What makes us go Ding? Part 2 - They call it Rubberneckin'
May 24, 2006 12:29:00

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

Part 2 - They call it Rubberneckin'

Rubberneckin' is the reason most frequently given by the introspective MMOG bloggers and podcasters when asked about their in-game motivations. Other players may never say it, or never think it, but there is no doubt that a great explorer is beneath the skin of every dedicated MMOG player. There are three camps of player opinions when it comes to this topic, each with unique public perspectives on the importance of rubberneckin' as a MMOG motivation, but are all three the same if you peek under the Tier 2 armor?

Too often, players seem to shy away from the idea that exploration is a huge MMOG motivator, instead preferring to publicly state that they like the PvP, the leveling, the gear, raid victory, and the conquering aspects of the game. Exploration, to many, sounds too close to Role Playing, and that would be "teh suck", it would mean "ur gay", and it would surely stamp you with a carebear logo, right? This may indeed be the front played by the "leet kiddies" but they're fooling themselves if their first hour in Teldrassil didn't fill them with an enormous desire to see every corner of Azeroth first hand. The vast majority of MMOGs feature some level of new-player distribution that spreads players out to various areas of the world where they begin to learn the system. This distribution ultimately results in an epic journey to reach large capital cities as well as the lairs of the most feared foes in the land. Only a very small part of that journey deals with gear and victory over elite foes. The bulk of the journey is based on exploration, storyline resolution, and (eek, say it isn't so) team building. Interestingly enough, in most MMOGs, that journey makes up the bulk of the game play. Most players spend far longer leveling their first EverQuest, EverQuest 2, Lineage 2, City of Heroes, Ultima Online, and Eve Online characters than they do actually collecting phat lewts and downing massive boss mobs. The exception to this norm is of course, World of Warcraft, where a large number of end-game players have easily spent 3 times as many hours raiding as they did leveling and exploring the world. Nevertheless, they did the exploration and they continue to explore new raid dungeons on a regular schedule. The point here is that the GearHeads may deny it, but most of them are more excited by their first trip into a new dungeon than their 50th. They want to see it all, and they are the lucky few who might succeed in that mission. Are they the ultimate loot gatherers or are they really the ultimate rubberneckers who happen to get nice loot?

The LoreWhores are admitted and self-proclaimed explorers, but they are focused on the quality of th
eir rubbernecking activities rather than the quantity. These players are often active role-players and are frequently found sleuthing out the intricacies of quests found in remote locations, even though that quest might be far above or below their level, and might not even have a useful reward. LoreWhores are completionists by nature. Their mantra is "waste no content, leave no corridor unexplored, leave no quest unfinished". This philosophy and practice marks them as the ultimate rubberneckers. To a LoreWhore, the only reason to level is so they can effectively explore content populated with greater dangers. The core motivation is not much different from the GearHeads, but the pace is enormously different. LoreWhores have the patience of a one-armed boxer. They're willing to go all 12 rounds, and take plenty of punishment to reach their goals. Many feel that LoreWhores vs. GearHeads is the ultimate tortoise and rabbit race. The GearHeads win in every measurable way (guild population, loot, levels, keys, flags, prestige, raw skill, strategical accomplishments) and yet the LoreWhores seem to win in every un-measurable one (guild community, fun, relaxation, sense of personal accomplishment, individuality, creativeness). The LoreWhores may not see as many maps as the GearHeads, but their keen interest in the details of the land cements exploration among their top reasons to go ding.

What do you get when you breed a GearHead with a LoreWhore? You get an AverageGamer. The AverageGamer is one very conflicted individual (it's true, I am.) The AverageGamer knows he wants many different things, but isn't willing to pay the tolls that GearHeads and LoreWhores do. They don't want to raid 5 nights a week, but they do want to see every dungeon, desperately. They don't want to grind through the levels too fast, but they will if their sights become fixed on some gear or a zone that has eluded them. They want good loot, but don't want to raid constantly for it. They want to complete all the quests that exist, but don't want to slow down their advancement to facilitate the accomplishment. They want to have a good family style guild, but they want it to raid enough to see all the content. They want to learn the lore, but find reading in-game text boring compared to storming the castle. Helping others complete quests is nice and all, but it better not take all day. Unfortunately, the AverageGamer is who most of us are, and we fight these conflicts everyday. Nevertheless, one thing remains at the heart of our motivations - see it all before we leave. Most of the AverageGamers will see a good amount of a game before retiring, and because they know they'll never devote the time to obtaining the best gear in the game, just seeing all the great locations at least once becomes a huge motivator for the AverageGamer.

Three distinct brands of MMO gamer, each with vastly different surface motivations that still boil down to a desire to see it all. Some want to see the largest quantity of material. Some what to see the details that are tucked away in the content. And some want a good taste of both aspects. Trade offs for all three categories are inevitable, but in the end, they're all Rubberneckin'.

Stay tuned for: What makes us go Ding? Part 3 - EfficacyQuest
Stop, look and listen baby that's my philosophy
It's called rubberneckin' baby but that's all right with me
Some people say I'm wasting time yeah, but they don't really know
I like what I see I see what I like yeah, it gives me such a glow

First thing in the morning, last thing at night
I look, stare everywhere and see everything inside
Stop, look and listen baby that's my philosophy
If your rubberneckin' baby well that's all right with me

"Elvis Presley Rubberneckin' lyrics"

Submitted by Brent on May 24, 2006 12:29:00 CST (comments: 0)


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