Why I game: The importance of fun.

In my last post I went over the main reasons I can never seriously play LOTRO, or any grindy MMO again and whilst it’s all very well for me to say what I hated about LOTRO maybe I should balance that out by telling you what makes me not only want to play a game but then come back to play again and again.

The answer, it turns out, is simple. Fun. Just pure, unadulterated fun. And if a game isn’t providing me with fun then I have to ask myself what the hell is the point in playing it, which seems to be a point of view Arenanet agrees with 🙂

But what, for me at least, makes a game fun? Well now that is a question that can’t be answered so simply but being the brave little soldier I am, I’ll try 😉

Tell me a story…

First off I need a story. I’m a narrative driven lad and I can’t tell you how many games I’ve dismissed lately because their stories were either weak or sounded far too generic. LOTRO obviously had a huge advantage with me here because I’ve been in love with Middle Earth since reading LotR when I was about 13 but even when it came to GW2 I have to say I was very sceptical. Every time I heard about the game, every fan blog post or podcast that joked about its release date just reconfirmed what I thought to myself – it sounded like yet another cookie cutter fantasy game that would annoy me for poorly mimicking Tolkien. Yet something kept dragging me back, kept pulling my attention towards the game. Eventually it was Rubi Bayer’s enthusiasm in the Massively Speaking podcast that convinced me to actually look into the game seriously and almost straight away I loved what I read – here was a game who’s designers not only wanted to make it fun but wanted to pour in enough lore to sink several other lesser MMOs. I found myself suddenly falling in love with a whole new world.

Let me play, not think…

After a story I need easy gameplay. I don’t mean some kind of dumbed down system but rather an intuitive experience that is easy to learn and soon becomes second nature. The control system for Left 4 Dead 2 is a dream – it vanishes into the background and just lets me play. At the other end of the scale is the Legendary Item system in LOTRO which just leaves me scratching my head and feeling very, very frustrated. Somewhere in between is nice – the skills system in GW2 recently went from (for me at least) a big old mess of “choose anything y’all!” to a much-easier-to-understand-without-spending-hours-searching-wikis-and-forums tree system. I like that. It is powerful yet I can instantly understand it and not break my play-fun-headspace in the way that even thinking about LOTRO’s LIs does.

I vant to be alone, dharlinks…

Next I need to be alone. I want to be able to play the damn game alone. But I also want to be able to group dead easily. A contradiction I know, but one that I know I’m not alone in. I loved the group play in Left 4 Dead (ignoring the arseholes you could get stuck with), found things a little more restrictive and forced in LOTRO and breathed a sigh of relief when I played GW2. Grouping just works in GW2 so well! From formal guild membership to totally ad hoc quest groups, it is just a dream to join up and play with other people. My only note of worry about GW2 so far is about how bloody hard it can be to tackle some things on your own and make no mistake, I like to play on my own. I have kids, limited playtime, my own goals and a grasshopper mind and these things can make playing in a group a pain. I don’t always want to run with everyone else into a cave, I might want to explore the hills above instead and any game that wants to draw me in forever had better understand that. Give me a way to complete the whole damn thing on my own because I guarantee you that 99% of the time that’s *exactly* how I’ll be playing. I have lost count of how many times I simply couldn’t finish quests in LOTRO without asking kin mates for help and every damn time I felt cheated because these very nice people would come over to help with their level capped engines of destruction and reduce my experience of the quest to that of a spectator and that is not fun. Hell, why would I even buy a game I have no hope of being able to play?

Hell is other people…

Another not fun thing is other people, or rather the kind of knobends computer games seem to attract in abundance. One thing I always loved about LOTRO and have almost always hated in Left 4 Dead is the other players. In LOTRO I found a mature & intelligent community seemingly always willing to answer questions no matter how newbie they were. L4D2, on the other thumbless & rotting hand, seems to be infested with pricks. Still, it does mean when you find some good people you stick together for dear life, but that’s hardly a selling point is it. What I’m hoping GW2 manages to achieve is to take the freedom of L4D’s grouping and maintain the decency of LOTRO’s community and if it manages that then I think it will be one hell of a multilayer experience. *crosses fingers and prays to the gods of good friends*

You grind me right down, right down like a record baby…

Speaking of LOTRO and all things not fun, do I need to mention grind again? No, thought not. Still, whilst I may not mention grind I still have to explain what I want to see in its place. For kill deeds I don’t want to kill 300 bloody spiders, I want to tackle a quest chain that leads to a spider queen! For skills I don’t want to find glorified goblin toilet paper (ssorry, missing book pages) by killing 600 orcs, I want to break into a library and steal books! For reputation I don’t want to collect 400 shiny stones from 1,000 piles of recently slaughtered lizard guts, I want to save the chieftan’s daughter from a bloody scary witch’s tower! GIVE ME STORY, NOT GRIND! Make me feel like I’m a hero, not a street cleaner. Jesus H Presley people! If you ever, EVER ask me to waste my time again I’m gone. If, on the other hand, you offer fun, interesting quests and storylines I can feel involved in I will sit on your lap and stroke your luxuriant beard until the cows some home. Grind bad, play good – it is that bloody simple and GW2 gets it.

How much?!?

Do you know what the biggest reason me for never paying an MMO up until last May was? No, of course you don’t, you hardly know me after all but let’s pretend you all guessed correctly and at the same time. Yes, that’s right you clever lot! Monthly subscription fees! Now a tenner a month isn’t much and has always been within my budget (even after kids came along and ruined my whole life blessed me with their sunshine) yet I could never, ever bring myself to consider paying every month for a game. I only took the punt on LOTRO after finding out it was free and even though I bought the 12 month subscription I never counted this as a recurring fee because it just feel like paying for the game. If Turbine hadn’t totally pissed me off with a stupid combination of grind and greed then I would have happily paid another £100 last month, but their loss is my gain and now I have been shown the light by Arenanet it will have to be a very special game indeed that sees me ever, EVER pay more than once to play it.

Greed is so not good…

Did I mention ‘greed’ in that last part? Why yes, I do believe I did. Look dear game companies I totally understand you have to make a profit but when that desire to make money spills over into the realms of pure, naked corporate greed then I’m off. I am *not* a walking wallet for you to dip your hands into at every opportunity and selling me a feature that I feel you should have included into the game is the surest way to piss me off royally (*cough* LOTRO *cough*). Now I have no idea how this is going to work in GW2 but my hope is they put enough items in the shops (both important & fluff) that I want to buy from it without pulling a cheap, shitty stunt like the LOTRO wallet scam. Don’t rip me off and you’ll find more of my disposable income is predisposed to you (see what I did there?).

TL/DR (What do you mean you didn’t read the rest, you rude swines!)

So, there you have it. Just make your one-off purchase intuitive games full of fun, story driven adventures that I can complete on my own or with other friendly people with occasional trips to the cash shop for fun items rather than outright system improvements and I’m all yours, oiled and ready in your tent. Oh, and don’t ever, EVER make me grind. You wouldn’t like me when I grind.


  1. ah your section on grind and an alternative – brilliant! I wish those sort of achievements were in lotro instead of the grind grind grind – they even have the scalability of instances/skirmishes so that it could be done at varying levels of difficulty… having said that, I’m back into lotro (though I won’t go for the year long deal again – good value it may be but not if you need a take a break), am mainly taking screenshots for my new project and slowly levelling up an alt so I’m having to take the bad with the good and for me, the good outweighs the bad at the moment. I think the grind comes from a very easy way to make content last a bit longer (I think content locusts is the new phrase ;)) and is a hangover from the old time-sink MMOs – which is a shame. sorry am rambling slightly!

    1. Not rambling at all. You’re so right that the grind is just part of an outdated business & gameplay model that (unfortunately) they can’t code out of the game now. GW2 have already said they can add new dynamic events in hours, not months thereby making their game far less likely to be ‘locus-ed’ to death and when you are an oil tanker like LOTRO facing a speedboat like that how can you hope to compete?

  2. Great post and agree with every single word. I so wish LOTRO was “grindless” then I’d definitely be in there again fighting those blasted orcs, Tried going back in to kill time as I wait for “my” game (*sighs* GW2) but I just couldn’t take it, which annoys me to bits knowing they have such an incredible story at their disposal. OMG the group thing! That’s why I love GW2, I can group with whoever I want at any one time. I don’t have to wait ages and ages to do a quest or dungeon…….and you are SO right!! I will never pay a sub again not after experiencing GW2. If anybody wants my money they sure as hell better give me what you and Colin Johanson said, FUN!

    1. Oh mate, I feel the same way – I have tried, really I have, to fire up LOTRO and start going through Moria but every time I do I feel a void opening up inside me that sucks any and all of my enthusiasm away and I just log out and play Left 4 Dead 2 instead. Or watch TV. Or, horrors of horrors, spent time with the family. (Damn you, Turbine!).

      Until GW2 is actually released everything else is a pale filler I’m afraid 🙂

      p.s. What server are you on mate? I seem to have choosen a mixed German/Dutch one and finding a kin that speaks English reet good like wot I does is proving hard.

      1. I’ll be running around on the EU server Underworld. I’ve decided that my main is going to be a Norn Ranger (just love having pets around) and I love arrows (legacy of Legolas!!!!). Then the others will follow. Will definitely be filling up all those 5 slots! 🙂 Sylvari – Necro, Asura – Ele, Charr – Eng, Human – Guardian……I think, for now……we’ll see! 🙂

        1. Hi mate – well if you don’t mind, I’d like to move over to the Underworld server and maybe we could hook up in-world and kick some Centaur butt together! 😀

          After so much time spent in the very first stages of the human stater experience, I really want to continue being a human and move on with the personal story (I may choose noble for the actual launch just to see a different view of it unfolding). after that is it will be a Sylvari (I say “after” and mean “at the same time” of course…) then Charr and then Norn then Assura. I can see me spending a lot of Character slots over the next few months 😀

          1. Would love to have you around 🙂 and am definitely up for kicking some Centaur butt! 🙂 So far I’ve been testing out the human in the BWEs and I’m enjoying the storyline and I love Divinity’s Reach. Amazing place!……but I see my Ranger more of a Norn than a human……I guess I was inspired by Eir………but then I am such an altaholic! I don’t think 5 slots are going to be enough!

            Let me not be greedy! 😀

  3. “…I want to tackle a quest chain that leads to a spider queen! …”

    Well… hmmm… I suppose the “good news” is that I’ve run the Ascalonian Catacombs dungeon a few times during BWE2 and I can confirm you’re going to get your wish – sort of… ::) (she’s quite nasty mate.)

    It’s brilliantly challenging stuff, and I can’t wait for more, and worse!

    (Pro Tip: never, under any circumstances, stand in front of anything that even remotely looks like it has a “mouth” even if it’s carved in stone…) Ahahahahahahahaaa… *wipes tear of laughter* good times!

    I’m not sure if I’ve said this before but, once the game launches, I should be just a “whisper” away in the event you want some teamwork, or even just some pleasant company while exploring (which is my favorite past time in MMOs.) I’m retired, and I live in Florida now (I think there’s a law about that or something… there seem to be a few like me down here…) which means evening time (ie Prime Time) in the UK and EU is just mid-day for me and I will almost always be available for various adventures and shenanigans. (I tend to reserve my “local” evening times for the young lady that’s been fussing about my house for last 18 years or so…looks like she’ll be playing a charr elementalist… at least, that’s the only character I’ve seen her experiment with during the beta.)

    It sounds like the server structure should allow for “visits” rather easily, and I usually have a good enough connection to play with friends in Europe and the South Pacific. And the scaling down of characters means the content will stay challenging regardless of whatever is on the agenda.

    Once characters are created I will be sure to give you “in game” contact info for me so if you do happen to come up against some content you want to explore, but which would be more enjoyable with a bit of company, then you’ll have an option available.

    I’ve managed to solo most “above ground” content thus far (and a few things below as well) but it’s usually quite a bit easier with company… no telling how the community will change once the game is released, but so far, I’d say it’s shaping up very nicely for the most part. The Eternal Grove server I’ve been on in BWEs has been very pleasant by most MMO standards (and I’ve sampled quite a few.)

    Hopefully ArenaNet are making good progress and all of us won’t have to wait too much longer for GW2 to launch. I’ve managed to narrow my altitis character selection down to ONLY half the professions in the game and I can’t wait to roll them up and start exploring!

    1. Thank you Archer! I will happily take you up on your kind offer and meet you in-world and there is only two months to go until you can show me some of the engineer’s skills in the hands of someone far less crap than me 😀 I haven’t made a final decision on which server I will choose, but when I do I’ll be sure to drop you the info.

      How is Mrs Archer finding the ele? It was my first ever choice to play but I’ve become totally engrossed by the warrior & engineer and now lord knows when I’ll get to the ele 😀

      1. She definitely prefers more of a “hang back and support” style of play, and she’s pretty much in love with the staff weapon for the ele profession.
        There had been a number of weeks of raging internal debate (that spilled out into external monologues that I dutifully sat through patiently) over the “race” component… asura were so damn cute, but sylvari and humans were elegant and beautiful, and really not much consideration initially given to either of the larger races… then she saw a youtube video of a female charr character’s emotes (you know; surprise, laugh, sleep, etc.) and I’m pretty sure the “tail” sealed the deal.

        When the BWEs actually rolled around finally, the only character she created was a charr elementalist, and she switched to staff pretty much the second she was through the opening tutorial fight against Duke Barradin. (I was “instructed” to have a staff mailed to her right away for this purpose… heh.)
        Then she was off and running, with much fireworks and rejoicing.

        She tends to subscribe to the theory that “aiming” is overrated, and a good “meat shield” is as essential for her characters as a good purse is in RL. With the really large AoEs from the ele’s staff she has the first part covered (no prizes for guessing who stands in for the second part of that…)

        I wouldn’t absolutely rule out the possibility of “eleventh hour” changes but, I would NOT bet against charr ele at this point…

        1. Ahhh, yes the tails. Yup, I can totally understand going for a Charr tail. In Second Life it was all about the horns for me which is why I’m going for the Sylvari but the Charr tails are a strong draw and I’ll be making my Charr an engineer I think 🙂

          Not sure about the Sylvari yet, but I’m still leaning towards an Ele as that seems to fit the Sylvari so well it’s hard to resist.

          Still, I love the Human personal story & am lost forever to Divinity’s Reach so I’ll be rolling a Human warror too I reckon 😀

          1. I’ve managed to get my altitis pretty much in check (which is to say; I’m limiting my first characters to the number of character slots they initially give us – probably 5.)
            Top 2 are a sylvari necro, and an asura engi.
            Then an asura ele, and a sylvari warr… fifth and final will most likely be a human thief.

            I absolutely agree about Divinity’s Reach… that place is amazing, along with Lion’s Arch, those are my favorite spots that I’ve seen so far. I have high hopes for Rata Sum also. (I’ve actually spent my final moments at the end of each BWE at the bar on the beach at Lion’s Arch, and that may continue to be my “log out” spot just because I like it so much and for the sake of tradition.)

              1. I really hope they do the final event again – I can’t get that day off work but I have arranged to come in late so I should be there for 7am GMT to see the Shatterer fly over 😀

  4. Couldn’t possibly agree more about “Fun”. I think i know what you mean about wanting to be alone.

    I think the thing that frustrates me about role play is i’ve mostly found there two types of players, the deadly serious and the ones who are just hanging around. I’ve never seen the right balance. I think the right balance might include some easygoing, helpfulness for new players.

    1. My problem was never with the deadly serious types (although they could be a drag) but rather with the cliquey ones. I busted my balls to RP in Steelhead and although a lot of people, including the owners, appreciated it (or ignored it, I’m easy on that score) I hit a brick wall with the oldest resident who, for whatever reason, was just a wanker towards me. In the end I realised it would never change – I was on his turf and he wanted me off. As far as I know he’s still there RPing in his dull, limited, walled-in & highly exclusive way and good luck to him. He’s a twunt of the highest order and will never progress past the badly written Mary Sue crap he dribbles out occasionally and DJing at yet another of SLs endless dance events.

      Reading this it sounds as though I’m bitter but I’m really not. I’ve had the most fun playing games since I left SL it’s just that I still sting at the thought of all the wasted potential in Steelhead blocked by one useless fuzzy dog in a manger.

      1. Ah! The “olders clique” thing. I feel that too in many communities. There’s that whole “I’m one of the orginal group” thing and it seems to be some kind of natural behavior. I think the people who cling to that status are the weakest in those groups, always looking for opportunities of injecting comments into conversations that prove they are part of that group. I’ve been accepted into a couple cliques like that, but even when you’re “in”, it seems there’s an even smaller core clique. Leaders who permit groups like that to discriminate against new people should be ashamed. Those old-timer cliques should be the most open and ready to welcome, but they exist in all kinds of group dynamics. I’ve always tried to look past those cliques by building relationships with specific people. But if those cliques dominate a group, I just move on.

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