Or, a funny thing happened on the way to building my shrine to Guild Wars:
I simultaneously had the dumb luck of being invited to the Fallen Earth beta, and signed up for an Everquest II free trial. My refusal to have anything to do with the Everquest and Warcraft franchises in light of their addictive notoriety was starting to wane as time between updates about Guild Wars 2 stretched on, and I had already given WoW a couple of college tries, so when a few people offered up EQII as an alternative, I saw that I had nothing to lose. Fallen Earth, on the other hand, was my attempt to support an indie company hoping to bring more innovation into the MMO industry.
Both of these games showed me a world of crafting that wasn’t merely time-killing side activity, but a viable way of life in the virtual world of your choice. In Fallen Earth I found myself wandering around the landscape for hours collecting cotton; in Everquest II I gave myself hand cramps, my adrenaline-filled grip fueled by time-restricted Rush Orders. I have never killed an elite mob that gave me as much joy as I felt upon creating nine items in under ten minutes.
This discovery, this new-found realization that I liked creating stuff, really really liked it, and liked having it advance my character as more than just a hobby, made a number of things clear to me. Suddenly I realized why I had logged out of so many other free trials, declaring, “I don’t know, I just don’t feel like killing things anymore tonight, and what else is there?” I realized why I had given up on Lord of the Rings Online (after buying a lifetime subscription, no less) because the prospect of becoming independently wealthy by selling my goods on the Auction House was not appealing enough to me.
I can find short-term satisfaction in a game in which crafting is more shallow, especially if more of my other must-have elements are present: I still enjoy my forays into Guild Wars from time to time, and am currently enjoying myself greatly in the red-headed stepchild that is Champions Online. I have no desire to craft full-time; my primary activity and goal is still exploration and hunting. But ultimately the game that allows me to log in and say to myself, “shall I be a murderer of wildlife and bandits today, or shall I make something beautiful?” and have both matter equally to my character progression will always be one I’d like to explore further.