Are MMOs and video games fulfilling our need for productivity?

    
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Here is a question for you to ponder: Do MMOs make you feel more productive than your main job or school? If so, it might not be an accident.

In an essay over at the Talk Amongst Yourselves Kinja, author @CleonWrites notes how video games have started to fill people’s needs for productivity and world fulfillment when they can’t get it in the real world. And you might be getting a hit of this emotional high when you jump into your favorite MMO.

“Using MMORPG’s as an example, [game designer Jane] McGonigal notes that games can offer a certain satisfaction in doing work,” the essay says. “‘Work’ in games commonly take the form of quests, or objectives, which the player is asked to complete. On completion of these tasks, players can be rewarded through experience points, better armour, and in particular, more quests. This constant repetition of easily completable tasks, and increasingly common rewards, drives home a feeling of productivity in the player.”

It might be a little jarring to honestly examine the way MMOs manipulate our minds and moods (the essay says that game designers are sometimes called “happiness engineers”), but it can also be helpful so that we can establish a balance and make sure we are not substituting the entertainment of games for the real-world tasks that we need to be doing.

Source: Talk Amongst Yourselves. Thanks Mike!
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kgptzac

Did the person who asked the question come from the future where machines took all the jobs, and the only thing left for us humans is to plug our brains into The Simulation network?

Brendan Drain
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Brendan Drain

I agree with Jane McGonigal, but for slightly different reasons. My everyday work is game development and writing about games, both creative jobs in which your effort doesn’t necessarily yield any kind of immediate progress or reward. Game development in particular is high-stress and mentally draining, a lot of it is solving novel problems and specifying solutions rather than building new things and you can work on projects for weeks without seeing any significant progress. When you do finally make tangible progress, you can release that into the wild after months of work and get very little feedback, and usually it’s impossible to link specific work with a specific reward (increase in sales, for example).

Most MMOs are the exact opposite — Low stress, mentally relaxing, and designed to be straight-forward. They present you challenges with obvious solutions (and often specifically tell you the solution) and you make steady progress toward goals. You don’t even have to think about how to solve problems if you don’t want to because a hundred other players have already done it and you can just look up a guide online. You put in your hours of “work” and consistently make an equivalent amount of progress, and there’s something very satisfying about that if your real job doesn’t work like this. It scratches an itch that real work sometimes doesn’t.

Gaming “work” still demands mental effort and focused attention though, which is why the third thing that helps is doing manual work in real life. It might sound silly to some of you, but when I need a real break from programming and don’t feel like putting in the mental effort for gaming, I find it very relaxing to do housework (don’t tell Tina this!). I walk my dogs 6km a day not just because they need it and it’s good exercise but because it’s a great break from mental work, and it’s definitely helped mitigate burnout in my game dev work in a way that just gaming on its own doesn’t.

Mewmew
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Mewmew

A great many people count their productivity on what they’ve accomplished in video games. To me that’s actually pretty sad, it means their real life suffers so much and has so few accomplishments that they have to use video games to count accomplishments instead. Heck there are people who count their accomplishments on making a comment first in forum posts after announcements or Dev posts, so I guess in that sense the video game ones that actually take a bit more work aren’t quite as bad.

Video games actually feed into that sense that a lot of people get and a lot of them take advantage of it. Pay to win titles especially will open (unneeded) new servers constantly in order to let people feel that they are the top players on a new server and give people a feeling of first accomplishments there and their names in lights on scoreboards.

This is actually a topic that can and should be discussed at great length – for various reasons. Though this isn’t really the place for me to do so (nor the time, I’m just waking up and got too much to do).

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rafael12104

Hmm. It depends on your point of view. Productivity, for me, is a real world thing. Productive at work, productive at home… the goals are tangible and impact my real life day to day.

Games, are the antithesis. Doesn’t mean they are not important to me. In fact escaping a productive life is important as I allow myself to relax and enjoy something purely for intrinsic value.

I think the word the word @CleonWrites should have used is achievement. Some, me included, need a purpose in games. A sense of achievement, even if it is social and not task oriented. It’s not an OCD or anything like that, but I find fulfillment in MMOs often does include achievement. And maybe, just maybe, that is something I can get from games if I’m not achieving what I would like in real life.

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Tithian

I cannot relate, I’m one of those people that tunes out when I hit the ‘productivity’ grind wall in games. I want adventure, heroic tales and experiences in a fantasy or sci-fi world, not a freaking second job. It must be why I’m mostly burned out on MMOs and started getting back into single player games.

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Jack Pipsam

Totally. When I was playing Runescape in Primary School I felt like I was making actual progress in the game while in real life I hadn’t a clue what I was doing. It felt good, like I was doing something useful.
In early high-school I felt the same, only in later high-school did I feel like MMOs were more a bit of fun than actually doing goals or fulfilling a part of my need anymore.

I guess it collates with whatever else is going on, I didn’t have many IRL friends until about 16 so up to then the internet fulfilled most of my social needs. But after it just became a thing I did for fun, than I need to do or else I feel like I haven’t progressed. Playing game wasn’t a waste of time to me, everything else was.

Now though, I don’t care as much as everything feels like a waste of time in both life and games, so it’s all equal now <3

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Utakata

It may not help with reproductivity, as you really can’t “do it” with another in a MMO yet. But as the editorial team at MOP can attest to, doesn’t get in the way of making families either. o.O

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

My real job saves lives in a roundabout way but surprisingly it doesn’t really provide a lot of job satisfaction. All while still having the doubt and uncertainty that someone might die if I don’t do my job right.

Weeee.

Sometimes I don’t sleep well at night. :P

There are some quests in mmos that give that sense of accomplishment but most are just busy work. I really liked some of the jumping puzzles in gw2 that I solved without hints, the same for some puzzles in Secret World. They are however few and far between.

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Chris Mc

I recall this all too well years ago when EQ came out. I actually cared less about getting real work done. It got pretty bad for a while there.

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Schlag Sweetleaf

Mo fills the bill nicely :)

happy little Mo over here.png
camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

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rafael12104

Man, every time I hear that song, even this version, I think of the movie Donnie Darko. That movie… Great and… not so great. Lol.

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Utakata

Paint those happy little Mo’s. <3

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rafael12104

Mo Ross! Man, I miss that dude. :)