The Cyclic Nature of Online Games

Inspired by recent WoW streams

Our (gamers’) life is funny. We start playing a game, delve into everything there, milk all its juicy content, and memorize all its mechanics. The game becomes predictable and boring. We get tired of it.

A year goes by. Two. Or five (it varies for everyone). And during a “drought”, when no new interesting games come out, we’re drawn back to this old game. The “drought” – it is when no new exciting games are released. And they aren’t being released because the paradox of the MMORPG genre is that the best of its kind – the sacred Ultima Online – still remains unmatched in terms of quality and depth of gameplay. This is especially felt when compared to the plastic feel of something like Albion Online (which appeared 20 years after UO).

So, there’s a life cycle of MMORPG gameplay:

  1. You play a new game (new to you).
  2. You explore everything in it, “drain the cup,” so to speak.
  3. ??? (you move on to something else).
  4. A year-two-five goes by.
  5. You return to the game. Here are the options:
    • They’ve introduced something new during that time (then it’s great, and you can play for UP TO A MONTH).
    • Or nothing new has been introduced, then you (often with a fresh perspective) roam around for a WEEK or TWO.
  6. Refer to point #4 (i.e., another year-two-five passes, and you’ll log into it again).

There are exceptions. For instance, my MMO-roguelike 🙂 It has such high replayability that you can play for years. But still, after about 5 years, you start taking breaks (for a month, two, five) because even the most diverse gameplay gets stale once you’ve delved deeply into it. You need to forget to make it interesting again.

So, yes. The essence is that we need to FORGET. If you’ve properly forgotten a game, it becomes interesting to return to it. If the gameplay is simple and there’s little to forget, the likelihood of returning is quite low. That’s why we often get hooked on hardcore games. That’s why the modern casualized (castrated) WoW, where a third of the skills have been removed, is much worse than the classic vanilla (Turtle server, for example). Fewer buttons to press, simpler gameplay – less to forget; you’ll get bored faster upon returning.

Of course, there’s the community aspect. Sometimes people return for the company, or a particular clan. But nowadays, people are mostly leaning towards individualism, and this factor is gradually diminishing. At least, mature players are mainly “lone wolves.”

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