What is it about these online games that foments such an addiction? I can’t tear myself away from FFXIV, and I’m playing a lot of GTA Online, even though it’s to the point where the only thing it offers above the main game is frustration and death at the hands of people out for my blood who are much more suited than I for the duel.
I spend many hours mining and harvesting in FFXIV, but collecting sticks and stones in Don’t Starve is unthinkable now. Now, there’s a game I played once, for a weeked, was really into it for as long as I played, and then stopped forever. How sad. Same with Kerbal Space Program, I had such great plans for my space empire, but got bored before I ever put a Kerbal on the Mun.
I often miss playing games like that. With online games, it’s extremely easy to fall into a pattern where you’re spending the entire day doing nothing much. You run AK ten times for tomes, you bounce between FATEs “just to finish this level,” and before you know it you look at the clock and think, well, no wonder I’m so hungry. So you spend an enormous amount of time, what, to get your next weapon? Which you’ll outclass with a few more levels, or, if you’re at cap, you’re just going to get yourself access to a dungeon where you’ll wipe time and time again because you’re using the Duty Finder, or you think gear is all that matters, or because Bahamut’s Coil is that damn hard.
I’ve played FFXIV for a while, and what have I gotten? A bunch of levels in a bunch of classes. Well, okay, progression. Many games have that, many games have a faster progression as well. I gain experience points, but I stopped having new experiences a while ago. I explore a bit and I’ve found my share of incredibly fascinating places, but they’re places I can’t do anything until, yes, I spend a few more days or maybe weeks grinding levels and then I can start killing them for skin to use in leatherworking.
If the story’s on rails, as so many Final Fantasies are, why am I not following it? So many of the dungeons are encased in the story, so many new experiences, interesting cutscenes, plot twists and tearfully joyful events. When did a good story just get in the way of a sandbox or a grind? I’m skipping the story in FFXIV so that I can level up botanist so I can get an item, and then I’ll level up weaver so I can process that item, and then use it as an armorer to finish my class quest. I could be done in an instant if I just bought the item. Am I really having that much fun with the journey? Or have I just become too lazy and settled for anything but a rut? Do I just love the grind and fear novelty?
I have these thoughts a lot. The feeling that I’m wasting my life, not on video games in general—I have no qualms with that and that’s no waste—but just on one game. Just pouring endless progression into one sinkhole. Is it really worth it? There are so many other games I’ve never touched that surely deserve it—and could be beaten in a weekend, a new experience gained. Burial at Sea, for instance. Or is it called Buried at Sea? One forgets.
Game Grumps started playing Skyrim; it makes me want to play, too. There’s a lot of broad, MMO-like elements in Skyrim, but there’s also an immense amount of exploration. There’s still a host of undiscovered places for me to find. New experiences. One of my best memories was discovering Alftand; it started as an in-character moment hiding in a cave to escape a storm, which led to a my first Dwemer ruin, filled with strange and amazing contraptions, and at the bottom of that was a Falmer city, whose ruthless inhabitants did all they could to cut me down (and succeeded many, many times). All the while I was finding journal pages hinting at the sad fate of the last to share my idea of shelter, which just made eager for more. At the end of a six-hour, Master difficulty adventure there awaited my first Centurion, and one hell of a fight for a Conjurer. I still remember it clearly.
Imagine if I was just going to spend the day farming Alftand eight or ten times for Centurion cores, or something like that.
I guess it must be the social aspect. Obviously, by definition, that sets MMOs apart. It’s addictive; who hasn’t spent hours and hours just refreshing their dashboard? Even for unsocial introverts, this social connection is tantalizing. In an MMO, you got your friends are around to chat with; sometimes it’s fun to dungeons together, just for kicks, and sometimes you do your own thing and just chat with all your linkshells. At the same time, you’re seeing high-level people run by in shimmering gear, and it’s enticing. From shouts, you gather snippets of exciting and strange dungeons yet to come. It serves to tempt you, to shine a little light on the things yet to come and give you something to anticipate.
I don’t dislike the game, FFXIV, not at all, or the people that are in it, generally. (Or at least, I don’t right now, but that changes often.) But while I’m playing, I find myself thinking, I should play The Stanley Parable. I should go back to my Ultimate Difficulty Dishonored run. I should try Terranigma. I wonder how my Sims are doing? And when I think things like that, that’s when I realize that I’m not having fun playing anymore, I’m just doing it because I’m compelled by addiction.
I think I could do with giving myself a little space.