Gaming Glee versus Gaming Hobby

I am continuing to find like Zubon that there are various shades of gaming. I want to focus on a highly-sought wavelength of gaming called “glee”. No, this is not the high school musical show type of fun. This is the high excitement caused by spontaneity and action that jaded adults and angsty teen rarely get anymore.

I have a table-top gaming group, and our default when no one is up to game-mastering a role-playing game is Magic the Gathering. We mostly play long games of multiplayer EDH (commander, 100-card no duplicates), but occasionally we change it up. I noticed last weekend that our EDH games feel like work, and we usually comfort ourselves at the end with the amount of “zany hijinks” that crossed the table. We always hate the winning/losing part of the game, but secretly each pray for death after the 7th or 8th turn.

A few weeks ago we decided to pull out our dusty 60-card decks to play a tournament with them. The catch was that a deck owner couldn’t play his own deck, and since we mostly played our own decks, we would be learning many decks on the fly. Winning and losing didn’t much matter anymore. We just played for the fun of it. It was missing from our Magic games for a long time, but I felt glee. That elated, uncaring happiness.

There was also a severe dichotomy at last weekend’s gaming gathering because Team Fortress 2 was also being regularly played. Team Fortress 2 is a game where they decided to make a first-person shooter that gives glee. We were laughing, shouting insults, death threats, and generally having a great time regardless of who won or lost. There was none of that at the EDH game.

I feel that most MMOs have fallen under the EDH regime of fun. There are tons of rules. Tons of suffering. Yet, we comfort ourselves in knowing that, yes, somewhere we’re sure some fun was had. Why did I just complete that quest chain I had no real interest in doing? Was grinding out materials for the last hour between the auction house, resource nodes, and crafting station a fun thing to do?

This is why gaming is a hobby, and not merely fun and games. This is what it means, in my opinion, to be a gamer. When someone works and suffers for their pastime – whether it’s building radio-controlled airplanes, running, cooking, painting, or gaming – it elevates from a mere dalliance to a true hobby. How much do you care about your activity?

MMOs, in particular, have built systems and systems of ways to make gamers care. Death penalties, in-game economy, special loot for elite content all require effort and attention to gain or avoid. Even in many MMOs, the simplest task of traveling can become an itinerary-laden journey. Okay, if my ride goes through this city on the way to the new quest hub, I can stop and drop off stuff in the bank, and then I can spend five more minutes at the auction house. Now, if I run to the portal in the city to transfer to the other city, I can save a few silver. I think I have a quest to turn-in/pick-up at the other city. Where was I going again?

Even in games like Vindictus and Guild Wars 2, where I have had many moments of glee, I begin to treat the games like a hobby. How many runs of this dungeon in Vindictus to get some loot? I should go to that point-of-interest in Queensdale just to check it off, even though I am no interest in getting that point otherwise.

I will never care about a match in Team Fortress 2, but there are many who play the game as an e-sport. I have friends who play MMOs for sheer enjoyment only. One in particular seems to still like Star Wars the Old Republic. He’s had the game since launch and is not yet max level. He just plays when it suits him, and he rarely cares about patch notes or community. Blogger buddy, Syp, also seems to play along these lines. Syp does not seem to suffer much for MMO work, and I salute his gamestyle. I still note that occasionally Syp will spend a play session doing work.

Gamers suffer for gaming, which is why we are still cultural pariahs (although I do believe it’s shifting). We work for gaming. We have long bouts of little-fun for short bouts of excitement. This makes no sense to non-gamers who see video games as something that should impart only fun. Why does it seem that the more we invest in our games the less fun we have?

–Ravious

7 thoughts on “Gaming Glee versus Gaming Hobby”

  1. “…the more time we invest in our games the less fun we have..”

    Such a universally true statement, even one that may transcend the world of gaming.

    I’ve worked hard in two games. In WoW, at one point I was raiding 3 nights a week, and doing rated battlegrounds for the other 2, and I was exhausted. I tried to convince myself I was having fun, and occasionally I did. I also became highly committed to Super Smash Bros. Melee and Brawl, and it’s shameful how much time I spent with those games. The more time I played, the more serious I became. Fun became the second priority, not through any conscious decision, but through some kind of desire to win.

    I have now stepped away from serious gaming and have mostly attempted to just have fun. However, just as I was swearing off my gaming side, Guild Wars 2 betas began occurring. I’ve played close to 50 hours in the game, and yet I still don’t care about winning. I just want to explore, see the story develop, and have fun with friends. I can’t say for sure if I won’t get serious over time, it’s a little too early to tell. But, I can’t help feeling a change has occurred. I will play as long as I am having fun, and the second I don’t, I log off. I don’t know if this paradigm shift is because of some strange Guild Wars 2 philosophy or just a different state of mind.

    1. I wouldn’t say Guild Wars causes such a paradigm shift, but its design is very conducive to it. By reducing the neccessity of working for max-level/raid-gear/pvp-set, it made it a lot easier for players to leave the game-state and go into play-state.

  2. Good read. Read this while hatching pokemon eggs trying to get an outstanding correctly natured foxamathing. So I completely understand.

  3. I know I dedicate more time to MMOs than the average gamer but not enough to consider myself a hardcore gamer and from my perspective I have surprised myself enjoying the many feelings this hobbie has brought to me, not only the satisfaction of achievements or loots but also the frustration of a wipe, the burst of anger caused by lags, etc. I usually solo with my girlfriend and she has a more glee approach to videogames, however I might have spread my play-style to her. We are kinda slow paced in comparison to “pro-gamers” but we still have fun in spite of whatever it may come to happen.

    On a side note, I remember people who claimed in game chat that they “dont play for fun”, I was shocked when I first saw this. “How can someone play for something different than fun”… I sometimes think about it.

    Thats all I wanted to share.

  4. Great read.

    For my part, however: What-the-heck-ever, dude. You wanna spend all of your guild chat space on conversations about Voltaic Spears? Go for it. I, on the other hand, am going to go kick the everliving CRAP out of Abaddon again. And then go back and watch him dance. And THEN I’m gonna grab some beer. And talk to my allies about dumb politics.
    Might buy that spear off’f you though.
    When I have the gold.

  5. Good read as always, this sort of conversation is what I come back to KTR for. :)

    I think the glee vs. hobby dichotomy is a good start, and I assume it will be expanded eventually. “cyber athletes” sort of fit into the hobby part, but sort of not. Games-as-human-creative-enterprise types (such as myself) don’t seem to fit at all. I cook as a hobby, it’s something I enjoy and work at, but I don’t spend much time pondering how it fits into the current and future conceptual spaces of human endeavor, nor what sorts of human experiences it is uniquely suited to representing and exploring in an intellectually and emotionally mature way.

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