What Gamers Want is a Rewarding Experience

What Gamers Want is a Rewarding Experience

I sometimes play an MMO (I won’t say which one, but it isn’t WoW). Lately, I’ve lost my love for it. I stopped playing for several months and have only recently restarted, though I know it’s only going to break my heart again. There are a lot of things I love about this game; the settings, which are gorgeous, the battle mechanics, which involve a lot of dynamic motion instead of parking yourself and spamming buttons, and the flexibility of character customization, which is better than any other game I’ve played.

When I first started playing, I found every experience enormously rewarding. I could login for an hour, putz around and receive the daily rewards. I liked that I could pair goals, such as map exploration and dailies, to make it feel as though I accomplished twice as much. All MMOs have aspects which require large time commitments, but in the beginning I felt like I could tackle these in small, satisfying pieces. I don’t mind long-term goals, especially in large games. As long as I felt like I could progress within a small window of play time, I remained happy.

But the developers made a drastic change in the direction they developed the game. Perhaps it was inevitable; MMOs are designed for people with much more time to devote to them than I could ever scrape together. Many people eat through new content in a matter of days and complain there’s nothing left to do. It’s them the game developers fight to satisfy. An unfortunate side effect is that the game has grown ridiculously grindy. Trying to accomplish anything is a terrible slog, which is why I barely bother to login anymore.

I’ve always been a gamer. Aside from reading, it’s probably my favorite way to spend my free time. Has there ever been a greater creation than interactive stories? Especially if they let me create my own character and customize it however I like. I love to explore virtual worlds and discover all their secrets. Over the years, I’ve dumped hundreds of hours into these virtual adventures and, for the most part, I don’t regret it.

But the older I get, the less free time I have. In order to become a successful writer, I pour most of my time into crafting stories. Owning a house means devoting more time to its maintenance. Being an adult means having bills to pay and meals to cook. And of course I want to spend some time interacting with people outside the Internet (shocking, I know). I just don’t have the time to explore every crevasse, grind every level, craft every object and defeat every new boss.

When I play a game, I want to feel as if I’ve accomplished something. Since I usually only have an hour or two to devote to a game at any given time, the worthwhile thing has to fit within that window. Obviously, if I want to acquire a rare item, I’ll have to devote many small sessions to the goal, but I still need to feel like each of them was worth my time (baby steps, if you will). When your free time is rare, there’s nothing worse than feeling like you’ve wasted it.

More and more I find myself driven toward shorter experiences, games that last between ten and thirty hours. Don’t get me wrong, I love RPGs, but they’re so time consuming! I’d almost rather play a game I could finish twice in a couple of months then something it’s going to take a year of devotion to finish once.

And it isn’t just video games that feel less rewarding if I can’t break them into small chunks. Lately I’ve even considered reevaluating my policy of always finishing books. There’s still a part of my brain driven mad by the idea of leaving things unfinished, but my time is too precious to waste if I’m not having fun.

Of course, everyone has a different definition for rewarding or fulfilling. I’m sure plenty of MMO players would tell me that I’m whining and just want everything to be easy (which isn’t the case at all). Some people have incredible patience for tasks I find boring and tedious. (My brother-in-law is an animator. He used to visit us on weekends and spend upwards of twelve hours at a time unpacking shapes for texturing. I can’t even fathom how he can do this.) If anything, I have learned how it important it is to craft something clever and engaging to keep your audience invested.

I don’t know how long it will be before I once again abandon the aforementioned MMO; it will depend how long it remains rewarding. Hobbies shouldn’t really be stressful, after all. Have you recently changed your mind about a favorite game or hobby? Leave your story in the comments.

Don’t forget that the third book in the Mystic Island Trilogy, Sea of Twisted Souls releases tomorrow!

2 Replies to “What Gamers Want is a Rewarding Experience”

  1. As a small business owner and writer with a day job and a house I so relate to this! I love it when I can at least complete a small quest or two in the short time I have to play!

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