The Daily Grind: How much of your MMORPG play amounts to ‘work’?

The latest SMBC comic is going to have my fellow MMO fans nodding enthusiastically: In response to the first man, who says we need to find the “next big thing” after gamifying work, a second man suggests workifying games — something the author dryly remarks was obviously the catalyst for the first MMORPG.

And I’m not sure he’s wrong at all. A tremendous amount of my MMO gameplay consists of activities I suspect an objective observer would classify as work rather than a game. Unpaid work. The only real difference is that some of it is work I enjoy — like crafting in a sandbox with an immersive and rewarding economy. Quest hubs, though? I’m over that.

How much of your MMORPG play amounts to “work”? Has that changed since you first began playing MMOs?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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75 Comments on "The Daily Grind: How much of your MMORPG play amounts to ‘work’?"

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The biggest turn-off type of game work for me is meta-play which is entirely a product of arbitrary restrictions the developers have made for purposes outside the game world.

Bank inventory management should not be a thing–I should be able to hoard piles of stuff in my housing to the point that even Smaug would be impressed. Heck, you should be able to pile stuff up anywhere in the world, obviously with the concern that somebody might come along and help themselves. Also personal inventory management in games that artificially restrict that as a monetization scheme, although I’m more accepting of ultimate weight and volume restrictions because encumbrance is real.

My brother loved farming in AA, but quit BDO after not very long because having to be constantly online, and constantly maintaining crops, felt too much like a job for him.

In BDO, having to constantly juggle CP spend between different things because of the artificially reduced return past 255 was a *huge* one for me. This also ties into the previous item because of restricted farming plots vs AA’s plant almost anywhere; you have to go do some other “work” to get CP for fences just to be able to plant crops.

Having to pick & choose just a few abilities to use at a time in games that limit the number of hotbar slots you have. Deckbuilding is such an artificial gamey activity; it has no place in any open world.


None of it. If it feels like work then I stop playing that game.

Zen Dadaist

Increasingly, far too sodding much between Dailies and Inventory management, particularly in a game I have become established in and therefore have many characters. It’s getting tiresome. More play less maintenence wanted.


At the end, depending on what you’re doing, playing EVE Online felt like work. The work was fun, but the amount of time & planning that the game required I was no longer able (willing?) to devote to it.

I’ve found that, as I’ve gotten older, where in my younger games I’d actually *gasp* schedule RL around gaming, now it’s WAAAAYYY vice versa; I end up squeezing some gaming in when I can. I would LOVE to be able to just farm or make stuff or shoot things in the face whenever I wanted to, which back then was morning, noon & night on weekends, again, but now, alas, adulting has taken over.

I/we always said that if we ever retired & the game was still running, we’d go back to EVE, but that brings up another somewhat-related point: I do NOT want to be stressed-out while playing games any more. RL, especially my work, is incredibly stressful, so before, where I’d see out thrills & chills via PvP & super-hard challenges, now I play games more to unwind; I’m MORE than happy to just gather, craft, farm for a bit, just chill out.

Usually when the game is really REALLY enjoyable & engrossing to me AND I have some type of goal that I’m trying to achieve, even mundane repetitive tasks don’t feel like drudgery.

But if/when I achieve that goal, like in CoH when I wanted to hit the Influence Cap & had every L50 IO’d-out toon that I wanted, or in EVE when I had every ship I wanted to fly & enough isk to buy them all over again multiple times if I lost them, & in BDO when I had/was making so much cash that continuing t ocraft & sell/farm anything was essentially pointless, I get bored & inevitably leave.

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When a game starts to feel more like a grind than fun, that’s when I generally move on. However, this pattern I’ve found has led to me being pretty terrible at MMOs. Hit max level and it’s time for incremental gains by repetitive content? Meh. Even sometimes the slog of *getting* to max level if the content isn’t exciting enough. And side stuff? Like the economy or crafting? Forget it. Crafting is only useful at those top echelons where that repetitive content is, and the only items worthwhile to sell at auction usually reside there, too. It’s almost like I’m the anti-Bree.

However, a game I’ve played brings back some new content or continues their story? Well, that’s a whole other thing. I’ll gladly come back for that… that doesn’t feel like work, though.


There have been only two mmo’s where i enjoyed crafting. Earth & Beyond and EQ2. In E&B i specialized in making beam weapons. I could make QL 200% just about every beam weapon in that game and it took a long time to learn them. But i was known on my server for it and it became like a job making beams all the time for players..

In EQ2 i always take carpenter as my profession because i love making furniture for my houses. Crafting in other mmos i just never got into because i would have a need to become the best which would turn the game into a job for me.

Robert Mann

Crafting in most MMOs doesn’t offer anything like those experiences… because it’s everyone doing a side task that offers nearly nothing once one is at max level and running dungeons in eye-bleeding easy PUG mode. XD


I think all of it fits the literal definition of work: exertion or effort directed to produce or accomplish something.

That may seem pedantic, but most of what we do in MMOs has marketable value, at least in the black market in the form of leveling services and the sale of characters, equipment and in-game currency. You don’t even need to “workify” elements of a game, though there’s a lot of untapped potential in that regard as well.

People have been making a meager living out of it for years, and others have made small fortunes. Once upon a time I was a report analyst/database tech for a leading-brand online payment processor and was often called upon to pull reports for fraud investigations related to MMOs and MMO-guild websites, and I was just as often stunned to see how much money was being made by certain groups and individual players through the sale of characters, items and even raid dungeon runs where the client was guaranteed certain drops. There were guilds that had amassed seven-figure account balances from their “work” in-game.

In response to the title question, I’ve never tried to market my own gameplay and I don’t work at being on the competitive edge of things anymore, so I’d say my time in MMOs is pure recreation, escape and socializing. I’ve never felt like playing an MMO was a job, though I’d certainly be open to it if it could be done above-board.

Robert Mann

If it is a themepark, and I’m at endgame and not just casually poking at the story to see if it is worth reading (or if I’m leveling an alt to play a role that is needed in a game for a group) and I’m not running something with friends as a group, then it is likely work. If I’m in a sandbox, it is always work… but I’m playing with people and talking, so it is also always fun.

Long story short, almost all of it is work, but when playing with good people it is the kind of work where the hours fly by, and you aren’t focusing on the work but on the fun being had. *I’m always amazed at the idea the game has to provide in game rewards in the WoW trend to succeed, because that’s really not what the genre is about to me.*

Alex Malone

I would say the leveling process is 95% work, 5% fun.

Once I reach endgame, it’s probably 80-90% fun, 10-20% work. PvP is always fun and I spend a significant portion of my endgame time pvping, but I also enjoy dungeons and raiding in groups and that is always fun too. The only work I have to do at endgame is the occasional grinding for mats/gold in order to repair gear and replace pots and the occasional grinding for other bits and bobs (like grinding xp in lotro to level up legendary weapons).

Luckily for me, I only have to level up once, so that (typically) 4-7 days /played is a one-off hurdle I have to overcome to reach the content I enjoy, so the longer I play a game, the better the fun-to-work ratio overall.


I’m the opposite – levelling is 95% fun for me, endgame is 95% work. So I usually only gear up to a certain level, call it done, and then play an alt instead.


The pure pwning power of patience and persistence is severely undervalued. If and when you make it over to the next spiral arm, you’ll find those stars already have my name on them. I win.

I feel that any well-designed virtual world will have some tasks that are impossible for the average person to complete, just because the average person has the attention span of a gnat. If people are whining that they can’t build a Demon Sword of Ultimate Annihilation without a solid year of focused gameplay doing little else but crafting… ah-hah, I’ve found my place in that world. Don’t nerf it. Give the whiners other forms of instant gratification, and leave me to my work.


The issue with that way of thinking is that, given the choice, too many of the people that can’t build a Demon Sword of Ultimate Annihilation will, instead, move to a different game where they can. So, nothing against that way of thinking or games that are designed like that, but you must be aware that doubling down on that philosophy will likely result in fewer of the casual players remaining in the game and, thus, a smaller budget to continue developing it.


That’s a good point, and no-doubt has had considerable influence on MMO design over the years.

I’ve always been a proponent of being inclusive with MMO design, but I also feel that there’s a balance to be had. It’s not healthy if hardcore raiders are the gatekeepers for your best content, but neither is it healthy to exclude challenge and competition to the point where everyone gets a participation trophy.

Robert Mann

True, but I’d rather have a smaller budget game that actually fits me than a large budget game that follows all the same trends and does nothing for me beyond serve as a space to run around in while talking to friends on VOIP.

*Not that I want a themepark with the only changes being a long grind to make items, because that is not what I am looking for!*