“One day I just Stopped Playing” – What makes this phenomenon happen?

We’ve all been there before, one week you’re spending 8 hours a day grinding for gear in your favorite MMO or spending what seems to be an eternity climbing the ladder in any competitive game and then the next week; nothing, complete cold turkey.

This happened to me recently in a binge play of Path of Exile, the addictive Diablo 2 style dungeon crawler from Grinding Gear Games, I spent probably close to 6 hours a day of my leisure time in the game for close to a month and then just… stopped playing completely. It wasn’t like I accomplished a goal that I’d been working toward for a long time or that the game wasn’t fun anymore, I just stopped, not for any particular reason, just I didn’t feel like playing it anymore. Come to think of it this has probably happened many many more times than I would like to admit, not even just on multiplayer or competitive games but on RPG and single player story based games too. Games that I was incredibly invested into and then just.. nothing.

So why does this happen? That’s what I tried to think about today and wanted to talk about some of the effects in terms of the game development for this phenomenon.

My initial thought was that it is easy to start a task (I know this to be true for myself), but the longer it gets dragged out the more “fatigued” you get when working on it. When you start to solve a problem or open up a new project everything is fresh and unexplored, a challenge waiting to be conquered. However the longer it goes on and the less progress that is made on it, the more the project becomes stagnant, becoming less and less enticing to work on, eventually and inevitably leading to an endless cycle of starting projects and then abandoning them halfway to work on newer and more exciting projects.

This was my theory anyways for why it’s so easy (for me at least) to start new games instead of finish games that I’ve already started (and stopped) playing.

So what does this mean for the game development? Well… not much I don’t think, most games are so well optimized in terms of play and engagement that this “stagnant” phase of play doesn’t happen too often nowadays, there’s always something exciting to do or a new zone to explore. Besides, most people who get to this stage of a game aren’t usually the ones asking for a refund, and are probably long past the stage of being able to get a refund.

To sum up my thoughts, the lack of a new challenge to solve or content to explore is probably the biggest cause of this phenomenon, which would explain why MMOs with incredibly drawn out end-game content and competitive games are the ones usually hit hardest by this phenomenon when losing player bases, ruling out unpredictable variables like having your PC die and then never re-downloading the games that you were previously playing.

Anyhow, I hope everyone goes back and plays some unfinished games (here’s looking at you Haydee). Thanks for reading as always!

-kelvin

 

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