What makes us go Ding? Part 4 - A Community of Coercion
Oct 25, 2006 18:06:01

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'
What Makes Us Go Ding Part 3 - EfficacyQuest

Part 4 - A Community of Coercion

Once again, let us delve into the driving forces behind the hours, month, and year we pour into MMORPGs. Thus far we've covered elements of game system discovery, exploration and thirst for power. In what is likely to be the final component driving the "ding" we have, perhaps, the most obvious feature that sets MMOGs apart from other gaming diversions. The community.

What am I missing?
Saving a game of Half Life and walking away for 2 weeks is easy. Your avatar is stored to disc and the moment you shut down the game the world is gone. Poof. It ceases to be until the next time you decide to start it up. Logging out of your favorite MMO is far different. The moment you log out, your avatar is written to disc in the same way, but when you disconnect and shutdown, the world is still there. The mobs keeps roaming and spawning, the sun continues to track across the sky, your guild keeps raiding, people keep talking, and the game continues its evolution. In real life, there is rarely a hurry to get somewhere where nothing is happening. Those who live alone never say, "I need to get home to see what is going on in my empty living room." (Unless you're headed home to raid Vindi.) Add a dog into that picture and you're more likely to hurry home. Throw in a spouse and kids and soon you begin to rush home more frequently than you rush to any other event. This scenario very precisely describes the compulsion to get online and go ding.

People miss me
When you turn off Warcraft III, your peons don't care. They don't wonder where you are and when you're coming back. To a lesser extent, the random Joe's on the Unreal Server you logged into last week only remember your screen name if you pwned them steady for a few hours and even still they don't know you from Adam. It's all business. But in an MMOG, this is turned upside down. Whether it be friends waiting for you to join their group, far away family members who look forward to hanging out online, or guildies who've come to appreciate your sense of humor there are people waiting for you to show your face in-world. How many of you scheduled game time on your calendar before MMOGs took over your life? Just this week my work calendar had an entry reading:
8PM CST - EQ2 - Venekor
Searching through Yahoo!Calendar for the word "raid" turns up more results than I expected. When people expect you to be somewhere, you show up.

Keeping up
Lackluster MMOG play ultimately results in one thing. Falling behind. Your crazy friend will ding twice a day while you're away. Your guild will progress through the raids obtaining more flags and keys that you won't have. That shiny BP you got today will be crap next quarter, sold in the auction house for a pittance. Being part of a guild or static group of friends in an MMOG means you have to run the treadmill just like you do at work. You need to keep up, which means, you have to log in and you have to go ding.

Some say MMOGs are addictive and dangerous. However, the behavior described here sounds like life not a drug. We all jump to action in our careers and personal lives because we need to be with our people, keep our earnings on track and stay in tune with the world. MMOGs are just another element of our social lives, with one exception: It is okay to shout ding! When something good happens to us.

Submitted by Brent on Oct 25, 2006 18:06:01 CST (comments: 1)

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