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PC Games (Games) Entertainment Games

Understanding Addiction-Based Game Design 308

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-can-quit-any-time-i-want-to-i-just-don't-want-to dept.
spidweb writes "The common theory is that games like World of Warcraft are addictive. But what are the exact qualities that make it so? Are there specific elements of the design that can be pulled out, distilled, and used at will to give a game drug-like properties? Is it wrong to do so? A new article at IGN RPG Vault attempts to isolates the exact qualities that go into making an addiction-based design. From the article: 'If a game uses rewards of any sort to entice you to experience highly repetitive content, you should see what it's trying to do and which of your buttons it's trying to press. If you don't mind, that's cool, but you should understand it.'"
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Understanding Addiction-Based Game Design

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  • by Poobar (1558627) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @04:44AM (#28120933)
    If a game has me hooked, addicted, and I play it for hours at a time for weeks on end- fine. I'm getting enjoyment, the developers get money, everybody wins. But it seems to me that the games that pull me in the most are those I buy outright, not the WOW-alikes that are subscription based. Surely if you're paying monthly there's always going to be a pressure on Devs to create addictive play? If I'm addicted to a bought-outright game, it's because it's a good game. That can't always be said for pay monthly games- the grind, the acheivements, the high-level horsie you just have to own- do they really add to the game, or do they just feed your addiction?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mqduck (232646)

      If a game has me hooked, addicted, and I play it for hours at a time for weeks on end- fine.

      You could say the same thing about drugs. Actually, you could say the same thing about drugs and I'd agree. If you're a user, or even an addict, and happy, that's fantastic. But that's hardly proof that addiction isn't insidious.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by slackbheep (1420367)
      A few years ago I was in a relationship with someone who became addicted to WoW. In the course of the 8 months roughly that she lived with me her main character alone had well over 150 days played time. She was kicked out University because she was skipping classes to play WoW and was unable to hold down a job as she frequently called in sick in order to Raid/Farm. She became increasingly withdrawn from all aspects of real life including personal hygiene and maintained zero relationships in real life, manag
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Still got her number?

        (I'm kidding, not a WoW player here. Just desperate.)

    • by illumin8 (148082) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @03:30PM (#28129665) Journal

      If I'm addicted to a bought-outright game, it's because it's a good game.

      I remember reading an interview with some of the developers behind Diablo and Diablo 2, which are some of the most addictive games ever made. They said they specifically designed the loot mechanic to be like a slot machine. Slot machine creators have scientifically determined the exact intervals of time between rewards (payout). They have analyzed human behavior to the point where they know that after a certain number of minutes you will get bored, so just before that time, all of a sudden you'll see a green drop, or some other epic loot. This reward mechanism is so addictive that it can keep you playing for hours. Just look at any casino and all of the old ladies pumping quarters into slot machines for hours on end and you can see how addictive the timed reward mechanics are.

      Successful video games like Diablo and WoW have used these same type of reward mechanics to create millions of highly addicted gamers. See giving up addiction to Diablo 2 [thesillyaddiction.com] for a personal experience.

  • Its the rewards. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 28, 2009 @04:44AM (#28120935)

    As a wowtard myself i was addicted to the game for a while, back when it was still up and coming. I can say that, for at least myself, I was addicted to the time invested vs rewards you could achieve. I would pour my time into real life hobbies and the payoffs from those were far less interesting, and nowhere near as cool as those that I could achieve in WOW. Yes I was a social recluse, but that's life.
    My /played time on my main toon, before BC was released, was over 200 days. Add to that 4 other 60's with about 10 days game time to level each, plus time spent in pvp with them, rep farming, yeah. It wasn't nearly as destructive as some other people report it was for them, but I was still addicted to the rewards I could achieve, because it was so clear how to do things, and how to get what you wanted. There are many other aspects to it of course, but that was the kicker for me.

    • by Sj0 (472011) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @09:21AM (#28123377) Homepage Journal

      Sounds to me like you need better hobbies.

      Hell, if you put the same time into talking to girls that you did playing WoW, you'd probably have sex, which is better than a +1 sword of compensatingforsomethingosity.

      • by geminidomino (614729) * on Thursday May 28, 2009 @09:25AM (#28123411) Journal

        Advantage of getting your girlfriend into your MMO with you:

        She gets a black dye, you can buy it from her with oral sex...

        My name is geminidomino, and I'm a Guild Wars gigolo.

        • Re:Its the rewards. (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Sj0 (472011) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @11:11AM (#28124889) Homepage Journal

          There are two modes of game addiction, in my opinion. I'll use two different games to illustrate then I'll bring it back to WoW compared to Guild Wars.

          I once played this freeware game where you built up characters slowly. The fundamental design was based on Final Fantasy Tactics or something and it was actually a very sound and fun design, but you'd spend hours levelling up, so it was very VERY slow. The game was addicting, but only because a fundamentally good design was slowed down so much you'd spend hours progressing. It was less fun, but more addictive.

          By contrast, Fallout 3 was addicting because I'd want to know what I could find next. I'd leave megaton and start walking in a random direction, excited about finding the next unfilled triangle on my HUD. I maxed out my level by the end of the game through sheer exploration.

          Guild Wars and WoW seem to me part of the same spectrum of addictive through content vs. addictive through pacing.

          I played Guild Wars a bit in College. It was a very fast-paced game. You could easily slam through 2-3 locales in a session, and without playing a lot, I was rapidly approaching L20. I kept coming back because there was always something new to see down the road, and the depth of multi-classing was really cool.

          By contrast, after college I played WoW for a short time, and found it to be a painfully slow-paced game. After playing through Bioshock in a weekend, playing WoW for a weekend and finding myself at the second area of the game was a cruel joke. The fundamentals of the game are terrific(Which is why Diablo and Diablo 2 were so fun), but the game slowed it all down so much it become intolerable to me. Someone with more patience would likely find it addictive in the same "This game is paced wrong but fun otherwise" way the freeware game I referenced earlier was.

          So basically, it's because you play guild wars, a game properly paced, that you've got the time to find a girl who will accept cunnilingus for black dye.

      • by jbezorg (1263978)

        Sounds to me like you need better hobbies.

        Hell, if you put the same time into talking to girls that you did playing WoW, you'd probably have sex, which is better than a +1 sword of compensatingforsomethingosity.

        The fact that you posting on /. in an submission under games makes the above statement ring hollow.

    • by Sleepy (4551)

      Damn. You'd have enough time to brew beer, from scratch (crushed grains). That's one of my hobbies, and I never have enough time for it.

      All I can say is I am glad Fallout 3 is not a MMORPG.

  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Thursday May 28, 2009 @04:45AM (#28120937)

    There is a pretty funny theory that the vast majority of WoW players are well-respected professionals who play the game in their free time. Through the playing of WoW, they not only practice their leadership skills, but also organizational skills and planning skills. The idea is that the game reinforces and promotes cooperative game play while preserving a fun environment.

    But we all know the truth. It's 30 year old lardballs who still live with their parents that play this game. The lack of friends and human companionship drives them to seek out online communities where they can be accepted as who they portray themselves as rather than for who they, unfortunately, are. Seeking companionship is one of the most primal of human urges.

    I don't know how you can say the game is addictive, in that sense. I'm not addicted to breathing or eating, but I'd die without doing either of those. We are talking about something very close to the core of being a human, not a dependency developed through repeated exposure.

    • by geekmux (1040042) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @05:07AM (#28121079)

      ...Seeking companionship is one of the most primal of human urges.

      I don't know how you can say the game is addictive, in that sense. I'm not addicted to breathing or eating, but I'd die without doing either of those. We are talking about something very close to the core of being a human, not a dependency developed through repeated exposure.

      I think you summarized this quite nicely regarding the component of companionship within humans. However, is virtual companionship good for our race going forward? This may sound like a bad analogy (sorry, don't mean to take away anything from your UID ;-), but just how far away are we as a society from The Matrix? 20 years from now, will it absolutely be the norm to work out of our homes and become that same virtualized community, designing and creating from behind a computer screen, virtually representing ourselves in the corporate world? What if someone took the WoW engine and put an actual business behind it and started hiring on the basis that you would be represented within the company as your virtual self instead of a physical presence? If course, getting fired might take on a whole new twist, as your character gets killed by your e-boss.

      The real question is what will happen to reality as we know it today?

      At least we have the fruits of procreation that can't quite be replaced (yet), so hopefully they'll still be some reason to share physical contact in the real world in the future...

      • by setagllib (753300) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @06:09AM (#28121417)

        The kind of people who get consumed by online engagement usually aren't very successful in real life anyway. If they become successful in real life following a WoW addiction, very often it's specifically because they now value the real world so much more after being essentially isolated from it.

        My belief is that technology, like all advancements, helps separate people further into their "natures". If someone is susceptible to addiction, avoidance and escapism, they'll have more advanced ways of doing that in the future, but well-adjusted people will just be the same well-adjusted people, but with fancier phones and whatever else fits into their lifestyle. They will be largely unaffected by the growth of MMOs, except that some of the people they might have hung out with before will now play games instead.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by FooRat (182725)

          If someone is susceptible to addiction, avoidance and escapism, they'll have more advanced ways of doing that in the future, but well-adjusted people will just be the same well-adjusted people, but with fancier phones and whatever else fits into their lifestyle. They will be largely unaffected by the growth of MMOs, except that some of the people they might have hung out with before will now play games instead.

          I'm curious, why is there a value judgment of "good" for "real world" interactions, but "bad" for "online" interactions? Is it ultimately not just "bad" because it's stigmatised? If I think of some of the so-called "well-adjusted" people I know who crave a lot more real-world social interaction and aren't interested in computers, is it not equally arbitrary to pathologize and say that those people are "addicted" to "direct social interactions" which they crave because they get "psychological rewards"?

          I've k

        • by mdarksbane (587589) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @09:41AM (#28123625)

          Define successful in real life.

          I've noticed that it's often a problem of the "long tail" so often described in online companies.

          There are millions of people who do not share interests with most of the people around them. Some of them are able to find some common interests and just ignore the rest of what they want to do, some aren't. I know where I grew up, I was the only person in my class who was really into video games and computers. I found some other people I could be friends with anyway, but it was a part of my personality that would have gone completely unexpressed without online gaming.

          There are enough people online, heck, enough people just playing wow that you will be able to find not just a few people who share your interest but hundreds of them. I fail to see how it is inherently worse to be forming friendships with those people than with the people who happen to be geographically close to you.

          Yes, there are a few things online friends can't do for you - getting you laid being the most important. But assuming you have managed to find a companion somewhere, what is inherently worse about meeting your friends online for a raid compared to meeting them in a bar for a pint? Why are people who hang out with their friends in a bar considered social and normal and those who have equally many friends disturbed losers? In my experience, the level of closeness and friendship in those sorts of groups is no different.

          Being poorly socialized will follow you online as well - it is a separate problem from where you are trying to be social.

      • by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @06:17AM (#28121459)

        What if someone took the WoW engine and put an actual business behind it and started hiring on the basis that you would be represented within the company as your virtual self instead of a physical presence?

        Someone would jump out from behind the water cooler when you walk by, ram their envelope openers into your kidneys and dance on your corpse. Why're you asking?

      • by MetaPhyzx (212830) * on Thursday May 28, 2009 @06:57AM (#28121677)

        There is no substitute for physical, in-person, flesh and bone companionship.

         

        I'm a gamer and there have been times that I've set aside what I consider an extensive number of hours to play. One such time that comes to mind is the release of Rome: Total War in 2003/04 or so. I remember playing late nights for two weeks straight including, sleeping about an hour and then heading into work. After the kid was asleep at 8:30, I'd be back at it again.

         

        When I was younger and had fewer responsibilities (pre-children), devoting that much or more time to a game would not have been as big of a deal.

         

        However there is a limit. Yes, it may be no different than devoting hours to a hobby and just as tangible. Yes, using an online game as a fulcrum for social interaction for those that it does not come easy to (and for those of us whom it does as well) can be rewarding, same as a hobby would.
         

        Yet it still can't beat having a beer or a glass of wine with your friends, or a good vacation, or that certain girl/guy with a twinkle in their eye. It can't beat watching your kid run the wrong way on the soccer field.
         

        I'm not sure the phenomenon qualifies as an addiction; we are way too eager to classify anything we can as such. By this definition texting could be an addiction. Twitter, Myspace, Facebook, on and on. But it might be a harbinger something the parent alludes to, which is our willingness to substitute physical interaction and learning how to deal with people for virtual interaction and further stratifying ourselves.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by jonaskoelker (922170)

        What if someone took the WoW engine and put an actual business behind it and started hiring on the basis that you would be represented within the company as your virtual self instead of a physical presence?

        I'd think people would

        • Work in the WoW business from 9 to 5.
        • Do boring, repetitive tasks which produce (or otherwise make available) a limited good.
        • Exchange the good for money

        (You know, like a real job).

        I have a great idea for a virtual business the two of us should get working on (but don't tell anyone). It's the greatest WoW business of all time:

        Gold Mining!

        Enjoy the perilous, adventurous quest for precious metal (and the handsome rewards that go with it), all from the safety and comfort of your own home.

        I

      • Yeah, one problem, what if I have a few alts, that are all working for you without you knowing its just one person, then after awhile, some competitor offers me a big wad to bring you down, suddenly, 15 key position employees in your company outright resign, leaving you to scramble, and eventually go bankrupt because you did not quite know you had all your eggs in one basket.

        I am all for working from home (being a software developer...i don't need to be in the office)...
        but i do see pitfalls to what you sug

      • by timster (32400)

        The Matrix? Seriously? With a great question like "is virtual companionship good for our race going forward" you turn to the Matrix? Not Asimov's Solarians?

        Kids these days. Must be time to fire up my lawn-clearing robot.

    • by Lordfly (590616) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @05:31AM (#28121225) Homepage Journal

      Anecdotally, my best friend from high school pulls down six figures at an international oil firm. He's an engineer, finds natural gas all day. He's one of the smartest guys I know. He pulls down 24 hour shift routinely.

      What does he do in his very limited spare time? Runs raids in WoW with all of his fellow engineers. He has multiple accounts, each with multiple Level 80s on them.

      Somehow I think your stereotype of "FATBALL LIVES AT HOME WITH MOMMY LOL" falls flat.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Dunbal (464142)

        He's an engineer, finds natural gas all day.

        Hell, I guess I will be seeing him at my place soon, especially after burrito night.

      • by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @06:21AM (#28121477)

        The statistician in me says "if the number of items in a sample is large enough, you'll find an oddball that will serve as the 'see, it ain't so' example".

        WoW has 10 million players. It's a given that you can pull any kind of sample even out of your ass and it will be fitting. I can, even without checking, say that the chance that there is at least one celebrity, one mass murderer, one nobel prize candidate, one illiterate, one billionaire, one terrorist... playing WoW ist ONE. The sample is big enough that it's near certain that ANY kind of group has at least ONE representative in it.

        Whether your friend is the norm or the exception is another question.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Aladrin (926209)

          By the same token, we can find your lardball the same way.

          I think if you actually studied the population of WoW, you'd find it heavily biased towards males... But little else. The rest of the population is probably represented pretty well.

          Now, if you want to make the case that most of the people in the world are lardballs, that's a different story.

          • by arth1 (260657) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @07:34AM (#28122063) Homepage Journal

            I think if you actually studied the population of WoW, you'd find it heavily biased towards males... But little else. The rest of the population is probably represented pretty well.

            For values of "probably" indistinguishable from "wishfully".

            According to the Daedalus Project, the average age of a WoW player is 28.3 years, and he (86%) spends 22.7 hours online per week. 38.3% of the players are full time students, while only 2.0% are retired.
            How about marital status? While I couldn't find any stats particularly for WoW, for MMORPGs as a whole, 64% of players are single. Even more so for men (67.4%).
            Income? The largest group of MMORPG players have no personal income, being either students, home makers or unemployed. The largest income bracket for those that DO have income is between $25,000-$39,000.

            To summarize, the demographic Median Joe in WoW is a single male, 27 years old, either a full time student or working a single low-paid job.

            (And that's including the statistics for those you know who are happily married and have six digit incomes. Subtract those, and the statistics get even worse.)

            • by Sj0 (472011)

              That makes more sense than you'd think.

              People with real jobs don't like coming home to work more.

            • by Aladrin (926209) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @10:37AM (#28124423)

              That's probably true, for those who bothered to fill out the survey. Obviously, the '6 figure' friend above didn't fill it out because there isn't even an income bracket for him.

              In case that isn't clear: People that make a lot of money don't go around telling random people about it.

              Also, let's talk about numbers... 64% of MMO players are single. You've also said the 'largest group' of MMO players 'has no personal income'. How do they manage both? Even if we assume minimal overlap, there's > 14% of them that are married and have no income.

              Seriously, your numbers don't make sense.

          • I honestly don't know. But let's see what I'd expect...

            I'd expect the average WoW player to be below median age, I'd expect him (him, definitly him) to be not dead broke, I'd expect him to be able to see and hear and use his limbs (arms at least), I'd expect him to have an IQ above 80, able to interact with the world and not be in a coma... Simply due to the average computer user being below median age, able to afford a computer and use it, coupled with the average computer player being below median age, ab

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by bFusion (1433853)

          Yeah, but I doubt that there's a WoW player that's a illiterate mass-murdering celebrity billionaire terrorist!

      • by aicrules (819392)
        Hopefully he's very high 6 figures otherwise he's just a 40K a year worker who does a buttload of overtime.
      • by Sj0 (472011)

        Sounds more like "Fucking moron is a moron" to me.

        The guy makes 6-figures, barely ever has free time, and instead of seeing the actual world, decides instead to play a video game about seeing the virtual world?

    • by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @06:14AM (#28121451)

      If you're actually looking for "efficient management" in MMOs, you might have to look to other MMOs. I know of a few EvE guilds that are ran more ruthlessly than the worst (RL) corporation you've ever worked for. Where you're told when and where to be online, what ship to fly, what skills to learn, what equipment to outfit, if you're a fighter. Where you're told how much ore you are to mine in a given amount of time, if you're a miner. Where you're told what to produce and where to get it, if you're builder or transporter. All with levels of management who have to report what they're doing, with set goals that have to be met, and if you don't meet it, well, it's been a pleasure to work with you, you have 24 hours to leave our space before we open fire on you.

      That's not playing anymore, though. That's worse than working a second job. That's working a second job and paying to do it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by tnk1 (899206)

        Having played both WoW and Eve in endgame situations, you're absolutely right that the Eve Alliances are absolutely insane, but its simply a matter of degree. You can actually build empires in Eve which contain actual game space that you have sovereignty over, and it turns out that such things need serious management.

        I remember times in 0.0 space when the constant raiding from other groups or random pirate gangs made it impossible for people to even hunt rats (NPCs). It would take way too long to call our

    • by Krneki (1192201)
      I doubt you can be a good leader if you are an asshole in real life.

      In the same way as in real life, you have to know how to socialize in the game. If you don't know how to follow the rules and respect your team mates you are out.
    • by umghhh (965931)
      While for /.ers living in seclusion of parents' house basement may be true the rest of your theory (about seeking companionship) is probably less applicable. The article specifically underlines certain way 'computer gaming' in particular makes you addictive. Granted that you have to be at least interested in games in the first place but what happens next is another thing. Psychologist I saw once in tely claimed that by ensuring small steps (levels) and getting rewards after passing each is the best way to
    • Yes, maybe some, no.
      Yes, many develop leadership skills (of sorts good only in the virtual game space)
      Maybe some are tub of lards, hell if you come over and think after running a raid or 2,
      I am a tub of lard, I will show you how I can do laundry on my 6pack.
      No, the game is highly addictive, the only thing stopping me from playing continuously,
      is 3 things, a girlfriend that whines all the time, the dogs that need to be walked often,
      and a scrooge side, that will not allow me to spend on a game I bought alread

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Hatta (162192)

      Personally, I don't care much for companionship in a game. I've never been much into multiplayer games at all. The game I find really addictive is Civilization. That and Nethack. The "Just..one..more..turn!" appeal of these games that entire nights, or even weekends can disappear into them.

      I don't play much of either any more, I spend more time expanding my collection of classic consoles. But my point is, there's something besides just surrogate socializing that makes games addictive.

    • by gparent (1242548)

      But we all know the truth. It's 30 year old lardballs who still live with their parents that play this game. The lack of friends and human companionship drives them to seek out online communities where they can be accepted as who they portray themselves as rather than for who they, unfortunately, are. Seeking companionship is one of the most primal of human urges.

      Are you serious? This should be modded +5 Funny, not Insightful. I've played WoW for many months, and have taken long breaks 3 times already. The breaks were not forced, they were a decision I made because I was simply tired of the game, and no, I did not experience withdrawal. I'm also perfectly capable of raiding 4 hours a day 3 days a week and seeing my friends on the other nights I'm not raiding. I have no such social issues you speak of, and I play in a guild where many players are playing with their g

    • by Twyst3d (1359973)

      There is a pretty funny theory that the vast majority of WoW players are well-respected professionals who play the game in their free time. Through the playing of WoW, they not only practice their leadership skills, but also organizational skills and planning skills. The idea is that the game reinforces and promotes cooperative game play while preserving a fun environment.

      But we all know the truth. It's 30 year old lardballs who still live with their parents that play this game. The lack of friends and human companionship drives them to seek out online communities where they can be accepted as who they portray themselves as rather than for who they, unfortunately, are. Seeking companionship is one of the most primal of human urges.

      I don't know how you can say the game is addictive, in that sense. I'm not addicted to breathing or eating, but I'd die without doing either of those. We are talking about something very close to the core of being a human, not a dependency developed through repeated exposure.

      Apparently quoting the same thing old tired recycled line of "30 years olds in their mothers basements" is worth 5 points Insightful. Who would have known?

      I wont deny these 30 year olds of which you speak dont exist. But Im quite sick of seeing that tired old line recycled. Worse - being subjected to the gall of essentially repeating the worst most repeated joke of the last few years, and doing so with condescension towards others about a product you seem to know so little about.

      The people I met in WoW.

    • by Aceticon (140883) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @08:35AM (#28122765)

      If your theory about the need for socializing was the end all explanation for the success of Online games, then Second Life (as pure a socializing game as it could be) would be by far the most successful of them all.

      The truth is that not all of us in our 30s are driven to play Online games for companionship (or are fat and live in our parent's basement ;)).

      There are multiple drivers to play online games (see the Bartle Food Groups: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bartle_Test [wikipedia.org]) only one of which is Socializing.

      Online games (like WoW or Unreal Tournament) have two really big differences from equivalent single player games, both little or not at all social:
      - MMORPGs contain HUGE universes, much bigger that the largest of single player RPGs and they periodically grow. A game like WoW can keep an "explorer" type busy for months, even years.
      - The current status of AI in games is such that playing against computer-controlled bots is less satisfying that playing against people. Part of the reason is technical: bots are incapable of complex strategical moves - and part is social: it is more satisfying to demonstrate superior skills against a fellow human than against a bot. This mostly satisfies the Achiever types.

    • Everquest was addictive.

      Running a 60 person guild for 24 months gave me a lot of the skills I use in my job running a team of 9.
      It gave me a ton of experience dealing with politics.
      It made me aware that a small core of people are rock solid- so you need to value them.
      It really opened up my eyes about how many people are users (the best do not even see it themselves- they view themselves as good people).
      But as long as they get what they need reasonably consistently, they stay.
      It opened my eyes how fleeting "

    • by geminidomino (614729) * on Thursday May 28, 2009 @09:29AM (#28123481) Journal

      There is a pretty funny theory that the vast majority of WoW players are well-respected professionals who play the game in their free time.

      [citation REALLY fucking needed]

      The paid spokespeople on TV (Captain Kirk, B.A Baracus, etc...) are not "the vast majority" of players.

      Through the playing of WoW, they not only practice their leadership skills, but also organizational skills and planning skills.

      Leadership skills?

      "How I mine fish?"
      "Can someone give me 10 silver?" /unequip armor + /dance on mailbox

      Alexander the Fucking Great they're not...

      Seriously, WHO holds this "theory?" They need to be sterilized for the sake of evolution.

      (Not flaming parent, just REALLY amused)

  • Rewards. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Kavorkian_scarf (1272422) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @04:52AM (#28120979)
    Well it didn't post my last comment. I was addicted to the rewards that were available to me, and the clear cut, investment required for them. Do this X many times, get this in return. Kill X many of this, and get this. I was and still am(sorta) addicted to wow. I /played my main over 200days(pre BC), id been there since it went live, with 5 other mains all 60 with alot of /played time on them. It was mostly a replacement for the lack of things I had to show for myself. Before people jump down my throat, its not like I sat in my room all day playing (almost) I was a social recluse by choice, I enjoyed my life as it was, and I just found that I lacked the disciplin and the means of which to obtain the things I wanted for myself. WoW was my answer.
    • +1 Honest (Score:5, Interesting)

      by tygerstripes (832644) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @05:04AM (#28121063)

      While I've no doubt there is a healthy sub-set of heavy-gamers (WoW included) that have well-adjusted approaches to life and enjoy gaming as a part of that, there are many, many people who have done and actively do exactly as you describe. Few of them have the balls or self-awareness to admit it though, and fewer still have the verbal skills to articulate the trap as clearly as you have.

      I've teetered on the edge of that life-destroying artificial-reward gaming addiction, and was fortunate enough to have circumstances intervene, but I know other people who have descended into exactly the hole you've experienced. A certain reclusive predisposition and messed-up life events are a common starting point, but people who don't understand the addiction can be very unhelpful with their "buck up, get a life" attitudes. Such people would also tell heroine addicts to "just stop taking it" if it were PC to do so, and their advice would be just as helpful and welcome.

  • ...the sheer compexity of the game, its realistic shots and firing, its amazing amount of sound and real-time weaponry all make it like wonderful that i wanna play forever.
    OTOH i hate Railroads. Why? it can't play decent with a 64-bit OS, damn slow when it comes to running (i have a powerful enough comp that makes Crysis cry) due to its bugs, multi-processor issues, etc.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 28, 2009 @05:11AM (#28121101)

    I'm addicted to slashdot karma farming.

    I post bland, pro-open source comments, and collect the insightful mods.
    Sometimes I feel like posting pro-Microsoft comments, which is the /. equivalent of giving away all your WOW gold and money. But I just can't do it.

    • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Thursday May 28, 2009 @05:27AM (#28121201)

      In a sense, even Slashdot is a game. As you mention, we are awarded points when we post something "useful", and points are revoked when we post something not so useful. Even in the case of Microsoft stories, it is not unheard of to see pro-Microsoft posts get modded to +5. The fact of the matter is that the content of a post isn't the determining scoring factor. It is mostly style that is rewarded here.

      The guy who thinks he's funny for saying "Linux sucks!" is going to get slapped down hard, but someone who takes the time to explain exactly how bad Linux is as a desktop operating system (for example) or how hard it is to use (as another example) will be modded very high. This isn't because the content of the post is different. Essentially, both simply explain the obvious: Linux isn't a suitable OS for the vast majority of the computing public. The first post expresses this sentiment as an opinion. The second provides a logical framework upon which the reader may be convinced of the facts.

      Likewise, pro-Microsoft posts are commonly modded up. Due in part to the over-demonization of the company, a calm post explaining that the company isn't as bad as everyone thinks will frequently be modded up as a voice of reason. Even posts that extol the virtues of Microsoft (great software) and Bill Gates (worldwide philanthropy), while seemingly over the top, will get positive modification.

      Slashdot has done many things wrong, but the moderation system is something they have done very right. By encouraging posts that have exemplary style, they are promoting a discussion that doesn't necessarily need the most knowledgeable participants, the only requirement is that the successful poster be garrulous and loquacious.

      • Likewise, pro-Microsoft posts are commonly modded up. Due in part to the over-demonization of the company, a calm post explaining that the company isn't as bad as everyone thinks will frequently be modded up as a voice of reason. Even posts that extol the virtues of Microsoft (great software) and Bill Gates (worldwide philanthropy), while seemingly over the top, will get positive modification.

        No doubt there are some people who genuinely think that and will mod accordingly. While I didn't have an account on

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by blahplusplus (757119)

        " It is mostly style that is rewarded here."

        No what is rewarded is well articulated posts, that are easy to read, are not too lengthly or use obtuse language. Most mods forgive posts with spelling/grammar errors, and/or missing words if the core is well enough articulated, of which I am thankful. I'm not going to pretend slashdot is without bias, but the moderation system works better then all other news sites as far as I know and almost all news sites have gone to including comments on their websites bec

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by stonewallred (1465497)
          anything against capitalism or America deserves to be slapped down. We all know that the twin towers of capitalism and democracy are the pinnacle of human evolution and the crowning achievement of America (not to mention the internet, modern medicine, 90% of modern technology, and nuclear weapons) are these two things. Plus America's role in keeping Europe free and not under the rule of whatever dictator tried to take over is oft ignored.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by fbjon (692006)
        On the internet, coherent posts deserve every praise they can get.
        • I agree - if you look at the comment threads on newspaper websites or youtube, you quickly realise that the slashdot moderation system does a hell of a job (albeit imperfect, as with everything in the world) of increasing the signal to noise ratio in a discussion.
      • the only requirement is that the successful poster be garrulous and loquacious.

        That's not necessary. You just need to talk a lot, although xenonymous grandiloquence certainly helps ;)

      • by Aceticon (140883)

        I really think there should be and equivalent to the Goodwin Law for when somebody posts a Linux versus Microsoft post in a discussing thread.

        Maybe we could call it the Balmer Law and say that the thread has been Balmerized... ???

      • Wrong word (Score:3, Insightful)

        by huckamania (533052)

        The OP should be modded +5 Insightful. If WoW is 'addictive', then the word no longer has the same meaning as before. The word can just as easily be applied to chocolate, slashdot and American Idol as to a voluntary activity like WoW.

        The truth is that none of these things are addictive. There are people who are obsessed with each of those things, but if stranded on a desert island, those people wouldn't suffer any ill effects from being removed from their obsession.

        I'm currently obsessed with Battlefi

    • by gbjbaanb (229885)

      you jest, but there are other sites like Slashdot that offer rewards that are addictive. ServerFault and StackOverflow for example, has posts and comments from people laughingly saying that they are addicted to them, posting answers and questions in order to be awarded points along with a leaderboard and badges.

      They are game-like, you keep in wanting to 'level up'. Ultimately its pointless (ha!) but we keep on wanting to play. I think its a social thing, where our position in society is mirrored (in a simpl

  • The question is, why do we consider what we get in exchange, rewards?

    In the case of WoW achievements, do we accept little achievement titles because we are trying to see how far we can get for ourselves, or are we doing it out of a sense of competition with friends or other people, or both? It's interesting to try to figure out how they've made the environment to encourage strangers to treat each other more as friends, (pug parties and raids) and how they've encouraged the sense of personal accomplishment t

    • So THAT's why /. now has a reward system?

      Gotta go to 2^16 in consecutive days read, gotta go to 2^16 in consecutive days read...

  • Nothing Really New (Score:5, Informative)

    by Valen0 (325388) <valen@@@escom...us> on Thursday May 28, 2009 @05:17AM (#28121141)

    The conclusion that this article makes are not really new. Nick Yee did similar studies on MMOG addiction with EverQuest many years ago. These were the studies that I could find:

    The Norrathian Scrolls: The Virtual Skinner Box [nickyee.com]

    Ariadne: Understanding Game Addiction [nickyee.com]

  • Don't forget that one of the key ingredients in the MMO soup is being able to compete and flaunt your achievements to you the people you like AND the people you don't like. It gives a sense of personal ranking and has a elitist type effect on the psyche. It's always fun to show off your gear and make people drool.
  • by turing_m (1030530) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @05:33AM (#28121245)

    http://www.progressquest.com/ [progressquest.com]

    The character creation screen alone is worth the download. I don't think I've laughed that hard since Airplane.

    (And it's in the Ubuntu repositories. You gotta love Ubuntu.)

    • It randomly generated my character name as "Inoob"

      I don't like it :(

  • First post! You received 25xp. DING! You reached level 5.

  • Are there specific elements of the design that can be pulled out, distilled, and used at will to give a game drug-like properties? Is it wrong to do so?

    Might as well be asking:

    Are there specific compounds in cigarettes that can be used to make them addictive? Is it wrong to do so?

    The fact of the matter is that cigarette companies (and computer game companies) have no one to answer to but their customers and share holders, and both will be happiest when they produce the most addictive product possible. 'Ri

  • Addiction?? (Score:3, Funny)

    by eclectro (227083) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @06:02AM (#28121385)

    It started when you controlled a little yellow circle that went around swallowing blue pills.

  • It's a blend (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @06:08AM (#28121411)

    WoW's "addictive" nature is a blend of many components.

    First and foremost, it's the reward system. Human beings do things due to rewards. That's how we work. We used to hunt and gather, and our reward was meat and berries. We went, we did, we got something, we were pleased. In today's world, that doesn't work out anymore so well. Usually, the reward you get is abstracted away from your work too far for you to make that connection. We work a month and eventually, our accout grows a bit. But we don't see how they are connected. It's not like I get some kind of micropayment for every line of code I write or debug.

    Even if, what kind of reward is money? It's again an abstract concept that has no "real" value until it's redeemed for what you actually want.

    WoW gives you very directly reward for actions. First, there's that fanfare playing when you accomplish something (don't you think that doesn't matter! It tells you "you did that well", it praises you), you get some goods (more or less useful), what really counts, though, is that the game acknowledges that you actually "did something".

    The next part is user interaction and commitment. Since people do rely on each other and have to, you are guilt tripped into playing even if you don't want to. They need a healer/tank/whatever or they can't accomplish their goal. Your decision to stay away from it lets four (or 24, or 39) people down. This in turn makes the player feel appreciated, welcome and needed. And trust me, today, a lot of people feel like they ain't needed or appreciated. Or even welcome.

    The sense of accomplishment, where you feel like you progress. Today, again, we don't really get that feeling very often. You might, in school, when you ascend through the classes towards graduation. In your workplace? Maybe stuck in a burger flipper job? Where do you progress? Where does your life go to? WoW tells you exactly where it's heading. You can watch your progress by watching your level and the kind of outfit you wear. More over, everyone else, not just a small subset of people who happen to judge success by the same yard stick as you, everyone in the game can appreciate what you have "done", because everyone else uses the same gauge to measure success: Level and equipment.

    Yet at the same time, there's still the feeling of having no responsibility, it's still a no-commitment thing. You could just log off and nobody could hold it against you. There ain't any real life issues to deal with should you decide to just leave. No job that you'll lose, no family you would lose, no class you could fail, just because you decided you don't wanna anymore.

    • Re:It's a blend (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Chrondeath (757612) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @08:02AM (#28122365)
      From that analysis, it almost sounds like it's the real world that's doing it wrong, not WoW.
      • Re:It's a blend (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @08:22AM (#28122603)

        Well, generally it is.

        Human does not fit in our society. Odd as it may sound, we're not really made for the life we live today. Maybe that's why we have so many "civilisation diseases". Especially our mind doesn't really work well in this kind of environment.

        First, we have a 'pack' mentality, not the 'hive' mentality we're exposed to today. We work well in groups of 10 or maybe 20 individuals, and that's usually the amount of people the average person might "know" (to the degree of "know and like, and maybe hang out with"). That's how many people we willingly "work" together with. We don't really care for anyone outside that rather small circle. Small, considering corporations with thousands of people working there. Do you care about Joe from accounting? He could drop dead as far as I'm concerned.

        Unless maybe if you're in accounting. And he's part of your 'pack'. Or, rather, your team or at least department. And that, again, only if you like him.

        But that's hardly the only thing that is 'wrong' in our modern society. Wrong in the sense that it isn't compatible with what was necessary for our ancestors to survive and thus became part of the human "genetic" mindset.

    • You might add the feeling of continuity, of building something.

      Your character gets stronger and better the longer you play. Your guild gets farther along in instances, and becomes closer friends. Even your personal skills and knowledge increase the longer you play.

      As long as there is an opportunity to continue to build you have a strong reason to come back. You're invested in your character, in your guild, in your skills.

      Both times I quit WoW it was because the accomplishments available to my character had

  • Actually, a Blizzard developer said in an old interview that they closely copied the 'constant rewards' system of casinos' slot machines when developing Diablo. They're not doing this at random.

    I know it's on the Internet, but I've tried looking and couldn't find it. If someone could find that one or two paragraph quote, it would be great for discussion.

  • by boliboboli (1447659) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @06:37AM (#28121571)
    The model for this game design is really from D&D. E.g. Do stuff, get 'loot' randomly after an encounter, fill up the XP bar to hit the next level, improve skills, abilities, feats, etc, etc. The difference is that you don't have to go to your buddies basement(with your Doritos/Mountain Dew) and bring your dice on a Sunday afternoon to get your fix like with a video game; It's right there in your computer room. It also gives the experience to those who are imagination impaired. The potion of the gaming industry using these 'evil' methods should be thanking Gary Gygax and Dave Arenson for the money they're making.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Schezar (249629)

      While that is what D&D (or Chainmail, really) was originally, there is a great deal of tabletop roleplaying that is nothing of the sort. While Dungeons & Dragons basically became "tabletop World of Warcraft" with the release of fourth edition, games like Burning Wheel, Inspectres, Prime Time Adventures, and Mouse Guard have broken far away from this progress quest paradigm. D&D is, simply put, the "WoW of tabletop gaming," and just as with WoW, the savvier gamers have moved to the independent

      • And yet... 4E is extravagantly more popular than any of those. Heck, I at least know what you're talking about (I've played Burning Empires), but there's not many gamers outside of rpg.net and the forge who would even recognise the names.

        So, if by "savvier" gamers you mean the most arty 1% of an already obscure hobby, you're right. In practice, judging by the tone at the games clubs I see, 4E is not exactly taking the hobby world by storm (there are plenty of 3.x loyalists around) but I don't see a huge shi

    • Okay, maybe that's a bit harsh, but with any RPG or table top wargame, be it D&D / Shadow Run / Battle Tech / Car Wars / Toon! / Paranoia / GURPs / WH40k (I'm just the listing the ones I played growing up), you had to be able to get a group together, find a convenient place for everyone, etc.

      With some of 'em, where there's progress from session to session rather than stand-alone sessions, you need to get everyone to be able to show up every time -- which is a problem as people work different schedules,

  • Well, if Star Trek: The Next Generation was any indication of such issues being relevant in our world, you might want to look at some of these upcoming games and toys coming out that you play using brain waves... such as Mattel's upcoming MindFlex [amazon.com] toy and the Emotiv Epoc [emotiv.com] headset controller for PC gaming applications.

    As for addictive properties, there still needs to be some sort of "reward" system to act as feedback, like a strategic TENS unit shock into certain areas of the body that would be desirable, suc

  • Weak Article (Score:3, Insightful)

    by whisper_jeff (680366) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @08:00AM (#28122351)
    For an article on ign, a site frequented by gamers, the article is really weak. I would expect something like that from a local newspaper rather than something published on a site read by people already knowledgeable regarding the subject. The article spends a lot of time explaining concepts and ideas that are already obvious to anyone who even remotely considers themselves a gamer (the regular audience of ign, for example). I was hoping it would then build upon those basic concepts that I already knew to present an interesting or novel theory but - no - that was it. A very disappointing read and not worth the time...

    As a note, a big part of my disappointment is I feel this would be a very interesting topic to discuss so reading an intelligent article on the subject would be great but this is not that article...

    In my opinionated opinion.
  • Not just MMOs (Score:3, Insightful)

    by VGPowerlord (621254) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @08:46AM (#28122893)

    Disclaimer: I have played WoW in the past.

    It's not just MMOs that are addicting. Any online game can be addicting. Heck, even offline games can be addicting.

    Currently, Team Fortress 2 for the PC is my addiction. One of the communities I'm part of has their own server and is currently thinking about getting a second one due to its popularity.

    It's fun because you play against people you know and, unlike World of Warcraft, it doesn't matter how little or much you play, as your character never really changes.

    Of course, Valve continuing to release updates has made it easier to convince some of my friends to play. It helped a lot when Valve had the sale on The Orange Box for $10 a few weeks ago, though...

  • i had to forcibly destroy the disc in order to have a life

    for me, it was a combination of the engrossing micromanagement (which you see with WoW and its endless loot management) and that insistent "just one more turn..." urging that moves you to devote 5 more minutes to the game that turns into 5 hours. that urging is the desire to see the completion of small goalposts, like building a wonder or taking a border city from the spanish or the indians, which is also discussed in regards to WoW

    • by mqduck (232646)

      Yeah, Civ IV is horrible. Every now and then, I binge on the game for 24 hour-stretches broken only by sleep for several days in a row. Thing is, by the end, I feel like I've had my fill. But that's just me.

  • I've been playing Heroin Hero 60 hours/week. Someday I'll catch that pesky dragon!

If you're not careful, you're going to catch something.

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