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Editorials By Erich Von Hase on August 05, 2005


"Why Do We Play These Games?" (Page 2 of 2)

But as addictive as they were, one day a few people realized that watching a bunch of text scroll by wasn’t nearly as exciting as those first person shooter games with the 3D graphics. (Give them a break. It was only the mid 1990’s, back when 8 bit games like Doom and Quake were mind blowing.) And then it happened just like the Resse’s Cup commercial. “You’ve got your MUD in my First Person Shooter!” “No, you’ve got your FPS in my Multi-User Dungeon!” And EverQuest was born, creating an entirely new genre of games that has not yet lost momentum, our beloved MMOG.

Now the circle was complete. Not only were all of the psychological tools exported over from the MUDs to keep players hooked, but the addition of a graphics engine opened up another set of tools to keep us engrossed. With entire worlds to explore, visual representations of characters to interact with, and actions to see rather than read, players were offered games in which they could immerse their senses and thought processes.

Yup, you guessed it, here comes some more psycho babble. While anyone who can operate a computer can read (arguably), not everyone is purely a text based, or verbal, thinker. In fact, very few people are. Human beings think and interact with their environments on several levels at once. Whether or not these processes are instinctive or learned, they exist in all of us. Human beings are all affected by these principles, and it has become clear that there are certain types of players who have different priorities while playing MMOGs. What these players desire most from an MMOG dictates whether or not they will continue to pay to play.

After millions of dollars of research by psychologists and advertisers, it has been proven that human beings respond to the images of human beings. Faces, body frames, and the like create subconscious responses in us. It is no wonder that the addition of characters to look at, rather than a verbal physical description, has caused volumes of players to feel more comfortable with MMOGs than MUDs. However, there is a certain type of player that is strongly affected by the addition of human shapes to look at and associate with, and that is the Socializer. The Socializer plays MMOGs primarily for the player interaction, but also the NPC interaction as well. Games that do not have good meeting places or a good sense of community usually lose the interest of Socializers. However, as long as a Socializer has friends on a game and can find them whenever he or she plays, they will continue to play the game. The other psychological tools that have been put into MMOGs are only icing on the Socializer’s cake. When they do engage in them, it is often so that they can keep up with their friends.Another psychological mechanism we humans have is the cognitive process of spatial orientation. In other words, knowing how to get around. In some people this sort of thing is so strong that it guides them in life. In an MMOG, these sorts of people become Explorers. The biggest priority for an Explorer is getting to find new areas and see them first hand. Aside from finding areas no one has ever seen before, the greatest reward for an Explorer is getting into a place that is difficult to crack. The ultimate goal of an Explorer is to ‘see it all’. Although some Explorers do it to brag about where they’ve been and what content they’ve experienced and yet others do it solely for themselves, their priority is the same. As long as there is something new to see and do, they want to do it and will continue to pay to do so. Explorers often engage in the advancement process so that they can become powerful enough to gain access to new areas. When they acquire the ability to see and do it all, and then do, they’re pretty much done.

The Conqueror is a little more susceptible to the Random Interval machine. He or she plays MMOGs to conquer them, one challenge at a time. Whether it is for the thrill of the hunt, the desire to unleash pent up aggression, or a need to be the best, the Conqueror plays the game to win. Whether we like to admit it or not, we are all Conquerors to some degree because that is really the primary game play function of most MMOGs today. Because whether or not a character can achieve a goal is based on a series of rolls, Conquerors can find themselves pulled into the obsessive nature of the game. As long as there is something to defeat or achieve, the Conqueror has a drive to keep playing. Once they have beaten the game they’re usually done, unless they get a hankering to go back and try to beat the game in a different way.

The Collector plays… well to collect. Getting things is what motivates them. Whether it is for items that their character needs, a specific set of items, or everything they can get their pilferous little mitts on, Collectors play for the loot. This makes Collectors highly susceptible to the Random Interval machine because whether or not a player gets the loot they want depends on whether or not the computer rolls it to be there. The obsession really has its origins right here. Worst of all, nearly all MMOGs have designed a dependence on equipment into their games. You have to beat the monster to get the better items so you can beat the bigger monster to get an even better item, etc. etc. Whether we are Socializers, Explorers, Conquerors, or a combination therein, we are also by nature Collectors, and when you combine all of these mechanisms it becomes pretty clear why we keep paying to play. The games are designed to exploit our natures.

So, the next time someone in your guild gets frustrated and asks why they keep paying to play, you can unleash a volume of reasons and explanations. But the simple truth is, over the past 30 years, the formula has evolved because when designers chose to implement mechanics that invoked our obsessive behavior with Random Interval Reinforcement and desirable short, medium, and long terms goals, the game was successful.

It's something to think about the next time you find yourself at any point in the life cycle of playing an MMOG.

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