I finished a computer game the other day – Saint's Row 2 on the Xbox 360. This is a very rare event, normally I'll play a game for around 2/3rds of its length and then get bored and play something else. Either that or I'll get stuck and give it up rather than throw the controller across the room.
(I found that the best way to play Saints Row 2 is to play like some sort of 90's comic book villain – it makes the insanity of the game more… 'real' is the wrong word, maybe 'internally consistent').
Meanwhile I haven't touched World of Warcraft in the past few weeks – in part this is due to frustration at my inability to complete one of the yearly achievements due to a 'Player Vs. Player' component and partly due to a realisation that I wasn't hugely enjoying the game anymore.
During this extended period of time off work (something that I can see ending soon) I could have spent a lot of time grinding my way through Warcraft, even taking part in more 'end-game content'; something that is difficult for me to do normally due to the need to play with other people – co-ordinating these meetings is a bit of a pain when your workday finishes around 19:00, frequently later and nine other people are relying on you.
But instead I found that I was looking at my time in Azeroth (the WoW gameworld) as being like a job, and a not very enjoyable job at that.
I think I understand why I have fallen out of love of Warcraft – in part it's because it doesn't provide what I'm looking for.
Essentially I am a 'role-player', I like to play a role of a character, my aside about playing Saints Row 2 as a comic book villain is telling in that I was playing a 'role' rather than just using my game character as a proxy to shoot my way across the game world.
In my MMORPG I'd love to actually play a character with a bit of a backstory and drives and ambitions that form how that character looks at the world – When I started playing WoW for instance, my Paladin character was a disappointment to his family and so he busied himself looking for the Progenitors of the Azeroth world, being a replacement for a more normal drive to please his parents.
In the latest expansion to WoW the backstory has a lot of content about these Progenitors – so you would think that this would make me happy.
Sadly, while trying to listen to a very 'lore-heavy' NPC talk I was constantly being harranged by the group I was with that I was wasting time in listening to the speech and that I should start killing monsters again.
It would seem that Hell is, indeed, other people.
In these multiplayer games the chance to play a role is often spoiled by other players who just wish to rush through the content and grab the rewards. Even in a game server that is explicitly reserved for role-players.
This cannot compare to the single-player game where, while there is no audience, to watch your role-play, at least the world can remain fairly consistent within your own head. With no computer controlled character breaking character and telling you that you are 'n00bish'.
So, I suspect that I'll be cancelling my WoW account, as an open-ended game the chance to sink hours of time into it when I am gaining little pleasure means that I'm paying to to work, not have fun.
Instead I shall concentrate on some of the single player games that I have sitting on my gaming shelf. Next up will probably be either 'Mass Effect' or 'Fable 2', both games I seem to have stopped playing at that 2/3rds mark.
The other reason to drop WoW is that it's all about the questing – where is the game where I can work towards being the best woodcutter I can possibly be without having to become a 'hero' and beat up monsters?
I would guess that EVE-Online might be the closest one can get to this idea, but is also another huge time-sink, and is perhaps lacking a little in the 'game' component due to the concentration on the business simulation.
Incidentally, the complete soundtrack for 'Beyond Good and Evil', one of my favourite games is available here – 'Beyond Good and Evil', besides being an excellent game (currently on Steam) was one of the first games I played where the in-game music completely blew me away.