The series concludes, as James discovers sometimes it's better to bail out before you burn out.
By James Pinnell on April 18, 2013 at 2:12 pm
I wanted to play. I would jump onto my PC, browse Reddit and Twitter for a bit, and then stare at the client launcher on my desktop. But I knew that once I logged onto the server I’d be swallowed up for hours, catching up on all the time I’d “missed”, and avoiding the requests to jump on TeamSpeak. Burnout is a horrible thing, brought on by a toxic addiction that overrules everything else in your universe. Each full night you ignored your wife or ate dinner at your desk was just another sliver of life debt you added to the pile, like playing a great song on repeat for hours.
Eventually, and inevitably, the thing that you adore morphs into that digital version of hell.
I’ve logged on a few times since, checked EVEMail on my phone, and counted down the days until my 24-day skill would finish and I’d have to log on again. I couldn’t escape it. Even a day where I wasn’t training a skill felt like a waste of perfectly good learning. But it got me thinking: How did long term players get over this funk? Generally, it would take months for me to move on from burnout, even going as far to uninstall the client to discourage myself from getting back on the train. Does the path you choose in EVE have any determination on how likely you are to stick it out and go for the long haul?
Defining yourself in EVE is one of the most important elements of getting past the trial period. Almost every single person I’d tried to recruit has failed to choose a specialization after their training, causing them to aimlessly drift around the Empire, completing boring missions and eventually joining some awful tiny corp that promises the world. The diminished longevity of their newfound cohorts tends to match their ability to sustain any kind of dedication, and before long, their avatar is another lost pilot, stuffed in station stasis. Sadly, those two weeks were almost entirely wasted, consisting mostly of training, tutorials and a lifetime of distaste for the game.
So who are you? Or better yet, who do you aspire to be? Some of the happiest players seem to be pirates and renegades, camping out in low-security space, ambushing players as they enter gates or fields. Holding their ships ransom for a multi-million ISK payout. Others take the complete opposite path and become traders, miners and manufacturers, either helping corporations expand their presence and keep up the war effort with minerals and equipment, or running solo by moving freight between systems with a deficit to make a quick buck.
Deciding on what sort of ship you like helps to make a decision on a career a lot easier. I remember a friend being “determined” to get a stealth bomber, regardless of how useful it would be in the game. He ultimately became a hardcore PVP player, joining one of the larger tournament corporations. Yes, he did get his stealth bomber, eventually. I found myself drawn towards the logistics ships, especially the large ones, imagining that I would command a fleet of miners or large freighters, expertly moving gear through dangerous space. Even now, years later, I still dream about getting a jump-freighter, avoiding that dangerous leap from safe space to nullsec, being the hero… of couriers.
So who is more likely to keep it up? PVP players seem to ultimately be the stayers of EVE — primarily due to the unquenchable thirst for the next kill. Miners can mine rocks anywhere, anytime, but fighters never know where their next battle is going to come from. The risk of losing so much, so quickly, or alternatively becoming a war hero is an irresistible adrenaline rush. But there are hybrids too. A lot of players have multiple avatars that they play simultaneously across multiple clients. Why bother to seek out some protection when you can be both the fighter and surveyor? Thanks to the ability to earn your game time while playing (400 or so million ISK buys you 30 days of play), this can actually be reasonably cost effective. Motivation to continue, however, is wholly dependent on your ability to be self sufficient.
I’ve glossed over some of the disadvantages of a game like EVE, but that’s because it’s only after six straight months of play that they tend to become more extreme. The downtime, whether waiting for skills, spending hours jumping across systems, or just passing time camping a gate, can quickly turn into excruciating monotony when you stop feeling it. What originally was exciting becomes boring — as is losing extraordinarily large amounts of money, equipment and ships due to one poor decision that puts you back, effectively, to the beginning. Perma-death works both ways. That decision you thought might have been perfect all those weeks ago suddenly seems like a huge mistake.
I talked to some of the other players about burnout, and most agreed that they had to quit the game, sometimes for months at a time. They might go back to school, or maybe simply take a sabbatical when their wives (or themselves!) give birth to their first child. No matter how engrossing, complex or alluring the opportunities inside the game might be, many corporations will always have the same motto — “RL comes first”. So as I came to the end of this experiment, I thought about whether I had failed to live up to my own expectations. How can I feel like I’ve given people a reason to take a second look at EVE when I can’t even stick it out?
But that’s healthy. Most people aren’t going to find themselves engrossed for months and years at a time, sacrificing their lives to indulge in this space fantasy. If just one person told me they experienced a “wow” moment after jumping into EVE — whether it be in battle, social engineering, or just flying through the detailed galaxy — I would consider these diaries a success. It’s been a hell of a ride and I’ve met some amazing people, as well as being privileged to hear stories from players who read my diaries and got inspired.
I hope you enjoyed reading them as much as I did writing them.
Fly Safe o/