Full Circle

Monday, July 27, 2009

As I was listening to a gaming related podcast (Shut Up We're Talking, in case you're interested, I highly recommend it) I realized I have come full circle from three years ago when I got sucked into LOTRO. The thought actually came out of a comment about the Saga of Ryzom, which simply served as a memory spark. After my too-brief one week Alpha 3 experience in the LOTRO beta, I scoured the Internet for every single MMO type game out there. Why? I couldn't get enough of what I just experienced. It wasn't just the IP that I loved, but experiencing a new world and a new story. I needed more of that, for lack of a better word, high. Ultimately, I didn't end up playing anything during the interim between beta phases, but I came very close to downloading the Saga of Ryzom because it was free to play. (I know nothing about that game except that it's nothing like LOTRO).

What I mean by coming full circle is that I'm currently on a LOTRO playing hiatus. Actually, this extends to all of my gaming, as I haven't clicked on any of my game icons in weeks. I've gone from an insatiable hunger for anything MMO to a complete lack of interest in any game. And I, being both an introspective person and a blogger, have to ask myself why.

Now, I could post perfectly legitimate excuses like "I'm max level", "I've done all the content", "I'm burned out on LOTRO" etc, etc. Like I said, legitimate. But also not the real reason - mainly because I'm not playing anything right now. So what's the deal? Well, I think I'm in a dearth of new experiences. And that's my queue to cut to a bit of a personal aside.

See, I don't play games to game. It's not the game or game-i-ness of games that drives me to play. Certainly I'm a completionist which comes from some sort of achiever mentality, but the root reason for me stepping into games is to step into experiences. I don't care about if the fighting mechanic isn't as good as such and such a game or if the next game has more content. I desire to experience something. This often manifests itself as story, for story is the driving force behind compelling experiences - or ones that aren't superficial. But ultimately a game runs out of experience. One might call this simply burning out, and that's a way to put it, but what am I burning out on? Experience.

Alright, enough throwing around that word. It's already getting old. Next question: what do I do about it? Simple answer - nothing. I can't. A game is what it is and by it's nature isn't just an experience forever delivering to me what I want. Ultimately it becomes simply a game, even the ones that deliver additional content that often feeds experience. Okay, so I didn't stop with that word. I can't, just like I can't fix my problem. It's who I am as a gamer, as a consumer of entertainment. I love movies, TV shows, games, books - they all give me experiences.

There's something unique about games though. I haven't yet pinpointed what that might be, but I can make a guess towards the interactivity and unique ability to engage the consumer on a deeper level than all the other, what I'll term, passive entertainment. I play Railroad Tycoon because I love trains and want to experience trains. I play Roller Coaster Tycoon because I love roller coasters. I play Galactic Civilizations because I love space (that's an over simplification for brevity's sake). I play LOTRO because I love Middle-Earth and I wanted to experience it. It wasn't because it was a good game, though that helped greatly. It was because LOTRO being a game uniquely enabled me to enter into an experience more fulfilling than other media could provide.

The long answer to what I can do about my problem? Ignore it. Learn to live with it. Get over it. However you want to call moving beyond my futile endeavor to have a "perfect experience" and just enjoy LOTRO, and other games, for what they are. The idealist and dreamer in me makes that hard though. I see potential in games for so much more than they're able to provide now. As a storyteller I see opportunity for intense, moving, and impactful delivery of narrative and story. I see beyond the game.

LOTRO will always be with me and always hold a special place in my heart. I'm too loyal to forever abandon my first love. And too monogamous to cheat (or is it too cheap?). I have a lifetime subscription to this game and for me, that means exactly that. I will be a player, a Middle-Earth adventurer for the lifetime of this game.

0 Responses to "Full Circle"