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Behind the Curtain: The guilt of an MMO gamer

Craig Withers

I haven't been playing World of Warcraft as much as I should have this week, and I feel bad about it. Last week, my Warrior hit the Defence cap, I got my first 25 Emblems of Heroism, and I tanked Archavon on 10-man. This week though, I've hardly even logged on.

I have instead spent most of the week playing Mario Kart Wii, honing my skills so that I can crush my 7-year old nephew utterly when next we meet. There are lessons we all need to learn early in life. Chief among them being never, ever, horse your Uncle Craig at Mario Kart. He'll thank me for it in time.

I also had some problems with my internet connection, thanks to the UK's seeming inability to cope with heavy snow. Then again, it is January, so I can see why we were taken by surprise. That was sarcasm, by the way.

I have felt guilty about my lack of WoW time though. I've been neglecting my characters in favour of other games, and I feel bad about it. I've felt this way before, on the occasion that I've taken a break from WoW, for example, to spend some time with EVE Online or Star Wars Galaxies.

I've got more then one inactive MMO subscription at the moment, and I'm sure many of Massively's readers are in the same boat. Off the top of my head, apart from EVE and Galaxies, I've got an Everquest 2 and an Anarchy Online account that haven't seen the light of day in some time. I even have a Second Life account gathering dust. Not that that matters, it's not as if we cover Second Life here at Massively, if some of our commenters are to be believed.

In all honesty though, it's really only WoW that I miss. My Minmatar pilot, Human Ranger and whatever-the-Hell I play in AO can all languish until CCP, SOE and Funcom go bankrupt, for all I care. But if I haven't logged on and spent time with at least one of my WoW characters, I feel bad.

Not in the twitchy, I-need-a-fix kind of bad. I mean that I feel bad for my characters, that I'm not spending time with them. Let's be clear here – I'm not imagining my stable of alts pining away, forgotten and discarded like a Toy Story character. No, I may be a little weird, but I'm not crazy. What I mean instead is that I've spent so much time with my characters, developing them, nurturing them and kitting them out in the best of gear that I can be bothered to get, that to not spend time with them simply feels wrong.

I struggle to understand people who fill out every available character slot with alts of various race and class combination. There's one member of my guild who is legendary in /gchat for his number of alts. If he were to start multiboxing, I've not doubt that he could take over our server. Seriously, this guy could get the For the Alliance achievement on his own. How he manages to balance all of thos alts, I'll never know. There are two other players, a husband and wife team, who have multiple level 80 characters. The last characters they got to 80 were actaully their mains originally. They stopped levelling them at some point, rolled up new alts and proceeded to level them to 80 first. My mind boggles at such behaviour.

I'm never going to be the kind of player who suffers from alt-itis. I don't mind having an alt or two kicking around in case I get bored. I've got a Priest languishing at level 30 just now that I was levelling up pre-Wrath. Despite the amount of fun I'm having with my 80 Warrior just now, that Priest taunts me every time I log on. To have characters waiting around, unplayed and unused, maybe even (whisper it) unloved, makes me feel uncomfortable.

It's strange, in a game where the world is persistent and lasting, the idea that not logging on might get to you makes no sense. Things won't change that much, Northrend isn't going anywhere, and those dailies will still be waiting when you log back on finally.

Have you ever felt the same, or am I losing the plot? Obviously, I can't speak for everyone, I can only speak for myself, but I'm reasonably sure I'm not alone here. I'm not talking about addiction, like I said earlier, this isn't the need to log on and play because I need a fix; I'm talking about wanting to log on because not logging on feels like a waste of time. After having spent so much time and effort with one game, the idea of doing anything else, of playing another game, feels like a waste.

There's more than enough time in the average person's week to squeeze in time on multiple games or multiple MMOs, but I wonder how many of us do so? I also wonder is developers and publishers count on that fact? Is it human nature to focus one's attention on one thing at a time? It seems like common sense that it would be. Like the saying goes, 'jack of all trades, master of none'. Maybe companies count on this kind of focus, on the inability of the average gamer to play World of Warcraft one night, Lord of the Rings Online the next, and EVE Online the day after that.

As I said, I can only speak for myself. I know that quite a few of the Massively staff have multiple active MMO subscriptions, but let's hear from you, our readers. How many of you run multiple MMOs? Do you hope between them regularly, or just once in a while?

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