6 Rites of Passage
by Tyler Edwards, July 4, 2012
Massively multiplayer games offer a huge variety of unique experiences, and everyone plays them differently. But there are some things that every MMO player will encounter sooner or later. Whether you're playing your first MMO or you're an experienced player trying a new game, these rites of passage are virtually unavoidable, and you will always remember them. This list covers some of the most common rites of passage for MMO players.
As we discussed in a recent article, one of the best feelings in an MMO is first entering a new virtual world and being overcome by the sheer scale of it all. Even the most jaded MMO player will still feel a certain thrill when logging into a new game for the first time and admiring the fresh graphics and exotic sights.
And if it's your first MMO, then it's an even more amazing experience. MMOs are huge games, and there's nothing else quite like them in the gaming world.
You'll likely spend much of your first few days of play simply wandering around and gawking. When you finally tear yourself away from exploring every nook and cranny of your starting zone and make it to a major city, you'll probably spend hours more going down each street and watching the crowds of players go about their daily tasks.
This is the point in the game where you fully understand the term "massively multiplayer game," and it's a quintessential part of the MMO experience. Even as time passes and you become increasingly burnt out on the game, the memories of this early rite of passage will likely keep you coming back for more.
5: Specializing in fail:
When you're new to a game, you're probably too caught up in enjoying the scale and prettiness of it all to think about the very best way to maximize your character's effectiveness. If you're new to MMOs in general, you may have no clue what constitutes proper gearing or character builds.
Hopefully you'll possess enough common sense to not try something as boneheaded as wearing cloth armor as a plate tanking class, but it's common for people to, say, stack strength and health stats on their spell caster. Casters tend to be weak and squishy, so you need to compensate for that with your gear, right?
There's no shame in this. MMOs are by their very nature incredibly complex games, and no one can be expected to go into one with perfect knowledge of how to build their character effectively. This is a rite of passage we all go through. Though some may claim otherwise, everyone is bad at first.
Of course, most of us grow out of this phase before we start tackling truly difficult content. If you're starting to raid and still choosing gear based on what looks prettiest, something has gone terribly wrong.
4: Your first guild:
Choosing a guild is an incredibly important decision. These are the people you will be interacting with every time you log in to your MMO of choice. They will be the hub of your online social circle, and they will be your primary source of aid as you try to achieve your in-game goals. A bad guild will drag you down with them, and a good guild will raise you to new heights.
We all come to our first guild in different ways. Some of us join a game because we were encouraged to by friends who play it, and are lucky enough to have a good group of helpful players as soon as we enter the game. Some of us can only find a good guild through long searching. Some of us are shy and don't even bother looking for a guild, but eventually fall into one through happenstance.
However you find them, your first guild will likely be the one you most remember. It's the first step towards joining the greater community of your game. Guilds are not forever, and it's likely your first guild won't be your only guild, but it will be a crucial part of defining your early time in a new MMO, and that can have a lasting effect on how you experience the game for months or years to come.
3: The bad run:
Having a bad dungeon run or raid is a pretty common occurrence when you play MMOs. Maybe you get a tank wearing caster gear, or maybe the content is especially hard, or maybe they whole group is running around like headless chickens with no clue what to do. Any number of things can and often do go wrong.
This is always a demoralizing experience, but when it happens to you for first time in a new game, it's especially soul crushing. In many ways, it can be the end of the "honeymoon" with your new game.
Up until then, most players will be filled with wonder and optimism about their new MMO. You will think the best of everyone and ignore the potential for failure. Even if you're a veteran player, you may lull yourself into the misguided belief that this game will be different - free from the idiots and frustrations of your past games.
These pleasant beliefs come crashing down as you watch your tank get his face stomped by the first trash pull because he was cosplaying as a mage. As the group turns on each other, you realize that the other players of your new favorite game are not as pleasant as you'd hoped. This is one of their first steps towards removing the luster from a new game.
2: Playing in the big leagues:
Everyone has goals in mind when they play an MMO. Some may wish to become dominant PvP players, juggernauts who drive their enemies before them and revel in their bitter tears of defeat. Others seek to become great raiders, slaying mighty dragons with the aid of a team of friends. Some players may have more humble goals: joining an active role playing guild, collecting mounts, or simply reaching the level cap.
It can take a long time to reach such lofty goals, but it's an incredible thrill when you finally do. Watching the first raid boss topple or winning your first great victory against other players is the culmination of weeks or even months of leveling and grinding. You've reached the end of one journey and the beginning of another, and now you can play in the proverbial big leagues.
This is where the addiction of an MMO finally cements itself; where you go from being a newb to a true player. This is where you find your place in the game and discover what you want to focus your game time on going forward.
This is one of the last great rites of passage for those new to an MMO, with just one more to follow.
As months go by, you will eventually find the luster is fading from your shiny new MMO. Once amazing sights have grown blasť, your tolerance for bad players and griefers has been exhausted, the thrill of defeating a powerful boss or player has faded, and even your guild is starting to get on your nerves. You no longer feel excited to play the game, and you shudder whenever you look at your avatar on the character selection screen.
You have reached burnout.
This happens to everyone sooner or later. MMOs are very addictive and make you want to spend hours playing, but this inevitably leads to burnout, especially if the developer is slow to add new content.
There are ways to deal with burnout. You can try a new style of play, level a new character, take up role playing, try soloing outdated group content, or anything else you can come up with.
Even these measures may not be enough, though. If you've tried everything and still feel burned out, it may be time to consider leaving the game for several weeks.
But this doesn't have to be the end. After a month or two off, the addiction will return. You'll find yourself itching to slay dragons and own newbs once again. Burnout and breaks are just another part of the MMO cycle.
Eventually, you may reach a point where you've felt burnout one too many times. A break won't do anymore; you feel it is time to leave the game behind completely. This will be a sad day, but even then, this doesn't necessarily spell the end of your MMO gaming. There are other MMOs to play, and a whole new set of rites of passage to go through.