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Building a better MMOusetrap: Burnout for the holidays

Dave Moss
December 19, 2007
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Burnout is a topic almost every MMO player is familiar with, you or a friend reach that point where the game has lost it's wonder, and you just can't be bothered to login anymore. Sometimes the feeling goes away and you get back on the horse and carry on, or it stays and you leave the game for good, perhaps for another game, or you just leave the whole genre behind.

It's a topic that has been discussed before by a number of different people, by players, developers and journalists alike, and there never really has been a concrete reason behind it. Some people burn out before end game, some after months and months of end game content, and others last years, just to finally snap. I know I'm not going to be breaking any ground discussing it again, but it's something I've been thinking about covering for a while, and lately the topic has been hitting close to home. Every year around this time, no matter what game I'm playing, you see more and more burn out, and people drift away from the game. Some chalk it up to the holidays (the period between Yanksgiving (or American Thanksgiving for our US audience), and Decemberween (Christmas)) as the contributing factor, as people spend more time with their families, and their wallets. Others say it's seasonal depression, and once the skies turn to slate and the snow begins to fly, people just don't want to be sitting in front of the computer anymore.

Personally, I think it's a mix of both, as well as the fact that this is the time of the year we look back and take into consideration everything we have done throughout the year. I've always noticed people look at their time in MMOs in three distinct ways at this time of year.



The Gamer

The lifer is a gamer, was a gamer, and will always be a gamer. These people look at the time they have spent in their MMO of choice as just that, time spent gaming. They don't mourn all the time they could have been writing the next great American novel, or curing cancer, or just spending more time with friends and family. Those things, of course, matter to the person, but they also love games and enjoy the time they spend in them. Lifers generally suffer more from boredom burnout, than emotional burnout. After the eleventy billionth boss downing, or instance run, or PvP tournament, they just don't care anymore. These are the people who will wander off to find a new game, new friends (or some old ones that come with them) and will continue on gaming. I factor their burnout at usually two to three years per game.

The Weekend Warrior

The Weekend Warrior is the person who plays a game to hang out with friends, or just as a distraction from that horrid office job. They spend their time online trying to "get the most out of it." Endlessly running raids and instances and spending more free time than they probably should in game. They are also the type of people who tend to be more emotionally connected. To them, these games aren't just games, they are a separation from their off-line life, a time when they can happily swing a sword or cast a spell and not have to worry about TPS reports and deadlines. But come the end of the year, in game accolades and PvP rewards don't pay the bills, and your friends aren't even bothering to call you when they have plans anymore, because they know "yeah I'll be there in an hour" means "just three more levels until I can get the Axe of Bloody Disembowelment!". So when four AM rolls around, and you pull yourself away, you realize, it's time for bed, because you have to get up for work in the morning. These people will usually burn out, or appear to burn out because they are taking stock of their off-line life, and decide it's time to start shaving on the weekends again, and call up a friend to go get a drink, instead of just one more run.

The Hardcore

Now, before you start pulling out that pitchfork you aptly named 'Old pokey' and find yourself a torch to hunt me down, I'm going to ask you to take what I say here with a grain of salt. The Hardcore player is not necessarily the poop-socker's, or the "I bleed for the Horde" type of people we stereotype, but they are the type of people who have no remorse for the things they sacrifice for their game. These are the people that were the first in the beta, and will be the last to logout. They are the dedicated few who will never leave a game, because it speaks to them in ways the rest of us just simply do not understand. Their burn out is inverse to our own, and affects their off-line time before their online. They would rather happily spend every waking moment in game, leveling, or perfecting their characters. Getting that perfect item to complete their set, even if it means skipping dinner to get that last few rooms into the dungeon. I've known a few of these people who don't ever look back on their year in game and think "I did alright" it was always "I could have done better, my guild held me back, and I can't believe that ass-hat who ninja'd my loot! Not next year buddy, no way! DeathdevourerX is coming for you!" I'd say I feel sorry for them, but I don't, they simply have a different outlook on life.

So there, three different outlooks, and certainly there could be more, but in my time playing those are the three I've encountered the most over this time of year. So to my friends in my current game of choice, I ask you to take stock of the last twelve months, and ask yourself where you stand. Don't blame the game, don't blame your family, don't even blame that ninja bastard who stole your loot. Just figure out what makes you happy, save the drama for your mama, and do what you have to do. The rest of us will carry on, just as we always have.

















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