The 5 Stages of Game Burnout

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I’ve played Lord of the Rings: Online for nearly seven years now. That’s a long time to be playing any game. Back in 2011 just after the Anniversary event (the one many refer to as the Grindaversary), I experienced my first strong, true burnout from LOTRO. For a year afterwards I would log in occasionally and try to get back into the game but it was never the same. I finally started logging in again regularly with the release of Riders of Rohan. My playtime has been steadily increasing since then however with the release of Update 15 I’m beginning to feel the tell-tale signs of game burnout once again.

I know many others are feeling the same way about LOTRO and other games at the moment so I wanted to outline the stages of game burnout. These stages are especially prevalent if you are playing a time-intensive, long-term game like an MMO.

Denial

At first you will deny to yourself that you are feeling burnt out. You’ll reason to yourself that you’re just tired of a specific area or gameplay mechanic. Or that you are just too tired to game in general. When you’ve spent so many hours of your life in one game it can be hard to accept the fact that you are losing interest. Especially if it’s a very social game like an MMO since no longer playing the game can often mean no longer talking to the friends you’ve made in or through the game.

Anger

You will probably be angry at the developers at some point. It’s their fault they released a buggy update, right? It’s easier to be angry and blame the game creators than to accept that your tastes may be changing. So you’ll rail and wail at the game developers, GMs, or anyone else working on the game.

Bargaining

If only the game developers hadn’t released this update with so many bugs! If only I hadn’t played so many hours every day! You begin to bargain with time, the developers, and yourself in an attempt to fight back against that burnout. You’ll give up any amount of in-game gold to get back to a time when you could enjoy the game to the fullest.

Sadness

You mourn for the loss of one of your favourite activities. You can no longer enjoy the game that you once could easily spend hours lost in and this makes you sad. You miss spending time with your friends in-game but playing is such a joyless experience that trying just makes it even worse. You start to detach from game related news.

Acceptance

You finally come to terms with the fact that you are simply not interested in playing this game anymore. You no longer feel guilty about not logging in. You finally accept that it’s okay to move on and start playing other games, other MMOs.

Some people will stop or get hung up on certain steps. We all know of at least one person still angry about a game they left long ago. Ideally, we’ll all eventually be able to accept that it’s perfectly natural to lose interest in a game, even if you’ve spent thousands of hours playing and being involved in the community. It’s definitely a hard process but it’s important to take a long hard look at how much enjoyment you’re getting out of a game and weigh it against how much negativity you feel towards the game or aspects of the game.

I’m going to be taking the next week off from LOTRO and my various LOTRO video series. I’m hoping that this will be enough time off to delay the extreme, year-long type of burnout I experienced last time I burnt out. I’ve got a lot of other projects to work on to keep me busy and keep my mind off the negativity I’ve been feeling towards the game.

Note: In no way am I implying that burning out from an MMO is anything like going through the grieving process of losing a loved one. The “Steps of the Grieving Process” main descriptor words also describe the feelings I have personally felt when burning out on a game but obviously they are no where near as heart-wrenching as losing a person you know.

4 Comments

  1. Alice   •  

    I know how you feel, even if I didn’t play for seven years (just one and a half!). Currently I’m stuck in Moria and I can’t help myself but being tired every time I enter the game. So I decided to RP with another character and it works so far.

    P.s. I love your LOTRO videos :)

    • Cithryth   •     Author

      Glad you found something to stave off the burnout! And glad you like my videos :)

  2. Nathrien   •  

    It’s taken me a very long time (a year actually) to finally break the cycle of anger, bargaining, and sadness and move into the acceptance phase. I would never have imagined, in concept only but not in intention, the five steps would be applicable to an MMO. I am going to make a clean brake with LOTRO relatively soon and this entry brought all of my feelings into focus. Thank you for posting this :)

    • Cithryth   •     Author

      I’m glad that this post helped you think through your feelings and come to a decision. I am beginning to realize that I’m stuck somewhere between anger and bargaining at the moment, and it’s not a great feeling. I’ll definitely miss your LOTRO outfits, but I fully understand the need for a clean break!

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