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Killing Ten Rats – Why A Writing Career Is Like Playing An MMO

Warcraft by WulfsbaneAs a fantasy fan it’s hard to avoid MMORPGs. Even if you’re not personally a fan of Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games, it’s likely you’ve heard of games such as World of Warcraft, Everquest or Lord of the Rings Online. Those not already based on beloved franchises have spawned books and collectibles.

Many a writer has lost hours to these sorts of games, such that most authors have given up on them to dedicate the hours they used to spend raiding, to writing instead. But is it any wonder when playing an MMO is so similar to a writing career?

At its core, an MMO is about gaining experience so that you can level up. That’s not very different to a writing career where you write lots, gaining experience so that your writing improves. MMO players gain new abilities as they level their character up; writers unlock more skills to keep in what many call their “writer’s toolbox”. And just as you master one writing technique, so you’ll push yourself to try more complicated things and further your writing ability.

One of the downsides to many MMOs is the grind. Your quests often involve killing creatures over and over again, waiting for that elusive item to drop as loot. This can be both time consuming and tedious. But is a writing career any different? You’ll find yourself writing a piece and then editing it over and over again before you’ll feel it ready for submission. And just as a MMO will start you off on small inconsequential quests to kill ten rats, so you might find yourself writing small pieces to start with – articles or flash fiction.

Diablo III - Gameplay 2In the vast majority of MMOs, death is merely an inconvenience rather than something final as in the real world. You might lose some experience or cash, but you’ll essentially resurrect and then proceed from where you left off. Writers, on the other hand, suffer rejection, but just as an MMO character that has levelled up will no longer be killed by mere rats, so the writer as they gain experience will find writing projects that once daunted them and caused them to be rejected, to be much easier with a better success rate.

You’ll find at the start of your writing career that you’ll have plenty of company, people who want to write and are busy working on stories and novels. But just as low level MMO players get bored and quit, so some unpublished writers give up after just a few rejections. Both in MMOs and writing, dedication and persistence count for a lot. You won’t complete an MMO in a day. Likewise it’s unlikely your first rough draft novel will get a publishing deal.

Of course, with the popular MMOs there are all sorts of guides and YouTube videos offering ways to level up quick. You’ll miss a lot of the content as a result and as well as some of the niche loot along the way. As a writer there are no end of people offering quick success, and whilst hints and tips are always welcome whether you are playing MMOs or writing, quick fix, one-size-fits-all solutions are unlikely to be anything more than snake oil. Writing takes time just as an MMO takes a lot of time to find and complete all the quests on offer.

When you start in an MMO, most will ask you to choose your class. Whilst some gamers might play to their strengths others will typically go for what they like. The writing equivalent is choosing which genre you want to write in, although writers have a slight advantage here in that they can happily create hybrid careers with a foot in two separate genres. They will build on their strengths though, much like an MMO player may use talent or skill points earned to fine tune their character.

Female Hobbit Guardian from Lord of the Rings Online

MMOs typically have a number of zones. Players typically start in some small zone with an infestation of rats and go to larger, more dangerous and more epic zones as they level up and their story progresses. But there are similarities in a writing career as well. As you tackle new projects so they can become more challenging, offering different or new stresses that test you as a writer.

TPop-Blizz Warcraft Promo by Saejin OhOf course, everything keeps changing. MMOs roll out updates which nerf abilities. Writers find that markets change and what was once a very commercial niche is now oversaturated and a difficult market to now sell in. Both MMO players and writers need to adaptable to changes around them to ensure that they don’t get frustrated and continue to make progress.

Let’s not even mention how much attending a SFF convention is like being part of a raid. They can both be a lot of fun, being surrounded by lots of people, but they can be quite tiring.

One thing is for sure, if a writing career is like playing an MMO then you are going to have to be prepared to kill a lot of rats along the way.

Title image by Saejin Oh.

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4 Comments

  1. Bibliotropic says:

    This is one of the most amazing analogies! Kudos!

  2. C.T. Phipps says:

    Wonderful essay. I suppose that means a I’m 3rd level Fantasy-ist.

  3. John Brown says:

    Great comparison 🙂

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