Saturday, February 2, 2019

Existential Angst

ChaosConstant at Occasional Hero posted some thoughts about GW2 under the banner "Why I'm Not Playing Guild Wars 2". I'm not playing it as much as I used to, either, although for almost the opposite reasons, as I explained in a lengthy comment there.

Not that I've stopped. You never really stop playing GW2. You can only be not playing it right now. If you want to delete your account you pretty much have to get written consent, countersigned by your parents and a recognized medical authority.

I've dropped to a kind of maintenance mode. I do my dailies, open my Lunar envelopes, see if there's any action in World vs World and then log out. Even so, doing no more than that on three accounts takes at least an hour most days, sometimes more if the dailies aren't co-operating.

It's not that there isn't a ton of stuff I could be doing. I have something like seventeen Level 80 characters and most of them could use some attention. I could spend hundreds of hours just on getting all of them geared up in full Ascended and after that, were I certifiably insane, I could start working on Legendary, the tier-that's-not-a-tier to which we all supposedly aspire.

Then there are all those Masteries. Even my main account has plenty left to tick off and the other two have barely started.

Looking deeper down the rabbit hole, by now there must be dozens of collections I haven't completed, several of which I told myself I would definitely do. A couple even give rewards for which I have a semi-urgent, practical use.

Then there's map completion. In getting on for seven years I have never ticked every explorer box in the base game on one, single character. Even I'm starting to think that's a bit odd. Similarly, not one of my characters has ever completed the Personal Story. Let's be honest, most of them never even started.

That's just the old stuff. I gave up exploring the new maps that come with every Living Story chapter long ago. Most of my characters have never even set foot in these new territories. There's plenty of content there I've never even seen, let alone finished.

All of that and I'm not even considering the endless torrent of Achievements I could be working on. Or Raids, which apparently now come with semi-authorised carries for a price I could very easily pay (I'm Rich, You Know). Or Fractals. Come to think of it, forget Fractals, there are still dungeons I've never been inside, let alone dungeon paths...

I think it's fair to say that, despite what does feel like an ongoing content drought that's been going on for years, not having enough to do does not cut it as an explanation for why my interest is wandering.

Over-familiarity doesn't explain it, either. If the problem was knowing the systems and the sights too well, why would I be flitting off to flirt with EverQuest II instead of staying faithful to Tyria? I mean, I've played EQII for twice as long and I probably know it twice as well...

Part of the problem - if indeed it is a problem, and I'm not entirely convinced it is - is that, yes, there's a lot to do in Tyria, but there's not much that I want to do. Once you take out the things I've tried and don't like (Fractals) and things I'm not interested in (Raids), most of what's left involves either a long, repetitious grind (Collections, Legendaries) or jumping through hoops (Achievements, Masteries).

Not that I object to any of that on principle. Hoop-jumping, box-ticking and repetitious grinds are the foundations on which the MMORPG genre was built, after all. Not to forget farming for gold to pay someone else to do it all for you.

And when you've finished, what do you have? I was going to say "not much" but then I've already said there are things I could use that I'm making no effort to get, so that won't wash.

Take Princess. I've been meaming to get her for my third account for about two years now. If I could be bothered to do that I could free up a whole load of bank space and that's always a happy moment. It would be even more useful if I knuckled down to get the Mastery points for Autoloot on the two accounts that don't yet have it. That's a game-changer.

Okay then. It's not lack of things to do and it's not lack of things worth doing. It's also not boredom or ennui; I still enjoy the game enough to be actively leveling up yet another Ranger on my F2P account. In fact, I'm having so much fun doing it I'm considering making some new characters on my regular accounts too.

I don't know. I'm not going to get to the bottom of this, am I?  

Zubon was expressing some puzzlement over why "people find it odd that people spend X amount of time on games, when they spend >2*X amount of time on television". I don't find it odd at all. Television offers discrete, complete chunks of content that can be consumed in a fixed, known amount of time. Leaving aside the quality of that content, it's just more manageable.

Gaming never stops. MMORPGs are particularly bad (or good) in that respect, being open-ended and always on, but you can always, always have one more round of any game.

I've just started watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer from the start. It's free on Amazon Prime. I watched the first couple of seasons in the late 1990s, right at the very tail end of my television years. I have the entire series from start to finish in VHS box sets somewhere. A friend lent them to me around the turn of the millennium and I've never watched them. Nor given them back.

The main reason for that - apart from not having a VHS player (I have one now, funnily enough, but for a long time I didn't) - is that all my screen time for more than fifteen years went to gaming. Exclusively. I was playing MMOs and they never end. Or stop. Or even pause, except on patch day, and how we moaned about that...

Starting in on Buffy (which is wonderful, as everyone knows), it might look daunting to see eight years of content piled up ahead of me. Only I play MMORPGs, so it looks like nothing much at all. A slight bump in the road. A pebble. I know I'll watch every episode; it will take a specific amount of time; then it will stop. That's so easy.

I don't have anywhere to go with this. It's a post much like my gaming. I'm starting something I never really planned to finish, knowing I'll come back and chip away at it some more another day. Or I won't. It doesn't much matter either way.

This must be why so many gamers like to organize and schedule. It forces structure even if that structure often fails. I've talked about that before. Recently, too. It must be on my mind. No doubt I'll talk about it again. Blogging can be as repetitive and predictable as doing your dailies, sometimes.

I like doing my dailies, though. Perhaps a better question (it's not a question) than "Why I'm Not Playing Guild Wars 2" might be "Why Am I Still Playing Guild Wars 2?"

Because I am. That'll do.


  1. Hehe, I'm so with you, especially on the TV thing.
    A co-worker was aghast once when I told him that we'd watched the first season of Walking Dead in a single afternoon. I was like, why, that's only about five hours. Peanuts.

    The funny (or sad) thing is, in my experience almost everybody has hobbies that take up large amounts of time, yet when talking about either watching TV or playing games everyone's like "I don't know how you got so much time for that", as if it were a somehow inferior way to spend your time.

    1. Hobbies have always been suspect for the amount of time they take up, though. Back before the internet, the go-to for disbelieving ridicule was probably model railways. Actually, in some circles, it still is...

  2. Ha! Enjoyable read. I haven't commented here in a while (mostly because while I pretty much read every post here, most I am in quiet agreement or just enjoyed it without anything to add.) Moments like those I wish there was a "like" button so I could let you know. Hopefully Google still tracks my visits. This comment is much like your post. A bit circular. Hope that's ok. Mostly wanted to say happy holidays and let you know I still spend time here :)

    1. Thanks for dropping in! I kind of assume ost people just lurk without speaking here. I'm away for a few days so after this one, comments will probably go unreplied for a while - unless I reply from my phone, which is unlikely.

  3. I actually made a New Year's Resolution a few years ago to "watch more television". I'm sure heaps of people have resolved to watch LESS television, not sure how many have resolved to watch more! :-)

    But I felt that I was spending too much of my leisure time on "just doing it for the sake of it" gaming. Meanwhile, we were living in an age where there was just incredibly good stuff being done in the medium of TV and I had a big list of stuff that people had said "that's great, you should watch it".

    1. I'm actually watching more content produced for television now than I have for many years, but still almost nothing that's being broadcast. Mostly I'm watching old stuff on YouTube (mostly entire runs of US Sitcoms from the 1970s and 1980s) and more recently a lot of stuff on Amazon Prime, since I have a sub. Again, that tends to be old stuff.

      All of that I watch on a tablet when I'm bed. I'm still not watching anything on an actual tv set. In fact, I just got home from three days in Edinburgh, where we had a big tv in the room, but even though we were in during the evenings we both used our tablets rather than switch the thing on!


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