My waning interest in MMOs?

By many accounts this was a bumper year for MMOs. Many of the old guard were revitalized, with World of Warcraft getting its Mists of Pandaria expansion, RIFT getting the Storm Legion expansion, the Inferno and Retribution expansions in EVE online both being received well by that community, and the ongoing success of titles like Everquest II and Lord of the Rings Online. The new was just as exciting this year, with Star Wars: The Old Republic having its first real year (launching in December last year barely counts as a 2011 release), the perhaps “cult hit” The Secret World injected some badly needed diversity into the fantasy ridden MMO landscape, and of course the massive launch of Guild Wars 2. Sure, there were missteps, such as the failure of 38 Studios and its work in progress “Project Copernicus” – which I’m sad to see die as I really enjoyed Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning – and the somewhat strange closing of City of Heroes by NCSoft, perhaps the first time we’ve seen an MMO that was absolutely making a profit get shuttered. So why can’t I find one to stick with and play?

Looking back, I’d say my MMO interest/play peaked in The Burning Crusade era of WoW, or just before that in Red Moon Rising in EVE. During that period I was sinking an awful lot of time into EVE and/or WoW, and I loved it. I held positions of importance in each game, being a director in our EVE corporation and being a guild master in WoW. All things considered, I was probably spending as much time in game or doing game related stuff as I was doing my job most weeks – a feat accomplished by regular evening play and long weekend sessions.

However, all that seems to have changed – I appear to have turned into an MMO tourist. I’ve seen this term thrown around more and more lately on different game sites, mostly with disdain from someone who is evangelizing their particular brand with the attitude “You should only love one thing and it must be my thing!” That’s fine, I’m not particularly bothered by it, but what I do find interesting is that having that background of so-called “hardcore” play, you’d think I’d be right along with those people dishing out scorn at others who flit to and fro, unable to decide which game they’d like to play, if any at all.

On one hand, I know that my curiosity is a major enabler here – there are so many games that I find interesting that I’d like to go explore them. Of course this is not true for MMOs only, which leads to the first thing that I can point to as having leeched time and interest away from MMO playing – other games, whether they be single player or other forms of multiplayer. For instance, while I was convinced to get back into WoW with the release of Mists and I quite enjoyed leveling to the new cap, I find the daily quest grind absolutely punishing to someone who likes to play many alts as I do, or even to someone who wants to play a single character casually.

So, the other hand is that although my interest in WoW is there, I’ve been focusing more on other games that require briefer periods of interest. I’ve been having a blast playing Hawken, a great mech shooter that recently hit open beta. I’ve also been improving on my StarCraft 2 gameplay and getting interested in the scene which surrounds it, which extends to the eSports scene in general. Of course while Starcraft has historically been an eSports powerhouse, the gorilla in the room is League of Legends, which I’ve been dabbling in for a while now as well.

Is my “problem” simply one of attention span where I’m looking for a quick fix rather than playing the long game? Has my interest shifted to games that are more competitive in nature? Is this a “problem” at all? I know I’ll continue to be happy to poke my nose into different games to see what they’re like, and maybe one day something will click and I’ll return full force to a single MMO. Until then, I will ponder these things while I queue up for another session in Summoner’s Rift…