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The Soapbox: My MMO resolutions


Today is the last day of 2013, a long year of extended betas, early access pre-purchases, and soft launch nonsense. The release slate for 2014, however, brings slightly more excitement. 2014 is the year we'll (hopefully) first set foot into Elder Scrolls Online, EverQuest Next Landmark, Destiny, Star Citizen, WildStar, and more. It's the year in which a record number of MMOs will go live on consoles. And most importantly, it's likely the year in which consumers will decide whether the traditional MMO is dead or just in need of a good kick in the pants.

Ordinarily I'm not the type to make New Year's resolutions. It seems arbitrary to hang important life changes on a date on the calendar. But the end of the year does bring a nice opportunity to look back on my gaming habits over the last 12 months and provides me with an opportunity to draft a list of things I'd like to do better moving forward. 2014 will be an MMO year like no other, so perhaps it warrants a few adjustments in behavior.

With that in mind, these are my 2014 MMO resolutions.

Be more helpful

I've always thought of myself as a helpful player. When I was a hardcore World of Warcraft raider, I'd often go out of my way to answer questions in general chat or on the forums. However, as my time for games shrinks (life always has more responsibilities to add), I've found my patience for noob tomfoolery shrinking as well. I'm starting to become the jaded veteran who scoffs at players for not knowing their role, messing up their rotations, or using the wrong items at the wrong time. This is especially true in team-based games, where other people's initiate-level gameplay often causes my tired, time-pressed brain to short-circuit.

EverQuest Next
This is a terrible thing, and not just because it makes me feel like a jerk. MMOs are social by nature. If we want the market to grow and more players to join us in our favorite games, we have to work hard to ensure those games feel welcoming. Answering a new player's question, which takes all of 10 seconds, might be the exact thing that keeps that player in the game over the long-term and helps guarantee the continued existence of that particular digital world. It also makes the experience more enjoyable all around. Would you rather be stuck in a dungeon with an inept tank, complaining to your friends, or take a few seconds to help that tank better utilize his abilities, improving the dungeon run for all involved?

2014 is my year to restore my position as the guy who helps, not the guy who hinders.

Be more positive

I can't tell you how many times I took one look at a game this year and immediately wrote it off as being a horrible, terrible product made by horrible, terrible people. In some cases, I was absolutely right. But in others, I found myself pleasantly surprised and most definitely wrong. Things aren't always what they seem; you can never actually find out the truth about a game unless you sit down and try to play it. Even the strangest-looking games have secrets to share.

It's fair to say that there are game types you like, and game types you don't. I've never been much for RTS games, for example, so I find the likelihood of an RTS game capturing my heart to be on the low end of the spectrum (though I suppose Dota 2 is something of an RTS, so there's that). However, I do myself and the developers of a game a disservice when I write off a title without laying hands on it. I'm not suggesting that I will buy and play every game that comes out in 2014 -- a financial and scheduling impossibility for almost anyone -- but I am suggesting that perhaps I can take a few more risks and step outside of my comfort zone a little more often. The only experience I'm limiting is my own.

This year, I'm going to force myself into new and dangerous gaming experiences in the hopes of broadening my horizons and learning more about those genres and titles that don't necessarily appeal to me at first glance.

Be more attentive

The MMO worlds in which we often find ourselves are vast works of art representing thousands of hours of labor from some of the industry's most talented folks. Even those games that have earned a reputation for being "bad" have astounding feats of artistry woven into their design. It might be in the writing, it might be in the quest design, or it might be in the way the sun drips through the trees. However it manifests, there is beauty in all of our games.

One of my worst habits is always steamrolling to the next landmark, the next milestone. If I'm level 30, I want to be level 40. If I have a nice shield, I want a nicer shield. I'm never happy where I am. I also miss quite a bit of the story in a great number of games I play; much of the beauty of online games is lost on me due to my tendency to ignore lore entirely and focus only on my checklist of objectives. In this habit, I am again limiting my own experience. There are many mysteries to be solved and details to discover, yet I'm always focused on my progression obsession.

In 2014, I'm going to make a better effort to truly notice the work that has gone into the games I play and to stop and smell the roses just a little more often. It will give me a deeper appreciation for the blood, sweat, and tears poured into the games I play, even if I don't end up liking the final product.

Star Citizen
2013 was a big year for video games, if not for MMOs. 2014 is going to be enormous for both. I'm excited to explore the world of Tamriel, build a house in Norrath, and make new friends in the Nexus. I think with this list of resolutions as a guide, I should be able to enjoy myself wherever I might go.

At the very least I'll help some noobs.

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 across the staff. Think we're spot on -- or out of our minds? Let us know in the comments!

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