Persistence Addict

Hello, my name is Ravious, and I am a persistence addict.  I try and play other games.  The one’s sitting solely on my hard drive.  The ones with no boundaries.  They are great games that I ignore.  But, to me, they are meaningless trifles when I can etch my accomplishments into a monolithic server farm one dead rat at a time.

The latest to fall was King’s Bounty: Armored Princess.  It was a truly excellent game for the hour or so I played. It was also pretty much free.  I know that I will enjoy it more if I play it more, but its pleasure is passing.  Any lonely accomplishment I will gain will be between, myself, and my Steam wall.  The game already lets me cheat by giving me a dragon anyway.

How could I work on growing my dragon, recruiting all manner of troops, and learning the princessly arts of Sun Tzu when I could be bettering my personae in the other worlds?  So too has a Commander Shepherd been abandoned to some sewer planet (or something, I’m not quite sure) and four zombiepocalypse survivors are still searching, alone, for a bottle of Coke so some lunatic Cajun will blow up a truck.  Yet, for all my rejections to their lack of persistence they remain on my hard drive.  (I won’t even describe the sorry state of the amount of unplayed games in my uninstalled Steam library.)

I keep them because it is the thought of playing them that makes me happy even if actual play will not produce any dopamine.  On the other hand, signing on to surf an Auction Hall and then run over to the next bunker to make a week-long cooldown crit item means something.  My actions persist beyond the time at my computer.  The ripples, no matter how small, reverberate throughout a formative thing.   The insulated play of a non-persistent game only affects me, and then only in passing.

The makers of such ephemeral fancies try and fake pertinacity by creating achievements.  Badges of fake honor.  Mere trifles that try to indicate my actions were meaningful to a greater good.  Yet, nowadays it seems I can get these achievements for pressing the Start Button on any two-bit console port.    The sheer mass of games and available achievements belittles the whole point of making something meaningful.  Even an amazing challenge netting one of the hardest achievements to get in the game you are playing will get swept away in a storm of players beating the first five levels of Portal.  What game were you playing anyway?  I’ve never heard of that achievement.

In my persistent games the sheer act of playing sends out a Descartian decree.  I play, and I exist.  My actions persist in the community, among my friends, and for myself long past the time I have logged off.  And, somehow this makes my hobby seem worthwhile.  Playing a single-player game feels selfish by comparison.

echoes for eternity

17 thoughts on “Persistence Addict”

  1. I’m having more or less the same issue with King’s Bounty. Sure, every time I load it up I have fun with it, but when a close it out I wonder just how many fractions of a point higher my str stat in DF could be if I had not ‘wasted’ time playing King’s Bounty instead. MMOs are a cruel mistress like that.

    Of course the clear solution is to gather in DF on one comp, and play KB on the other. I feel double productive then.

  2. Nail/Head interface.

    Back in the dark ages, before I first played Everquest, I found my own characters in CRPGs like Baldur’s Gate or Might and Magic or the pre-made characters I played in Adventures like Broken Sword to be fulfilling and compelling. After just a day or two’s experience of online MMO play those offline games never recovered even a fraction of the appeal they once had.

    I tried Dragon Age last year and for a while I loved it. A short while. Then I began to notice lots of things I didn’t love so much, but really the reason I stopped playing it after a week was the thought that if I was going sit in front of the computer moving a character around a fantasy world, it ought to be one whose existence was somehow more tangible. More significant. More, what’s the word? Oh yes. Real.

    There’s a Charles Stross novel, the name of which escapes me, in which the protagonists have online gaming characters which are truly persistent. The gamer’s avatar is transferrable from game to game, even when the games are made by different companies. That’s an attractive concept, and maybe one day it will be both technically achievable and commercially desirable.

      1. yeah that’s a good book on what is possible with games, the real innovation though is how game currency is tradeable with “real world” currency. They managed that by introducing true scarcity, and setting up 3rd party brokers and having to basically watermark and encrypt every single item in game with public/private keys so it’s all tagged to you.

        The funny thing was after reading Halting State I read an article on how EVE’s currency is worth more than Iceland’s is.

        that and Vernor Vinge’s “Rainbow’s End” i think show what is possible with games involving user created content and microtransactions.

  3. Single player games are selfish. LAN games slightly less so.. and MMO’s are selfish too if you dig persistence only for what you can show off to others. However MMO’s do offers lots of unselfish reasons to play that are also valid.

  4. I too have suffered from persistence addiction but have discovered the simple cure of not logging in for a week. Even after so short a period the lure of one more point of xp wanes significantly. The second week of cold turkey is easier still and after 3 weeks I find I am free of the compulsion and clean and free to enjoy single player gaming in all its glory.

  5. I too suffer from this. It’s the main draw of a MMO to me.

    And I concurp with mbp. I was on a week’s vacation and came back and lacked the appeal to login. Until I did for a raid.. and now I’m hooked again.

  6. Oh preach it, brother.

    The day that I got my first fancy dining room set in Oblivion, on a balcony, complete with silver platters, goblets, flatware, and tomatoes, and realized that it was difinitively impossible to have someone over for dinner, rocked my gaming world for all eternity.

    Now I have a hard, really hard time buying or even giving a fart about single player games. I love multiplayer games still, because, y’know, friends. (want to survive teh zombies!) But a single player game needs to be an engrossing story-driven event like ME or else bite-sized casual gaming goodness like audiosurf or tower defense to get me to even boot it up.

  7. And yet, for all that “persistence”, would the game world notice your absence?

    Give me the ability to actually change the world of an MMO, and then let’s talk about persistence. I hear WURM Online allows something in that vein…

  8. I used to feel somewhat similar, then I realised what it really boiled down to:

    Killer – Well yeah, there is no one to DOMINATE in single player games
    Socialiser – Yeah there is no one to talk to in single player games. Still I kinda prefer MSN/gtalk/Skype over MMO chat. Wider variety of people that don’t all have to be playing the same game.
    Explorer – I never really got this. In most MMOs I largely had the feeling of countless feet before me traversing the same lands.
    Achiever – MMOs are good for showing off the epeen. That is about it.

    As with Moondog, I find single player games can be fun when they are story driven (MMOs are rarely story driven) much like a novel/movie is. Also once they are done, you can move on to the next thing rather than stressing about all that time wasted working up a few more percent of a point on some stat or another.

    1. I’m an Explorer, and I play these MMO things to wander around a fairly well-realized world. Even the “theme park” MMOs tend to offer more freedom to check out nooks and crannies than the typical JRPG. Oblivion is obviously more of an Explorer’s delight than most, but still, MMOs are just one more place to Explore. Once I’ve seen everything and taken the screenshots that I want, I move on. *shrug*

  9. It’s our need to be doing something CONSTRUCTIVE with our time. We should all take up knitting. The only reason we don’t is that there aren’t any pretty lights to tell us when we’re 1/100th of the way through a scarf, you have to wait until you’ve finished one to get the achievement. Someone needs to write up an achievement system for RL that everyone can log theirs to. Places you’ve been to, money made, charities given to, different kinds of food eaten or made…

  10. That’s interesting. I’ve just written how I’m finding myself moving back into single-player games rather than soloing in my MMO (LOTRO). I’m finding if I’m going to be soloing, the majority of quests in LOTRO just do not provide the draw and the interest so I might as well play a game like Fallout 3. However this doesn’t apply when crafting, levelling etc which provide an extra focus. There is the option of hanging out in TeamSpeak whilst soloing but I can do that just as well playing a single-player.

  11. Great post. I understand you fully. This is the main reason why I hated Fallout 3. It made me really feel as the last man on earth. Even though I was a big fan of Oblivion, FO3 left me yearning to call someone on the phone.

    I read Halted State, great book. And it is eerie to see that some of the fictional tech they use in the book is to slowly become reality. Cameras are being posted at stoplights giving out tickets and soon we will see MMO’s on PDA’s. My vote is the iPad will have a few mmo’s in the iStore, unless there is one already.

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