I have a voracious monster inside of me. It craves game mechanics. This is the best way I’ve found to describe what I’m calling my addiction with MMOs.

Let me back up… I just unsubscribed from FFXI after a three-week bender. I was recovering from surgery and thought it would be an alright time to check in on this treasured jewel. It turns out I was logging in during a bonus period of extra damage, experience points, etc. I thought “wow! They really streamlined the leveling process and opened this game up to tell a great story.”

And, indeed, they had. I worked my way through several missions and experienced more of the game’s story in these past three weeks than in the several years I spent regularly playing the game when I was in college.

Tonight, as I logged in to continue my bender, I realized that this bonus period had ended and I was back slogging through the xp. I stopped and asked myself, “why?” Why am I killing these bats and worms over and over? So I could see my levels, my fake internet points as my wife calls them, rise?

I got hooked on the mechanics of FFXI long ago. I enjoyed the interplay of the job (aka class) system, the traits and abilities I could customize my avatar with, and the way each job interacted with others to fill in the gaps. At the time, I hadn’t seen anything like it in a game — it was my first MMO — and I was hooked.

Now, even as I’ve gotten older, assumed more responsibilities (children, wife, career) I still find myself craving a good set of MMO mechanics to consume. It seems I am no longer able to play a game to enjoy killing a little bit of time. Instead, I find myself reading about other MMOs to focus my voracious monster’s appetite on; to gorge on the interplay of the game’s mechanics such that I obsess over them and read about them even when I’m not playing the game.

But why?

I’m still trying to answer that question, but in the meantime, I’ve cancelled my FFXI subscription and am going to figure out if I can change the menu for my voracious monster.