“Work-like Play” — Why Do Players Keep Sinking Time into MMORPGs?

MMORPGs are well-established as a gaming genre thanks to the explosive popularity of titles such as World of Warcraft and EverQuest, and they have drawn the attention of computer and social scientists for years now because they are such a strange social phenomenon. Playing an MMORPG seriously can require as many hours as a full-time job for comparatively little compensation, and yet hundreds of thousands of players choose to put in these hours day after day, year after year. I find this phenomenon noteworthy and would like to break it down further over the course of the next few weeks, in particular by looking at guilds in MMORPGs.

My source is a 2008 article titled “Player Guild Dynamics and Evolution in Massively Multiplayer Online Games.” It comes from a handful of researchers (Chen et. al) at the College of Computer Science in Taiwan’s National Chiao Tung University and offers a very foundational look at guilds in MMORPGs, namely World of Warcraft. Given that guilds dominate high-level gameplay (according to the article, 93% of high-level players join a guild), they are a good gateway into understanding more about what influences players to keep coming back to MMORPGs despite the massive time sink. The article lays out three factors that specifically influence guild development: game world design, changes in guild member motives, and guild management. It also comes up with five basic guild types (small, large, elite, newbie, and unstable) from analyzing data on average guild member level, number of guild members, and member leaving/joining patterns. While discussing these guild types, the researchers don’t really refer back to the three factors of guild development, but they hint at the fact that ability to complete end-game raids is a crucial component to guild success in the long-term. The paper concludes by offering future researchers some suggestions as to how they could better study guild dynamics going forward.

The article was useful as a foundation that lays out what areas I might want to do further research in, but it was not quite at the heart of what I wanted to learn about guilds. Going forward, I’d like to do more research on the dynamics of successful guilds and the management strategies involved in running such a guild (which often has over hundreds of players). I then want to explore the phenomenon known as “work-like play” that often occurs in a guild setting but also applies to the larger picture of MMORPGs and see how we could possibly replicate that in real life situations such as school and work.

Source: http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/cpb.2007.0066

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The Grind Never Stops

Playing video games is supposed to be your time in the day where you can forget everything else going on the world and just relax and have fun, right? Then explain to me why I’ve been playing games like Runescape for my whole life where for most of gameplay is spent just trying to level up your account. Why do people play games like Dark Souls III where for most of the game you are stressed out trying to figure out how to win the battle? The answer is what Jane Mcgonigal calls an “epic win.” People grind in games setting themselves high goals that could take weeks, months or even years to complete all to get the feeling of an “epic win.” This is what I want to do further research on for my topic; the attraction behind gritty games and what happens when you cheat the system by doing things like using a bot or hacking. What do you loose from the experience of the game?

Reality is Broken is a book that was released by Jane Mcgonigal in 2011. Jane Mcgonigal has been making a name for herself in the gaming community through her TED talks about the future of gaming and her new advancements in the way we play games. Her book looks into why we play games, and what the rewards are. One of here main terms in here book, an “epic win,” is explained as the feeling we get when we achieve something truly remarkable. This truly remarkable thing she explains as the achievement of a long standing goal. In here book she talks a lot about the grit in gaming and how we can start using it in real world situations.

What makes certain games so appealing? Every game has it’s own grindable achievements. Whether it be getting master prestige in Call of Duty or spending 100 hours getting a number 99 to pop up on your screen in Runescape. Most people in the gaming community seem to be looking for an “epic win.” The research question I want to look at is why we enjoy grinding in game and not in the real world, and what feeling is lost if we were to remove the grind part of the game.

Source: https://www.bookbrowse.com/bb_briefs/detail/index.cfm/ezine_preview_number/5883/Reality-Is-Broken









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Bonding Through Gaming

Growing up, playing video games was the only way I could bond with my brother. Although I am not sure how this came to be the one solution, it resulted in a ten year old girl picking up an Xbox controlling and playing Halo: Reach. Apparently I am not the only one to have felt the ability to bond over video games, in fact, it is a rather common phenomenon in the West, and has resulted in stronger bonds between friends, family members, and online players. Overall, the topic of using games as a bonding method is a topic I would like to pursue for my research based argument, perhaps tentatively with a comparison to the vigorously competitive gaming culture in East Asian countries.


Not Your Mama’s Gamer (nymgamer.com) is a podcast and website all about video games. In an article titled “Video Games and Social Bonding,” published in January of 2013, author Nicole Marie makes an argument that despite the bad press and reputation of violent video games, they serve as a way to bring people closer together both in person and online. One of the studies presented in the article offers the theory that the sense of cooperation has the ability to override a violent mindset one might be exposed to player violent video games. It goes on to give more examples of couples meeting online or strengthening their current relationship by bonding over collaborative games and finding common interests. This interesting topic is presented in a very engaging and organized way, using ethos and kairos through it to really appeal to a gaming community.


This topic is something I want to study simply because I have been so affected by it. Whether it is playing Castle Crashers with my brother, or watching my dad blow himself up with a rocket launcher in Halo because he could not figure out the controls, I felt closer to people when we could same the same experiences. In a lot of modern day cases, gaming is a way to achieve those experiences, and the bonds formed can last for an entire lifetime.

Source: http://www.nymgamer.com/?p=2086

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TiC: Understanding Morality and Justice

When the topic of gaming comes to mind, a common criticism linked to the subject revolves around the effects gaming has on the shaping of one’s morals. What is the voice of reason in gaming worlds? How is justice maintained? Does gaming skew one’s ability to be a good citizen in the real world? I hope to explore how playing video games impacts one’s moral compass and understanding of justice.


At the University of Buffalo in New York, assistant professor Matthew Grizzard conducted a study that indicates “playing violent video games may lead to increased moral sensitivity in players.” By players being exposed to worlds in which the effects of their actions are dramatized, players become hyper aware of their actions in the real world. Isn’t that fascinating? At first thought, many would not assume that the two correlated that greatly, but it does. In a virtual world, people, in theory, should be desensitized to the repercussions of breaking laws, hurting people, etc., because, at the end of the day, the game is indeed virtual–unattached to who they are in real life. However, when players engaged in immoral behavior within the study, they felt an immense level of guilt–primarily for violating two things: “care/harm and fairness/reciprocity.” The limited control within the frame built in through the games heightens players’ acute awareness of their actions and how they wish they could do otherwise, based on the reactions of other characters within the game or rewards, or lack thereof, as a result of their actions.


Exploring the psychological effects of gaming on a player’s morals can be crucial in understanding how gaming can be used as a tool to increase society’s social activism. In my upcoming papers, in addition to reading about people’s publications on the matter, I hope to conduct surveys of students’ opinions and experiences with gaming, and explore how gaming shapes their understanding of justice and their own morals.

Source: http://www.buffalo.edu/news/releases/2014/06/037.html

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YouTube in the Critical Conversation

For my Texts in Conversation over the next couple weeks, I intend to look at the online critical conversation surrounding games found on YouTube in the form of video essays, analyses, and responses. I’m interested in the way these channels make use of theory and criticism from other disciplines and applies it to talking about games. This informal, online conversation seems like an important part of gaming culture, or at least gaming-adjacent culture, but I’m curious about how these video essays differ from other YouTube channels like review channels, let’s plays, or channels featuring playthroughs or trailers (or trailer reactions). These other kinds of channels strike me as fundamentally different in purpose, and I think these gaming video essayists have more in common with other video essayists than they do with other people talking about games from the review or commentary sides. I’m also interested in how these creators communicate with one another, because they do. Many of these gaming video essayists (and people who work in similar areas of interest) are aware of and even reference and respond to one another’s work.


One such video essayist is Ian Danskin of Innuendo Studios. In his July 2016 video, “The Artist is Absent: Davey Wreden and the Beginner’s Guide”, he talks about the game The Beginner’s Guide as it relates to the way stories are told by an author and interpreted by an audience. Here’s how he opens: “How does a story go about saying something? And when we say, ‘this story is saying something’, what, exactly, do we mean? And, when it happens, how do we recognize that the story is saying something?” In talking about The Beginner’s Guide, he uses ideas from semiotics, death of the author, and enunciation theory. None of these ideas were intended to be applied to games, but Danskin has taken them from their fields to produce a nuanced interpretation of a game nonetheless.


In my research, I want look at video essays like this and the conversations they form about games as well as the conversations they have with their comments sections and with other videos. Some of these conversations are conscious between creators, but some are not. Errant Signal, another games analysis channel, has a video about The Beginner’s Guide as well. These videos could be said to be in direct conversation with one another. But Anthony D’Angelo is a YouTuber who talks primarily about online video and its culture, not about games. He introduces the concept of para-storytelling in a couple of his videos that connects with the two above videos on The Beginner’s Guide. D’Angelo’s videos could be said to be in indirect conversation. I want to look at both of these kinds of connections.


On The Beginner’s Guide:

Innuendo Studios


Errant Signal



On Para-storytelling:

Anthony D’Angelo

The Science and Dangers of YouTube Celebrity




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TiC: Video Gaming as Popular Culture

Certain games, like Pokemon and Call of Duty, have been played by so many people that they have become ingrained in popular culture. Although it may not be immediately apparent, video games have a profound effect on other forms of media. In my paper, I plan to explore how video games shape and are shaped by popular culture.

My first source is a book titled Understanding Media and Culture: An Introduction to Mass Communication, published by the University of Minnesota (the original author asked to remain unnamed) in 2016. Chapter 10.4 specifically, titled The Impact of Video Games On Culture, goes over this relationship between video games and popular culture. Over the years, video games have affected other more mainstream types of media, such as music, film, television, education, and art. The author argues that “companies such as Sega, and later Sony and Microsoft making games to appeal to older demographics” was a driving force behind the acceptance of video gaming as a form of “mainstream” media itself – the same author cites a study showing that the average gamer in 2009 was 35 years old. Numerous aspects of gaming culture are being viewed as more socially acceptable. For example, prominent music conservatories in the United States offer programs dedicated to video game soundtrack composition. However, it wasn’t always like this – the author of this article notes that “video games during the 1970s and ’80s were often derivatives of other forms of media”. Not until the 1980s did the reverse begin to occur – movies and TV shows began adapting video games to the big screen.

Popular culture itself is very complex, fluid, and fast-moving. Video games haven’t been around for that long and even today, gaming’s role in popular culture is continuing to change. However, it is important to analyze the history of gaming in popular culture in order to adequately understand its current status in popular culture. Going forward, a research question that I’d like to explore would be not only which specific video games have made their impact on popular culture, but rather the specific aspects of those games that make them so significant in popular culture.

Source: http://open.lib.umn.edu/mediaandculture/chapter/10-4-the-impact-of-video-games-on-culture/



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Want Medical Training? Play a Game!

Can games be used for education? Certainly, playing games allows you to develop skills such as hand-eye coordination, patience, and decision-making techniques. Sure, games could teach people a skill or two, but can games go as far as providing vocational development? A few years back, I spent countless hours playing a video game called Surgeon Simulator. I was laughing, shouting, and even getting angry all the while being immersed in a ridiculous game whose main objectives were performing heart and lung transplants. The controls in the game were simple. Different buttons on the keyboard were associated with different fingers and the player has to control each finger at once to grasp objects. As easy as it may sound, the difficulty is within controlling the surgeon’s hands, each finger having a mind of its own and grabbing objects became a frustration. But that was all in the past, buried deep in nostalgic memories and covered by a cloak of adolescence. While the game was silly and fun, it took a stab at developing a field where games were designed to imitate surgical operations and in the process, vocational training. Certainly, games have expanded in the realm of science and education and even in the medical field, touching on subjects never before expressed in gaming.

In an article, “Video games are changing medical education”, written by the American Medical Association (AMA) in 2016, games are discussed as being educational in a sense where medical students learn to perform operations and how to be a doctor. AMA’s mission statement directs its goals to “enhance the delivery of care and enable physicians and health teams to partner with patients to achieve better health.” The article by AMA argues that since games create a social environment and games can “mimic any kind of environment,” making a game for medical training has obvious benefits. Students can learn the training required for medical school through simulations where mistakes and experience contribute to a better understanding of medical applications. In addition to a purposeful simulation, the article argues that since video games host a competitive setting, they “can appeal to some of the common traits of medical students and physicians.” And while games promote a social and collaborative environment, medical games can offer students a chance to work together, find solutions, and complete an operation. Educational medical games “offer prime opportunities for self-directed learning” and indirect hands-on training.

Understanding the skills and educational benefits of gaming are simple; gaming provides training using the eyes and hands for impulsive reflexes, and even thought-processing to make quick, rational decisions. Gamers, over time, can develop these skills through hours of gameplay, mastering the ins and outs of the game. Could games take it to the next level allowing players to gain job experience and learning through a virtual environment? Educational games prove useful in the medical field where students can acquire skills related to their occupation and learn the material whilst gaining experience to better the lives of tomorrow.

Article Source: https://wire.ama-assn.org/education/video-games-are-changing-medical-education

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