I'm very lucky to have played MMOs for over a decade. Runescape, World of Warcraft, The Old Republic, FFXIV, Archage, FFXI and Neopets! Still I eventually find the enormous investment of time and energy required to play these gargantuan games leaves a taste of dissatisfaction and boredom sitting in my mouth like an unwanted salad leaf. I've had blast spending hundreds of hours in these gorgeously detailed and well constructed worlds - but eventually they all fall short of my video gaming needs.
Number One - I'm Not the Only Hero?
Video games are all about escapism, getting lost in a whole other reality, being surrounded by landscapes unknown and fantastical characters. But most importantly, they're about being someone else - being the hero - being the most important person in the world. Pretty much every video game out there puts you and your character at the very centre of events and that is the whole point - it's about you!
But MMOs steal that from you - no matter how engrossing the world, the story and the characters may be they wreck the buzz! They give you this gorgeous world and story then they flood it with millions of other people embarking on the exact same 'unique and important world saving mission' that you are!
You need to be the hero!
Number 2 - It Never Bloody Ends
There is no greater joy than getting forty hours in to a game that you are completely in love with and realising, soon, it's going to be over. All these hours invested are coming to an end. It's heartbreaking yes, but without that the story would have no value. Playing Final Fantasy VII endlessly knowing that if you defeat Sephiroth there will be twenty others waiting just around the corner! What better way to completely trivialise the beauty of the story. It has to end before you get bored of it - or you wouldn't know it mattered.
Number 3 - The Possibilities Are Endlessly Dull
Gone are the days when games would follow one structured narrative and not bombard you with endless side quests. Mainstream gaming has clearly switched over to the open world models shown in most MMOs. Areas littered with NPCs offering menial grinding side quest after menial grinding side quest, class quests, guild quests, gear quests, raid quests, special events, PVP, quests for special mounts, challenges, achievements. An endless list of possibilities to distract, overwhelm and trivialise the game world. You may as well do nothing because the stuff you do do doesn't really matter.
Number 4 - They May Be Multiplayer But They Sure Ain't Social
I spent most of my lunchtimes at school huddled in the library with all my buddies playing Mario Kart DS or Runescape on adjacent computers laughing away and all of us getting caught up in the magic of being able to adventure together. That's what social gaming is about - real actual human contact. Where another humans presence really adds to the experience of the game! Instead, an MMO confronts you with a screen full of avatars, strange screen names, chat boxes full of abbreviations you don't understand and the opportunity to experience little to no actual human personality and joy. You may as well take a tube ride.
Number 5 - Really, They Just Aren't As Good
Single player campaign games have the luxury of being designed specifically for a single persons enjoyment. An entire team of people moulding a beautiful piece of art all for the joy of one end user. I know these games are still shipped around the globe to millions of people, but they are still designed for that person wrapped in their duvet taking on armies or sat on their sofa saving the world! It's one personal product that can be experienced by millions of individuals instead of an impersonal spread among millions and endlessly stuffed with trivial content to keep money coming in.
Just make it personal!