Chasing the dragon is an idiom coined back in the opium den days. In an ironic fashion, it’s completely applicable to today’s MMOG players. Not only because we’re constantly looking for that initial high, the sense of euphoria and immersion in a foreign world that constantly evades veteran players after their first love, but because so often, these players are chasing actual (digital) dragons.
Like many readers, my dragon moment came from the den of Azeroth. My MMOG career had spanned numerous titles up until 2004, but nothing so engrossed me as WoW. Thanks to its combination of a much-loved universe, superb endgame and a horde of IRL and online friends joining me, WoW took me to a new level of gaming, min-maxing. This mentality stuck with me for years. This mentality ruined other games for me, and thus, few of them stuck. I no longer played to simply have fun, to be entertained. I had to be perfect, the best, the most informed. I became the “WoW tourist,” dreaded by other companies for being a vapor subscriber.
Those verbs are in the past tense for a reason, it’s no longer the case. I’m not sure what changed, or how I overcame this min-maxing mentality. Maturity, real-life catching up, time, game design, deep introspection, take a guess, it probably played a part. The bottom line is that it’s just gone and I’m enjoying my digital delights with a renewed passion.
I play Rift completely ignorant of what the optimum build for my cleric is (the title’s Soul System makes that easy). I put on my horse blinders and do any activity that suits my mood; quest, dungeon, PvP, rifts. I roam the lands searching out interesting quests, scavenging for long lost artifacts, not optimizing my XP per hour. I’m playing the game instead of gaming the system. Enjoying the landscapes, the populace, quests and unique mechanic.
The dragon finally feels within my grasp.