What games are you playing now, and what are your characters?
I'm playing a number of MMOs at once, as I usually do. There's Lord of the Rings Online, where I am a Hobbit Guardian and main tank for a regular weekly static group, as we work our way through the epic storyline Books of the Shadows of Angmar. A great experience that I look forward to each week as much for the people as the game itself.
I run a small causal friendly guild in Guild Wars and we have a different night of the week for that. I mostly play Mesmer there and very much enjoy that quirky profession. With its heavy basis in conditional logic and reflex timing it is quite unlike most classes found in most other MMOs and I love the experimental nature of perfecting the eight-skill hot bar, something I have yet to achieve. We alternate between PvE and PvP weeks there and it seems one of the few titles I've played where PvP hasn't just been bolted on the end, badly, as an afterthought.
I'm also a Tanker in City of Heroes with a different static group and we're almost at the level cap there. City of Heroes does so many things to alleviate the traditional MMO gripes that I find myself continually drawn to it from an academic perspective, but in addition to that, its a great deal of fun and often absolutely crazy to boot.
I'm also dabbling with Free Realms, Runes of Magic, Second Life, and PlanetSide at the moment, although this time next month, who could say?
Why do you like MMOs so much?
Initially, I found a genre of computer game which by design, could never 'end' in the same way many of my single player games did. The persistent nature of EverQuest was an eye-opener for me, and it never occurred to me that it might be possible for me to ever complete it, as such. Later, it became about the hubbub and phenomenon of being 'alone together'. I soloed a lot, but it was comforting to know that many others shared my obsession and drives, and could share in a common experience and frame of reference to me. For a time, it was about obsession, and for a time, I suspect that it was literally impossible for me to stop playing MMOs. Nowadays, its about the people. I am a member of three different static MMO gaming groups, made up of new friends and old, and I tend to regard an MMO as a venue these days, a kind of virtual bar, pool hall or bowling alley. We meet up online, and play a game together, but increasingly, these worlds are backdrops, places where my friends and I can have a fun evening 'out', after a fashion.
What accomplishment in-game are you most proud of?
I'm not much of an Achiever type player to be honest, so tend to spend my MMO life bumbling along, pottering about in the minutiae and poking round the back of hills and mountains. I was quite proud of reaching max level in World of Warcraft, but practically everyone does that, and they've added 20 levels since I was last there, moving the goalposts behind my back! I'm proud of our Guild Wars guild, the Tuesday Noob Club, every week and often proud of group particular accomplishments in Lord of the Rings Online and City of Heroes most weeks. Something very satisfying about overcoming a difficult Book or Task Force against the numerical odds; not enough people or not enough levels. Managing to do something that shouldn't be doable!
What's the most terrible, drama-filled, awful thing to happen to you in an MMO?
My entire two years playing on the Rallos Zek PvP server of EverQuest. New to the genre, and a great deal more naïve than I am today, I quickly grew bored of the grind on the initial 'blue' server I signed up on, and misunderstood what the grind really was. I decided that all the problems of boredom would be eliminated by joining a free-for-all PvP server instead. In a way, I was right, but spent the following months learning some very sharp lessons about paranoia, man's inhumanity to man, the discrepancy between time spent earning items and time spent losing them and what internet anonymity can do to otherwise normal human beings. It turns out that far from the dramatic roleplayed soap opera I was expecting, where villains always have the good grace to lose easily and routinely, while twirling moustaches and plotting to win next time, real villains are not nearly as fun to play with.
I did meet some decent people who became friends, and on the whole learnt a lot from the experience, mostly that I am a big plush carebear who should probably stay away from Darkfall and Mortal Online for the sake of my blood pressure and a quiet life. Make Fellowship Manoeuvres, not war!
If you had 10 more hours to play every week, what would you spend them doing?
Probably signing up for three more MMOs, ones that I've never played before and regret not having gotten round to seeing yet. They all fascinate me, but I sometimes feel as if I have significant gaps in my experience of the genre. I've never played Dark Age of Camelot, Warhammer Online and Pirates of the Burning Sea to name but a few. I barely saw Auto Assault and never saw Matrix Online and regret the passing of both; missed opportunities perhaps. I'd also like to resub to MMOs that I used to play and have now moved on from. Nostalgia is a strong motivator for me. There really aren't enough hours in the week!
When you're not playing MMOs, what do you do?
Thinking about MMOs, writing about MMOs here and at my blog, and talking about MMOs into a microphone on the Van Hemlock Podcast. I should probably get out more.