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Modern MMOs aren’t fun because it’s obvious we’re a commodity and nothing more

Gamingtodaynews1g - Modern MMOs aren't fun because it's obvious we're a commodity and nothing more

It has nothing to do with nostalgia, or the rose-colored lenses of youth. Yes, for profit operations are for profit, but you can see in titles from Nintendo, series like God of War, Metal Gear, and others that games can be designed to make it so that the experience makes the play worth the investment in both time and money. Psychological studies on stimulating our brains so that we worry about the fear of missing out if we don't log in every… single… day…–or spend money on every new release–actually running the show in the game design world can easily be seen. The only part about it that amazes me is people trying to argue that those practices don't exist when you can find scholarly articles detailing exactly the kinds of situations that generate them. The carrot and the stick, operant conditioning, even reciprocity in the digital format, where people spend more time with machines they felt have brought rewarding experiences in the past; they're all there. Publishers and designers saw that "computer applications could be methodically designed to exploit the rules of psychology in order to get people to do things they might not otherwise do" and immediately began to understand and hone their techniques so that players would turn off only when they had to and tune back in whenever possible.

We didn't need apps to manage our inventories, market listings, and in-game pets from our phones years ago. I'm all for realism to an extent, but to have a pet suffer because I don't log in is a bit much. Automatic continuation of tasks is easily programmable, yet if we want a gathering task to continue, for instance, we have to log in to the game or app to collect and restart it because it keeps us connected to the game. We didn't have games sending us notifications to our phones about some tasks that could easily be programmed to complete and repeat on their own being done and needing our attention to continue. We didn't have to play day after day after day or risk falling behind, we could simply enjoy the game at our pace, whether that meant a regular weekly raid group or just logging on here and there to kill a few mobs and do some crafting before continuing with a story segment. There may have been games with impossible to reach or non-existent level caps, but grinding those levels so that we continue to sink time and money into the game and then feel like we can't walk away wasn't structure that a polished, marketed title was build on.

Communities constantly offer constructive, detailed feedback about what's wanted in a game and most of it is ignored because it doesn't fit the archetype of profit-first design that's the backbone of gaming right now. EA made over a billion-and-a-half dollars on microtransactions in FY 2017. NCSoft's strongest performers are in its microtransaction-laden mobile titles. The same practices that are prevalent in generating revenue elsewhere are more and more becoming the norm everywhere. Cash shops for cosmetics are fine, but in many games even those cosmetics are gated behind RNG because it plays on the highs and lows that addict our minds to the rush of gambling.

Communities constantly state that they'd support dev teams that deliver great games, but instead of holding out for those great games they throw hundreds or thousands of dollars at titles that aren't even in a true beta yet. Star Citizen, AoC, and many others have massive funding from players who are given zero idea of when they'll see a finished product. Milestones are missed and players continue to give because they're already invested and hooked on the promise of what might be. On top of that, those games continually add new items that can only be obtained by paying additional dollars pre-release. That leads to gamers who are overly invested in coming games feeling so anchored to them that they become hyper vigilant in defending them. As a result, our already strained community–that used to be united by playing games we loved and now is only united by hope and dreams of what's next–starts with the in-fighting, everyone entrenches harder, and we bite at each other instead of telling publishers who have been milking the desire for something good to come back when they actually have product to show.

TLDR; you, your friend you're talking to over Discord, your gaming buddies that you've known forever, your SO gaming next to you, and this guy typing away right here are consumers and commodities; that's always been a part of the "industry" in the gaming industry. In recent years, however, whether you see it or not the teams behind games have become experts at exploiting addictive psychology to separate you from your dollars. Even if you don't realize it or refuse to admit it, you feel it every time you're forced to log in whether that's in-game or through an app, and every time it's made clear to you that if you don't spend now you literally may never have a chance to receive the items being dangled before you or to experience the content being teased again. Most titles aren't designed from the ground up to be fun, and they aren't polished with player experience in mind. They're made to separate us from our money as quickly as possible. Longevity, enriching experiences, and strong community building are last in line if they're considered at all. We're seeing more and more games that don't even have major social hubs or player-to-player trading of any kind. How can we have good Massively Multiplayer titles when community connection is a non-existent facet of the design philosophy behind what we're playing?


The only question for me is will gamers keep giving their time, energy, and money to the point of frustration and anger to titles that burn them out, or support dev teams that actually care what they deliver to us?

Some insight for those of you who like extra details. If you want to read the original studies/those like them that are the basis for this, many of them are mentioned in the articles or easily found from scholarly sources:

the scientists who make apps addictive - Modern MMOs aren't fun because it's obvious we're a commodity and nothing more

"e discovered that if the rat got the same reward each time, it pulled the lever only when it was hungry. The way to maximise the number of times the rat pulled the lever was to vary the rewards it received. If it didn’t know whether it was going to get one pellet, or none, or several when it pulled the lever, then it pulled the lever over and over again. It became psychologically hooked. This became known as the principle of variable rewards."

video games designed to be addictive - Modern MMOs aren't fun because it's obvious we're a commodity and nothing more

"These manipulative tactics often apply to the mechanics of video games too. Games big and small have psychologists and behavioural scientists on hand to help them understand such techniques. And what exactly are these techniques? Perhaps the most widely discussed is creating a virtual 'Skinner Box' based on the theory by BF Skinner. He argued that the frequency of activity is linked to reward. Therefore, games are made to compel you to carry on button-mashing in order to achieve something. Experience points that will build your character, for example, or higher scores that will unlock new levels. It's the same philosophy applied to slot machine gambling.

These types of strategies have existed in some shape or form since the very beginning of video games. In fact, you wouldn't really have any kind of game, video or otherwise, without them. But the problems begin to arise when they are misused. When they aren't there to be compelling and entertaining but want to addict you. When they try to keep you playing, and playing, and playing in order to increase their advertising revenue or the possibility that you'll buy add ons. Sadly, this is something we are seeing more of in the age of online gaming and smartphone apps.

Jonathan Blow, creator of the game Braid, puts it brilliantly. He says: 'I believe that games are important to the future of humanity I think a lot of modern game design is actually unethical… they are predicated on player exploitation.'"

" Nir Eyal, a friend of mine from college, wrote a book called Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, in which he outlines, step-by-step, the operant conditioning tricks used to make an app addictive. By using variable rewards, in which a digital “treat,” like Reddit upvotes and gold, the gems and coins in various games, the likes in Facebook etc., which are only sometimes distributed, the user comes to anticipate the slight rush of the fleeting reward. Because the reward is not reliable, the twitchy behavior is triggered, in which we feel like we have to keep checking for messages, likes, and status updates. Eyal is a consultant for companies looking to develop these habit-forming features in their products, but, to his credit, he does include a section on ethics in his book, titled, “The Morality of Manipulation,” and he avoids the trap of fobbing off responsibility for addictive products onto the end user. He stresses that designers should take the good of the end user into account when offering a digital product or service. But he also implicitly recognizes that we are conducting a massive, uncontrolled experiment on the human psyche with the advent of social media and digital advertising. "

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