A few days ago I posted a tweet saying that at this point I am far less bored with World of Warcraft than I have been during other expansions. There are a myriad of reasons behind this, not the least of which is that I actually like the leveling arc in Draenor. I am working my way through level 100 number three and I am not really bored with the content yet. Granted I don’t really seem to have the burning desire to get through it like I have in the past, I am more comfortable to take a “will get there when I get there” approach to my leveling. I feel like maybe this is a more sustainable thing than my normal “burn three characters to max and quit” mentality that I seem to have. Hopefully by the end of the weekend my hunter will be 100, and I will likely start pushing more seriously my Enhancement Shaman.
I think there are a few reasons why this is happening. Firstly I really do like the Garrison now that it is finished, especially on my warrior. It gives me a place of peace and sanity before I venture out into the chaos of the world. I can bank, transmog, and hopefully at some point auction without having to worry with mailbox dancers or folks standing on vendors with their corehound mount. It was when I ventured out of my of my garrison on Christmas to go pick up my presents that I realized I really didn’t miss the people from my “daily” chores. Someone had taken it upon themselves to coat all of the packages with a layer of savage feasts making it a pain in the ass to click the actual presents… and my immediate thought was “and this is why I don’t leave my garrison”. That is maybe the problem however… that no one actually leaves their garrison.
Initially I was surprised when the response to my original statement about not being bored with World of Warcraft was that so many of my friends absolutely were bored. The common thread went something like this “Right now I am only logging in to run Garrisons, so I am probably going to cancel”. I’ve reached this point many times myself when a game has a gimmick that wants you to log in every so often to trigger. With the launch of Nightmare Tides, Rift introduced the Minions system where you could send these mini-pets out on missions to go fetch things. There was a period of time I was logging in twice a day… when I got up in the morning and when I got home at night to swap out my minion missions. It wasn’t long before I realized that I was only logging in to flip these switching and faded away from that game again.
The exact same thing happened for me with the Dragon Coins mobile game, and to some extent Landmark in that I was only logging in to pay my upkeep on my claim. When you realize you are only fiddling with something out of a sense of obligation, it is almost always time to leave. I think the problem with what I am terming “Maintenance Gaming” is that it can very much slow down the burnout of a player by giving them things to fiddle with to distract them from burning through the objectives. The problem is it can also serve to reanimate an already dead corpse allowing players to keep logging in ONLY to do the maintenance activity and never actually playing the game. So the folks that are logging in “ONLY” to play the garrison, are essentially the walking dead and will eventually quit.
The Glue in Gaming
I feel like the glue that keeps gamers attached to a game is progression in one form or another. Right now I am actively raiding in Final Fantasy XIV and World of Warcraft and progressing in both of them. I care deeply about both games because that is my anchor… the fact that I am raiding. When all the other minutiae bores me… there is a functional core there of the raid that draws me back in. For others it is the people you play with, but that can only go so far… because eventually you will have done everything you want to do with said people. PVP can act as an anchor for some folks, but then again you have to be building towards some long term goal to make the PVP seem like anything other than mindless grinding. While “maintenance gaming” is definitely now a trend… it isn’t enough of a thing to actually keep someone glued to a game it seems.
Minions in Rift were fun for a few weeks, and so was building aimlessly in Landmark… but when I realized I was only logging in to mine exactly enough copper to pay my upkeep… I was more than willing to let my claim get repossessed. I have a feeling that before long we are going to start folks reaching that point with ArcheAge where they are willing to let their claim disappear because they are tired of logging in only to pay the upkeep. The “glue” is a deeply personal thing, and is going to be slightly different for each player… but ultimately you have to find whatever it is that connects you to the game and makes you care about it. I think for me at least this is what has been missing… a sense of building towards something more important than what I happen to be doing this day. The longest stretches I have spent playing any game… are the ones where I have been raiding. So I feel like I need to raid to keep caring about the game world, and I need that game world to be interesting… to keep caring about raiding.