Epicurus teaches us that desire is suffering. The nature of any desire is a sort of pain that we seek to resolve. We are conscious of lacking something, whether that be air, food, or a level-capped character. In filling that need, we receive pleasure. We can also achieve pleasure by contemplating past pleasures, notably being pleased about the desires that are fulfilled.
When you buy a new game/level-treadmill, you are buying both a new desire and a way to fulfill it. Before you started playing, you had no need of a level 60 Shaman. Once you started playing, you felt the need to level. Now you have a level-capped character with perfect raiding gear, and you can contemplate how leet you are. When that contemplation loses its satisfaction, you can always create a new level 1, a new source of desire to level, a new pool to fill.
If you have heard Epicurus’ name, it was probably as a synonym for a hedonistic gourmand. This is a sort of historical irony, since Epicurus taught that the way to achieve happiness was through asceticism. Your desires will multiply faster than your ability to fulfill them, so the only way you can reduce your pain is to reduce your desires. If you desire nothing more than lentil soup, your needs are certainly within your reach. You can easily live a moral life because you have no temptations; you will never be unhappy because you want for nothing.
Epicurus does teach us, though, that every pleasure is genuinely a pleasure. It really does feel good to fulfill a desire, even if you might be better off without that desire, and the more desires you fulfill the more joys of contemplation are available to you from contemplating your various contented spheres. The down side is that you cannot get the pleasure if you do not open yourself to the suffering, because you must have the desire before you fulfill it. I receive no pleasure from my lack of desire for whatever the coolest item in EQ2 is.
I took an unorthodox interpretation of Epicurus, that you should have a benefit-cost analysis of your desires. If you can safely and consistently fulfill a desire, it is good to have it, because you get all the pleasures at minimal risk. Unreasonable desire, then, is the root of suffering, while reasonable desire is a source of continuous fulfillment and pleasure. Ayn Rand meets Buddha.
When you buy a new game, you are buying a new desire. Even if the game is not good, there is always the compulsion to beat it. In the case of MMOs, that usually means hitting the level cap. Conveniently, you can fulfill this need at your own pace for just $15/month.
Which game you pick is arbitrary in this sense. Epicurus had no aesthetics, so you will need to talk to Raph for a theory of fun. Any game will do in terms of presenting a goal to reach and a way to reach it. You just want to avoid games that make it unnecessarily unpleasant; do not lose your other pleasures that you are currently enjoying.
This perhaps explains the felt need to level. You have a gaping pit of desire in front of you. Every time you level, that little bar empties out. You can fill it again! You ding, and you have fulfilled your desire, and life is good. But the bar is empty now – a new desire! Here we go again, gaining pleasure by relieving the new pain until – ding! Your own self-restoring Skinner box. Many games have this down to a fine science: fill that bar to fill the bubble to fill ten bubbles to – ding! – next level, bar, and bubbles. You get a constant stream of your pleasures of fulfilling and fulfillment.
This perhaps explains the felt need to strut. You have reached max level, and you need to harvest your joys of contemplation. You could log off meditate on your Real Ultimate Power, but if you were that sort, you would have just meditated on your full stomach or empty bladder. People in real life will sap your pleasure if you try to tell them how cool your Paladin is. No, the place to contemplate this is in front of the newbies. Go to the low-level area and strut about like a god. Ooh, fulfill your desire for status, honor, and glory!
Of course, Epicurus would tell you that the desire for honor is one of those dangerous ones that is never complete and often confounded. Some guy tells you that he has three level-capped characters, and your armor sucks. Not so cool now, are you? Maybe you should have just bragged in /gu. I guess you need to start over again to get a level-capped character of what is now the coolest class. Or maybe you need to start raiding, a new treadmill of its own.
Raid! Every monster could drop the loot you need to be cooler to fight the next monster to get even better loot to fight the next monster. Another succession of desires to fulfill!
Epicurus might tell you to avoid it altogether. The first rule of holes is, once you are inside, stop digging. Don’t desire to move forward. At most, desire to enjoy what you are doing right now. You can like that, and what you are doing right now is obviously something you can do. Let the levels come, without worry.
No one ever dropped 200g at the auction house because he was content with his current armor.
By the way, The Epicurus Reader is my main source for the philosophy. Not a bad little read.