Enjoy the Journey, Not Just the Destination

Are you someone who likes to rush through your games, or do you prefer taking your time?

Article by Pete Davison, .

"Level 50 is when it gets really fun. I'm just going to grind until then."

It's a refrain probably familiar to anyone who has ever played an MMO, or an online game with an experience system, or anything that has an "endgame" beyond what is typically regarded as "beating" the main story.

I've certainly heard this a good few times over the years, and once again it's rearing its head with regard to Square Enix's recently launched, newly fixed MMO Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. And I must confess, I remain somewhat baffled by it.

This may be partly due to the fact that out of all the MMOs I've given a go over the years, I only ever reached the level cap in World of Warcraft, and that was only after several years of on-and-off play. I certainly don't begrudge the time that I've spent with any of these games, however, because the journey to that level cap was, in most cases, just as enjoyable as what you did once you got there.

I don't begrudge the time I've spent with any of these games, because the journey to the level cap was just as enjoyable as what you did once you got there.

Final Fantasy XIV lets you switch classes at any point, allowing you relief from the race to endgame by trying something new. Here, my character -- normally a Black Mage -- tries out being an Archer for a while.

This isn't to deny the importance of good endgame content, of course; MMOs are designed to be games that keep people playing for months and years after release, and thus it's important for players who have reached the "pinnacle" of their chosen virtual career to still have plenty of things to do. Final Fantasy XIV certainly doesn't disappoint in this regard: there are "hard mode" versions of already challenging boss fights to take on; eight-person dungeons to run, providing a greater logistical challenge than the early game's four-person content; quests to get your characters the best (and best-looking) gear; high-level FATE battles to take on against super-tough monsters -- plus, of course, the nature of Final Fantasy XIV's mechanics means that if you get bored with being a level 50 whatever you can, at any point, change to a completely different class -- including any of the available non-combat jobs -- and start levelling all over again without ditching your character.

To me though, the race to get to the endgame content as quickly as possible -- often at the expense of doing anything other than the most "efficient" means of gaining experience -- is something I don't quite understand. The process of actually mastering your first class, getting it up to level 50 and completing the game's story is also enjoyable, so why deprive yourself of that? I don't doubt that FFXIV's endgame has its own appeal, but I'm in no rush to get there -- I'm having great fun working my way up the ladder and gradually building up both my character's power and my own skill with the game mechanics. I want to see and enjoy everything that the game has to offer; I want to be challenged; I want to be surprised by the things it offers along the way; and most importantly, I don't want it to feel like work... even though, by virtue of the fact I'm writing about it, it technically is.

It's not just MMOs (and those games that use similar mechanics) that this mentality seeps into, either -- and I must confess that my attitudes towards this behavior in single-player games have changed somewhat over the years. There was a time, for example, when I was keen to race through, say, RPGs as quickly as possible because I was so invested in the story and wanted to see how it would end. In doing so, I would actually end up missing out on a lot of content. I was very surprised to discover, for example, that my second playthrough of Final Fantasy VIII was almost double the length of my first, and to date I have never beaten Emerald and Ruby Weapon in Final Fantasy VII. (To be fair, though, I did suffer through that interminable chocobo-breeding sequence several times, though, so I think I've paid my dues.)

It's a difficult situation, though, because everyone has a different attention span and amount of patience, and these characteristics vary from game to game, too. Some people are more than happy to plow 400+ hours into Skyrim, for example, while others bail out before even reaching the end of the main story. I fell into the latter group, ditching the game 40 hours deep after realizing that I hadn't really gotten anywhere whatsoever, and was actually feeling quite bored with the whole thing. Compare and contrast with my attitude towards visual novels and anime-style JRPGs, however, which these days I have fallen into the habit of trying to 100% whenever possible, assuming I found them compelling enough to stick with in the first place.

The process of mastering your first class and completing the game's story is enjoyable, so why deprive yourself of that?

Most of the world except me hated Time and Eternity, but I liked it enough to see literally everything it had to offer rather than rushing through.

In short, whether I play a game with my mind primarily on where I'm going or where I am now these days largely depends on how much I've engaged with it on a personal level. To return to the matter of Final Fantasy XIV, the process of levelling up and following the story is so enjoyable to me that, while it would be nice to be level 50 and all-powerful, I'm not feeling any pressure to brute-force my way through the game in an attempt to get to what people are (inaccurately, in my opinion) terming "the fun part."

Ultimately, of course, it is your choice how you play a game -- particularly something inherently flexible like an MMO or non-linear RPG -- and it's pretty great that in a lot of cases, developers are catering to people who want to enjoy their work in different ways; in others, emergent mechanics and social groups, such as Final Fantasy XIV's FATE-grinding parties, make themselves known. I have a friend, for example, who has recently been doing Soul Level 1 speedruns of Dark Souls, which personally sounds like absolute torture to me, but he seems to have been having a blast, and more power to him for that.

I'm curious to hear from you lot reading this, then; do you prefer racing through games in an attempt to beat as many titles as possible in a short space of time, or do you like to take your time and be thorough? And, as a follow-up question, do achievements and trophies make you feel or behave differently in this regard?

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Comments 12

  • Avatar for GustinHardy #1 GustinHardy 4 years ago
    In FFXIV I find myself taking a break from the story to actually explore the world. It's also nice to be able to experiment with the different jobs and one cool thing is the experimenting is actually helping my tailor my primary job and play style. I tend to be a rush to the end kinda guy except in a few rare instances and this game is leaning toward being one I enjoy for months to come rather than plowing through to move on to the next game.
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  • Avatar for aett #2 aett 4 years ago
    As a parent, I don't have much time for gaming, especially non-portable gaming. Most of my time spent playing has been late at night, which also means I'm pretty tired, so I haven't even attempted the first FFXIV dungeon despite reaching it several days ago. Instead, I've been spending each night gathering and crafting, which has been fun in its own way.

    I have no desire to rush through to the end of the story and I'm perfectly happy taking my time and seeing what else the game has to offer!
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  • Avatar for limbeckd #3 limbeckd 4 years ago
    Hmm, it really depends. I have three max-level WoW characters, and the burnout I feel from having done that is definitely transferable to other games. In MMO's, I tend to want to rush to the end because that is where the challenging content is (I don't PVP). Leveling is typically really easy, but also really slow. MMO stories don't generally do much for me (LotRO had its moments, but was also very grindy).

    I play MMO's because I have a group of friends I enjoy doing challenging content with. This content doesn't usually appear until end-game, because until then things need to be doable with a random group. If something is designed to be doable by a random group, then it is generally a cakewalk for an experienced group of friends--the challenge isn't the content itself, but overcoming your random groupmates' lack of skill. That is not a fun challenge.

    In other genres, whether I rush or not depends on how much I like the game. Getting 100% tends to involve a lot of tedium, so I almost never do it, unless a game is very small and I absolutely love it (Fez). I just finished Tales of Graces today (now to start on Xillia!), and while I enjoyed it a lot, do I want to grind out every title for every character? Absolutely not. For a game like that which I enjoy, I'll just get the reasonably low-hanging fruit (I did most of the sidequests).

    If I want tedium, there's always boring stuff I could do (but don't) in WoW to help out the guild or whatever. I have too many games on my plate for boring grinding.
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  • Avatar for Jaydra-Dawn #4 Jaydra-Dawn 4 years ago
    I find it's difficult to slow down and enjoy the journey sometimes. After playing MMOs for so long, there's almost an aversion in FFXIV to change up classes for a bit (even if it's a great mechanic). My natural impulse is to level as efficiently as possible. I'm not entirely sure where this behaviour came from, but it's been something I'm trying to stem because I do want to take it at my own pace.

    I'm wondering if anyone else feels similar on that.

    As for achievements and trophies, they usually make no difference unless I'm invested. The only game I ever worked to get a Platinum trophy for happened to be my favourite. I think if you love a game, the idea of 100%ing it becomes that more meaningful. I hardly care about completion of a game I wasn't in love with in the first place.
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  • Avatar for metalangel #5 metalangel 4 years ago
    I recently started WoW for the first time, playing with a friend who just makes new characters and grinds them up to level 20 (she doesn't always have a paid sub). She advised me to just ignore the text and accept all the missions and go do them.

    As someone who can go for a stroll in GTAIV, this was completely contrary to my normal playstyle - until I read some of the mission text. What a bunch of tedious old crap! I was soon running to catch up with her to gather 20 diseased rat livers (or whatever) as at least that was *interesting*.

    I can see how stuff like SWTOR and The Hidden World have tried to make missioning more interesting but the fact still remains that they can't match a single player game's level of involvement and it's the other players who have to take up the slack - hence, it becoming fun when you reach the endgame because you will have friends and proper tasks to do together.

    Hell, when I started EvE, the corp I was in didn't have someone online so I did a few missions. It was like I had gone back in time 20 years to Privateer, collecting a template-generated mission from a talking head to fly through several jump gates and retrieve a trinket! Now I have an exploration ship and have much better adventures on my own.
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  • Avatar for WillowWolf #6 WillowWolf 4 years ago
    It depends on the game, for me. I do tend to rush through MMOs. Most other games, I take my time. MMOs lose my interest after a while, so I've never really been to the level cap in any of them. So I rush to get as close as I can. I enjoy what I see on the way, but once I hit a level that will make me ready for the next area, I meander over that way. Though I do tend to have a ton of characters on MMOs, as well, so I can enjoy the classes. You are right, though. It is just as much about the journey as it is about the destinations in MMOs.Too bad they don't hold my interest for long.
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  • Avatar for Toplinkar #7 Toplinkar 4 years ago
    I fall in the category of people who prefer to take their time with a game. I can't resist exploring everyithing.

    Fun fact, I did that before trophies, but only for as long as I'm interested in the game. If my interest lasts, I'll got for the platinum (Dark Souls and Darksiders being good examples), otherwise, I'll drop it when I''ve seen everything I wanted too.
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  • Avatar for Toplinkar #8 Toplinkar 4 years ago
    I fall in the category of people who prefer to take their time with a game. I can't resist exploring everyithing.

    Fun fact, I did that before trophies, but only for as long as I'm interested in the game. If my interest lasts, I'll got for the platinum (Dark Souls and Darksiders being good examples), otherwise, I'll drop it when I''ve seen everything I wanted too.
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