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?