Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Problem With Being An ADD Gamer Is...

...that sometimes interest in something you were very into doing just moments previously vanishes without a trace from your radar as something else draws your attention. I wrote the post below this February with all intentions of beginning to post regularly, but well...I got distracted. It happens.

One of the things that drew my attention for a lot of that time was a new MMO, The Secret World. I do read a lot of gaming news on the web, and I'd heard of this game, but hadn't really given it all that much attention until I saw a promotion on one of the major gaming news and review sites giving away beta keys for the game. The concept of the game looked interesting at first glace, so I grabbed one and decided to take a look. What happened next was...interesting.

Once I had The Secret World installed and my beta account established, I logged in and created my character. The game is set in the modern world and so the style choices your character has open to her reflect that. It was while creating my character that was when I first sensed that this was not going to be like any MMO experience I'd ever had before.

I'm one of those people for whom character creation is very important. I like to put myself into the games I play as much as possible. When there's a choice, I always play the female character. When there's choices beyond simply gender, she's going to be a green-eyed redhead with a hairstyle similar to mine (or at least, the way I'd like it to look). Maybe it's the transsexual thing, but any character that's going to represent me to others is going to be as much in line with the way I see myself as I can make her.

While the character creation process in The Secret World comes up a bit short in a few areas, one way in which it excels is in allowing a player to style their character according to their own personal sense of style in a way that games set in the past or future generally don't. In The Secret World, I was able to create a character who may not be my physical twin but shares my sense of style enough to feel like me...well, me but better looking and possessing bizarre metaphysical superpowers she gained as the result of swallowing a magic bee, but yeah, she feels like me.

So, after a long period of tweaking I had a character I was happy with, as close to my ideal look as I was able to get with the creation options available during beta. Good enough that if I actually enjoyed myself with this game I'd be comfortable looking at her for hours on end.

Watching the opening sequence for my Illuminati character, I saw my suspicions confirmed. The graphics were great, the voice acting was excellent. There was a real story here, one that would apparently unfold as I got deeper into the game. It wasn't long before I was fully hooked.

I preordered and got some nice perks as a result, but they didn't do very much once I progressed out of the earliest parts of the game. I got a three-month subscription at launch but I also knew that I probably wasn't going to be able to afford to renew it, at least not right away.

And so I played for several weeks, making my way through Kingsmouth, The Savage Coast, Egypt, and Transylvania. When time on my subscription started getting short, though, I started looking for another game to replace this one and started getting involved again with Aion, which had gone free-to-play earlier in the year. I'd left Aion for TSW and now I did the reverse, a few weeks before my subscription actually ran out and I'd have no choice but to stop playing anyway.

And then, a month later, Hanukkah came.

One of the things I got this year was a 2 terabyte hard drive to replace the old 250 gig drive that took a crap on me earlier this year. Moments after I hooked up this new drive I got a promotional email informing me that The Secret World no longer requires a subscription to play. Hmm...no subscription, huh? Sounds like perhaps a fresh Secret World install is the perfect way to christen my new drive.

I hop over to the official TSW website and log into my account to see that yes, it's all still there, all my perks, my character, my name reservation, everything. Well, ok then. I start the download and go do other things for a while.

A few hours later, I log into The Secret World for the first time in about six or seven weeks and find myself exactly where I was, stuck at a spot in one of the Carpathian Fangs missions that was particularly tough, if not impossible, to defeat as a solo player at my level. Knowing that there was a significant amount of new content that had been released during my absence, I decided to check out some of that and in the process build up my powers and skills some more before coming back to this mission. Once again, I'd started playing The Secret World and once again I was hooked. Now that I know there's no subscription to worry about covering to prevent my losing access I'm much more comfortable getting fully involved with the game.

Now here's the kicker: I had such a good time playing The Secret World when I returned to the game that I invested some of my holiday cash in a 6-month subscription. The truth is that the perks are nice but I could get by without those. I'm really doing it because I want to support this game and its continued existence.

When I was a lot younger, I was a punk rocker. I didn't play but I went to the shows just about every weekend in New York City in the late 70's and early 80's. One of the ways you showed support for your favorite bands in those days was by buying the band's music at their shows so that all the money went directly to the band, without chunks taken out by the distributors and the record stores. Having come from that experience, I feel strongly that people should actively support what they like and vote with their wallets and purses.

When I returned to The Secret World, the first thing I realized was how much I'd missed it. One of the most curious effects of ADD is it enables me to make a pretty clean break with one interest and move on to another rather quickly. Once I've got it worked out in my head that there's an end, a finale to something, like a subscription I know I'm not going to be able to renew, my mind is immediately moving on to what might be fun and interesting to fill all those soon-to-be-empty gaming hours. If I get involved with something else during that time, as I did when I decided to re-download Aion, my attentions then immediately swivel to fully focus in that direction.

Here's the thing about The Secret World: It's a great game. Period. Full stop. If you're the right kind of MMO player, it'll keep you engaged and entertained for more hours that you can probably imagine right now. But here's another thing about The Secret World: It's the world you know, with a lot of influence drawn from the classic stories, myths, and legends we've all heard before. It's not taking place on two halves of a shattered planet in some far-off part of the universe or in some mythical medieval fantasy kingdom, the action is taking place right at home, on modern day Earth. If you're of a mind to, you can put yourself into this game like almost no other.

For me, though, another part of the fun is watching TSW develop and evolve over time. I'm glad they've dropped the subscription because now I know I'll be there to watch it happen. The new model gives me the flexibility to pay for premium perks when I can afford to and to continue playing without them when I can't. That allows me to get more deeply involved with TSW than I normally would with any game I'm not certain of my ongoing interest level in.

As a general rule (which I broke in the case of TSW because the concept of the game interested me enough to do so), I don't get involved with subscription MMOs anymore. I played Eve-Online for a few years and that was fun, but the reality was that when the US economy and jobs started tanking so did my prospects of staying gainfully employed. As tough as it is for the average American to find a job these days, when you're a transsexual woman you can generally multiply that by ten.

While at 50 I'm probably older than the median age for MMO gamers and probably for gamers in general,  I'm also a transsexual woman and so despite my age and experience it's as tough for me to find work as someone half my age...hell, my eighteen-year-old little sister has a job right now but I don't.

Not having a job means having a lot of free time. I tend to spend a good portion of that time gaming. If I let myself get deeply involved with a certain game, I'll find myself playing it for hours a day until I finally reach a point where either by intention or circumstance I don't log in for a couple of days or even longer.

I do this a lot. Right now I have no less than 17 different games installed on my computer so it's not like I'm ever at a loss for an alternative. Some like The Secret World and Aion I play often, others like most of the several betas I'm in it's a now and then affair, while still others like The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man I almost never play anymore.

In terms of my interest level in The Secret World, all of this proved to be some sort of perfect storm that drove me unerringly back into the game the moment it become possible for me to do so.When I manage to maintain an interest level in anything, a game or anything else for that matter, for as long as I have with The Secret World, when I'm forced to leave the game essentially for financial reasons and then return with the same interest level I had when I left, I know it's a keeper.

The funny part is thinking it over now I don't think I'd probably have returned to The Secret World without the incentive of no subscription, even though I ended up buying a 6-month membership anyway. TSW going buy-to-play got my attention, got me to log in and fall in love with the game all over again, and in doing so Funcom brought a lapsed customer back into the fold.

Alright, I think that's enough for now. Maybe in my next post (which will not involve another 11-month wait) I'll talk about The Secret World...you know, the actual game.