I'll start off this blog with what I feel an appropriate series of articles, leading off from the beginning of why we are all here on a gaming site. So, why do we feel the need to play video games, and more importantly, what is it that draws us to the MMO genre? Read on as I will discuss what draws us in, and lay the foundations of the gamer mentality from which further articles will refer to.
The Feeling of Power!
I say 'feeling' of power because it is all relative in the context of the game in question, a feeling that dissipates as soon as you log off, or change to another game. You may feel powerful in your guild as the best-geared tank, and enjoy knowing that in any guild adventures, you will be the one called upon to protect your guild from any baddies. Yet in the context of the overall game, you may not even be anywhere near the top players, but you enjoy the feeling you get in your own situation.
Whilst writing this I look to the left and see a banner for an MMO, its' main text boasts: GROW YOUR POWER, Fight Monsters! Which fittingly sums up probably THE main objective of an MMORPG (PvP aspirations aside of course, although even this often requires a healthy helping of PvE). Game companies obviously know that this powerful feeling plays a part in our satisfaction of playing a game, as this particular advertisement points out. Having a character we can call our own, one that we can grow, train, and shape the way it performs, is the major drawcard of RPG's in general, be it offline or online. Every RPG player has surely experienced moments on a high level character, after decimating a squad of enemies, where they've thought "Yeah, I'm awesome". This feeling can be magnified intensely in the online world of an MMORPG, knowing that you can become a powerful avatar in a world filled with people hoping to one day reach the pinnacle. For some people this pinnacle is to become stronger than other people's characters, to gain an edge in PvP combat. For others their goal is to grow strong enough to become some of the select few to ever fight and defeat certain high-end bosses.
Some people create other ways to feel powerful, such as effecting other people's gaming time. I'm sure anyone who has played World of Warcraft on a PvP server has experienced a high lvl player going on a rampage and killing lower level players, for no gain at all, other than to feel powerful (perhaps because of their lack of power against adversaries of their own level?). These players take pride in spending their own paid playing time to purely make other people's playing time miserable, for nothing but the smug knowledge that they are ruining someone else's fun.
The MMO Genre in particular is the best at imbuing this sense of achievement, growth and power as you rise through the ranks of players. In your early stages you have the higher level players to look up to and aspire to, and as you rise higher yourself, there will still be newer players running around, to remind you of how far you've come, and how much more powerful you have become. If you obtain a shiny new item you can show all your friends as they ooh and aah in amazement, if you get a new item in an offline game its nowhere near as satisfying. Likewise if you lvl up in an online game you have your friends and guildmates to congratulate you, whilst offline there isn't the same sense of gratification. It is the journey of becoming more powerful and having others to share it with (and show off to) that adds to the appeal of an MMORPG.
The desire for the feeling of power was present for me even in the first MMO I played, Dark Age of Camelot. I remember the first time I saw a lvl 50 Paladin in his epic armor set, I thought wow! I wanted to be like him, and sent him a private message telling him how sweet his armor looked. Little did I know it was the armor all lvl 50 Paladins had for completing their class quest line, and wasn't particularly special. So I set out to be like him, and my first lvl 50 was a Paladin who proudly wore this armor as well (shown below) and in turn received messages from new players telling me how sweet -my- armor looked. Perhaps they followed the same cycle as me? Who knows?