Sunday, May 30, 2010

Online Gaming and Me

Admittedly the only MMORPG that I have spent a fair amount of time on is Ragnarok Online, and the only reason I played is because the game was in free beta testing phase, I as bored and I happen to know a bunch of people from the forum I posted regularly. I started off as a mere swordsman, getting through the first few missions was okay; later on it became a bit more demanding, no worries, forum friends are more than happy to provide you with money and equipment so you are never left grinding for gold. Still, soon I found myself to hit a glass ceiling where my progression became painfully slow.

I asked my forum friends how they got by, and they suggested that I team up with a couple of them to rack up some exps in the Tower of Griffon. I followed them a few times, and to be honest, I cannot say that I enjoyed it, since I am too stressed that I could startle the wrong monster and bring my friends down. And indeed I was more of a hindrance since I allocated my stat points rather recklessly, I had much less VIT and STR than usual. You see, I am inclined to have everything sorted by myself in one attempt that the mere thought to start a new character and go through the initial process again, horrifies me. Public beta was about to finish, so I took the alibi, ditched my friends and left the game just before I reached level 40.

So there ended my brief foray into MMORPGs. Later in life I was introduced to other MMOs such as Rune Scape, Guild Wars, WoW, etc, and I was never really intrigued to play since I know it will just be a repeat of my experiences with RO.

Others have also attempted to pull me into other so-called social games, such as Travian, O-Game, Airline Mogul, eRepublic.......the list goes on. I'd register, play for a few minutes and totally forget about it thereafter. All of those games share one common trait of endless waiting, since the only way to advance is to allow your money/minerals/weapons/rat/cheese accumulate over time, then perform certain action to consume those and carry on waiting for more, once you have played one you know the flavor of the rest. One rare exception is Mafia Wars by Zynga. I played religiously for quite a few months before finally becoming bored with it and quit altogether.


The first MMO addict that came to my attention is someone I met on the internet however unlike the usual case we ended up being good friends in real life too. Let's call him by the alias Oct (Short for Octavian Augustus) to protect the innocent. The first few years I knew him, his life was devoted to WoW. A typical Saturday would start with me visiting him at about 11am to wake him up after the raid last night, he'd rise, ablute and we will head out to find food. We talk as we eat, and as soon as the refueling was done we head back to his place so he can start playing more WoW while I go through his exceptional collection of out of print history books. He'd play a bit till it's dark outside then we head out for food again, and possibly talk a bit more than we did at lunchtime in case he need to get more game cards from the store. The process of him playing and me reading continues till I have to excuse myself, he'd wave to me , using his non-dominant hand as I exit his place without moving his eyes away from the screen.

Unlike me, he is not a loner, sure he found ample human companion in the game, even scoring him a girlfriend who crossed two entire timezones to move in with him. For obvious reason I got to visit him a lot less since then, what I am aware of were those:
1. He stopped playing WoW because he needed to work extra hours to support two of them, for her gf's equally nasty WoW addiction and lack of education making her unlikely to find a decent job.
2. In the much reduced amount of free time he played Travian with no less enthusiasm.
3. Later he dumped his WoW sweetheart (and forcibly evicted her from his house, that is after he coerced her to get an abortion in the previous year) for some other female he met while playing Travian.

I have not talked to him since that happened, guess that is what happens to pathological gamers.


Another WoW maniac I met happened to be my math teacher in Year 12. Unlike the aforementioned jerk, the teacher is a nice med-school dropout who gave me cans of Dr Pepper (which I am still fond of), and once opened the fire exit for me so I can evade capture by my enemies (dramatic license here, I forgot to make churros for a fundraiser event I signed up for, and my mates were waiting for me join them in the corridor). I will never know how much he'd play at home, but I am sure he was playing in front of the class while we were busy with some ridiculously hard questions he made up.

By all means he is not a lazy teacher; in fact he often goes beyond the curriculum to preach heavenly concepts like Infinity or Copula to our naive minds. The only problem is that he loved the game so much, that he left his job next year so he can play as much as he wants. Seriously?


One final example would be a friend's mom I mentioned before. I have only visited my friend's place a few times, as far as I can see she did not neglect to keep the house tidy and cook the meals, which is very good for the family. Nonetheless, my friend does occasionally complain that she spent too much time playing that he and his brother feel emotionally distant to the only parent that lives with them. Her case is probably the most straightforward: Middle-aged mother-of-two homemaker living alone, financially secure with a stable family, i.e. boring life. If she did not get into online gaming, she'd probably find similar escapism in other things such as collecting buttons, baking pies, saving the whales or campaigning against mining. BTW, the game she play is MapleStory, another MMO that I have found very childish and silly.


Conclusions....well, there isn't any. It is useful to note that addiction can occur in any socio-economic and/or demographic group, while individuals appears to have some genetic predisposition to their degree of addiction. People don't change, you can put them in rehab or force them to stop playing, yet their addiction will only show up again in a different form.

One pattern that repeats itself in my gaming experience is that I cannot stand repetition and failures. If a game requires repeated grinding to advance, I quit; if a game had a difficult stage that got me stuck for a long time, I quit; or worse, if I had accidentally overwritten a save slot, I quit because I could not bear to play the same game all over again to the point where I left it off. That explains why I enjoy emulators more than any other genre: The instant save/load is a godsend for impatient players.

Also, online gaming , no matter the exact reincarnation, is social gaming, and it is the reason why I never found their attraction. I am so busy entertaining myself that I don't need other people.

/sign off