25 Mar 2010

Battling the Burnout

Last night’s raiding was fantastic. We had a bit of silliness and fun, but we cleared up to (and including) Festergut, leaving the rest of the week clear for progression work. I also picked up Abracadaver, with the additional hit and haste making that transition to a Fire spec more possible if the numbers stack up. I’m not sure if the guild will go for it though – they’re already hooked on the Arcane Empowerment change.

My raiding schedule is pretty light though – I might spend two or three nights a week in a raid. I’m also pretty much exclusive to 10-man stuff – while I might pick up a 25-man VoA or ICC rep run, it’s not essential to me. It means my time is free to do other things like work on alts, roleplay, work on crafting or whatever else I fancy. I like to mix up my game like this – it means I’ve always got stuff to do.

It’s strange in a way. Back when I was hardcore I used to log in, raid, log off. I’d then repeat this cycle six or seven times a week with raiding being the only thing I’d play for. I had other people farming materials for flasks or other buffs for me. For those five hours a night, I’d focus on the screen and nothing else. Dinner would go cold on the plate next to me. The only thing that mattered was the next server first, the next boss, the next raid.

In the end, I burnt out. Raiding was impacting every aspect of my life. I would go to sleep at 2am, only to get up again at 6am and shuffle to work for nine hours. I’d snatch tokens of sleep on the train to work, running on coffee day and night. In all, it wasn’t a great way to live and I called time on it. I ended up quitting completely for a while and going cold turkey. I think Protflashes brings out a great example in this post. It’s well worth reading because it really shows what burnout feels like – you want to changeĀ  what you’re doing, but you feel you can’t because others are relying on you. There’s this sense of moral obligation that hangs there.

Anyhow, after a while I realised what I liked about the game – what kept me playing. I’ve already touched on the people side in previous posts – the strong team spirit we had as a raidguild was something that spurred me on. But more than that, I also realised that there’s about five or six different games that I play within Warcraft. Each of these smaller games like questing, gathering and crafting, duelling or PvP, dungeoneering etc. all work together to make this overall meta-game. It’s one of the things missed by other MMOs that I’ve played, which is why people tend to play them for a short time after release but then end up cancelling once they’ve finished with the few micro-games they like.

Larisa’s got a further point about it in her post about making our own Cataclysm. She suggests trying something completely new, like trying out PvP or experimenting with roleplay. It’s solid advice because it encourages mixing things up. Similar recommendations came back on Twitter, with taking a break, playing a different game, switching focus to a different game aspect or even just rerolling a new character.

The thing that gnaws away for me is inevitability, like we’re destined to go through this cycle of play-burnout-break-play. And even though we can mix things up by introducing new elements to our game, I’m not sure if it’ll help eliminate burnout completely – it feels like it’ll just extend that time between trying something new and growing weary of it. Then again, I can’t exatly talk from experience – I don’t know of anyone that’s avoided burnout or how they managed to do it.

I’m also beginning to feel that although we each have a personal responsibility for keeping our game fresh, there’s some responsibility to the guild or raidgroup to help keep their players interested in logging in. After all, we want people to feel motivated and wanting to play, not that they feel obliged to out of some kind of moral responsibility. How that should work, I’m not so sure. It’s like I can feel the shape of it, but not the detail. Maybe I’m too distant from guild leadership these days.

I hate leaving on a low note, but it’s something I see happening all around me and I can’t help but think that there’s something broken about it. If we can understand how to avoid burnout it’ll mean we feel happier about playing the games we love. If we don’t, I can’t help but think that this cycle is going to continue. Not just for Warcraft, but for every future MMO we choose to play.

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8 Responses to Battling the Burnout

  1. Tarinae says:

    My boyfriend is on burnouts edge. He is taking a break and only succumbing to play when I beg and bat my flattering eyes in his general direction.

    I, to combat the burnout, am trying new and entertaining things when playing normally. I intend to write a post about it (similar to this) but I will give you the sneak peak hehe :) I’ve quested and healed heroics topless, healed and drew a lot of attention by using my fishing pole (everyone in the party joined in except the tank), etc. With these types of things, I never know if my small dip in mana or spell power or haste, etc will negatively effect me so I am not just powering through something…I am attentive, alert, and being challenged at times. :)

  2. Vrykerion says:

    Achievement Hunting is a good way to prevent burnout, namely because of all the choices. Tired of Dungeons? Do some PvP. Don’t wanna PvP? How about farming some Rep? Want something more engaging? Finish up that Loremaster. There’s so many different directions to explore, you never really run into a repetitive burnout on the game.

  3. Pindle says:

    I had the same burnout phase during Naxx25 and before that during TBC. Pushing for the firsts, grinding heroics before and after raids to try get that last piece of gear. Grinding dailies and farming mats for resistance pieces. Eventually it led to a breaking point and I quit for 3 months. I came back, rebuilt the guild and tried to keep it casual, 2 10mans a week and no more. Now slowly the guild is taking its own direction and I’m back to 4-5 raids a week, 2 10’s, 1 25 and pugs for badges in off days. I try distance myself from it when I can, leveling a RP character, listening to ebooks and writing my novel. I distract myself from the politics and the eye-strain that is WoW.

  4. Gazimoff says:

    @Tarinae

    I think your approach is the best. But do you think it removes burnout completely or just delays it?

    @Vrykerion

    Yep, there’s certainly a lot of options available. I think it’s one of the reasons WoW is so successful where others have fallen a bit flat.

    @Pindle

    I agree, everything in moderation. Nowadays I catch up on podcasts during my commute and play other little games on my iPhone. I think as long as there’s a way to mix things up, it’s possible to hold off burnout.

  5. Dorathie says:

    Holding off burnout just prolongs the agony. When I feel like I’m approaching burnout, I just stop playing. I raid when I feel like it, after being invited (I turn it down more often than not). I grind when I feel like it, run randoms when I feel like it, PvP when I feel like it. Get the picture? My main has the Loremaster title, I’m happy with that. There was a point when I would log on every night for two weeks straight, stare at the screen, and just log off due to disinterest. I have 22 toons across 6 servers and I have seen everything Alliance-side. So I rolled a Horde Shammy, played a week straight, got her to past 30, then quit playing her. Most of the burnout I see is with raiders. And I used to be in a progression raid guild. Casual raid guilds are much more fun, I’m not admonished if I’m not on my main for two or three weeks. Bottom line is, you just can’t keep a game fresh for you if you’ve been playing it for 4-plus years, no matter what content they add. It’s still the same game. Will I play tonight? I’m debating it. But I could also finish that 3-D render I started last week, or work on my clay project, play a little Rock Band, the list goes on. You just have to keep it fresh. If you’re not compelled to play WoW, don’t do it.

  6. Velouirah says:

    Hello!!! (I am always super excited when I see someone from SWC) I think that towards the end of expansions it gets the same, even with the Ruby Sanctum rapidly moving towards us, it is still another Dragon to kill under the temple. My guild have had a surge of new recruits and some old members have came back, for us it is exciting running the same content with new people as they bring different styles of play and makes it a bit more challenging or just training the new guys up. For example our old MT went off to some new server for 6 months, killed the lich king in some hardcore raiding guild and has come back this week as he got the burnout. On this new server they clearly did ICC completely differently to how I have seen SWC guilds and PuGs do it, so when he starting pull groups of mobs in new places or aggroing more than we would normally take on, it really spiced things up just doing things in a completely different way.

    Variety is the spice of life this is all I can suggest.

  7. wren says:

    I am currently in a burn out stage myself. I’ve only run 1 instance in the last week and I wasn’t even paying attention during the run. I plan to spend this weekend cleaning and working in my garden. Usually when I get burn out I just make a new toon or have my mage stand around fishing for 3 days. Watching the XP bar shoot up so quickly on a lowbie toon usually helps. This time seems different though. Hopefully I can work my way out of this funk but right now I’m not even looking forward to Cataclysm. But right now I’m more excited by the idea of working on my latest steampunk costume masterpiece than running Naxx.