Damn those Joneses

I don’t care about the MMO Joneses. Really, I don’t.

So why do I so often feel like I’m being compelled to a particular activity in MMOs? If that’s not pure Keeping Up Syndrome I don’t know what is.

Take bonus XP weekends, for instance — when those are running, every time I log on I feel as though I’ve GOT to do something that generates xp, or I’m wasting my playtime. The thing is, as I said over at Dragonchasers (in this very good post), I have no problem levelling crafting characters — it’s what I find enjoyable after all — and I have no desire to level adventuring characters. Or rather, I don’t feel compelled to have max-level characters. If my gals level I’m not going to cry about it, but it’s not a particular aim of mine. There’s nothing in EQ2 I want to do that I can’t do at lower levels, and that includes harvesting.

(Which reminds me, I did say I’d do an EQ2 harvesting post. Oops. I will. Really. Maybe. I don’t know if you’re worthy of knowing the seekrits!)

The same goes for events, and I’ve posted about that before. Events are fun, events are great, but at some point I end up feeling like I HAVE to be doing them or I’m somehow missing out.

This is what I find odd. I don’t feel the need to have adventuring levels, and yet I do feel pressure to get some kind of xp — adventuring xp if I must — when there’s a bonus xp weekend on.

The whole concept of “missing out on” stuff is weird and slippery. Some things I don’t care about so I don’t feel as though I’m missing out. But then there are other things that, on the face of it, I don’t particularly care about but still end up feeling needled with if there’s some kind of event associated with them.

How many bloody glass baubles can you possibly want on one account anyway? That was the deal with Frostfell (Christmas) this year: log in every day with every character and get a present for each and every one of them from Santa. I did that for a few days with ALL my chars on both accounts, after which I wisely decided my world doesn’t need that many presents. But I still felt needled, if distantly, to log on. “Log on! You’re missing out! This stuff is being given out FOR FREE and you’re not getting it!”

Part of me says “So what? I don’t need it!” but the part that gets needled doesn’t understand the whole “don’t need” concept. If it’s there, it must be obtained/striven for/taken part in. Even as I opt out of doing this I can feel the pillars of a consumption-driven society shake under my feet. As above (RL) so below (MMOs). Okay, enough metaphysics.

I’m beginning to wonder if this is what drives so much of the playstyle I don’t understand. Is that why people raid? To get stuff because it’s there, it’s there for them, and they therefore HAVE to get it whether they really want or need it in the first place? I’m sure there are lots of people who enjoy raiding for its own sake, but I also know there are tons of people who don’t like raiding at all and only do it for what they can get from it. If you go by what people say, anyway — which isn’t always entirely reliable, I guess.

Anyway, the long and short of this is, as Pete said: Play the game; don’t let the game play you. And that includes playing on your expectations.

8 thoughts on “Damn those Joneses

  1. Might I suggest that the subscription model itself works on this psychology? If you’ve paid for your month of play, you tend to feel obligated to actually “get your money’s worth”, whether or not you’re actually playing and having fun.

  2. I think this gets at the same fundamental drive that compels people to buy things on sale that they don’t want or need. “But I’m saving so much money” they cry, as they spend money they should have much more literally saved.

    You’re right; this is really just a symptom of our materialistic society. We’re trained to pursue possessions and achievement instead of fulfillment and satisfaction – it’s always more, more, more! If we feel like we’re missing an opportunity, it’s sometimes painful, and the draw can be very strong to “catch up”, or at least to take full advantage of special offers. I know it’s affected me, too… in the past I’ve found myself logging in on bonus exp weekends and events, with the thought that I could acquire or achieve things that I couldn’t otherwise, at least not in that space of time.

    I think Tesh hit the nail on the head, as usual: this is indeed the core of the subscription model as it is currently implemented. Players are enticed to keep playing in order to chase some new achievement or possession (almost always levels or gear or the defeat of a specific challenge) instead of being encouraged to enjoy what they already have. Treadmills don’t work nearly as well if players aren’t focussed on what they don’t have, after all… they need to be chasing that carrot at all times.

  3. Cynicism aside, I’ve found that EQ2’s bonus weekends can help kick me in the pants when I’m stuck in a rut, in a good way. I guess that helps SOE keep my attention, but sometimes I’m happier for it when the dust settles.

  4. While I cannot guarantee that I am “cured” of such compelling behaviour, I seldom find nowadays that I have the urge to do something in the game just because it is there.

    Achivements/perks/badges are pretty much lost on me, as are collecting stuff just because you can.

    For bonus XP weekends and similar events the main attraction it is that is easier to get teams to do stuff, or one might run into more old friends in the games that have been less active.

Comments are closed.