I decided to look at the drive behind MMOG mainly because I felt the pull when I was playing World Of Warcraft, a Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG). When playing I found myself going back to it, even though it altered my daily routine and at times I found the game frustrating, yet at the same time one of the most rewarding games that I have ever played to date. Also I heard many stories regarding not just World Of Warcraft but other MMOGs when people were becoming violent and even dying while playing these games. Was this a simple case of addiction, or were there other factors that contributed to the problem of playing MMOGs?
I shall be looking at these types of games; this includes their structure, their content and also how the social side all enhance game play. I shall also investigate the problems when facing these games, how some fare worse than others, and if there are any reasons why users would spend so much time in the game world. Companies that make these games must know there are some problems that surround them, and what do they do to solve this. What future games can gamers look forward to? Will everything be online? And if so how will people cope then when some cannot even cope now?
By asking questions and reading books that psychiatrists have written about the online community, I shall try to gain a better insight into what drives people to play these games. Also connections with companies will help me know what are the plans they may have for future problems and dealing with them.
What is a Massive Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG)? These are game types that allow users to play with other people from around the world; there is no offline play option. They can include First Person Shooters (FPS), strategy games and even driving simulators.
Most games that are out now allow a multiplayer option, which gives the user the choice of playing by themselves or in a group. Most of these games are bought with a one-off fee and has no playing time limit; the majority of play time is offline, but with the choice of going online. There are others where the user has to purchase the game and also pay a monthly fee in order to continue playing the game online. The Xbox and Xbox 360 were the most successful consoles that allowed users to pay an online fee (considering they already had the internet) that allowed some of the games purchased on the console to be played online. PC users who bought MMOGs have to purchase the game and then additionally a monthly fee that only lets them play that particular game. In addition to MMOGs, there is also Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPG), which like MMOGs, lets the user play with other people on the internet. They also play a particular character that lets the user take the character’s role and become part of the community that is created in this world. This allows people to escape their own life and rebuild it as far as the game’s programming allows. Each person playing may not reflect the character that they build and play.
The trustworthy, honest, and responsible banker can pretend to be a tricky, cunning thief, and the unprepossing, diligent student is able to represent the ruthless killer without fear of social repercussion. (M.Friedl. 2003. p.30)
Also gender swapping is common practice within MORPGs, as it gives the chance for someone to become a member of the opposite sex without the need to dress up or have surgery; usually men who have played MMOGs try to experiment with creating a female character for these reasons, but try to pass it off as nothing significant. (S.Turkle.1995.p.212). As time progresses they learn the mannerisms of the female character, such as, speech and reactions, so they are able to fit into the role easier. Females may also come across the same problems when choosing to become a man. Others may become curious to what some men talk about.
I have always been so curious about what men do with each other. I could never imagine how they talk to each other. I can’t exactly go to a gay bar and eavesdrop inconspicuously. (S.Turkle.1995. p.213)
As the player continues to progress with the act of playing the opposite sex, they may start to form an internet relationship. The player may discover certain things about themselves that in other circumstances they would never realise, as well as the realisation that they may be having a relationship with the same sex.
The leading MMORPG is World of Warcraft (WOW) with a massive 8 million people playing from January 11th, 2007. (www.blizzard.com/press). Blizzard the makers of WOW have made other successful games, like the past Warcraft series and Diablo 1 and 2, which both allow Multiplayer options. Even though there have been many MMOGs and MMORPGs before WOW, like Everquest (MMORPG) or Halo 2 (MMOG/ FPS), WOW has taken control of the market, because it is easy to operate, progress and interact within the game, which are all key points in making a popular and successful game.
Some MMORPGs like EVE Online, which is still extremely popular, tend to have a slower learning curve because of the vastness that hits the user at the start, unlike WOW which slowly builds up the options that can be done in the game. Comparing the two, considering the success of WOW it seems to be the most popular; WOW had eight million players by January 2007, where as EVE had 155,000 by October 2006. (http://myeve.eve-online.com). Each game allows a trial for users to experience game play which usually lasts about 14 days. WOW has certain restrictions on the 14 days, as players are not allowed to level up above 20, nor allowed to use the auction house, nor send mail to other characters; they have also placed a maximum amount of 10 gold (currency in the game) on what characters are allowed to carry (www.blizzard.com/support/wowbilling). In Eve there are no restrictions to the game play, and for the duration of the trial players own the complete game, but as training can take up to 24 hours of a single skill there is hardly any chance for the trial user to progress very far in the game.
Most people are drawn to games depending on the price of the game, unless they read a good review or are set on buying a particular game in the first place. As both EVE and WOW are online they both carry a purchase price and also a monthly fee, which may put off first MMOG buyers. WOW buying price is around £19.99 and a monthly fee of £7.70- £9 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_of_Warcraft). Gamers also have the option to purchase a card that allows them to play for 60 days (this replaces the monthly fee as some users do not wish to have a monthly contract) which allows them to have the option of replacing after the 60 days. EVE does not have the option of the monthly card and has a monthly fee of approximately £8.67 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EVE_Online). Even though both games can take up a person’s life considerably to the point where it could be considered an addiction, EVE does take longer in order to play, but the end result is a far more specialised character that is very unlikely to be the same as another. WOW players start off very similar to each other, it is only when the player reaches the higher levels such as 50+ are they more individual. Player’s skills tend to be the same even though there are many combinations; players put in the points for the best skills to go against PVP (player vs player) NPC (Non player character). Individuality usually comes with what equipment the player owns (see Fig 1), there is such a range of items and equipment which usually comes with its own magical properties; that could contain making the players strength higher or making their magic spells more powerful. In most MMOG there must be time taken to progress through the game, and almost always a large amount of time taken to be good at the game.
In a recent survey asking people about MMOGs (Online Survey. Author’s own. 3/3/07. See appendix A) out of the 10 players who responded, 10 had an average of 4.6 hours a day of game play, two of whom played about 8 hours, one of these played the game WOW which is already described as a time consuming game. A WOW player for four months played an average of eight hours a day. In the time spent playing WOW for the four months, she played an average of 248 hours of game play, in which time she had many different low level characters, but had two main ones which she played, the one which gained the highest was level 52. The reason she played the game was because everyone around her seemed to be doing it, so she thought she would give it a try, in doing so she also convinced some of her other friends to play the game.
I did get a few friends at home to have a go; they quite enjoyed it but can't imagine they would have brought the game themselves. (Interview. Anonymous WOW player. 5/3/07. See appendix B)
The content of the games are also being used differently; this is called Emergent game play, which is when a player or players in the game, play the game differently to what the game designer intended. In some racing games players use a slow car and try to finish the race first by letting the other player push them all the way (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emergent_gameplay), or perhaps use glitches in the game to gain advantage or go into an area they are not suppose to. One such example is in Halo 2, an FPS Offline game, but with the online option that is very popular among Xbox owners, which allows players to reload quicker, giving them the advantage in battle if the other players do not know how to exploit the same glitch. (www.halo-2-glitches.com). This is a whole new different type of game play for the future, as old games become new with different methods of playing (fig 2 shows players making a smiley face with their characters). Some games have even added extra features that encourage emergent game play, such as EVE online which allows the net to be surfed as if the Internet Explorer were being used. Games that allow players to go online usually are the ones that players find different ways of playing or finding glitches, usually because with online game play there is an audience that is able to see the glitch or emergent game play that is taken place, which could be seen as showing off and could be considered cool by their friends.
With the ever growing online games and options that can be played, MMOGs, especially MMORPGs, tend to mimic real life with the same everyday choices.
The more successful MMORPGs, like EVE Online and WOW, have a vast community which acts very much like a community found in the real world. There are bad and good people; some who will help new people to the game or others who might kill noobs (term for people who have just started playing and know very little about the game play), much like a person helping someone to move in, or robbing an elderly or weak person. Some people form relationships from these MMORPGs and can even get married (unofficially) with their characters in the game. This type of game interaction is usually why people tend to come back to the game or buy it in the first place. A place where someone can hide and be someone else, a different sex and live out a life in a social environment where they usually would not be able to. Most people call this an addiction, because they cannot be drawn away. Being addicted to MMOGs is like is much like visiting another country on holiday because of the culture and the social environment, or possibly friends helping each other around and letting them other stay; most of these reasons can be the very same why people are drawn back into playing. In both senses the person is a visitor as at some time or another they must return to their original location such as the holiday has ended or going to bed or feeding in the real world. An interesting insight made by Ted Castronova in his book Synthetic Worlds is:
For some people, Earth is really where they ought to spend their time. For others, perhaps the Fantasy world is the only decent place available. (www.nickyee.com/daedalus)
In the MMOG survey (Online Survey. Author’s own. 3/3/07.See appendix A) the players would have an average of 3.6 friends online where as they would have an average of 16.6 offline. It could be considered that by having more friends’ offline they would have a better interaction with them, but two vital facts are missing. Firstly do the offline friends play with their mates online? If this is the case the online friendship would increase to 20.2 friends. (See fig 3 for information). Secondly the 16.6 friends offline that they may have, do not state how much time they spend with them, as they might spend more time in the game, hence more time with their online friends. A female WOW player, who played most of the four months in the summer but still overlapped her university time, stated that even though she still went out with her friends and passed her first year at university, she still noticed that her social life somewhat changed slightly, but not as drastically as others have done where they may have forgotten to eat or have stopped their interaction with others (Interview. Anonymous WOW player. 5/3/07.). Even though her life did not change and could be considered ‘healthy game play’, she still played 8 hours a day, and considered herself addicted. Comparing this to someone who works, most jobs are eight hours a day, people are suppose to sleep eight hours a day, leaving 8 hours to do everything else.
In a time when people find the virtual world more acceptable than the real world, is it wrong for a community to say that preferring that world is wrong? The addiction is part of the reason why some people may not eat or neglect some tasks while playing these games, however there are attractive qualities of the game which make it understandable why they are played; social, levelling and enjoying the game are but a few reasons why.
There are also some games like ‘2nd Life’ that have economics integrated in the game play, which allows real life currency to be converted into game money to buy or build something in the game, which sometimes can be converted back into real currency. In November 2006 Anshe Chung (online character Ailin Graef) became the first millionaire in US dollars from playing 2nd Life (www.businessweek.com). She was able to gain this massive income from only two and a half years from playing the game, and from an account that cost her $9.95.
Anshe/Ailin achieved her fortune by beginning with small scale purchases of virtual real estate which she then subdivided and developed with landscaping and themed architectural builds for rental and resale. Her operations have since grown to include the development and sale of properties for large scale real world corporations, and have led to a real life "spin off" corporation called Anshe Chung Studios, which develops immersive 3D environments for applications ranging from education to business conferencing and product prototyping.
(Rob Hof. www.businessweek.com)
There have been many issues around the ownership of property in the game, as the users do not really own anything that they buy or process in the game world. This falls under the ownership of the makers of the game, and so they can either modify items or places without needing to tell the user. In the case of Anshe it was beneficial to the online community, as it would encourage people to increase their game play and also because she sold and rented a lot of land, which helped the other users. Figs 4, 5 and 6 show examples of Anshe Chung’s work, that can be bought on her website. She also converts money to Linden$ which is the currency in the game, along with other options, such as letting players sell or rent land or buying a new character.
Most Online games do take control of a percentage of the user’s life. For some this percentage could be high, but for the most people it is usually low enough, so they do not have any serious problems. There have been many reports of people dealing with difficulties, most of the major complaints are made by the parents or partners of the gamer, who try to get help for them, because they continually play the game so much it hinders their relationships or general life, so they forget to eat, work and go to school. Other cases have been more severe and devastating to others around them. Liz Wodey, founder of Online Gamers Anonymous, lost her son to EverQuest, when during that time he became depressed and withdrawn and lost his job.
We couldn’t get any professionals to see that it was a problem. He struggled for a year and a half- then committed suicide in front of the computer with the Everquest game on the screen. I found him on Thanksgiving Day. (www.gamerchronicles.com)
Other situations may not harm the user but may harm others around them at risk. An example of this would be the Korean couple who were arrested, because they neglected and forgot to feed their 4 month old daughter who died, when they were playing WOW at a nearby internet café (http://uk.gamespot.com/news). Some people, who usually tend to be women, find that their husbands play too much online, making them a Gamer Widow, coming only second (and some cases even further down the line.) to the P.C game. (www.gamerchronicles.com)
Usually these problems come from MMORPG, as it entices the user more into the gaming world, and can allow the player to strip away their preconceived self image, and construct a new alternative identity. As mentioned before about online marriages and relationships, these can also spill into real life and some players have found their boyfriend or life partner through arranging a meeting location from inside the game. Of course this can lead to a more sinister side and paedophiles can exploit their alternative identities to aid in the grooming of children. Shavaun Scott, a Marriage and Family Therapist and also addiction treatment specialist from California, who has been practising since the late 1980s, treated in one case, an adolescent male who met a 30 year old woman in an MMOG and then proceeded to have a real life sexual encounter with her because he ‘fell in love with her’. He became suicidal when she did not return his love and in the end he needed medication, support and two years of therapy to recover. Children as young as 13 have become violent because their parents have tried to restrict or take away the gaming experience. (Interview. Shavaun Scott. 26/1/07 See appendix C)
Is it safe to say that MMOG just cause harm and have no beneficial gain? Even though these issues are not to be belittled, in the case of healthy game play, it can help people develop social interaction and experience through playing MMOG. In a world where a teenager can become the leader of a guild and give orders, or manage other adults in performing tasks where usually in the real world they would not be able to, gives them the opportunities to really show others what they are capable of. As a result it could be applied to real life when they get a job because they are able to work well within a group. Others who may be disabled might not be able to get out of the house as much or see places or meet people where most able-bodied people can. With such games as WOW, these people can have a social life without needing to leave the house. Renee who plays Lineage 2 is one such case.
I play all the time. I’m disabled and my clan is my social life. All my friends are in the game. (www.gamerchronicles.com)
Is it safe to say that the game itself is the cause of the addiction? If paedophiles are studied as to why they pursue children, a community does not blame the child for being attractive or accessible so that paedophiles are drawn more to them. In the cases of deaths from MMORPG, when someone dies while playing the game, the game itself is seen as the main contributing factor, which is readily accepted. When compared to in game violence or aggression in football or another activity the coach is looked at to see what his past record was. Did they push the person too hard or was there abuse from others? The activity itself is not blamed but those surrounding it. When the same thing happens to MMOG most of the time when the user dies or is killed, usually because depression or perhaps jealousy or some other psychological aspect is a contributory factor to the death, but the death is still attributed mainly to addiction to the game.
It seems apparent that people are more willing to shift the blame when they are unable to understand the reasons behind the incident. This is even more so the case with MMOG as they are unable to get close to the situation as most of these popular games such as WOW are run by massive companies. In the case of Blizzard the makers of WOW, it would be very hard for the victim’s parents to get a better understanding, unless it was through the courts and through lawyers, simply because of size and importance of the company. It is not as if the game was made by a person down the street, where the parents could go and knock on their door.
Online gaming is not pinned down to just teenagers who cannot stop playing the game. The age ranges from anyone with an interest in the game and also ones that enjoy the social side; this can include people from 13 to 40 years old. It could be considered that people with problems are more inclined to continually play the game so they can escape their own life, than others who have a good social life already and can stop at any time, but the evidence from the MMOG survey (Online survey. Author’s Own. 3/3/07) suggests that people with a very healthy social life and good upbringing can still play as much as the people with the social problems. In the survey taken (Online Survey. Author’s Own. 3/3/07) 4 to 5 people out of ten, chose that the reason they play is because they enjoy the look of and also the social aspects of the games that they were playing online.
The main reasons why people keep playing the game are because of social interaction, or doing something in the game to better themselves, or even building their character and progressing with quests. Apart from social interaction, the games which seem to have the most problems are the ones that are so vast and take a considerable time from going to one place to another. Levelling up people’s character can take weeks or even months depending on how much they play. In the case of Star Wars Galaxies becoming a Jedi master would take years, because of the amount of quests, travelling and grinding (‘grinding’ is a term for just killing monsters to gain experience points) just so they could convert the experience gained into force points, but the conversion is not as high and can be something like 10 to 1 force points. Understanding that the developers do not want too many master Jedi’s around the game world, everyone will want to become one because of the hype behind becoming a Jedi from the films.
There is a whole list of the pros and cons to MMOG; most parents or parents who do not play the game will concentrate more on the cons as they are possibly unaware of the pros in the game, feeling that it is distorting their life (social); they are addicted, lack of eating, health problems, and possibly in extreme cases the player has died. Some players may be aware of the cons, but feel that the pros of the game outweigh them; social interaction in the game, making new friends, leading a group, the joy of gaining a new level or new equipment.
In the cases where players have heard of other players dying, one would think that would be enough to put anyone off the game but perhaps feel, like most young people do, that nothing bad can happen to them, and they will not let the same happen to them. In the cases of these extreme reports from the news and magazines, they tend to focus more on the fact that the game ‘killed’ the player. In one case a Chinese boy jumped from a 24 story building because he was ‘recreating’ an act from the game WOW; the parents then tried to sue the company Blizzard for their son’s death. In these reports it states, who the victim was, what he had done and supposedly why, and the action being taken. With only these facts papers are able to make it an interesting story and make the game seem like a bad influence, but most of the facts of the case seem to be left out or not put as much emphasis on, as in the cases Shavaun Scott has treated; there is usually more than just the game that makes someone do this.
In one report Keith Stuart quickly describes the tragedy, but also that usually vital facts are usually missing from the reports in the Far East.
Here's another strange story of fatal online gaming addiction - this time from Tianjin in China. According to several news sources, the parents of a teenage World of Warcraft addict are suing Blizzard after their son jumped to his death from a building - allegedly while 're-enacting an event' from the successful MMORPG.
Clearly, game addiction is a serious problem in China, but this is a puzzling case. I can't recall hearing about any WoW quests that have involved leaping from great heights. The story is everywhere on the net, but vital facts and primary source data are missing - as is often the case with these tragic tales from the Far East... (Keith Stuart. www.blogs.guardian.co.uk)
Even though there may be more cases from the east of gaming addiction, it seems that players in Beijing have been given timing restrictions so they are unable to play more than three continuous hours (http://news.bbc.co.uk). If the game was not to be the cause of all these problems, putting a restriction on may prevent other similar situations occurring in the future. This is not because of stopping the game, but because it forces the player to do something else, even though there is a possibility that the player can go off and play another similar game. But in the cases with smoke addiction and drugs, people who want something that badly to get their fix will find other means of receiving it.
Imagine a person being stuck behind a desk 24 hours a day seven days a week, coming home to a house of two children who have yet again got into trouble with their teacher, then only to find out a week later that their partner is having an affair with the gardener, but is too afraid to confront them in fear of losing everything they have built around them. For some this could possibly be a reality, and for others only the small things like giving in homework on time or taking the dog for a walk, may in time take their toll.
MMOGs give a way to escape for these people, even though they might not be aware of doing so and simply choose to play the game because they ‘feel’ like it. Most people, especially dyslexics tend to put off tasks they know they should complete, but convince themselves to do small things before they are finally ready to do the main task, such as watching a T.V. show, walking the dog, chatting to a friend or playing a game. Most small things are quick and easy and usually take up a small percentage of someone’s time before they are no longer able to put it off. Even in some games they might complete a section or die so many times they reach a point that they get fed up and decide they can no longer put off the task they were meant to be doing. But how do you complete a part of a game that really has nothing to complete? They could break down each section and say ‘after this quest I will stop’ or ‘once I get to the next level I’ll do my work’ but usually with MMORPGs that is not the case. They find themselves wanting more and more, and usually the ones who are good at self discipline are the ones who can play, stay healthy and still lead a personal life outside of the game.
There is a website that lists 24 signs for drug addiction in people (www.addictionca.com); a possible 11 also share the similar sighs when playing an MMOG. Fig 7 shows the similarities of the two.
Shavaun Scott in her in practice, believes that adolescents and people in their 20s are more influenced by what might be cool to do these days. (Interview. Shavaun Scott. 26/1/07). Smoking and drinking are the major factors with young people because everyone around them is doing it. People who are more prone to depression or lack of social interaction go for more extreme escapism such as drugs or hanging out with new friends who are a bad influence to them. Another is playing MMORPG which can be taken as a positive and negative; would a parent rather have their children take drugs and destroy their body or just sit in their room all day and play WOW? Parents are going to go for the latter as they are able to keep an eye on them, but this still does not resolve the problems they might be facing as it is only another form of escapism. People who take drugs and drink change their mood through neuro-hormones in the brain directly, people with compulsive behaviours also change the neuro-hormones but less directly. (Interview. Shavaun Scott. 26/1/07).This makes the experience very seductive for the user and so as time progresses it is more difficult for addiction to stop.
I do notice that when one plays due to a social skill deficit, or depressive problem, the more they experience "good feelings" in the game the more they turn to the game to meet all their needs - the less they build skills to cope with problems in primary life, primary life gets worse, they turn to the game more...thus goes the cycle. (Interview. Shavaun Scott. 26/1/07)
Nick Yee a Ph.D student, has opened a website called ‘The Daedalus Project’ that is dedicated to the analysis of MMOG, and the discussion as to whether it is or is not an addiction, together with the other problems associated with MMOG. There was a survey placed on the site asking players ‘Would you consider yourself addicted to the Game?’ (See fig 8). Even though this survey might show an interesting insight to the player’s view of ‘addiction’, it is also true that the results shown could possibly be misleading as described on the site (www.nickyee.com/daedalus/archives), the people asked might have not fully understood the intention of the question. But still it may have made players take a step back to consider how they play the game. From the point where people thought maybe they were addicted to definitely being addicted shows a percentage of 59.7% of players who have realised that maybe they do have a problem.
In each aspect of addiction in drugs, smoking, drinking and MMOGs, in whatever area they may be addicted, they feel each time they go back to their addiction it calms them down, or relaxes them. The amount of times a smoker says ‘Oh I need a smoke’ after a hard day at work or at a stressful time is evidence of this. With most addictions it is hard to stop; not all addictions affect the person directly. MMOG do not physically hold anything onto the player that makes them play, such as smoking does with nicotine. Maybe because of this people who are easily addicted to things, find it hard to let go because of the ‘good feelings’ that is created in their mind by the neuro-hormones. (Interview. Shavaun Scott. 26/1/07).
Companies have been releasing games since the ‘50s, but was not until the ‘70s when they really started to take off. Video games have always been an interaction with the user and the program, but most of the fun was playing the game with another person, so they could battle it out to see who would come out on top. Pong, one of the first games to be released, gained massive revenue from its machines and paved the way for other great games and consoles. Now in its 7th generation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Video_game_console), the major companies such as Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo have kept releasing consoles so that they will be able to handle more complex codes and graphics that are in the games today. Personal Computers work slightly differently as single parts of the machine can be updated to better the performance, but with the new Windows Vista that allows new and better graphic upgrades such as
Directx upgrades that accelerate 3D graphic, also handles certain programming in games plus audio and also program applications. Windows Vista, supports Directx 10 which increases the graphics capabilities of games, that allows the user to experience more and allows them to become part of the environment as it is more realistic, or the lighting is enhanced. Fig 9 is taken from a screen shot of ‘Age of Conan’ and is running with Directx 9, Fig 10 is taken from the same point but using Directx 10. The large leap from just one version number hugely increases the environment, with better lighting and also being able to look further into the distance. Also the added foliage makes the environment stand out more.
In the MMOG survey (Online Survey. Author’s own. 3/3/07), more people were drawn to the game they played because of the graphics and the social side. With new graphic upgrades being produced it will surely encourage more people to buy and play the game, and doing so will increase the amount of social interaction that one can take part in online. The main problems some people face with MMOGs and even surfing the net is lag (a term that means slow game play because of slow internet connection).The success of broadband allows downloading on the net as fast as 8mb per second. With connections in other countries running as fast as 1GB (which is 1,000 MB) this will allow almost instantaneous surfing and software downloading, which will also produce hardly any lag as the information coming from the server (usually the place where the game is held) to the player’s computer will be increased. With the new software in PCs and consoles, plus the extreme connection speed that is already at peoples disposal, Internet gaming has never been so popular. Almost all games now possess the ability of connection to the net, either playing online with others (not always MMOG) or simply to download updates or content for the game. The next-gen consoles (Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Wii) all have means to allow them to connect to the internet without the need to buy a modem. Some consoles like the PS3 and WII have a wireless connection, which allows them to connect to the players modem (considering that their modem allows wireless connection to it). The Xbox 360 is connected to the net by an internet connection lead, but have released an add-on that allows players to plug into the back of their console that acts as the modem wirelessly.
A majority of gaming will have the option of going online in the future, but as people play games to relax or escape, some simply enjoy the pick up and play option, which allows people to play a game at whatever time of the day it is, and play for a few hours without having to know what has been going on up to that point, or having to travel to one part of the land in order to complete a quest.
The MMOG survey (Online Survey. Author’s own. 3/3/07) suggests that the players asked, enjoyed more playing by themselves (solo) than within a group. Grouping would only be needed really if there was a hard quest to be completed or a dungeon where a large group might need to be arranged in order to proceed. Soloing would increase their levelling time and also they would not need to rely on anyone to play the game; this makes it a very much pick up and play choice. Halo 2 and other FPS may be online but still allow a quick and simple pick up, connect, join and play system. As connection speeds increase connection to a joined game in order to play, will be as fast as if gamers were selecting the offline single player option.
There are many other options, that can be done online, such as buying and selling objects on the net. E-Bay and Play.com are among some of the more popular sites where people spend their time mainly because of the deals that online sites offer. Online games have even started integrating these factors into their games where people can buy and sell objects in the game. Even though it is illegal and been banned from most MMORPG who find out, people train up characters and collect gold and then sell them on sites; this is called powerleveling and be bought for many MMORPGS (usually the games that involves taking time to level up). A popular game that is powerleveled is WOW (www.team-vip.com), mainly because of its massive amount of players, people know that there is a point where some players get frustrated with the amount of time it takes to level up from 1-60 (now with the expansion pack 1-70), people are willing to part with real cash to gain a level 60 character in only a few days or a week. Other games such as those mentioned in Chapter 1, is 2nd Life where people can earn real cash by selling and renting places in the game itself, and in some extreme cases they can even become a millionaire.
Each person plays for his/her own personal reasons and in some cases play because of problems. Not everyone is disabled or wants to escape their own life, where they can only find anonymity in the gaming world, where no one judges and everyone is the same. The horrendous and disturbing stories that have happened when people have played MMOG must have reached some of the player’s ears, or been passed around by word of mouth, but do not seem to put off as many players as maybe they should. Possibly because when one hears a story of a death or murder because of an online game, like the evidence suggested by Shavaun Scott, there is usually something more than just the game to blame.
The monthly fee that is needed to maintain the account for MMOG also does not seem to put off new buyers too much. Popular games such as WOW have reached a point where so many people have written good reviews on the game, players are more than willing at least to try out one month of game play. It is usually at the start of the game’s life where pickup might be slow because not so many people know how good or bad a game may be. Like WOW, MMOG should have an easy system that allows the users to play the game. The moment that the game gets far too complicated, many give up or feel it is not worth continuing, but like mentioned with WOW with its slow curve at how simple the game starts off with to how complicated it gets, allows people to keep coming back and also lets them enjoy their time playing. Even though games may be easy to operate, most MMOG take a considerable time travelling from one place to another. Because MMOG and especially MMORPG try to mimic the real world such as, going from one’s house to the nearest centre may take 20 minutes or more, the same is with these games. Like EVE and WOW, players have the option of hitting one key that puts their character in auto run, or in the case with EVE warping (means of travel) from one place to another. Getting from A to B can start off from five minutes or more, and in the later missions or quests can take as long as an hour as there is no direct route to their mission objective. EVE online can be shown its vastness within its galaxy map shown in fig 11, as each star represents a star system that can be visited, and travelling through that system may take three to five minutes, but when having to travel from one side of the galaxy of the game to the other, could take hours. All this gets people coming back to the game as they might wish to complete whatever they were doing.
New software upgrades and new ways of playing greatly increases the draw of players to games, because if they can see screenshots of a game and it looks good it is more interesting for new people to play. In the MMOG survey (Online Survey. Author’s own. 3/3/07) the people questioned did seem to play the games because of the look of it. Player content is also getting people to keeping playing MMOGs, as in 2nd Life’s first millionaire. If people were playing at a time when they found out there that was a possibility of becoming a millionaire, it can be safely assumed that the people already playing would continue to play, and possibly had played longer and harder, so they could also archive some sort of large money from the game.
People seem to enjoy the social side of the game, mainly because it covers so many areas, such as the possibility of making new friends, helping out in quests, or even experiencing new things such as gender swapping within a community where players might find themselves. As mentioned before, everyone is the same online as they can change their image to whatever they desire; a player does not have to have real life problems to do this, but simply might choose to try something different because they can. Playing with their friends from the real world also would get people buying and playing the game, as their friends might convince them to play and once they were ‘hooked’ they might convince other friends to do the same. Not only are players able to play as the game intends, but also with friends online. Emergent game play and glitches to be found could be an interesting pastime, as within the group suggesting how far they would go up if they blew themselves up or if they are able to get beyond a wall they are not suppose to pass.
Finally, each area mentioned all contribute to the drive that the players feel, that makes them come back and play the game of their choice. The question ‘What drives people to play a MMOG’ is not simply answered by one factor; as described throughout the dissertation there are many different reasons why people might want to escape, or perhaps they simply enjoy playing with others.
One area that seemed to have come up more often is the social side of these MMOG, as in each game the things players can do within the social structure is vast. People enjoy this side more as it mimics the social aspects of the real world, also it shares similarities of what people can do online such as talking to friends by MSN (Microsoft Network), or chatting and making new friends through Myspace.com. The MMOG is simply another form of this, which allows the players to do much more than just talk with their mates. The players have another world at their finger tips and, in the comfort of their own home without having to move, are living a life in a world within a world.
I would like to thank Shavaun Scott with her constant contact with me and her quick responses to my e-mails. With her information my dissertation holds more ground and a more enjoyable read. Also all the people who took part on my online survey, which helped me gain a better insight to the players. And finally the female World Of Warcraft player that I interviewed, myself being a former Warcraft player I knew the same addiction as she did, and so it was interesting to have someone share the same views as I had once done.