However, I didn't choose these professions for their earning potential or to enhance my character with crafter-only buffs and items. I choose mining because I like World of Warcraft's ore icons, and I chose jewelcrafting because I like the sound it makes when you cut gems. The most satisfying thing in the world (of Warcraft) to me is seeing a bag full of Mithril ore, because to this day it is still my favorite icon in the game.

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.

Battlefield Jets
I know other gamers who have similar systems. In Mortal Kombat, for instance, my best friend considers any match in which he pulls off a Johnny Cage crotch-punch to be a victory, regardless of the final outcome. And because we all know this is his win condition, we are inevitably sucked into the battle and end up conceding to his terms. Another friend charts the ocean in Wind Waker every year without actually completing the game, just because she enjoys the sailing mechanics.

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.

TERA Character Design
This applies to more than aesthetics. There is a very real satisfaction to be gained from the sound of huge guns in World of Tanks and the just-right speeds of Tribes: Ascend. When your character jumps in any game with a jump mechanic, you go a certain height and distance and stay in the air for a very specific amount of time -- none of these things are accidental, and if tweaked in either direction, they could possibly break your ability to enjoy the game. It's what makes one game feel different from another even when the general gameplay is the same.

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?

EVE Ship Design
Having a good time while playing a game doesn't necessarily mean following the path set by the developers or being the best team in your battlegroup. It's not about being the strongest player or the richest guild. The real fun, the stuff that sticks with you long after you've logged out, comes from finding your own special moments and making the game exciting for yourself. No one can tell you how you should or shouldn't play a game (unless you are playing League of Legends, in which case everyone will, constantly); every good experience is a valid one.

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!

This article was originally published on Massively.