This article is by The Godmother. You can check out more of her work at Alt:ernative Chat.
Normally, gaming is all about the winning.
Let's be honest, gentle reader, coming first for many people is all that matters. There are no points for second place and indeed coming last is... well only good for ridicule and contempt. We all know people who play like this and I'm not about to sit here and advocate that wanting to win is wrong, far from it. Competition is healthy, and some might argue advantageous if wanting to help individuals understand and grasp the concepts of self and effort. However, for an increasing number of gamers, winning is only an option. There are alternatives to being first, and sometimes they involve the disengagement of the drive and determination that often typify most form of gaming participation.
Consider, if you will, the concept of comfort gaming.
This is better for you than that slice of cake after a hard day at the office, less about bragging rights and more about personal satisfaction. It allows you not to worry about the other people, and puts the onus of responsibility firmly in their own hands. It won't happen straight away either, in the early days of a new gaming experience... this is a process that occurs after time has elapsed, when you've leveled a character or actually completed the main thrust of the game's storyline. These are the moments when you go back to the places you saw while you leveled and thought 'you know what, I'd like to spend some time doing this' but instead you pushed ahead to complete another task. This the fiddling with your character's look to get it just right by running a specific dungeon or zone continually until the right item drops. This is finding that item that you wanted but you then outgrew, but still would like because the name or the look appealed to you when you saw it.
In Warcraft terms, at least for me, this is what I consider 'faffing'.
As it's been around a decade, there's an awful lot of Warcraft that I've never actually done, even though I've been here since the beginning. There's a ton of transmogrifying items I don't own that I'd like to. There are bosses that still remain unbeaten in certain modes, and achievements that were too hard for me to complete at the correct level but now I outgear them... and the list goes on. This is the time, in the twilight of Mists of Pandaria, in the months before the new expansion appears, that my faffing takes on a life of its own, and becomes more important than the instance progression I'm a part of... because the comfort I gain from this is what keeps the game vibrant and alive. It's also, I suspect, why Blizzard still owns one of the largest paying MMO sub bases on the planet. I know I'm not alone in what I do and how I play, I've seen people embrace my concept in the first weeks of this new year. I've declared 2014 'The Year of Faff' and there has been a sense of unmitigated joy every time I see someone else use the word in reference to what they are doing in game. I am not alone in not being first and this in itself is a cause for celebration.
Don't get me wrong, I have no desire to stop those who want to stampede to the end as quickly as possible, they are as an important a part of the gaming process as those of us quite happy to bring up the rear. For them, I suspect, the concept of comfort gaming would be considerably different to begin with. Warcraft's obvious success has been down to its longevity, based around the many and various ways to play... and often many have suggested that there is actually no real way to 'win' everything, simply a set of triumphs which are not judged by the game itself, but by the people playing it. That's the key to comfort gaming, it's not actually evaluated as a success by anyone except the individual, and with that as your time-scale anything is possible. However, I reckon you'll still be able to find and spot the fellow players who share your particular passion and enjoyment of this part of the game, should you require confirmation you're not alone.
Comfort gaming is all about your rules, your desires and your plan. You may not be able to make that mount or piece of transmog gear drop when you want, but it doesn't matter because there will always be something else to do. However, when it does happen, it is glorious, and the sense of satisfaction you gain from the receiving is just as good, if not more so than if you'd done it first amongst your peers or when the content was current. Gaming is all about reward, so I am told. Sometimes it doesn't matter if you don't finish first, just that you complete the course at all.