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Keeping up with the Joneses (In games)

First of all, as a lot of you out there don’t have English as your first language, you might have your own version of this particular phrase, but for clarity the definition is as follows (from the wiki):

Keeping up with the Joneses” is an idiom in many parts of the English-speaking world referring to the comparison to one’s neighbor as a benchmark for social class or the accumulation of material goods. To fail to “keep up with the Joneses” is perceived as demonstrating socio-economic or cultural inferiority.

For a few years now, I have been playing a popular online game. I have largely played with members of my guild, but during recent times other commitments in life have gotten in the way of my gaming time. I love playing games (suprise! Anyone?), and as a player of this particular game, I am starting to feel left behind. As a result, I have begun to question how much I actually want to be playing the game.

Although the game is a very much a CO-OP game, as you all inhabit the same real-time world,  elements of the game limit sharing – a lot of the items that are needed for achievements, or even some of the latest armor sets, are account-bound, and so they are impossible to trade or help other players achieve. The game, despite what the promotional material states, has a lot of grinding involved to attain certain items, which is yet another factor that makes it hard to help other players out (unless you are exceedingly patient and/or generous with your time).

At the moment it feels almost impossible to “keep up with the Joneses”, the Joneses here being my guild-mates with whom I used to be able to play a lot, and for some reason this makes me feel far less inclined to continue playing the game to the same level as I used to.

Has anyone else out there had this experience with a game before? Is anyone currently experiencing it? Is there a solution?


My name is David Hatch, I am a husband, parent and a gamer, I have played games for as long as I can remember, all the way back from a ZX81 to the XBOX360 and into the future with the PS4. I will always be a gamer.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. I feel like this quite a lot, specifically with online games such as the one you’ve described. I play Guild Wars 2 on occasion. And I do mean on occasion – I’m a very casual gamer. When I’ve been to uni for half a day, or at the hospital for a whole work day, gaming isn’t usually my go-to for unwinding. But come holidays or breaks between exams and semesterstart, I’ll usually pack in a good whollop of gaming-time. During these times I can easily spend whole days in a row sitting in front of my computer, and that’s when it really dawns on me that I’m a casual gamer.

    I play with my guild friends, some of whom also happen to be my family members. I think this kind of solves the patience and time-generosity issue that’s raised, as I’m lucky to have people who are really willing to help me advance in the game. Sometimes probably a bit too willing, and let me explain why: since I’ve always been a casual gamer, my goals and expectations of the game are different. My goals aren’t “get xxx items so I can achieve xxx armor set!” or “grind for two weeks to get 250 of xxx item so I can craft xxx exotic weapon!”. My goals are more like “get this character to level 80!”, which is, in my opinion, slightly more modest. Some of the people I play with already have all their characters at level 80 and are much more invested and involved in crafting, achievements etc., which is probably why they so enthusiastically want me to have the same things they want. And don’t get me wrong, I am definitely NOT complaining, I know I’m lucky to have people who want to help me in-game, but having a christmas-bauble yuletide mining station in my home-instance just isn’t that important to me.

    What this all sums up to is that I downscale my expectations of the game. If I expect to be able to “keep up with the Joneses” when I only play 1/8th of the time they do, I’m understandibly going to be very disappointed. I look at all the fancy armor and amazing weapons, and I know that I would absolutely mad trying to achieve them in the week I have to play. When I know I “only” have said week to play the game full-time, my priorities are going to be different than those of a player who plays for a couple of hours every day, and within that timeframe getting Moffuuga Jombodabu the Guardian to level 80 is more fun for me than trying to get a specific achievement.

    All this doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy the odd bit of world eventing, collecting rare crafting materials, gaining achievements, getting things for my home instance etc., but I have to do it on my terms, not the Joneses.

  2. Due to my schedule, I don’t have a lot of time to play games either. Mainly an hour or so on the weekends. Having to keep up with friends has always been a huge challenge for me. It is an even greater frustration because part of my professional life has to do with game writing.

    I get asked if I’ve played certain games, or if I can write something like such-and-such game, and I’ve not gotten round to playing it yet. I work full time, do freelance part time, have a family to raise and a house to keep up. I simply can’t keep up with the entire industry.

    So I stopped feeling like I had to. (Granted, sometimes I still feel guilty for not having played certain games.) Instead, I play for the reason that I started loving games. I play to enjoy myself. I make my goals mean something to me. I play to complete a certain thing that day. I leave the long term goals for the future and don’t worry about them other than knowing what things not to sell off.

    It’s hard playing with people that want to “help” you catch up. Once you’ve fallen past the point of being able to catch up easily, I find it just adds strain to the gaming experience. I already know how far behind I am, and I don’t want to constantly be reminded of it. Instead, play with me for the short term. Make the day about having fun and not about completing something.

    It sucks the fun out of games to always be envying another player. I want to be comfortable being who I am. Even if it means I’m a n00b. At least I can be a happy n00b.

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