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Don’t Burnout! Diversify!

March 19, 2013


Burnout in MMOs is not only common, it is expected. No one picks up an MMO to play forever, and we all expect that someday, we will move on to something different. Today I want to look at some of the things that cause burnout in games, my experience with burnout, and the ways you can address burnout in your own life.

Causes of Burnout

Most of the time, people cannot point to the correct thing that really made them get tired of a game. Sure, they might say “it was the stuns” or “I hated my character’s stupid face,” but in general, it is really the culmination of lots of tiny cuts that make a wound, and the straw that breaks the camel’s back gets the blame. Here are some of the main reasons I can see why people might get tired of their game.

Holding Pattern

That time right before a highly-anticipated patch or expansion is very difficult to make it through. You want to progress your character, but you know that a level-cap increase will reset your gear progress, and if you have seen new and future systems, the current ones may pale in comparison. The sad thing is, burning out on a game because of this can actually make you not want to play that new patch or expansion, which means all of that anticipation is wasted.


MMOs that are particularly grindy are easy to burn out on. This can also refer to the feeling that you get when that armor piece just won’t drop for you in that raid you have done dozens of times, or the fact that the gear gap in PvP seems insurmountable. Time is valuable to a lot of today’s gamers (myself included), and putting energy into fruitless labor can seem wasted and frustrating. I remember writing a post about grinding some deeds in LOTRO, and it made me think about how often we just kill things to kill things. It isn’t often.


There is nothing worse than losing a game by no fault of your own. Whether this is a particularly painful bug on a boss in a raid, or an exploit that enemy players use on you in PvP, a bug can ruin your experience and make you sick of banging your head on the wall in angst about something over which you have no control.


This is basically at the heart of all the above things. When you are frustrated by your game, it becomes less fun and more work. We play games to have fun and forget about the cares of the day. If a game isn’t doing that, you’re doing it wrong!

My Burnout Experience

So have I suffered burnout? Absolutely! I have suffered it many times with many games! Here are some of the ways I have burned out, i.e. my personal gaming story.

Lord of the Rings Online

When I first started playing Lord of the Rings Online, I had never played an MMO in a dedicated way before. I had played countless single-player games, which end at a certain point. I had played World of Warcraft early when it first launched before Burning Crusade came out, but I had only played for about 20 levels. I spent more time creating my heroes in City of Heroes than I actually did playing. LOTRO was the first that I leveled to level-cap in, and my first experience raiding, PvPing, and crafting. I played for two years, from fall 2009 to December 2011. I saw three expansions, if you want to count the free-to-play transition as an expansion.

Over the course of my time, I went from noob to raid-leader. I had five level-capped characters before the level-cap increase that came with the Rise of Isengard expansion in September 2011. Burnout was already evident in my playstyle when RoI came out and I only took two characters through the expansion to level 75. My hunter ceased to become my main at that point, and I fell in love with the captain.

When I reached the level cap, there was only one progression path. There were only a handful of instances that dropped the currency that was needed to buy the raid gear. Once the raid gear had been acquired, there was only one raid, which was the only new instance in the entire expansion. Draigoch, the great dragon. I ran a few times with the kinship under their leadership, and then I suddenly found myself leading one of the the tier 2 hard mode raids that we had going. It was a difficult instance, with a lot of running through the same tunnels, beating on the dragon for 45 minutes to an hour and thirty minutes, and it required a ton of coordination to pull off hard mode, which was achieved through 12 distinct Fellowship Maneuvers.

The big problem, aside from the difficulty of the raid, was that the dragon would bug out at extremely low health values, forcing a restart of the entire thing. No matter how awesome my team was, or how good my leadership was, the bugs kept us from completing hard mode. This went on for about a month. After that period of time, I was through. I had had it. Turbine had only released one instance and it was bugged so badly that it couldn’t be completed.

This crisis corresponded to the launch of another game, Star Wars: The Old Republic. I completely left LOTRO, canceled my subscription, and joined on with SWTOR.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

When I first started playing SWTOR, everything was fresh and interesting. I enjoyed the stories, leveled up several characters to level cap, and PvP’d a TON! I was basically always PvPing. I loved it. I really got into theorycrafting, far more than I did in LOTRO, and I started writing guides on the classes for this site. I also picked up writing jobs at TORWars.com, when they asked me to write their smuggler column, and at Corellian Run Radio, where I wrote about PvP. I enjoyed writing about the game, and it honestly probably gave me more time in them before I burned out, because I started thinking about them differently.

There came a time though, as evidenced by my angry post on the Chevin event (where I used a SNL-based “REALLY?!?” theme), when I could not play any more. Too many things piled up, so I looked around for other diversions. I didn’t cancel my subscription, but I had burned out. A month went by where I didn’t play more than probably an hour a week, tops. I moved my time and attention over to Star Trek Online for a bit.

Star Trek Online

When I started playing STO, it was basically because Star Trek: The Next Generation was on Netflix instant-watch, and I had always wanted to try STO. It had gone free-to-play earlier that year, which is why I felt I could keep my sub with SWTOR. I thoroughly enjoyed the story, the space combat, even the Star Wars: Battlefront-style ground combat. I leveled my Tactical captain all the way up to the level cap. After PvPing and getting stomped by people in better gear, I focused more on getting that gear. I did so many missions simply for the chance to get the gear, grinded out the daily quests, contributed a lot to my Fleet’s Starbase (which was actually really fun), and was actually promoted to the second highest officer status before I quit. I quickly learned about all the combat styles, the weapons, the damage types, the ship types, and I instructed lower-level players on what to do.

What is weird is I did this all in about two months, the second of which wound down as my playtime of SWTOR increased, and I started getting tired of the constant grind and the relative powerlessness I felt compared to people who purchased ships in the cash shop. I migrated once again to another game.

Guild Wars 2

When I tried this, my coworkers were playing it too, so I was really just trying to get to play with them. I mostly PvP’d with my level 3 Ranger, since you can do that. I got the hang of the combat style and actually started to do well. I switched it up and tried a Warrior. I accidentally did too many quests and was hooked for a bit on the PvE, but it petered out about 19 levels later when I realized that most of the PvE content was exploration-based, and the dungeons would not have the Trinity of Tank/DPS/Healer, so I decided to go ahead and stop playing for a while.

SWTOR again

Now I am back with SWTOR. I have stopped writing for TORWars, though I am free to write a piece there if I like, and I am the new cohost of Corellian Run Radio’s podcast, which I greatly enjoy. I stopped writing about PvP on CRR, not because I got tired of it, but because I couldn’t think of anything else to do, and my writing time comes in spurts. I maintain that column and will add to it in the expansion probably.

While waiting for the expansion, something broke in my brain, and I realized that I didn’t need to grind out any more gear. This realization made me focus on horizontal progression, filling out my roster of alts, and PvPing for the fun of it now that I sit in the best gear possible for my time spent.

With this, I started feeling the pull to Rohan in LOTRO, so I stopped in there to level my captain (see, only one character this time). I really, truly enjoyed mounted combat, so much that I got the rare feeling that I wanted to go kill enemies just because it was fun to do that, which as I mentioned earlier, is quite rare.

I am more or less 50% in SWTOR, 50% in LOTRO at the moment, which makes complete sense as those are the two games I will always return to.

Ways to Cope With Burnout

So you are playing  a game and you are feeling like you might burnout. What do you do?

Try a new aspect of the game

If you mostly PvP, go try a raid or operation. If you do mostly dungeons, try space missions or crafting with alts. Try playing the auction house. Basically, mix up your playtime with something that you don’t normally do.

Be creative and come up with a new way to approach the game

This is more of a meta-type idea. Don’t just play the game’s systems, come up with ways to think about the game. I have seen three really good examples of this.

The first one was a motorcycle-gang guild on SWTOR, called Moe’s Swoop Garage. This is a guild that has a gang-like command structure that uses a faux swoop repair shop as a front for their dastardly deeds. It is a really cool piece of RP that inspires some interesting ideas.

The second one was an all-Trooper guild on SWTOR that ran Operations purely with Troopers since they could be tanks (Vanguards), healers (Commandos), and DPS (both). This, and other challenges like it, are cool because they make you better at your class while giving you a refreshing look at what you do. I have also seen guilds that try to three-man Operations.

The last example is a kinship in LOTRO that uses the XP disabler that is available in the Store to stay at level 50, which was the original level cap for LOTRO. They run the original endgame instances on-level where they are still relevant, which is just awesome in my opinion. It is almost like they rolled back the servers to 2007.

Play an alt

Nothing makes the game feel new like literally starting over! I personally do this anyway, since I like to PvP. It gives me full knowledge on how other classes work, so I know how to defeat them better.

Try a different game

Sometimes, like I was, you will just be too tired of a particular game to continue playing it. When this time comes, look around at the plethora of free-to-play titles and try one of them out. Maybe you find a new favorite, or maybe you just return to the old game with a pair of fresh eyes.

Try a different type of game

You might get burned out on not only your game, but MMOs in general, especially if you are a hard-core raider. This type of burnout will not be addressed by switching MMOs. You might consider switching game genres, perhaps to a single-player RPG like Skyrim or Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Maybe a shooter is more what you need. Perhaps a complete change of pace, like the Portal series is needed. Look for sales on Origin and Steam while you play MMOs. I got Portal completely free on Steam during a special sale. I was able to play it when I needed a break from MMOs.

Walk away for a while

Finally, sometimes you just need a break from gaming altogether. A musical instrument, art, catching up on reading, and other forms of stress relief can be done instead. This can really renew your outlook on games in general.

What are ways you’ve burned out or handled burnout? Let me know in the comments below!

  1. Hank
    March 20, 2013 at 8:20 am

    Great Article! I had a similar experience with MMO’s over the years. I raided WoW for 5 years before going to SWTOR and trying LOTRO along the way. You have some great tips there about managing burn (feeling it a little bit myself right now). Time for me to step away for some other hobbies for a little bit…

  1. March 21, 2013 at 9:38 am
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