(This post is extremely long-winded, but it's also an issue that's close to my heart, so read at your own risk!)
MMORPG. The acronym makes some people cower in fear. The word means poison to others, a genre of video game that they will never ever go near due to all the horror stories that they've read or heard of. However, for a lot of people, the MMORPG genre is a kind of video game to get fully immersed in, to meet new people and go adventuring in, an awesome gaming experience. For me, the genre is becoming a great analog for an old substance abuse problem some I've never had...I want to quit, I know I have to some day, but I can't just take the pain of following through with it, so I stay one more day.
The Beginning of the End
And so began a massive amount of ping-ponging between Final Fantasy 11 and World of Warcraft (which also included a brief stop in Guild Wars). It wasn't that I didn't enjoy either game, as a matter of fact I enjoyed them both for completely different reasons, and If I could have at the time played both at once, I would have. However, both games had things that I, as a human being, was highly disturbed to see. Not being one to tell people how to live their lives, I was mostly a silent observer as I watched some people truly devolve into questionable at best behaviour. Watching people ignore their children or significant other to kill a boss was minorly disturbing. However, after seeing incidents of people selling their body for loot, viewing people cheating on poor, unsuspecting partners, hearing parents ignore their child's cry for food for over an hour to raid.. I began to slightly get more unsettled. But like I said, people will live their lives however they want to, but I kept in my mind the kind of human being I never wanted to be like. Granted these people weren't a large amount of the population, as in almost every MMO I've played the general playerbase has been insightful and helpful (Barrens chat aside).
I'll be the first to admit that probably some of my personal relationships have suffered because of my gaming, but none suffered more than when I was playing a MMO. I've fortunately realized what was going on 90% of the time and have successfully saved and refocused on when my attention was needed, but this leads me to my current position.
The Inherent Nature of Self-Destruction
Just recently I've been toying around with Warhemmer, playing with some of those friends I made on both FFXI and WoW when I came to a realization. I wasn't enjoying the experience anymore. I don't mean Warhammer specifically, because honestly I think it's a stellar, fun title, but the "MMO experience". The thought of grinding levels to participate in end game activities that go on for months if not years into the future as my account is sapped money every month just isn't very appealing anymore. Games like WAR, WoW and FFXI are each fantastic in their own way, but mentally I don't have the energy to deal with another game that's very nature is to get me to play as much as it can.
Which leads me to what I think is the biggest problem with most MMORPGs: They are designed to be addictive! A company would not charge monthly or put out a game that they knew players would have their fill of quickly (which is something I think the Guild Wars developers did fantastically, even if the game leaves something to be desired). The pacing of MMO's tend to be very slow and methodical yet rewarding, which is actually counter to how a lot of other comparable games are. I look at WoW and Warhammer's PVP, and while it's a fun system, it's far too slow and mathematical for me these days to sit back and truly enjoy, I'd rather pop in Call of Duty 4 and kill people or go score some goals in NHL 09. The RPG aspects of the game are also skewered in my mind, having recently beaten Persona 3 and being the habitual Final Fantasy conqueror that I am, MMO's have too many build-up-to-moments to get that fully complete storyline for me to enjoy. In Persona 3, the final boss was the final boss, and while they did add on another chapter to explain more story, both those chapters are pretty complete, with sufficient build-up and a climactic battle.
MMO's, in comparison, are designed to never end and so have these big important story battles throughout large parts of the end game, but never really in a way where it can be built up to throughout the entire game, there's usually too much other stuff going on. So you end up killing a boss that eventually becomes meaningless in the grand story as a new boss is patched in (a fate that has befallen Illidan, and will eventually befall Arthas as well in the WoW universe). This type of game design, coupled with recent additions to them like achievements, more accessible powerful items and a greater focus on appealing to the casual market of gamers leaves a game that is designed to suck the player in and never spit them out.
Have I outgrown MMIORPGs? Possible. Is it a game genre I don't enjoy? No, quite the opposite, I think most of the MMO's I've played are fantastic, but they simply demand too much time and/or too rigid of a schedule for me to play among a myriad of other problems they pose. Am I sad that many of the friends I've made and experiences I've enjoyed in these games is over? Yes, but I've finally conquered my greatest addiction... The MMO genre.And I couldn't be happier.