Certain phrases are so embedded into our culture that few can escape the vivid imagery that comes with hearing them. For some, it rings back to memories of yore -- station wagons and long dusty road trips for the family vacation. For others, it can be simply the walk to the ice cream shop with a toddler. For me? I actually envision gaming in Aion.
Gaming? Yup, that's right-- this iconic phrase emphasizes a specific mindset in our culture that permeates everything, including gaming: All that matters is the destination. There are plenty of examples of those who rush to endgame, plowing through and bypassing as much of the "unimportant" stuff as possible. For these folks, the game doesn't even start until max-level. However, there is a yin to that yang; there are also those who actually find the journey to be the experience worth having, folks who don't feel any need to race to endgame at break-neck speed and instead partake of the content along the way. Most gamers adopt one of these two philosophies, their real-life views and personalities often steering towards one side or the other.
How do these two philosophies manifest themselves and duke it out in Aion? Rush (or mosey, whatever your preference) past the break to see.
The journey vs. the destination
Two philosophies, two types of gamers. How are they distinguished in game? Let's define the latter group first. In a nutshell, gamers who focus on the destination are pretty much only interested in achieving that goal and do not consider the game to actually start until they reach it. In many cases, content before endgame is just considered a nuisance to be tolerated -- a necessary evil -- and escaped as fast as possible. Not really my preferred style, but there is some justification for this line of thinking.
Take, for example, open PvP: In order to survive out in the wilds of Atreia, you need to have sufficient gear and levels else you succumb repeatedly to those who have better stuff than you. If PvP is your focus, then of course you are going to want the best gear, and the best gear comes from getting to that magical level, and only after much grinding for gear. To enjoy PvP you need to be competitive; those without the gear and the skills will always be at a disadvantage in Aion, as game play is very gear-based.
Here is where I really part ways with this philosophy. See, for the most part, those who set their sights on the destination only are slaves to a common fallacy in thinking -- that happiness will come when they reach the destination. However, each time this destination is reached, happiness doesn't magically appear. They then find the accomplishment is not really the end and make a new goal and start plunging ahead towards that one (I have gold armor, but now I need eternal, etc.). Even if you are at your personal endgame, expansions often introduce even better shinies, tossing destination-focused folks back on that treadmill. It becomes a never ending cycle of "I'll be happy when..." when "when" is constantly redefined and therefore never comes.
Now I am not saying that you shouldn't set goals and aspire to reach them, working hard to fulfill your dreams. What I do have to wonder about is not enjoying life in the meantime. For example, I have a cleric friend who was running a certain instance day in and day out, hours each night. When I remarked that I couldn't possibly do that without hating it and wanting to drop kick the game out my second-story window, he replied back, "And you think I LIKE doing this? I hate it! But I have to." His focus was on the goal of getting something specific and by golly he was gonna grind right through the torture until he got it!
I will be honest -- to me, that just doesn't make sense. Yes, having a great weapon is a great goal, but at the cost of hating the game to the point you never want to log in again? What good is the ultimate weapon if you leave game and never use it? True to form, once that goal was reached, a new carrot was dangled and my friend set off again. Yet another friend didn't seem to feel he could really enjoy the game until he had top gear, but the grind towards that AP gear literally drove him out of game.
Honestly, I think too much emphasis on the destination is what burns people out and kills games. After all, why pay to be miserable? You can get that for free in real life! Moderation in all things is not just a spiffy catch phrase! Which brings us to...
Stopping to smell the roses
So now that we have looked at those who focus solely on the destination, what about those who instead enjoy the actual journey? Although seemingly the minority in games (or perhaps simply less vocal), those who focus more on the journey as opposed to the destination tend to be more relaxed, not let the little things aggravate them, and I dare say last longer in game. Sure, they may not be in the top gear or rank up there with the most uber players, but these folks tend to enjoy their time in game more. This group must be the developer's best friend because they actually savor the content at all levels of the game. Developers do, after all, put a lot of time into those levels before endgame!
Despite what some of you may be thinking, to enjoy the journey along the way does not mean abandoning the idea of making it to endgame altogether, nor is it just for those crazy roleplayers who sit about in taverns chatting (mind you, that stereotype is a fallacy as well -- much of the best roleplay is out in the fields of battle!). On the contrary, some who enjoy the journey along the way also level quickly, they just have fun while doing it and know they will get there when they get there. This is where I fit in -- just play with friends and have fun. Make your goals, but never let the attaining of the goals overshadow why you are in game: To enjoy yourself. OK, and maybe to kick some enemy tail feathers!
So which is more important to you -- getting to where you are going or the getting part of it? Is reaching the goal more important, enjoying the process of working towards it, or maybe a mixture of both? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Soaring through the Aionosphere, MJ Guthrie touches down weekly to bring you Wings Over Atreia. Featuring tips, guides, and general snippets of life in Aion, the column is better than Tutty-on-a-stick, ackackackackackack! Have a suggestion to share? No need to bribe a Shugo -- just send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.