It is astounding to think about just how large of an impact MMOs have had on my life. Or rather, perhaps it is more staggering to think about just how completely the online world has become intertwined with my daily life as a result of playing such games. As I have stated numerous times on this blog, I feel that I have led very rich lives in MMOs– so much so that these lives have granted me long-term friends both online and off (having met them online). At this point, I have played MMOs as a guild leader, a GM, a normal player, and even that one person who logs in sometimes to bother people in guild chat; over the years, I have become an MMO veteran by virtue of exploring the elements of MMO structure.
When I used to play MMOs regularly, only a fraction of my desire was fueled by actually playing the game. Most of my desire came from meeting others and playing with them. When playing with my new friends, I would often play late into the night (something I got in trouble for a few times as a teenager) and would always be sorry to have to log off. After I lead a successful guild and had a wonderful run as a GM for another game, I felt that I had stagnated somewhat and did not really have the urge to pursue the game Mabinogi as some of my other friends were doing. Sure I played it in the beginning, but it felt dry after my previous two experiences and once my friends had gotten ahead of me, it took away pretty much all my desire to play (the pay-to-win model of the game did not help either). Still though… From time to time I would log in or come back from a long period of inactivity because I missed the atmosphere– not of the game’s environment, but rather the MMO’s.
As I progressed through college I grew too busy to think about MMOs for a while, but every so often when I found myself on holiday, I would relapse. I would download a game such as Iris Online (defunct) to experiment with and start to play only to find myself holding back, cognizant of school restarting soon. I’ve found that when you make new friends in MMOs, they are on a special “internet time,” meaning that the time spent alongside and apart from one another is perceived to be a lot faster than what is passing in reality.
Basically, I had noticed that even if you had fought alongside one another before, the two of you will likely be back to strangers if you had not seen each other for two days or more since this equates to a week or two in “internet time.” In short, I was afraid to have to leave my friends behind when school started so I held myself back from making them while I toyed around with MMOs during vacations.
As one might imagine, I would often drop these “in-between” MMOs after a few weeks– my heart would often not be in them without the social aspect. I mean… MMOs do not really have any end-game so only people who have time to burn would play mostly by themselves. As I entered my senior year in college however, I suddenly found myself with a lot more free time on my hands. Almost as soon as my Summer before senior year started, I jumped straight into another MMO– Eden Eternal. I can hardly remember the reasons why I chose this game, but I do remember that with its “peer chat” and dungeon systems, it portrayed itself as a game where teamwork was encouraged. On my very first day of playing, I made about 2-3 friends who I talked to all night until sunrise.
My friend Zoey calls Eden Eternal the “king of point-and-click MMOs,” meaning that while the game is a very standard style of MMO, it does everything right. The cash shop does not sell game-breaking items. There are no penalties for not being a cash shop user (i.e. everything is attainable in game and no major game functions are restricted). Skills and buffs are color coded, jobs can be changed on the fly, higher level boss monsters require teamwork and coordination to defeat, etc. Gameplay-wise, this was a very solid game. I did not know most of this when I started, nor did I care. To me, the gameplay was meaningless if there were not mechanisms to foster teamwork and a social community.
As I stuck with the game, I relapsed into an avid MMO player and relapsed hard. As I play new MMOs, I tend to compare them to Ragnarok Online since it was my first ever MMO. One thing that I liked about Ragnarok was the fact that the maps were large and could get quite a ways away from towns, effectively making wandering feel like a real adventure. As I immersed myself into Eden’s “Limestone Mountain” starter map, I was surprised to find an absolutely beautiful environment (more so than other free-to-play 3D MMOs) but was somewhat disappointed that no maps ever strayed too far– the town was always visible on the same mini-map. Nevertheless, the feel of this new game brought back a rush of that “hopeful adventurer” feeling that I had come to associate with MMOs and made me happy to be a part of it.
Another aspect that I associate with MMOs that I found right away is the sheer amount of… Internet found in them. Roleplayers, trolls, otaku, people who cannot speak English– these types of players will always be present. Normal (friendly and non-friendly) people will also be playing of course, but it’s always fun (and groan-inducing) to see the sheer amount of players named after memes or anime characters using emotes such as =^.^= and >.< … you just don’t see that in other games!
As for my actual time in Eden– let’s just say that it has been a blast. Yes, as I am writing this, I no longer play Eden (and really shouldn’t as I prepare to enter Medical School) but to taste the sweet fruit of the MMO once again– it was a wonderful experience. A lot of things that happened were par for the course as far as MMOs go: joining a guild because a friend you made during a dungeon run made you, watching many of your friends whom you started with stop playing, getting repeatedly dueled by your abusive chibi in-game couple, having her suddenly stop playing, building a name for yourself as a skilled in-game stalker and overall joker, getting to know your beloved guild leader, finally becoming a half-competent player after having your name equated to “noob,” and finally making that one solid friend who you stay contact with outside of the game.
I will say one thing however about this experience. With the increased social aspect of Eden, I began notice a higher concentration of middle and high schoolers– teenagers. At this point, I am over 20 years old and even though I know age doesn’t really affect enjoyment, there are still some people who are a little put off with talking to someone “old” in game and it will only get worse. Truth be told, I often feel “old” when playing these games having led so many experiences in MMOs. Nevertheless, short as my experience playing Eden may have been (roughly nine months) it made me relive my days as a fantastical adventurer… One aside from the one I lead in real life. As an “oldie” in the MMO world… I felt young.