What Makes Us Go Ding Part 3 - EfficacyQuest
Jun 26, 2006 17:09:51

MMOGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Games) may not be taking over the world just yet, but one thing that can be said without a doubt is that an enormous group of gamers has latched onto the MMOG model and isn't letting go. More and more frequently, massively multiplayer online games are said to be far more than a casual diversion and are more akin to a lifestyle, a social outlet, and a massive project that is always underway. Due to the lack of winning conditions, the incredible depth of content, and the person to person relationships, no other kind of game commands a greater share of our time, our minds, and our emotions. Put aside that elaborate but shallow assessment and you will find that at the core of these games there are a handful of simple features that cause us all to spend hundreds and hundreds of hours immersed in these virgin worlds rather than the handful of hours we spend in other games, at the movies, or watching TV. In this multipart series, we'll explore "What makes us go ding?"

Be sure to read:
What Makes Us Go Ding Part 1 - Minutia In the Machine
What Makes Us Go Ding Part 2 - They call it Rubberneckin'

Part 3 - EfficacyQuest

The motivation to attain levels in MMOGs is driven by a number of factors. In parts one and two of this series we explored the player's motivation to achieve expertise in a game's systems and a player's desire to explore a virgin territory. This time, the all consuming need to be a potent agent of change rears its head.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, RPG gamers want to be heroes without exception. Whether you start as a peasant on a mission for a troubled local farmer or as a fledging superhero decked out in freshly sewn spandex, the ultimate objective is to be admired for your accomplishments. There is an enormous amount of satisfaction in returning to the haunts of your untwinked youth to stomp the once fearsome denziens who plagued your groups when you were lesser adventurers. (Some of us feel this urge at our high school renuions too.)

This progression from punk to pwn is not unique to MMOGs, but in no other game is it as significant and well earned. Well earned? Yes. What I mean by that is the potential for failure and real choice actually exists. For example, Final Fantasy is a fantastic RPG series (7 and 8 come to mind most fondly). The subsystems within the game are laden with complexities, the combat system can be massaged to incredible outcomes by a skilled player, and the player may exercise a good amount of free will. All of these factors help make the single player Final Fantasy an immensely popular title with depth far exceeding your average console game, and yet, in comparison to the simplest MMOG (even old text-MUDS) these games are nothing more than a guided tour to a forgone conclusion. At the end of a Final Fantasy title, I reflect only on the enjoyable story I've been told, rather than the part I played on the stage of the story. I know that thousands or even millions of players worldwide have had the same experience with the game. In contrast, my experiences in a MMOG are uniquely mine. My heroics moments and agonizing failures are truly the result of my own actions rather than a limited set of options programmed by the the developers to serve a predestined plotline.

The first time a player experiences a MMOG he or she is often left with jaw agape, not at the size of the world or the fancy emote animations, but rather the realization that anything is possible. No one is riding a rollercoaster around in circles. Rollercoasters certainly can be fun, but eventually you need a new track. Or no track at all. It is this realization that instills the fevor known fondly as catassing, because we know there is no screen of scrolling credits waiting at the end of the next dungeon, and we know that our accomplishments today, whether positive or disastrous are certainly not the last and probably not the best we will see during our time in-game. Most importantly, much like real-life, we all see ourselves as the protagonist in MMOs, but unlike real-life, we know we can be the toughest hero in the land ... if we can just ding that next level.

Submitted by Brent on Jun 26, 2006 17:09:51 CST (comments: 0)


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