Greedy Goblin

Friday, September 11, 2009

Why are you playing NOW?

I already wrote about "why do we play". The question of the title is not about your overall reason to play.

The question is about why do you play in this very moment?

I think asking this question frequently is the key to not spend unhealthy time in WoW and also to prevent spending time in a stupid way. Remember, the ape subroutines are in your brain too and if you don't actively battle them, you'll act according to them without even noticing.

When I'm raiding the answer is simple: for challenge, because it's highly entertaining to use my abilities at high load.

When I'm milling, crafting glyphs, answering is also simple. I'm making gold to support this blog what is a place for me to meet intelligent people (and trolls too, but such is life).

However when I play with an alt the answer is more difficult. Since they are on a different server, it cannot support neither my raiding, nor my blog. I noticed that I never play such alts alone, only with my girlfriend. I raid alone and run the glyph industry alone.

The last time when I played an alt alone was running AV for a blogpost. I have to admit that I run daily BG and WG sometimes has only social reasons: to play with my girlfriend. Since it's social (= empty, pointless, stupid), its not really fun for each of us. It's strange that she suggest to play together, but also evade it by "a minute, I must list this stuff on the AH", or "can you wait 10 mins, I'd like to teach this noob hunter to proper rotation".

I guess we wasted lot of time of our life with boring and not fulfilling activity because of the ape subroutines in our head. This must change. The activity must be fulfilling for itself, and not because of the people we do together.

We will find interesting projects to do together, or we won't play together anymore. No more pointless wandering in the world.

Have you felt that the game is "not fun", you are "burn out"? Then put a clock to your desk and ask yourself every 10 minutes: why am I doing this activity? If the answer is just "why not" or "I'm bored", or "I don't know", stop doing it! If you can't find an activity in the game that worth doing, log off!

While you can't tell the reason why you are doing it, I'm sure that some social nonsense is making you do it: helping friends, hanging out with friends or showing off to strangers. Just stop! It's your play time, don't make it a "time for terribly boring chores"!


Jason said...

Probably the oddest post I've ever seen you make.

You don't enjoy gaming with your GF? You don't enjoy playing new classes you don't have experience with?

What about creating content for this blog is so engrossing? Why play this game at all? If all that interests you is maintaining a blog and 'using abilities at high load' I'm sure you can find something more productive to spend your time on alltogether.

The fact that you pay $15/month and get nothing but a feeling of satisfaction (those 1s and 0s aren't yours) makes the activity empty, pointless, and stupid.

I enjoy playing the game. I enjoy leveling alts, making gold, doing activities with others in-game, and that's good enough for me.

Ramsey said...

Great post. Everyone's reasons for playing will be different, but I absolutely agree that this is something everyone should do. It seems obvious, but it really isn't. How many people are grinding Argent Tournament dailies that bore them to tears just because they're there?

Brian said...

Gevlon, I think you're going way too far the other way. Doing things that are BAD for yourself for purely social reasons is stupid, but there is value in being social simply for the sake of being social. It's not pointless or stupid, it fulfills a basic need that's part of being human. Call it an "ape subroutine" all you like, but raging against science doesn't make it any less true. You can't will away part of what makes you human any more than the M&S can will themselves into higher DPS.

What separates us as humans from our ape ancestors isn't that we can turn off our more primitive minds, it's that we aren't ruled by them. Even though I don't rely on social interaction to protect myself from predators or to hunt for food, it's still something I enjoy doing. And as long as I'm not letting my social desires negatively impact what's good for me...why fight it?

On some level you know this is true, that's why you play with people to achieve otherwise "pointless" things. For that matter, that's why you have a girlfriend, despite there being entirely no non-social reason to have a significant other.

If the logical part of your brain is telling you that you SHOULD hate something, yet you don't...isn't it entirely possible that your "logical" brain isn't much more helpful than the more subconscious parts of your mind?

In any case, I'm not sure I buy into the theory that there is a "wrong" way to enjoy playing a game. Obtaining ridiculous amounts of pretend money, far above the amount you could ever use, no doubt seems moronic to the average social player...just as playing to have fun with friends seems pointless to a goblin. Is it that one is right while the other is wrong? Or is it that as long as you're having fun, you're playing the game "right"?

Anonymous said...

"Since it's social (= empty, pointless, stupid"

I'm speechless. You play a "Massively Multiplayer" game but yet you seem to hate being with people. You need to stop quantifying hanging around with people and talking as "waste". Everything is in terms of the beholder.

Who has lived a better life? A middle class man with a happy social life and wonderful family or the billionaire who only has money and power at his disposal? When you realize that money (in this case gold) is just pixels you will begin to view the beauty of the "social" world.

Anonymous said...

I agree in that you should be asking yourself "is this game fun to me at this very moment"? If the answer is "no" - log off.

I play WAR, and every time i log on i do something which is entertaining to me - be it a guild SC premade, ally oRvR warband or running PvE dungeons (aka Tombs and ToTVL).
No way i'll be doing stuff just for "character progression" (aka farming random drop epix or such) if its not fun to me.

Thats basically why i shelved WoW fast (after ~2 months).
To be able to things that _could_ be fun to me (raiding, endgame PvP) i need to invest a HUGE amount of time "progressing" my character (leveling + farming heroics + grinding professions to 450 to make money etc...)
This is just not an option...

Pangoria Fallstar said...

Maybe you should have relations with your girlfriend instead of daily BG and WG?

Now that I'm done trolling, I play WoW to play alts, and it's what I think is fun.

Anonymous said...

First of all nice blog, and nice post.

I did find asking my self why do I play at fist play. Started because of friends, and played with them.
Now after allmost 4 years of playing, it's a bit boring. Saw all content, raided a lot etc.

I found a lot of diferent people playing it for their "achievement".
Some of them are, "to get battlemaster title (irl friend), to farm 1mil gold (one gold farmer), to be best geared on server, to play in nihilum now ensidia (friend of mine who eventualy did) etc.

In a matter of gold farming and so on, a know a lot of them who do it with a reason. To get game card via trading gold -> GC, or to sell it for real money. The majority of those people do it for those two reasons. Only fiew of them do it because they want to be rich in it.

Alltho it's MMO, it's not the same as RL, and because of it, it's good to log off some times and get socialized with your friends and so on :)

Anyway enough of me writting.

/bye from shkabo

Not a goblin but a gnome said...

How about "i play because i just like the process"? Without minding any goals. You can compare it with any other pleasure activity. And you wont stop doing it (or _wanting_ to) regardless of actual needs.

Sten Düring said...

First, answer: I'm not. I'm currently reading this blog, or, more exactly, I'm writing a comment.

Second answer: Your question conforms badly with your arguments. The latter concern why you play the game generally, not why you do (or by all means do not) this very moment.

Third answer: WHEN I play it, I do so for different reasons.
When hiking back my wow-gold above my comfort level, then I do so. I don't get involved in conversations and I most certainly don't bash mobs in an instance.
When bashing mobs in an instance (read tanking or healing) I do that. No conversation (tank hates when I talk instead of heal and raid hates when I talk instead of tank).
When I spend my time with idle chatting, well, I certainly don't bash mobs or play the AH. I'm not interested in creating negative WoW-gold, and running the AH while chatting is generally a bad idea.

See, another one-track mind.

Btw, I generally play this game for the same reason I spend my money on beer with my friends -- because I enjoy it. I'll do whatever I enjoy unless doing so removes my means for being able to do what I enjoy (no money, no fun).
Only the real-life M&S burns time on what is neither enjoyable nor productive -- everyone is entitled to defining what is enjoyable.

Astmathic said...

When I started to play the game it was to get some amusement on my free time.

I quickly set up 3 main goals and some other goals that's linked to the main ones.

1. Do every possible quest ingame. This was not really possible until the low level quest tracking and the achievement system. I think I've almost completed this one now by having done around 99% of the quests.

2. Get every possible Faction to maximum reputation. There is 1 Faction you can get exalted with, but require 1 month /played time from revered to 0/1000 exalted and then probably another month or 2 for the last 999 rep (Bloodsail Buccaneers). I do not count that as possible. Almost done with this goal.

3. Kill every boss ingame. I lack Algalon, Thunderaan and the special boss that spawns in UBRS for the last part of t0.5 questline. I do not count 10 and 25 as different here for me. This is a goal that's hard to beat since if I would go for it 100% I would give up on too much other stuff in life which would not cut it.

Everything I do ingame is a part of obtaining theese goals. This is why I play.

Nils said...

Those ape subroutines are all you got. Your desire to get rid of them is the consequence of one of those routines.

Wooly said...

About those ape-subroutines, these are all we follow anyway, whether you like it or not. You may not even notice it, but whatever you do can be explained by some basic subconscious need/instinct. And in case you think "challenge" isn't an ape-subroutine, then you're wrong.

Wow in itself can get boring pretty fast.. I've quit it a few times for a few month before, then for some silly reason I feel like playing again. I've stopped wondering why, I just start playing it again if I feel like it, like most people probably would. The only conclusions I can draw out of playing the game is that it's a waste of time anyway. But life in itself is a waste of time if you think about it, so fuck it, if you feel like playing, play it, don't question it too much. And when I realize I'm bored with it, like you are right now, I quit it that instant (left quite a few guilds wondering where I went before). I'm a bit at that point again too now, I don't play my main anymore (sorry guild), but I am leveling some alt, and I still like that for now.

But there's one thing I'm pretty sure of, if this game wasn't social, I wouldn't be playing it at all. Even though I'm quite a solo player by nature. If everything I would encounter in the game were npc's, even in battlegrounds and dungeons, I would drop the game in an instant no mater how lifelike they were.

P.S. And about doing stuff with girlfriends/wives.. Let Bill say some truths about that :)

Wooly said...

Hmm.. My comment looks silly now with the one from Nils above it.. Next time I'll read them before I open my ehm.. mouth ;)

Eaten by a Grue said...

Gevlon has a good point, insofar as it relates to controlling the time you spend on WoW. WoW is a type of game that lends itself to extended playing, because it has so much to do and it sort of like it's own little world where you can develop yourself.

The "why" check is a good way to keep tabs on yourself and constantly be aware that what you are doing is supposed to be entertainment, not a second life. That way you do not spend too much time on it.

But if someone's idea of fun is having alts and not raiding or AH gaming, that's fine too.

kyrilean said...

I have to admit this is one of the very few posts that I agree with you on. However, I believe your argument is flawed.

First, I generally agree with your argument of:

If the answer is just "why not" or "I'm bored", or "I don't know", stop doing it!

but I disagree with this part of your argument:

I'm sure that some social nonsense is making you do it: helping friends, hanging out with friends or showing off to strangers.

For some people helping friends and just hanging out online is fun. And your argument that this is a stupid reason to play is only valid based on your values and not others' values.

I know a lot of people in game that think your obsession with the AH is stupid. Why hit gold cap if you never spend it? The challenge? That's why I want to hit it, but to them it's pointless.

So although your argument that we shouldn't make playing a chore is valid, what you might think of as a chore may not be to others. For example, I undercut by 1c. I undercut and repost roughly 5x daily. To me it isn't a chore. It's relaxing because I need the break from leveling alts and raiding.

But in the essence of your argument, I absolutely agree that we shouldn't make playing a chore and those that do need to log out and take a break.

Tonus said...

This is a question to ask yourself when doing a particular leisure activity infringes on more important activities and/or goals. Instead of asking if you are maximizing your WOW time according to some arbitrary benchmark, ask yourself if your WOW time is spilling over and affecting things like sleep, work, personal relationships, personal responsibilities, etc.

Leisure time is just that. It doesn't really have to fulfill any other goal than to entertain you and allow you to unwind in some way (ie, relax or for some people, release aggression relatively safely). It's possible that for some people, structuring their leisure time around efficiency is best for them, but I suspect that for most people it would just be stressful.

Many creatures whose lives are governed by instinct still manage to find time for play and other social activities, even though those may drain critically important reserves of energy. Which is an indicator that sometimes, that ape-portion of our brains knows what's better for us than the conscious mind does.

Tone-the-bone said...

I guess I play in part because I'm broke and $15 per month is a pretty good deal for entertainment. I can't afford to go out and my GF doesn't mind too much that I play.

I enjoy the raids and the sense of accomplishment that comes when a small group of you tackle a new raid (why I am starting to love 10 mans more) or difficult boss (horde champions!!)

I like being really good at what I do, for once. In life I'm just a middle of the road attorney but on the game, I'm a dps powerhouse, #2 dps in my guild, and really "needed" for my guild's raids. I don't feel particularly necessary in my real life often as I do there. Sad, but true.

I also like raising alts. I play druid but since its all i've really played to any extent i started making alts to try out what the game had to offer. I like raising a toon to 80, running it through some raids and gearing them up. (my druid is boring sometimes since I need so few upgrades). Im working on my 4th 80 and slowly working on having at least one of every class 80, just to see what the end-game looks like from a new perspective.

To be honest, I wish WOW was a bit more like Star Wars Galaxies was when I first started there with the interesting profession-based system, player-made cities, etc, before they destroyed it. But, oh well... ce'st la vie.

Dàchéng said...

"I have to admit that I run daily BG and WG sometimes has only social reasons: to play with my girlfriend. Since it's social (= empty, pointless, stupid), its not really fun for each of us."

Social = empty, pointless, stupid?

Tell me, why do you have a girlfriend at all? Surely all your "interactions" with her are social? You surely don't mean to say that they are empty, pointless, stupid?

Or are you trying to imply that being social in-game is somehow empty, pointless and stupid, but in real life it isn't?

HardyoYo said...

I like the title of this post, and have it on a piece of paper stuck to my monitor. A fantastic way to phrase the idea of the spot check: "Why are you playing now?" is helpful not only with game time, but with any kind of computer time. Thank you.

Graylo said...


"Tell me, why do you have a girlfriend at all? Surely all your "interactions" with her are social? You surely don't mean to say that they are empty, pointless, stupid?"

I understand your point, but not all interactions with a girlfriend or wife are "social." If you want to take it to the extreme there are many non social reasons for having a wife or girlfriend. The most obvious reason is Children. In early farm culture, children were a source of cheap labor so more children meant a more productive farm. Since it was problematic to have children with out a wife you have a non social reason for having a wife. In fact I think it is a very goblinish solution.

Another reason is that there have been times when not having a significant other an hurt career. Executives were expected to have wives; therefore you need a wife to meet the social norms of others and to advance.

While you may not receive these benefits from a girlfriend, you could easily say that you are evaluating the girlfriend for the wife position.


I think it is very important for people to ask themselves why they are playing the game and why are they doing the things they are doing in game currently. However, I think you're imposing your own values on other people's play habits when you say:

"Have you felt that the game is "not fun", you are "burn out"? Then put a clock to your desk and ask yourself every 10 minutes: why am I doing this activity? If the answer is just "why not" or "I'm bored", or "I don't know", stop doing it! If you can't find an activity in the game that worth doing, log off!

While you can't tell the reason why you are doing it, I'm sure that some social nonsense is making you do it: helping friends, hanging out with friends or showing off to strangers. Just stop! It's your play time, don't make it a "time for terribly boring chores"!"

Assuming you don't have more pressing real life responsibilities there are only two questions you should ask yourself when determining if you should be playing or not.

1. Am I having fun? Am I currently maximizing my enjoyment of life?

If the answer to either of these questions is yes then I see know problem with continue to play. Just because you may not value helping friends or stroking your epeen in Ironforge doesn't mean someone else doesn't. Productivity does not equal happiness.

2. If the first questions are no, then you should ask yourself, Does my current activity enhance my future happiness in a way that is greater then my potential current happiness?

If the answer to this question is yes then I see no problem with continuing. For example, I hated the sons of Hodir rep grind, but at the time it was required to get the best shoulder enchant for me. While you can argue the value of that enchant in terms of DPS, it is much more difficult to argue the value of that enchant in terms of it being a signal of your dedication to a potential raiding guild. Most if not all good raiding guilds will not accept you if your reason for not having a shoulder enchant is that you didn't enjoy the rep grind. Therefore, it is required if you want to have fun with Hard modes.

Okrane S. said...

Social = pleasurable activities with in a group of real life close friends. Involves building up a relationship, finding common interests.

"Social" = the online illusion of having a personal connection to the avatars shown in game. Involves serving the interest of the group to get some kind of attention usually by doing moderately interesting activities.

Carl Lewis said...


Anonymous said...

"time for terribly boring chores".

I think any rational person would be forced to conclude that this is a excellent definition of life itself. In the totality of existence, this life is that time for doing terribly boring chores.

Bristal said...

Totally agree with Wooly. I play in general because video-game technology is intellectually stimulating to look at & interact with. But playing solo FPS games is lonely and desolate. Like visiting an uninhabited planet.

I play NOW because I want to get away from RL, and WoW is like visiting a planet full of interesting & amusing people to interact with or just observe, & tons of engaging & occasionally challenging things to do.

One thing about achievements & leveling is that it gives you the satisfaction of getting something DONE. That feeling is often hard to get IRL.

Anonymous said...

" I enjoy playing the game. I enjoy leveling alts, making gold, doing activities with others in-game, and that's good enough for me."

I think that was his point. If you get satisfaction from it, fine. But don't play "just because" and not know why.

Ayonel said...

I think this is relevant. Many, many people spend endless time on WoW just being idiots in trade. They can't possibly be grinding or raiding because they are typing constantly. Endless hours of peepee poopoo talk in trade.

I am quite keen to maximize my productivity in this game, which is incredibly frustrating quite often, as it is an incredible time sink, at least on my server, where finding groups can take forever.

I do my AH work, I do dailies like Argent Tourney because it is maximally productive(100+ gold 6 seals, and random drops in 15 minutes? Why not) and I run things.

But I do find myself asking why I am on, and don't always have a good answer. The alternative may be watching TV or surfing the web, and ex trade chat, WoW is more interesting, mostly.

I do not log on to this game for social reasons. If this game was a disconnected solo game, I might enjoy it more. To the extent that group play can enhance the gaming experience(raiding) I am all for it. However, as you often point out, more often than not, the people you encounter reduce, rather than enchance, the gameplay.

Nick S. said...

I've started streamlining my in-game time due to thoughts much like these... switching from a more time-intensive selling model on my scribe to a simpler, "bulkier" one, for example. I'm also no longer trying to gear up some of my toons, instead letting them sit while I pay full attention to only two.

Anonymous said...

Actually I don't play anymore. I started losing interest big time after my guild cleared Naxx thinking what's the point. PVP was sent to hell by DKs which was a classs Blizzard created so people with no skill can kill things. Wintergrasp was the best thing to come along with PVP and they couldn't maintain it.

Classic WoW, and even TBC in the beginning was a lot of fun. Loved to pay for the lore, but 95% of the content is irrelevant now and WoLK is pretty boring once you hit 80. Progression used to mean something, now it doesn't. I think however Blizzard might have finally figured this out as Cataclysm expansion sounds very promising. Might rejoin to play it.

Even though I don't play WoW now, I do like reading this blog. Some things never change.

Will said...

I started playing for the challenge.
I played far more than I should to avoid awkward uni assignments / hide from other things I should be thinking about - while telling myself I just liked the challenge.

I think this is a big part of what gevlon is hinting at - people who play all the time often do it to avoid facing up to what they know deep down they should be dealing with; To avoid stress that they need to face up to.

An aside in reply to Brian:
Yes, M&S can will themselves to do high dps - but it takes true willpower.

Yasmina said...

Hah, I remember when I first started reading the "I'm bored" whines in WoW chat. I took great pleasure in razzing the whiners to log off and go read a book. Of course, I've had to remind myself to unplug as well, rather than just staring at the MMO, waiting for the pellet that always used to drop.

Anonymous said...

protip: you don't need to hit enter twice after every sentence.

Pypsi said...

"The activity must be fulfilling for itself, and not because of the people we do together." Why bother living, man? This entire post seems tremendously pretentious.

surfmonk said...

"social nonsense...: helping friends, hanging out with friends"
huh? you think that's nonsense?