Every now and then, everyone needs to take a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life to relax and unwind. The outside world can be loud, and the stresses of work and home life can add up quickly, so it helps to be able to switch off for a while. Some of us find relaxation in sitting down in front of the TV, others in zoning out to their favourite music
, and an increasing number of people now wind down with computer games
. I've personally found MMOs to be incredibly effective refuges from stress and anxiety, but until now I've never really thought about why that might be.
Any game can provide a few hours of escape from the daily grind, but there's something special about MMOs that seems to make them more comforting places to be. Certainly MMOs are manufactured to give a sense of solid progress as you play, a fairness that the unpredictability of real life often can't deliver, but there has to be more to it. Do the music and ambient sounds in EverQuest II
's virtual forests and glens produce the same reaction as walking through a real life wood? Likewise, does EVE Online
trick us into slowing down, and is spending time in a virtual world just more appealing than slogging along in the real one?
In this opinion piece, I look at some of the most relaxing areas and activities I've found in MMOs and try to figure out what makes them tick.