Monday, July 6, 2009

Why Do MMORPG Successes Feel So Hollow

I do a quest and get a reward, supposedly that's what keeps me occupied for hundreds of somewhat menial tasks levelling up in an MMORPG. It's a pity that thousands, even millions have done or will do the same quest and received the same reward as me, no unique hero am I it seems. There's something going on there that anybody rational or intelligent should be able to fathom, so what is it about an MMORPG's system of continual rewards that has conditioned me to do this long drawn out grind, starting with WOW and falling into the same patterns with LOTRO...

And don’t think it stops at levelling either, endgame in WOW is one continual grind, running heroics, raids for gear to be able to move on to the next tier is the exact same. It does have one difference though, skill is supposed to improve with each conquest but why the need for repetition. In a single player game, one time is enough then maybe another time for the fun. Once the challenge has been overcome, why then must raiders enter 'farming' mode, same encounters, same core personnel, and god help anything interrupts that efficient process of repetition. Tried it, hated it and don’t want any further part of it, so not going to dwell anymore on this aspect.

Ok so what does this reward fuelled grind achieve, not a whole lot on the face of it. It does nothing to define in game character, other than demonstrating subservience to the whims and vagaries of strangers, who happen to be the laziest, most demanding people ever created. For the most part it doesn’t increase skill, time and alternatives will overcome most obstacles in the way to the level cap. Funny that for the most part grouping isn’t rewarded at all, exact same rewards for doing a quest solo or grouped, creativity isn’t rewarded either. Maybe it's as simple as that, the rewards make the grind more palatable, and that's a trap many fall into, me included.

Changing tack for a moment by looking at the notion of successes. Success is something that unknown to many people is being continually justified by our thought stream even if we are paying attention or not. Paying attention to it, can have a very powerful effect, even to lift someone out of chronic depression, and I should know. By paying attention I mean observing successes and questioning what it was that led to them, whether it was our own skills and abilities, luck, being in the right place at the right time. Does questing and rewards in WOW and others suppress that it in some way? (staring unblinkingly at the screen perhaps)That's the question I'd really like to know the answer. But it must be bad to ignore our skills in life (like reasoning, socialising...) for interacting with game systems of mindless and inconsequential advancement.

Do MMORPGs reward successes that aren’t worth rewarding and don't contribute to personal happiness and enjoyment? (hah, posing the right question is hard)

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