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Freedom From Grandeur: Journey = Destination

Blog post #100, coincidentally, coincides with a momentous gaming event for me:

I... who have been played every popular MMORPG (and several unpopular ones) since EverQuest.
I... who has been subscribed on and off to City of Heroes since its release and have a Zealous Badge to prove that I've been subscribed for at least 15 months.
I... who has said that the grind of all MMORPGs is merely a thing of evil that detracts us from a fun.
I... have finally reached the maximum level in an MMORPG.

Now what?

It was Psi-Caster, my Illusion/Storm Controller, who had the honor of becoming my level 50 hero. It took me about 200 hours, the last 30ish being spent during double experience weekend. I frittered away several times as much time playing other characters. If MMORPGs can be seen as a personality test then I wonder what all that alting would say about me. That, and how I ended up with such an oddball hero as my 50.

As excited as I am to finally have slogged my way to the end of a MMORPG's grind (just because it shows I can) this new experience has altered my perspective on City of Heroes and the genre in general.

We, those who have burned out from MMORPGs, like to tell ourselves, "It's about the journey, not the destination." We say that in order to get ourselves to pay attention and enjoy these games because watching the experience bar is a surefire way to make yourself miserable. However, once you actually get to the destination in a MMORPG, you realize that there's another side to that saying: the destination was only a figment of our imagination.

I think that a small part of me, the part that has not grown up, had hoped that there would be something significant waiting at the finishing line. Despite my logical mind telling myself otherwise, I had believed that glory and fame could be found there. The inner adolescent, power egotist that it is, figured that level 50 is something you could lord over others.

However, at least in the case of City of Heroes, the truth really is that the journey is the only true destination. The same essential truth probably applies to many other MMORPGs - even the ones that made delusions of grandeur and lording your power over others a major marketing point. You play games to have fun. If you're playing for any other reason then you've cheated yourself out of enjoying the game. This is because you took your eyes off the path, your stopped savoring life to grasp for the foozle, and thus you stopped playing the game you were there to play. Perhaps this is a lesson that should also be applied to life itself.

Level 50 is not really the end of achievement in City of Heroes because, like many MMORPGs, alternate achievement mechanics kick in. In City of Heroes these include performing raids for Hamidon-origin Enhancements, collecting badges, or completing content you missed while leveling up.

However, I don't particularly care about playing my level 50 hero anymore. I'm ready now to move on to the epic archetypes I unlocked, the Kheldian, and see if they're any more entertaining. What's more, I can also play a Villain, something I hesitated to do before since maxing out the level of those would not have unlocked anything. The most important thing is that it doesn't matter if I get level 50 anymore. As a result of this conviction, I'm essentially free.

Perhaps it is this freedom, the freedom from whatever lingering notions of grandeur I thought could be a found in a MMORPG, that is the greatest reward for beating the game. Yet, if that is true, one could achieve the same result by simply never caring about achievement in an MMORPG at all.

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