Macro and Micro Play Sessions
I’ve always been a bit finicky about my play sessions. Chalk it up to one of my many, many idiosyncrasies: I don’t like leaving things partly done, so I don’t want to play a game if I can’t make a fair-sized chunk of progress. I’ve also never been a big fan of “coffee break” style games (though Strange Adventures in Infinite Space was an exception); I vastly prefer to have a nice chunk of time dedicated to any particular play session. I like having time to remember the game, reflect on what’s come before and where I’m going, manage my inventory, check quests, and go forth. Add that to the growing load time in many games, and frequently I’ve wanted a few hours to really sit down and dig in to a “macro” play session.
As dailies became more popular in WoW, I found that I could engage in “micro” play sessions by planning ahead and logging out near the dailies. Then I could log in, grab the quests – which I didn’t need to think about or plan – and do the quests in a short play session. After months – and expansions – of doing that, though, I lost my taste for those “dailies” sessions. Since I was still expected to do them, though, for various reasons (money or gear for raiding), I took to adding them back into my “macro” play sessions so I didn’t feel like I was logging in just to do chores.
The “macro” play sessions worked well for me, but it meant that when I had a half hour, I frequently didn’t feel like I had anything to do. In those times I frequently read, watched a little trash TV, or responded to comments on my blog (at least in the last 18 months or so). Recently, though, I’ve found that I’ve returned to some “micro” sessions thanks to Guild Wars 2. It seems that different games present players with different “macro” and “micro” play opportunities depending on the activities within the games. Honestly, any game can be broken into small constituent parts and played on a micro level or sat down and ground into for hours on hours for macro sessions, but I feel that different games cater more to one or the other, with a rare few offering up both.
WoW, for instance, certainly offers opportunities for both; you can dig in and level, raid, or run BGs for hours on end or you can hop on and do some dailies. Still, I’d argue that WoW promotes macro play more because its micro play formula is very repetitive. They’ve tried to streamline quests more in recent expansions, trying to make micro play more feasible, by making quests only in centralized hubs with the questing area right outside (as opposed to, say, the old Scholomance Key quest or the Linkin questline), but even that, when you have 5 quests to complete from a single hub, feels to daunting for a micro play session.
I’ve greatly enjoyed my macro play sessions in The Secret World. Since it takes forever to get loaded in, I like to make sure to really eat up as much delicious content as I can during my play sessions. I can’t imagine going through the hassle of logging and loading to only do one quest; I think you’d end up spending as much time dealing with the game as you would playing it, but the progressive story lines, the variety of quest types, and the opportunity to vastly and frequently change your character abilities makes macro play sessions very enjoyable. You might do an investigation that takes an hour, a dungeon for a few hours, some red quests, then a sabotage mission. Each of those presents an opportunity to change spec, too, so your play is varied across multiple dimensions.
Guild Wars 2, though, I think has moved towards mastering the micro play session. Since anywhere you’ve been is only seconds from wherever you are and since you don’t have to run around picking up quests to get things done, I feel comfortable hopping into GW2 for 15 minutes and running to the nearest heart to start and finish it. Seeing the progress bar fill, then cap over, then visiting the vendor afterwards feels like a nice chunk of progress even if it’s really just the equivalent of 1 quest in WoW. The mechanical design of it, though, improves vastly on the laundry list quest log, allowing me to feel like I’ve done something with my time even when my time’s short. Toss gathering in to that mix, too, and you’ve got yourself a nice micro play session.
I think MMOs as a whole have been moving more towards the macro spectrum for quite a long time. Even as more and more conveniences appear to make play more streamlined – things like shorter hearthstones, mobile banking, instant quests popping up in your log, and so forth – I feel the emphasis has been to play for a nice, long time. I don’t know what the end game will teach me about TSW and GW2, but it’s always been about macro play sessions, and I wonder what a “micro” end game would look like. Perhaps something very transient like holiday boss groups; I don’t know, but I’m curious to see.
What do you think, dear reader? Do you prefer micro or macro play sessions, or does this all sound like a lot of nonsense because you’re comfortable playing wherever for however long?
Stubborn (and idiosyncratic)