Of fishing and of time spent doing nothing

  • When I was a kid, I used to go fishing a lot.  First with my dad... and then when my parents got divorced with my uncle... and then again, by my "tween" years, with my dad.  For those uninitiated with the joys of fishing, it's most common form can be generally described as hours upon hours of sitting, with brief moments of catching SOMETIMES mixed in.  Sometimes, all you get to do is sit...  for hours... waiting...


    On the surface, that doesn't sound very much like fun, does it?  But OH the joy when you get a hit.   The anticipation starts to grow as you hope to hook a fish - and it blossoms into a full bloom of enthusiasm when you do - AND - you realize by the degree of pull on the pole that you probably have a big fish on the line... and all the while you are fighting the fish - anticipation grows until you actually get to see the fish - actually net the fish - actually have caught the fish.


    I remember time I spent with my uncle - who died far too soon and far too tragically when his car ran under a semi in a snow storm on an icy road... and I remember time I spent with my dad - who no longer fishes (nor do I). 


    Those moments can be pure magic.  They WERE pure magic.  And they are among my life's fondest memories.


    And you know what?  When most people tell fishing stories - they don't say "well, I sat for hours upon hours upon hours doing nothing."  No, what they do is tell you about the fish they caught, or, sometimes more commonly, about the house sized monster that got away... and they remember those times not as hours spent doing nothing, but as hours spent with their uncles, or their dads.


    Why am I telling this story?  Well, over the past decade or so, MMO's have transitioned from true virtual world - where glorious moments were there for the finding... but mixed in with the need to be patient - to deal with common every day hurdles like monotony - and - yes - sometimes a little boredom... into not much more than persistent arcade games combined with grindy time wasters.


    For much of today's MMO player base - you have to be doing something constantly - or it isn't considered fun.  That means - for much of the player base - if you aren't mashing keys, the game is boring.  And developers have sought to provide more, and more, and more of that.


    But you know what?  I don't want that.  Because mashing keys might be fun sometimes - but it stops being fun all the time.  AND because those moments of ages past in MMO's where you aren't mashing buttons at 100 miles an hour ended up becoming filled with what were for me some of the most enjoyable moments I ever spent in EQ. 


    Because you see - those moments spent sitting and waiting for a boat, or sitting and waiting for my cleric friend to med, or waiting for a particularly long pull... I filled those moments talking to other people (via the chat window!) about the game - and - in some small degree of cases for many players (if the "my EQ memories" stuff is any form of proof) - about more than the game.  We made friends in those moments.  Not MMO friends - but REAL friends. 


    To this day, there is still a group of 10 people or so, who I haven't gamed with since EQ to any meaningful extent - who I consider a friend.  We chat on facebook.  We know about each other's kids.  We console each other when we endure life's less fun moments like deaths in the family... We even make sure we visit each other if we happen to be visiting each other's general area.  I live in NY.  I have visited friends in Florida, I've had friends from Delaware visit me, etc...


    I am not saying that MMO's need MASSIVE down time.  I am saying that meeting the challenge of slowing yourself down - just for a couple hours at a time when you play - of being patient with other people - of enjoying their company while you play... Well, having that to some degree within an MMO, to me, is so much better than what has happened to MMO communities that have gone in the opposite direction - that have filled every moment with mashing a key better than the next guy.


    So- Brad... Pantheon devs... force me to be a little patient.  Consume a little bit of my time with nothing.  I will fill it.  I will chat with people I've never met.  I will make friends I never thought I'd have... and I will ultimately enjoy that experience FAR more, and for FAR longer, than any button mashing game could ever have me do.