As yet another case of MMO Ennui and Real-life-oh-so-fucking-busy-I-don’t-have-the-brain-power-to-game-itis set in, I sadly reflected on the happy hours I used to pour into gaming. That energy used to come in the form of gaming, but it also came in the form of creating and collaborating, either as an Officer in Immortalis, my Warcraft guild, or as a blogger and podcaster during my days at The Obscurecast. Part of what I found fun about gaming was in knowing things and being able to share what I had found out. That could take the form of experience and wisdom about handling the foibles of a particularly active guild, or in straight up theory-crafting and guides.
These days I play single player games, or I play collaboratively with my partner. In an attempt to regain those early years of wonder, before wowpedia.org and wikia became the font of games knowledge, no matter what I turned my hand to, I now game without guides.
For some games this is spectacularly easy, because they’re fairly straightforward and don’t provide you with millions of options. For something like Mirror’s Edge or Thomas Was Alone, there is a solution and you either figure it out or you don’t progress. For an MMO, you can continue to progress, but your choices of build and weapons can heavily impact the quality of your experience. It’s very hard to resist the urge to look for a guide when you’re getting stomped on due to some uninformed choices. But it is very rewarding when one of those organic gaming experiences happen, and it’s hard to replicate that glow of accomplishment when that accomplishment was given to you in a guide.
It’s all to do with breaking away from my own established, internalized idea of ‘who I am as a gamer’. I used to be social and focused on story and lore. Now, I might be an explorer, or a lorefiend, or a crafter.
Actually, that last one is a lie. I will never be a crafter.
But that journey of self-discovery and reinvention can be just as much fun as the days of raiding. There are different kinds of accomplishments, and they don’t all surround being ‘the best player one can be’. Sometimes these accomplishments sit in doing something you’ve never done before, and in opening up to new experiences. Gaming without Guides, where it doesn’t impact too heavily on the experiences of other players, is a great way to do this. It reminds me of those moments when my guild and I went into a new Dungeon knowing nothing about it, and figured out how to deal with it ourselves. That’s a luxury in gaming today.
I kind of want to make an MMO called MMO Ennui. It would involve achievements such as Watched Paint Dry, Killed 10 More Things, and Said Hello to a Bunny.
I’ve decided that I don’t like paying for respecs in any game. Over time Game Developers have started removing inconveniences from our MMOs. Some, like travel time, have sparked huge discussions over how inconveniences add weight and meaning to player choices. Travel times, for example, also contribute to the world building by making a game environment FEEL big.
But making me pay more than a token amount for respecs? Well, I guess it plays into my grumbles about ‘struggling along carrying the weight of our choices’. This is a hang over from D&D days (and thus makes sense for a game like Neverwinter), but it still feels antiquated in this age of LFD and teleports.
I learn by doing as much by reading, something enforced in my professional life as I find the people I work with tend to learn much better by doing. There is a lot to be said for doing the research, but in the end it punishes players and almost teaches them to not try new things. If you’re not too familiar with a game, you’ll go with a build or a talent that sounds similar to something you’ve played in another game.
So, this is something I really liked about The Secret World, in that it gave you a chance to try out some weapons before you made your initial choice.
Another caveat – in WoW, the choices have been streamlined and simplified. It makes sense for there to be some penalties for changing what amounts to a few key choices. In a game like TSW or Neverwinter, the sheer array of choice can be overwhelming – so to me, making the penalties/lock in harsher for those games would seem to be an unfair choice. It acts as a discouragement to trying new things, and in effect actually means our choices mean less.
I’m aware that the above is fairly incoherent. Just trying to get some thoughts out there.