Having thought a lot about Spinks’s post over at Spinksville, I thought we’d converse today about the different motivations gamers have for playing MMOs. I feel like a lot of the animosity that sometimes pops up both within the game and within the community stems from our different motivations, and being able to talk about these differences may help to put aside some of our disagreements.
I have no doubt that my list will not be exhaustive, so please feel free to add more in your comments, but I’m going to focus on the four that I believe to be the most common. Also, unlike Sven’s post on the four faces of gamers, I’m not going to be evaluating anyone as more or less skilled or having more or less time (and doing so very well and humorously if you haven’t read his post). I’m attempting to look solely at the motivations behind MMO gamers.
I’ll start this off by saying that I believe the core motivation of all of these groups is to have “fun,” but that they seek fun in different ways. How we choose to have fun is a very personal part of us, and it stands to reason that we would become defensive if people challenged our right to decide what we enjoy. That emotional defensiveness might be part of what leads to the bile we sometimes see in games and blogs, but the fun-seeking is what I believe ties us all together at the core. While I understand that this belief is not an opinion shared by all, that’s fine, too; there’s a category for those as well.
We’ll start here because I believe this is the category into which I fall. I like to finish things. Completionists make it their goal to see new content and, hopefully, down it. We enjoy filling out the maps, getting achievements, and playing lots of different alts. However, instead of just being lumped into what’s commonly termed as a “Casual Gamer,” completionists want to raid. We want to see the bosses, learn the mechanics, and down the bosses so that we can move on. We expect others to be prepared to raid – both with gear, consumables, and knowledge, but we also understand that raiding can be very difficult and that some bosses have a high learning curve. We’re slow to anger, but when we get angry, it’s often a slow-build up to an explosion because we begin to feel that the boss isn’t just taking a long time to master, but may never be mastered due to player X, who is thus threatening our ability to “complete.”
Not terribly dissimilar from the previous category, the Competitor seeks fun through conflict. I don’t mean guild or real-world conflict (though that may also be true), but through the battle to be the best. Whether it’s highest gear score, most achievements, top dps, or best battleground rating, the competitor doesn’t want to settle for second. These players are extremely motivated to succeed and can be invaluable resources for the latest information on class mechanics, boss fights, Best in Slot gear, or BG strats. The other side of their coin, though, is that they expect others to be as knowledgeable. They may provide uninvited advice which can put off differently-motivated players, but I assure you, from their perspective, they’re only trying to help (I’m being genuine here, not sarcastic, just to be clear). They can be quick to anger, but equally quick to forgive when people who’ve made an error get it right. They can be excellent motivators as well, dragging everyone in their raid up to their level, making their success everyone else’s.
These players want the best gear, period. However, they differ from the competitors because it’s not about competition, it’s about having the best gear. It makes no difference to them if others have equally good gear, they just want to ensure that they’re cloaked in the top loot, too. These players know the drops from all the bosses, know which dungeons (or raids) to go to for the best upgrade to particular slots, and know the drop percentages of rare loot. They curse the need/greed system because it’s cost them many, many times, but they also love the need/greed system because it’s been directly responsible for outfitting them. Depending on the quality of player, they’ll have very strong feelings about guild loot systems, the best players preferring merit-based loot, the worst players preferring rolls. These players only get angry if they feel their hard-earned loot is going to the wrong person, but that means they’re excellent motivators because they want to ensure downed bosses, and they’ll do anything to keep the raid focused and ready to keep pulling.
The Social Butterfly
These players approach the game for purely social reasons. Sometimes the social reasons are admirable, that they want to play with their friends or be a part of a community. Sometimes the social reasons are heartbreaking, that they don’t have a lot of friends where they live, so they seek them through the game. Other times the social reasons are abominable, that they want to interrupt, irritate, or upset as many people as possible for attention-getting reasons. These players won’t sacrifice their friends for progress and will support doing any activity as long as it’s part of a group. They are highly diversified and considered helpful because whenever there’s a spot to fill, they’re willing to go. They gab a lot in vent or in chat, but the “good” ones are enjoyed and appreciated by their friends (the trolls, on the other hand, are reviled and should be fed piece by piece to angry seagulls). These players rarely anger, but could get upset if a guild rifts or factionalizes and their ability to socialize freely is jeopardized.
At any rate, those are the four that come to the top of my head for now. Each one has scales of quality and morality. Each category produces saints and jerks, pros and noobs. In the end, though, we’re all just seeking fun, and when we remember that, when we remember we’re all just looking to have a good time, it can bring relief to gaming stress .
So next time you’re about to pound the keyboard or rage in vent, pause a moment – just a second – and think: How can I phrase this that is most likely to keep the most people having fun? If you come up with a good answer, you’re bound to have many supporters in your audience.