Latest in Gaming

Image credit:

The Soapbox: The heartbreak of altitis


In the MMO culture, there are those who alt and those who don't. Sometimes there's a hilarious rift between the two factions, as one side can't understand why you wouldn't want to try out all of the game's classes and the other side can't understand why you wouldn't specialize and excel in a single character.

I'm one of those who alt, which is a blessing as much as it is a curse. I blame City of Heroes for starting me out on the path to altoholism. C'mon, it was simply impossible to play that game and not be rolling a new superhero concept every other day. By the time I moved on to more "traditional" titles, I was hooked on the idea of alts.

It's a curse as much as it is a blessing. I'll be the first to advocate that alting can give you a wider perspective in a game, offer you more play flexibility, and perhaps keep you in a title far longer than if you played a single character until you burned out. But there's a darker side to it, a path to heartbreak. For those of us who alt, this is the unspoken danger that lurks in every reroll.

The Soapbox The heartbreak of altitis
The Grass is Greener Syndrome

The reason I roll alts is the same reason I love hybrid classes: I want to be able to see and do a bit of everything. I start getting eye twitches at the thought of forcing myself into a single dedicated role that focuses on doing one thing really well... and that's it. Jack of all trades, that's my personality.

But it's also hard to be playing a class and then seeing what others are doing with their classes. Jealousy and envy set in. That looks really fun, you think. Ooh, they can use those weapons? Man, they just saved the day with that sick skill.

So that's when the Grass is Greener Syndrome starts taking effect. It's a combination of not being 100% satisfied with what you're doing, a curiosity for what's on the other side of the fence, and a desire to get your fingers in as many cookie jars as possible.

I'll admit that rolling an alt because of this doesn't come from the most pure of places. For one thing, I'm a big advocate of learning to be content in gaming. I know that if I start hopping to different characters just because I'm feeling a little antsy with where I'm at, I might not stop. It's like hitting "next" on your MP3 player due to looking for the perfect song. It might happen, but before I know it I have a hard time stopping on a single tune. I keep wondering what the next one is like.

The Soapbox The heartbreak of altitis
Addicted to the Reroll Syndrome

Starting a new character is downright intoxicating. The world is open before you, the potential is sky-high, and the possibilities are endless. It's like taking the plastic wrap off of a toy and just smelling all of that newness. Not only do you get to play the creator by crafting the character from the ground-up, but you are also just starting on a journey together. Who will this character be to you? What adventures will he have? What is she capable of doing?

The first week with that character unfolds like a blissful dream. Levels melt away faster than you can count. You still delight in all of the little quirks and details. You wonder that maybe, just maybe, you've found the one.

Of course, sooner or later the new smell fades, the excitement dims, and either interest is lost or a passionate fling is traded for a long-running romance. That's when you start to eye the character creation screen again. You know it would only take a minute to begin anew. You're craving a hit of that fresh start, and the more often you give in to that craving, the weaker the euphoria becomes.

Soon you're just rerolling because you cannot settle down with anything that isn't brand-new, even though there's precious little newness left in the game to you. You've plundered it all and become desensitized to it. You were addicted and now you're numb.

The Soapbox The heartbreak of altitis
Eternal toddler syndrome

The final heartbreak comes when you realize that because of all of your constant rerolling and experiments with alts, you have a legion of toddlers under your command -- but no adults. Your characters exist solely in the level 1 through 20 bracket, and while you know the first two zones in any region like the back of your hand, the mid-game is a complete mystery (nevermind the mythical endgame).

You feel as if you're falling behind all of your friends, who are growing in power and abilities. You suffer through the incredibly immature general chat channels and envy those who have the self-discipline to stick to a character and finally see him graduate from pre-school.

Maybe you get so frustrated that one day you delete most of your alts, save one or two; you promise yourself they will become your mains. This sounds all well and good until a week or two later when you look that mostly empty character screen and realize you have lots of space for more alts.

After all, you've always been wanting to play a Shaman... and it would be so great to have a new character again...

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!

From around the web

ear iconeye icontext filevr