Why Do We Play MMOs?

I feel like I’m a bit of an MMO junkie. I don’t partake heavily in any one game, but I do find myself partaking in any ones I can get my hands on. With the rise of Free-to-play ones, this has become both easy and problematic. I came to this realization when I was trying out Ragnarok Online 2, the newest F2P MMO that has graced Steam. Despite being a rather simple game, I was thoroughly enjoying myself. With that naive notion in mind, I suggested this game to a few of my MMO friends. I did preface the suggestion with the aforementioned simplicity of it. They kindly checked the game out and all found it to be rather boring. I didn’t blame them. There wasn’t much depth to the game at all, but for some reason I really liked it. It was at that moment I stood back and really asked myself, “Why do I play MMOs?”

Oddly enough, I realized the one thing  I don’t play MMOs for is the community aspect. Sure, I will join a party to run a dungeon, but apart from that, I tend to run solo, thus negating the MMO portion of my enjoyment. What’s left to enjoy? Quite a bit, actually.


This one tops the list because it is incredibly rare for an MMO to have an engaging story. Most of the time you’re quickly clicking through conversation boxes to get to the next “kill x” and “gather y” quest. Fortunately one game  was able to deliver on this. Hate is as much as you want, Star Wars: The Old Republic had one hell of a story, for all 8 classes! Of course, who could expect anything less from Bioware? While they aren’t perfect in every aspect of the games they make, they do excel at telling great stories that make you care for the character you play and with those you interact. Luckily it’s now free-to-play, meaning anyone can enjoy the best part about that game.


This could be tied into story, but I felt that this deserved its own category. Even though SWTOR had a great story, its atmosphere was lacking a bit. Sure it felt like Star Wars, but the countless kill and fetch quests between your main story just ruined the atmosphere. Now, I’m not here to trash any MMOs, so I’ll just skip to a game which I enjoyed immensely because of its atmosphere, The Secret World. One of the few games set in the modern time, The Secret World unleashed all the conspiracies and horror stories that paint humanity’s incredible imagination. It’s got the Illuminati, the Templars, zombies, ghouls, blood magic, and all sorts of Lovecraftian lore. This was all tied together nicely by the unique combination of quests. Sure some were kill and fetch quests, but each one had its own encompassed story. It also mixed up the formula by introducing stealth quests, where you actively try to avoid combat and enemies. And by far one of my favorite quest types, investigation, tasks you in pulling information from our world to help solve the quests. Sure you could cheat and look up the answer, but the fun of it was figuring everything out for yourself. That truly made my feel like I was part of the secret world.


I left combat for last intentionally because again, this is rare in MMOs. Most developers tend to go the safe route with your hot bar strewn with dozens of abilities. If you aren’t a veteran to MMOs, this can be incredibly daunting. Even if you do play regularly, trying to go back to a game after months of absence is difficult. It’s not easy trying to relearn everything as a top level character, especially if abilities have been drastically changed in a patch. Fortunately, one MMO stands above the rest in combat not only through its minimalistic hot bar, but also through the sheer activeness of combat. In Guild Wars 2, you’re not tasked with just standing in one spot hitting buttons. This game rewards people who flank their opponent, roll around, and be an active participant in the battle. In fact, a decent number of abilities will automatically allow you to roll, back step, or teleport to a new location, making for some truly epic battles.

Now where does this leave Ragnarok Online 2? It doesn’t have much of a compelling story. The atmosphere is a pretty generic anime style. And the Combat is your tried and true stand in one spot and hit buttons. Doesn’t sound like I should enjoy it at all, but I do. I suppose some games are just good to waste time, even when there are more engaging games out there. Sometimes all you need is a pointless distraction to have fun, and that game certainly provides it.

Feel free to leave your own reasons why you enjoy the MMOs that you play.

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  1. I’m quite the MMO junkie myself (As you know Cory). For me it’s two things. 1. Character skill progression. I love pouring time, attention, love into a character and slowly getting more powerful. 2. Community. The MMO’s that I’ve enjoyed the most have been those I’ve found a good group of people to play with (whether I met them in or out of game).

    Here in lies the problem. I no longer have the time to maintain MMO relationships with people or contribute to a guild/clan of any kind. Same goes for the leveling. Most MMO’s are structured in a way that it takes a long time to feel like your character is powerful. I don’t have the time to sing into them anymore.

    So I keep trying MMO’s and trying to stay engaged and I burn out in less than 2 months because those two ingredients aren’t there for me (my fault not the games)

  2. Callum

    DogsDie, why don’t you try EVE? Most players have full-time jobs to worry about, and most corporations are respectful of that. You can set up training to occur while you’re not actually playing, so your progression isn’t tied to the frequency with which you can play. If you haven’t tried it, I can do nothing but recommend it.

    That also ties into my response to this article, which is mainly centred around the fact that MMOs, generally (possibly even unversally) speaking, don’t offer the players the chance to shape the world. In realms filled with thousands of players, you’d think that more developers would create a way for players to set their own objectives, and interact with each other in the ways that they choose to do so. They don’t. But CCP does. The universe of EVE is massive, and apart from some NPC-driven missions (none of which involve cutscenes, in-depth NPC character development, or particularly enthralling storylines), all content in the game is generated by players. The markets are no longer seeded by NPC goods, so all goods supplied and sold are mined, refined, and manufactured by players; conflicts in the game (which we’ve all heard can involve thousands of players at once) are completely player-driven, unless you count the Factional Warfare component as NPC-driven (even still, it’s only quasi-NPC-driven; every decision you make influences the outcome not only of your game but of others games, and these small decisions can have massive outcomes. Watch the two videos I’m about to post for the best descriptions of what the game is *actually* like. They’re not over-hyped scenarios; they actually happen.

    Causality: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uGplrpWvz0I
    The Butterfly Effect: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oq2oxt7Nrxo

    • Oh man. I’ve tried EVE on 3 separate occasions. I just couldn’t hack it. I like a steep learning curve but that game was just too much. I loved the real time skill training. In fact, Pirates of the Burning Sea had the same concept, but with crafting. I LOVED THAT!

  3. I am definitely one of those people who’d be all-in for the Story aspect of MMO’s, and it’s one of the reasons I used to love World of Warcraft – it was rich in lore and history for all the races and for those who didn’t rush through it to 80 and ignore the quests they were given, they were immersed into a world that had rational, legitimate problems and had a very unique take on the world and how it was approached. Unfortunately that illusion was broken for me the moment Cataclysm hit because of Westfall and Redridge. The only reason I still have the human avatar from that game? No idea how to change it, and can’t be bothered trying to remember my login after five failed attempts.

    One MMO that I typically play on-and-off is RuneScape for a similar reason: They have such a deep and immersive world that’s easy to get lost in, and they’ve done nothing but expand it to the ends of the world and beyond, but where it offsets me then is the whole levelling aspect and “the race to 99”. While it’s not hard, it’s more of a grind and it’s ultimately detrimental overall to the enjoyment of the game as a whole. Thankfully, it’s also free to play with a membership fee as optional, which means you can play it on-and-off far more than WoW.

    But that, in itself, is what makes some good MMO’s as well: Accessibility. You mentioned that you enjoy just absentmindedly batting about RO2 and it’s a fun experience not for any of those other reasons you listed: I think Accessibility is the missing link. It’s that easy to use and get into that you just enjoy the experience simply because it doesn’t feel like a grind to get something accomplished like it may do in other MMO’s. I don’t know personally if I’m dead on with my guess or not, having not played it yet (played the original RO on a trial once, was kinda meh about it) but it seems to be logically correct at least.

    It also explains how a lot of other free-to-play MMO’s have existed for so long, particularly those that either originate or have expanded from the Far Eastern markets over to US and Europe shorelines. Still, it could be worse – we could’ve had Japan’s first release of FF14.

    • TiamosLoren,

      That probably is it. I did mention that I don’t like going back to MMOs after months of absence because I feel lost as to what to do, especially if my character is a high level. I don’t know about RO2’s late game, but so far everything is very manageable in terms of abilities. Each class has a 3 column system and that’s it. It’s pretty basic and straightforward in leveling up. That probably is why I like it so much cause it is quite accessible.

  4. I adore Guild Wars II, already been participating in since launch and can not get enough of it.
    I’m often searching for a number of tips about how to level up quicker. I ran across a guide named Guild Wars 2 Domination plus it looks like it could actually really aid me. Does anybody possess any kind of ideas about this guide. They have some good reviews I found from http: //www. mmo-strategy-guides. com/guild-wars-2-guides. html and needed to see if anybody else endorses this. Cheers.

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