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Behind the Curtain: On burnout

Craig Withers

So, I'm afraid that I'm getting a little close to burnout.

Oh noes. zomg. qq. whine. complain. Etc, etc.

In the past, I have suffered from serious burnout which resulted in me leaving World of Warcraft for six months or so. I'm still not sure how they survived without me. We've all been there, where the rewards for logging on just one more time aren't enough anymore. I say that we've all been there, of course that may not be true; but you're a rare specimen indeed if you've managed to play MMOs for any significant length of time without burning out for at least a little while.

I guess burnout doesn't have to be a bad thing. I only just got a Wii. Don't laugh, I know I'm a little behind the curve on that one. Spending less time on MMOs means that I'd have more time free to play through Resident Evil 4 on the Wii, which makes sense, given that I've already gone through it on the Gamecube and PS2. I could also go back and pick up Resident Evil 0, and the remake of the original. And the Gamecube versions of 2 and 3. And Umbrella Chronicles. Wait, they released Code Veronica for the Gamecube as well, didn't they?

Okay. I admit that I need help.

Back to the point I was trying to make. Burnout doesn't have to be bad. Assuming you're burning out only on one game, you're laughing. Switch games, move on, maybe come back later once your mood changes. Is that really burnout though, or is that just feeling sick of one game in particular? It depends how you define burnout, or even what level of burnout you're talking about.

The last time I burned out on MMOs, I burned out hard. I barely touched any of my game systems. I picked up my paintbrushes and got back into 40K for a while. It didn't last, and I returned to the fold, you lucky, lucky readers

Burnout doesn't have to mean that you hate a game, or even dislike it. Maybe it just means that you don't get the feeling you used to when you're waiting on the loading screen, itching for it to finish so that you can get in there and grind/farm/gank/craft *delete as applicable. The feeling of burnout can typically be summed up by that most eloquent of catchphrases, "Meh."

Some people lay the blame for burnout at the open-ended nature of MMOs. Without any real ending, without a sense of closure, it can be hard for a player to keep their interest up indefinitely. Some people find the answer in alts – when you tire of one character, simply roll on to another one. But what happens when it's not just the one character that you're tired of, but the game itself. Rolling up an alt isn't going to make any difference at all if the game world itself is irritating you.

Although, if it's MMO burnout in general, simply switching games isn't going to do anything. On the other hand, if it's game-specific burnout, switching over might do it. There's plenty of free-to-play games that will be happy to take you, I won't list them here.

Is burnout when a game stops being a game, or when a game stops being fun? How do YOU define burnout? Is it burnout when you come home from work/school/whatever and just can't face logging on tonight because (unlike me) you're unfortunate enough to be in a guild full of idiots? Where do you cross the line between taking a break and truly burning out.

I don't think that burnout can or should be measured by the length of time you take a break from a game. You can take a break for weeks or months, and still itch to get back into the game every day, although circumstances preclude it. A good friend of mine actually told me today that he's cancelling his WoW account. Even though he's having a ball, he's starting his third year in University, and simply doesn't have the time now.

If you do feel the big B coming on, it's always worth remembering one of the cardinal rules – never go quietly. It's not your fault. It's the game, or the developers, or the producers, or the GMs, or your guildies, or that guy who ganked you that time. You've found out that you can have a life away from the PC, and anyone who chooses to argue that point with you is wrong, wrong, WRONG!

The second you start to type up that post telling everyone that you're leaving, you automatically become a better person than they are. Why? Because you've seen the light – you've managed to do what they never have, and quit. You broke the cycle of your addiction, came through the darkness, defeated your inner demons, crawled from your chrysalis and any whatever other self-help sounding,

mumbo-jumbo you can think to spew forth. Any player who tries to reason with your or argue can be shouted down, flamed, mocked or ignored. Try to avoid that last one if at all possible. Regardless of how much time you may have spent online previously, from the moment you decided to leave, you became a different person, a better person. Anyone not agreeing with you and still playing MMOs is a fat, smelly nerd who isn't fit to lick your shoes. Don't hold back and go for the gusto. If you know any secrets, spill them all and leave nothing unsaid. That way it'll make it all the more fun when you change your mind six months down the line and try to get back in to your old guild.

That's enough for me for now; what about you? What are your views on burnout? Is it inevitable, or can it be avoided? Are we, as MMO gamers, all on the road to burnout regardless of what we do, or can we do something to avoid it without having to change games every other day? Are we fated to burnout, no matter what steps we take, no matter what games we play, and no matter how many alts we roll?

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