By C’Loni Bailey, Assistant Manager at Bookmans Mesa

I love MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role-playing games). The game worlds are huge and the game never ends. I’ve played dozens of MMORPGs and the one thing they have in common is that I have next to no max level characters. I used to think this is because I am not dedicated enough to the game. I get distracted from gaming time by things like work, sleep and cosplay, but after creating my gazillionth character on World of Warcraft, I realized why I have no max level characters. I’m addicted to being a lowbie. This realization helped me learn to stop grinding and start enjoying low levels.

Perpetual Lowbie: How I Learned to Stop Grinding and Start Enjoying Low Levels

It sounds ridiculous to be addicted to playing low level characters. When I make a character, I usually stick with that character until about the middle levels. Inevitably I get bored. After spending so many hours doing the same types of quests–go there, kill that, collect this many of this item and bring it back–I start to miss the wide-eyed wonder I had back when I was a lowbie. The nostalgia compels me to create a new character so I can experience the fun of being a lowbie again.

I’ve made at least half a dozen Night Elf characters in World of Warcraft because I adore the Night Elf starting area, Teldrassil. Teldrassil is a gorgeous purple and green forest built on a gigantic tree the size of an island. It is my favorite starting area in any MMO I’ve played. The music is mysterious and soothing and I love wandering around the forest and taking in the ethereal beauty of the place. I’m always sad once I complete the available quests there and am forced to abandon the beauty of Teldrassil for the harsh world beyond for the sake of leveling.

What makes low levels so appealing? For one, it’s the fascination of playing a character who is waking up to a whole new world. Even if you played the game many many times before, there is something charming about starting areas. They are designed to be inviting to new players, so considerable care goes into the design of starting areas for most MMOs. They must be aesthetically pleasing while fitting in with the world concept, easy to navigate so that new players don’t get lost or frustrated, and the quests must provide a solid introduction to the gameplay mechanics but be diverse enough that players do not get bored. In short, they present the best aspects of the game up front to hook players and encourage them to stick around. In some ways they are the most interesting areas of the game because of the amount of care and content that goes into them.

Most MMOs have multiple starting areas depending on the type of character you create. I’m obsessed with making “alts” (alternate characters) to explore various starting areas. I like to feel immersed in the game world and I find that once you get above the mid levels of most games, it starts to feel like you are leveling for the sake of leveling and grinding the same dungeons over and over for equipment. That breaks the feeling of immersion.

It doesn’t help that in such games pick-up dungeon groups are often full of players who are so well versed in dungeon grinding that they no longer care about immersing themselves into the world anymore. Most groups want to rush through each dungeon as quickly as possible, sparing little time to enjoy the setting and story. This is why I solo dungeons. If I go through a dungeon by myself, I can take as much time as I want to explore every inch and enjoy the story.

Grinding isn’t everything. After a while, the game loses its allure. When all you focus on is gaining levels or gear, it becomes more work than play. In a gamer culture obsessed with proving your gaming prowess via grinding for levels and loot, it’s easy to forget that gamers are a diverse group of people who enjoy games in many different ways. We chronic lowbies are as important to gaming culture as max levelers because we take the time to appreciate the details developers and artists put into their games rather than rushing through the content. What’s the point in playing a game if you’re not having fun?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off take my lowbie Night Elf Druid fishing during a sunset.