By michaelenger 2 Comments
This article was originally posted on BnBGaming on November 8th, 2010.
Why does World of Warcraft (WoW) feel like crack-cocaine to those who play it? Hours upon hours are sucked into a game that essentially rewards time and not effort, but the players can't get enough and the amount of WoW players is steadily increasing, much to the pleasure of Blizzard.How does it all work? Tom Chatfield, an author from the UK who wrote the book Fun, Inc., where he talks about the effect of games on the player, had a presentation at TED, where he gave a brief explanation on why we keep playing.
Essentially, the reason why WoW works so well in keeping you engrossed is because it constantly provides you with short and long-term goals with rewards around every corner. You are given small tasks to do, tasks that take a few minutes to complete, but every little thing that you are told to do, from killing eight boars to picking up a specific plant from the middle of a camp of hostile owl/bear/moose hybrids goes towards the bigger goal of leveling up. Killing an enemy rewards you experience points (XP) and loot, which can be sold or used to make your avatar better equipped for the challenges ahead. You're constantly being tugged along by flashing XP bonuses and mountains of loot, all the while synapses in your head are firing like crazy, giving you a tingly feeling you can't quite explain.
Is this ethical? WoW designers have put thousands of hours into tweaking the gameplay experience to provide the most rewarding, and essentially the most addictive, experience that is possible within the limitations of the world. People spend lots of time and money on WoW, completely unaware that it's pushing all the right buttons in their head to keep them playing. Who is to blame when a player disregards their health over the benefit of a game, resulting in illness or, in extreme cases, death? It's a tough question to ask due to the little amount of research on the subject, but the sheer amount of WoW players who aren't experiencing any problems with addiction does provide some evidence that there is little danger in letting yourself get lost in the sea of numbers and particle explosions that comes with the constant grind towards the next level.