Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games can teach us some lessons about success. Those thousands of hours that you spend grinding, getting you character to its level cap, doesn’t have to be a complete waste – although I might just be trying to make you feel better so that you keep reading.
The generic formula for MMO’s is this. You create your character by defining its strengths and weaknesses, which actually has nothing to do with the outcome of the game.
Your character will be as successful as any other character.
It’s all engineers for you to succeed as long as you are willing to put in the time. So your character is nothing more than a vehicle with which you are going to traverse through thousands of hours of game time. The question isn’t if you can succeed or not, rather, how fast you can be successful. How creative are you at keeping the game interesting? how easily are you driven by goals? How obsessive can you get?
1. Your weakness is what keeps you going
You are eventually dropped into the world where you see other players. You pay attention to their armour, weapons, skills, effects, because they all seem much better than yours. Its that moment when you look at yourself, you see your sword and it sucks, your armour is balls, you don’t have any rings, any amulets, nothing. You are looking up and all you see is egg shell – you haven’t been born yet.
This is how the game actually starts, with an ‘eggshell’ mission. This is where it’s impossible for you to die, because the purpose of this mission is not to stay alive, but for you to get an experience of the formula for success. This is your ability to kill monsters, and complete mission. When you complete this mission is when you’ll get your first reward, a weapon that sucks less, armour which is less balls than your old ones, some basic gear, some experience points (XP) to level up and unlock a skill, and instructions on where your next mission is. You have broken out of your shell and are experiencing the new world. Your reward is to have enough to be ready for the next mission, and for you to learn that when you complete this mission, you are going to get another reward, which will make you a little stronger and a little closer to that flaming tank running past you in Daggerfall. So you happily recycle and Repeat.
In self-realisation, you accept that you need to get to work, cos you want those things that you see those around you as having, those things that make them stronger, those things that allow them to do mission which are more fun. The game doesn’t actually have to do all that much, because it’s in us, we all want to grow. Growing is our way of experiencing what is infinite.
When we look up at the night sky, we are drawn towards that infinity, and our desire for growth is us grasping at it.
When you play MMO’s you literally earn experience points which is essentially the sum total of experience you have had in this game. You get experience points when you kill monster and when you complete missions. Your experience points is what makes you ‘level’ – you start the game as Level One and as you earn experience points, you ‘Level Up’, and level chasing is perpetual. At first you want to get to the level where you unlock all your skills, so you can be powerful. Then you want to hit the level cap. Then you want to explore the world to get the set items, the rare weapons, the things which open up other skill lines, everything to get stronger, to grow. Then you want to hit the veteran rank level cap – which is normally thousands of hours. But it doesn’t matter, because the illusion of growth keeps us going, keeps us doing.
When you achieve something, you feel accomplished about the reward. But that happiness fades with time, and you realise that it isn’t permanent.
You need to keep accomplishing to keep experiencing that happiness.
So you take the reward and you chase after the next, harder achievement. The Cycle Starts Again
2. Peaks upon Peaks is the nature of this mountain.
You look up at the mountain and you see folk walking up the slope. You can’t see the peak because of the clouds, but you know its there because why else would all these people be walking up? So you get in line and start walking up with these guys, all of us with carrot dangling in front of our faces.
There is a roadmap laid out for you on how to reach the peak, but the paths are many and they all seem to lead off into a page which has been ripped off your book. So you take the first path in front of you, getting from Level 1 to the Level Cap. When that becomes a bore, you take another path – to complete the story. When thats done you take another path, getting more powerful. All these roads kind of interweave and are filled with junctions with signposts so you can pick a new path, a more interesting path than the one you are on. All you know is that you are moving up, towards your goal. To reach the peak.
Months go by and you finally near the peak – it gets foggy as you hit the clouds, you start losing interest. Its in this fog that most of the others give in to the mountain, you walk past scattered offline bodies of wizards and orcs in your friends list. They all got lost and gave in. But you keep going and the day comes when you walk through the cloud, when you reach the peak, when you hit that level cap, when you complete that story, when you get that set item, and you realise, you’ve done it. You’ve peaked. You’ve succeeded.
And in all the glory you look down at the credit sequence, a tear of joy slides down your face and you look up at the sky only to see another, much larger mountain looking at you. A tear of sadness slide down the other eye. #drama
3. At the top, you just work
All you can see is the slope and clouds at the top masking the peak.
You realise the possibility that you are not on a mountain, you are just on a slope.
There is no way for you to comprehend where that peak ends and even if it does, it’s so far away, that you can easily surmise that you could climb this mountain forever. It becomes about the climb and not the destination. What’s the climb? Hoarding gold, finding gear to excel in player vs player battles, buying houses, buying furniture, doing daily missions, waiting for DLC’s. You collect, collect and collect, just to have moments of glories which you easily forget but try to remember by keeping on collecting.
Or you are just trying to be the coolest looking cat in Tamriel
You are just working towards your success which you’ve forgotten that you discovered a long time back.
All you are doing now is running after the phantom of growth, of success.
But you keep going because there are still roads which you’ve not discovered. But these aren’t quite road, these are trodden paths which leads back to the main path, but these are paths so you follow it.
5. The End Game
You’ve now been climbing for upwards of 1000 hours and you are on the final trodden path. You’ve completed the story, you’ve done all the dungeons, all the veteran dungeons, collected all the set items, found the collectables, levelled out all the skill trees, bought all the houses, bought all the furniture, collected all the gold.
You log into the game and you cannot even stomach the thought of doing a daily, because you’ve done all of these before. There is no need for the money, or the rare items which might drop as a reward. Your level is so high that the game doesn’t even have any more rewards for you when you level up again.
You realise that you have reached the end of the climb. You are standing not on a peak, but on the precipice of a cliff – you have nowhere else to go.
You’ve forgotten why you climbed this far anyway. What made you do it?
You realise that even if its just an illusion of growth, you are still drawn to it.
This is what makes you reach out, it makes you want to get stronger, it makes you want to expand, because we are all allured by the infinite.
But if this intellectual drivel gives you a headache, just create a new character and start the journey all over again.