The Daily Grind: What do you consider ‘meaningful’ MMO content?


Massively OP commenter DK went on a Twitter tear last week that caught my eye. He was criticizing the way some MMORPG players use the word “meaningful” as a sort of a dog whistle for hardcore or elite.

“Meaningful progression” – from these gamers – “means being able to play more hours and day and make everyone who pays less have no chance against you in PvP or PvE or economically,” he wrote. “Meaningful PvP is being able to loot the corpses of the people you facerolled due to meaningful progression leaving them with nothing at all – no gear/weapons/anything. Meaningful PvE means WoW-style raiding.”

I thought it was a good observation. It’s not what I mean by meaningful, but in retrospect, I realize that it’s what many of the people I’ve argued with over the years sure meant, and the disconnect between visions for the genre suddenly became clear to me. It’s also made me a lot less eager to use the word.

Do you agree with DK? What do you consider “meaningful” MMO content?

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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Meaningful content……So many ways to interpret that!

If we’re talking about story content, then I guess I’d say meaningful content refers to anything that connects with you on a personal level, or any content that has an impact on the world you are playing in. In my opinion, most story content in MMOs lacks meaning, it’s all pointless generic filler content.

If we’re talking about progression, then meaningful progression is anything that changes the way you play. This is why I generally refer to stat upgrades as false progression – they don’t change the way you play, they generally just change the difficulty of content. But, unlocking new skills, or new set bonuses on armour, or dramatic stat changes can all affect the way we actually play, either through new capabilities or new rotations or new ways to approach combat. That is real, “meaningful” progression.

If we’re talking difficulty, then meaningful content is anything that provides you, the player, with an actual challenge that you can still overcome. If it’s not a challenge then you’re not engaged with the content fully. If it is too difficult and you can’t overcome it, then again it’s not meaningful to you. This will obviously vary from player to player.

For a player like me, this does mean that the majority of content in an MMO is meaningless. I find the stories generic and pointless, the content too easy and the progression mostly just a false veneer to keep you on the hook. But, the stuff that is meaningful is awesome and is enough to motivate me to grind through the shit in order to reach the best bits.


Something where you don’t feel you’re being forced to go in a certain direction and something that doesn’t feel like a grind.

And “sandbox” games aren’t that either, because they are advertised as games where you can do anything you want, except that that’s just a facade and in reality, it’s a game akin to Minecraft where you literally have nothing to do and are left to play with some blocks like a retard. Sandbox MMOs just have crafting and a bit more freedom than themepark MMOs, but offer you nothing particular to do, you just run around trying to find a reason to play a game that has no quests, no story, nothing, it would be better if “sandbox” games are just called Crafting Simulators.

Most cheap Asian MMOs I’ve played over the years don’t give you any choice – you have to go through this, this and this zone, do the stupid quests and grind mobs for hour on end. And the last game I played (last night) was Hero Plus, I think it is an updated and re-released version of Hero Online. In there in order to get good gear you need to enhance it, and enhancement have a high probability to fail and break your items, so you need items that protect your items from breaking, and that’s the only way to get good items so with feeling this constrained I quit after finishing the first zone. I never expected much from the game, but apparently I’ve forgotten how grindy and punishing old Asian MMOs were.

In the Western games I’ve played, mostly WoW Vanilla – WoTLK, you can at least pick the zones you want to level in and if you are bored of some, there are always others, but this is where the freedom ends too – you have to level up and at the same time get good armor you have to go to dungeons and you can’t really find such good stuff in the Auction House either (at least in Vanilla), so aside from leveling, dungeoneering and doing PvP, there isn’t much else to do in the game, as crafting while helpful is just boring to me.

I’m currently playing ESO and I’m not deep into the game, but just questing and experiencing the story is rewarding enough for me, as I don’t plan to have multiple characters and stuff, maybe this doesn’t apply to what I previously said as when I explore all locations there won’t be new ones to quest in (unless they release more content).


In an abstract way: content that I enjoy doing for the sake of itself, not to get somewhere else where I do basically the same. It is like saying “I don’t want to watch this movie so I am allowed to watch the next movie … and I’m actually not looking forward to the initial one” – but in MMO’s that seems quite common.
More specifically: interesting stories or the ability to enjoy beauty (landscape etc) especially when I come home after a long day and it is dark outside and I was in the office all day. Virtual sunlight and nature is better than none. Being able to make something my own, a home and point of calm away from the stress of real life, politics, hate, aggression. Things that allow me to slow down, focus on positive things like cooperation, compassion, being constructive – especially in today’s atmosphere that is precious and lacking greatly.


For me, meaningful content is something that affects or changes the world I’m playing in. That can be as complex has a heavily written narrative that I play through that changes how NPCs view me or what areas I have have access or no longer have access to, to building a simple house out in the country side that people can see and interact with.

I don’t view the acquisition of gear or loot as meaningful content. That’s just loot. Meaningful means it impacts my world when I’m in a MMO.


For me, when it comes to PvE content, it’s mostly about whether the content is a mere repetition or variation of already existing content.

I mean, if you set up a random mission generator that can create a few million different variations of missions, you have effectively infinite content — but it’s not meaningful content because despite the variations it feels like you are doing the same few things all the time.

A practical example would be exploring planets and star systems in No Man’s Sky. Thanks to procedural generation there are more planets than the whole human race could explore in a hundred years if every single person was playing the game — but after a short while it starts to feel the same, even if no two planets are identical.

For PvP, I tend to classify it as meaningful if it’s reasonably balanced, with a high skill ceiling and very limited gear influence (i.e., actual player skill matters far more than how much time the player spent grinding), a natural handicap built into the game’s design (so newbs nevertheless have a fighting chance), and where the fight itself is enjoyable even when losing.

When it comes to progression, I tend to consider it meaningful when it’s mostly based on the player’s skill; if either luck (RNG), or grind (repetition of content that is already on farm) plays a big role in progressing then I can’t consider said progression to be even close to being meaningful. Sadly, I don’t think I’ve played any MMO where I consider progression to be meaningful, as progression tends to be dictated by grinding content already on farm until you get, through RNG drops, enough gear upgrades to make the next piece of content easy.

Ben Stone

I consider ‘meaningful’ progression to mean something that is achieved through challenge and teamwork, rather than mindless grind or arbitrary factors.


Whatever content I feel like doing at the time.

possum440 .

Content that has multiple ways to get an item. From top gear/weapons/items to anything, there should always be multiple ways to get anything. Thats one type meaningful content.

Anything gotten in a raid should be unusable/unwearable/untransmoggable in the open world questing or pvp. Meaningful means there is a reason to get it, and use it in a specific area. PVP gear and anything raid or dungeon related should be usable/wearable/see the raid transmogs only in those areas, that way, they are “meaningful”.

Being able to use pvp gear and raid/dungeon gear and items outside these areas makes them unmeaningful and cheap.


I consider “Meaningful” content to be content that progresses the story. Preferrably non-teamed content. Gear score is otherwise a worthless number, I’d rather be immersed in the story. Also, as a caveat, it means non-repeating content… no farming, no dailies, no raids. Basically all the ‘filler’ content designed to stretch out the time played number….


Content I had a choice of doing and reasonably freedom in how I was doing it.
Content that gave feeling of accomplishment, which includes a combination of challenge, consequence and reward.
Complexity (mechanics, backstory, systems).
Logic, which is a vague concept but basically it means content in the game (concepts, systems, entities, story/lore, items, combat, npc.. yes that is all content) must have a reasonably logic explanation.. not that everything has to, but there is a tipping point where a mmo just gets silly (zombie dragons with rocket launchers in a fantasy environment, oh and you also have a steampunk spaceship and a plasma gun but no clothes but high heels and makeup in the middle of winter, while being able to insta-teleport at will but must also ride a horse unless you got a motorcycle, and look there is Zeus, Diablo and Chuck Norris all conveniently placed 10 paces away from the village smithy who btw sell nuclear fuel cells..ok got carried away, I think you get it).
This is all completely subjective, so there is no correct answer .. something can be meaningful to one person and pointless to another.