Why Seasonal Events Matter in MMOs
It's that special time of the year, the holiday season. Stretching from October to January, this season encompasses a number of holidays: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. While we celebrate such events in our real lives, we can also partake of the festive spirit in our favorite mmorpg games as well. Many mmos hold special seasonal events for major holidays for players to enjoy. While some players enjoy the change of pace and festivities, other players consider them a distraction from the core issues of the game. It's to these Scrooges that I say humbug! These special events are a good, nay, great thing for online games. This is why seasonal events matter in mmos.
First, mmo seasonal events matter because they provide a welcome change of pace. Most experienced players already have their character level-capped and have multiple alts, which means that the bulk of their gameplay consists of doing dailies or going on raids. What this boils down to is that most players tend to do the same things over and over again. Having seasonal events, with the accompanying content, gives them something new to do and shakes off the doldrums that affects most games. The seasonal events within the mmo can either be momentous, such as dealing with the Mad King and the Bloody Prince in Guild Wars 2, or something more humorous, such as giving gifts such as chocolate in the Valentine's Day event in World of Warcraft. Any activity to break up the normal routine is a welcome change to most players.
Another reason in favor of mmo seasonal events is real life. We don't play online games in a vacuum. They exist in a context of lore, myths, beliefs, literature, culture, and games that have shaped and influenced their creation and ongoing existence. As people, we gamers experience the different seasons of the year, so why should our favorite mmo games not do the same? In October, we spent the month decorating for Halloween, choosing costumes for ourselves or our children, and watched a lot of monster movies to get into the mood. Shouldn't such a universal event make it's way into the game? When October rolls around, I expect my favorite mmos to have events to mark the holidays that we all know and love. In fact, as the years have passed, it's become standard to expect seasonal events in our games and people become very disappointed (and vocal!) if they're not included. Seasonal events and holidays are a part of our real life and it's only natural to want such things reflected in our games. It's comforting, familiar, and lets us know that it's really getting close to Christmas now that the Yule Festival has started in Lord of the Rings Online.
Finally, seasonal events in mmos matter because they're fun. While some players chafe at the deviating from the main storyline (usually a serious good-versus-evil one) of the game, it's great to focus on just taking part in some silly activities and have some innocent fun. We tend to forget that games are supposed to be fun, but we get so wrapped up in grinding for the best gear or working on our PvP skills, that we forget that we started playing the mmo to have fun. (If you're not playing an mmo for fun, then why are you?) It's refreshing to do things like learning Yuletide Festival dances in LotRO or taking part in the Risia Ice Games in Dungeons and Dragons Online. Seasonal events help us lighten up and recharge our gaming batteries.
All in all, seasonal events do matter in mmos. They provide a welcome change of pace that shakes us out of normal daily grind. They're also fun to play, with a myriad of things to do, ranging from the silly (dancing) to the more heroic (boss fights). Seasonal events are a part of our real lives and it's gratifying to have these events reflected in our favorite games. Seasonal events are now expected in mmos, and I, for one, enjoy them immensely. Make sure that you take part in your favorite mmo's events this holiday season.