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How to Be a Casual Gamer

Last Modified: July 28, 2010

A casual gamer is the term I came up with to describe people like me who play MMOs, but only activate accounts every few months to as little as once a year. Why would people do this? Well…

Many MMOs have an addictive quality based on never-ending gameplay, fantasy community, and the ability to escape to a virtual world. I have heard of people who have dropped out of school, damaged their friendships and marriages, and even some people who have died due to online gaming. Some consider these games as addictive and destructive to your life as drugs, gambling, or Blitzball so picking up an MMO is something to be considered with caution.

Some people have lost their jobs, marriages, or even their lives due to MMO gaming

MMOs aren't like console games. You can't pick one up and 10 minutes later, put it down for the rest of the day. Often, if you don't have at least an hour or two to play, it's not worth even logging in. And for some of the more complex (and rewarding) objectives in the game, you'll need anywhere from 3 to 6 hours of straight gameplay.

Making MMO gaming work while keeping your sanity and maintaining work and family relationships requires some planning. Fortunately, with a little effort, it's not hard.

Managing the Risk

The first decision for a casual gamer to make is what game to play. There are many options, but City of Heroes was a natural choice for many reasons. The level cap was 50 which was clearly attainable without having to play for years. The focus on the game is far more about character development than it is on item collection so with the exception of the Veteran Reward system and slight differences in builds due to IOs, my level 50 is no worse than yours that you've had for years (very little in the way of elitism). You can play the game any way you want (follow story lines, just kill stuff at random for a while, team or solo, go to any location you wish at any time (mostly)). And lastly, the monthly fee of only $15 with free updates is a fantastic deal (especially since now that gives you access to City of Villains for the same price.

Note that the first time you play with a paid account, you have to actually BUY the game. It used to cost around $40 or more, but now (as of 2009.03.14) it's about $20 (if you buy online and download it). Since that comes with a free month of play, it's effectively $5 to buy the game 🙂

The second thing to consider was time. To minimize the impact on my other projects, work, and family, I decided to only play during vacations or weeks where I'm away from the family due to work. Though there are several weeks during the year when these conditions occur, only once or twice a year do I get two to three such weeks together where it becomes worth it to activate my account.

Handling Playtime

To make the casual gamer method work for you, first find a month in the year that you know you'll have minimal demands from work, projects, and family. Vacations are good as are business trips if you'll have several in a month or the trips will be long. For example, my wife and kids went to a friend's wedding in another state giving me 10 days of only work to deal with (plenty of spare time to play).

Tip: When gaming, remember to occasionally stop to eat, drink and take a shower.

But you can't always have it so lucky as to have a huge chunk of time without the family around so instead, you'll need to plan to play with them around without turning them into The Spurned Spouse and the Neglected Little Ones.

When they're not out of the house:

  • Consider buying a good laptop for playing the game. Trips away from home don't help you much if you can only play at home.
  • Plan ahead for day trips, activities, or other ways to keep the family busy while you play. Maybe that would be a good month to activate one of those "Movies by Mail" schemes so the family can catch up on the kid and chick-flick movies that you wouldn't want to watch anyway.

    Another good use for the laptop is that you can play and join the family for a movie at the same time. This is useful because you're still spending time with them and if it's a movie you want to watch, you can often play and pay enough attention to the movie to get the major points anyway.

    This does not work for movies that you really want to see, only for ones that you have a bit of interest in, but that doesn't need your full attention (unless you're soloing with a Mastermind and have your pets do all the work)

  • Make sure that you plan ahead to devote time to projects, family, and work as needed. If you don't pick certain days to play and others to get stuff done, your plants will die, the humane society will collect the pets, your kids will whine (even more than usual), and your back will start to hurt from the various kitchen tools embedded there by your frustrated wife. These events all make gameplay less fun.

    Plan ahead to put the game down and deal with real life. For example, maybe the weekend is coming and you promised to take the family somewhere. Pick Saturday morning to go to the zoo and your family will be happy to get out while you can spend a good portion of the rest of the day with the game.

    Zoo inspired characters

    Note that the zoo is also a good place to get inspiration for new characters.

    Never schedule chores, family activities, or other non-game stuff for late in the day if you can avoid it. It can be very frustrating to have that deadline hanging over your head while you play rather than getting the real life out of the way first and having the rest of the day free.

    If it can't be avoided, make sure to quit at least a half hour (probably more) before having to leave for whatever it is. Don't put your spouse in the position of having to nag you for help or start walking out the door while you "finish this last mission". You will make your family start to resent the game and they'll be far less likely to leave you alone while you play in the future.

  • Expect and plan for interruptions. Granted you can't pause online games like you can with consoles, but there are ways of handling this. When teaming, people will understand if you have to go afk for the baby or to help with dinner etc. If you're Soloing, you can park your character somewhere safe, deal with whatever came up and come back.

    Worst case, if you take too long, it will just log you out and you can continue where you left off.

    Make sure to use proper Jordan's Teaming Guide when leaving a team to do something temporarily and be careful about taking timed missions or TFs as you will most certainly fail to complete them if you don't plan ahead to have the required amount of time.

  • You can cancel the recurring billing any time even immediately after you activate to prevent accidentally being billed for a second month.

  • Cryptic and casual gamers

    Fortunately, there are several ways that Cryptic supports the casual gamer.

    • While your character names become available for use by other players after a month or two (which is another reason to think of really creative names), your characters are never deleted no matter how long you remain in-active.

    • The low monthly fee is also a great help. With it you get to play both CoH and CoV as well as get free game updates (called Issues in CoH, expansions in other games).

      This is particularly important for casual gamers since it would be really hard to only get one months worth of play then have to pay additional costs to get the most recent version before activating again.

    My CoH Experience

    My dad let me play his account when he wasn't using it when I was home for Spring break in 2004. I built a Dark/Storm defender that really wasn't very good, but I was enthralled with CoH style and gameplay. A little over a year later, I realized that there would be a one month gap between my graduation and the time I started my new job. Wow. What would I do with myself for a whole month? Hmm….

    I really wanted to play right away, but had to wait until that month came so I filled the time by studying the game. Based on the advice I found in the City of Heroes forums, my first hero was a Dark Melee/Regen Scrapper since it was listed as an excellent solo play character. Thought I took a few Alts up to level 14 or so, my scrapper was my main who I got up to level 36 by the time the month was over.

    Since then, I've had the time to reactivate my account one time during December and February of 2005-2006 where I pushed one of my Alts to level 41 and made several more heroes and a few villains. With one more month of play in Summer 2006, I took my beloved defender, Jordan, to level 50 and started both a PB and a WS.

    Of course, now I've been playing for almost 4 years off and on (as of April 09) and I've tried and done a lot. Allow me to share some of it with you and read on 🙂

    About my guides

    Perhaps your story sounds similar to mine. You like the game, but can't play very often and deactivate and reactivate your account every few months.

    If you are a casual gamer, or even if you're not, you may find my guides useful for getting the most out of the time you have to play.

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