I had an old draft saying “How it’s good to play a game without a main”.
For those unaware of it, a “main” is usually the character you play most in a game that have more than one option of it. RPGs (and, obviously, MMORPGs) are known for this, as you can have multiple classes you can chose (and there is nothing stopping you from playing with one class, then another, then going back to the first, and so on).
This draft was sitting in my draft folder since I started playing Rift, which I stopped playing about 2 months ago. In there, I dropped some notes about the fact that I didn’t feel “chained” to a certain character like I did in WoW, when I felt somewhat bad for not playing one day, not completing daily quests and not getting the rewards I was planning — which is a damn weird thought when you think about it, as you don’t “owe” to your character in any shape or form.
But that’s the way I felt with “Thorianar”, my paladin in WoW: Missing a day of game meant some reward would only be reached a day later, which wasn’t fair after those 3-4 years running around doing everything for the best gear/enchant.
But I’m going a bit off-topic. Thing is, my “freedom from mains” came when I was playing 4 characters in Rift, one for each class. Those were not my first characters, though: I had a Cleric sitting in a PvP server which was a real pain to play (seems the Guardians were outnumbered by the Defiants, so things got really though in the shared zones). Anyway, as time goes, patch 1.3 landed, free shard transfers appeared. And then, suddenly, that Cleric came back to mind. And, suddenly, that Cleric was transferred to join the others, which never got a play time again.
At first, there could be drawn a line between “time played” and “money invested”: The character you play the most is, at the same time, the one you “paid” more (in your monthly fee). Thus, you need to do something to justify the money you already invested: Starting over again would meant those monthly payments you made before were completely wasted.
Guild Wars, which I’m playing again, comes to mind, though. You see, I had an elementalist since the very beginning, with other characters. But that character (“Lydia Tombstone”, by the way) suddenly was my main. And the reason I returned to Guild Wars was simply the “Hall of Monuments”, which I mentioned here before. But there is this weird thing about the Hall: It’s shared amongst all your characters, so you can get some points with one character, roll another, get some other points and, in the end, each unique point is added and you get your rewards. But the guide I followed suggested rolling another character, in a different class. And, although I could tell myself that I was doing that just for the points, it hurt me that I couldn’t get them with my main.
And Guild Wars is “buy to play”, so the monthly fee thing doesn’t apply.
So what really makes someone attached to a virtual entity? Not just any virtual entity, but an entity that that person created. Maybe mains fill that spot that some dreams fill, giving the person some feeling they miss in real life.