I have one social networking game left, and as I clicked things in my imaginary restaurant, I remarked to myself that I use my imaginary currency for gameplay-relevant items rather than cosmetics. Then it struck me that there was only vaguely potentially gameplay benefit from perfecting my 132nd recipe, even though that is pretty much what you do in the game. I look at some of the cosmetic items and wonder why you would spend that much (real money) on something that does nothing for you, then I wonder what good it does me to be at the level cap. Heck, I have so many “gourmet points” beyond the level cap that I am instantly at the new level cap whenever they raise it. So what does that do except for putting an 85 next to my name in a game relatively few of my friends even deign to notice?
I am rigidly gameplay focused. I am not visually stimulated enough to care about most cosmetic options. But there are no meta-ethics that privilege gameplay over other aspects of the game, nor any that say you should care much about any game. Why should anyone be impressed that you have 6 level-capped WoW characters? You know there are people who will actively look down on you for it.
I am not much of a raider. I have dabbled, but I am not drawn by what boils down to online choreographed dancing. I am drawn to crafting, but I do not expect you to be terribly impressed by my ability to grind out 600 fields of imaginary strawberries. I do not hang out at the Prancing Pony, and while I appreciate in the abstract that someone might be one of the most respected RP leaders on the server, it will not mean much to me, nor might you much care about my time writing for the events team on A Tale in the Desert a few tellings ago.
Viewed as a mini-game, MMO combat is usually pretty poor. Tab-1-1-2-1-1-4, next. Bejeweled requires more thought than solo WoW. But it is the central mini-game supported in WoW, with most of the other mini-games contributing to it. There are crafting mini-games that are even less dynamic. RP is a mini-game that can be entirely independent of the game mechanics. The economic mini-game of the auction house is probably the most thought-intensive, and that is a skill that carries over between games (and potentially into meatspace). But does it do you much good to hit the gold cap in WoW, or is it just decorative once you are past however much money you “need”? Well, does it do you much good to be at the level cap in WoW, or is it just decorative once you have enough levels to do whatever amuses you in-game? I suppose the combat and gear optimization mini-games help you with the other mini-games like completing achievements, collecting mounts and mini-pets, and having resources to buy your way to the end of some other mini-games.