MOP reader Alex recently wrote to us about the ongoing conversation sparked by WHO’s controversial and not particularly well-supported “gaming disorder” classification, hoping we can discuss the impact of game mechanics to discuss the addiction-adjacent qualities of MMORPGs that prey on our mundane compulsions.
“While I am not addicted to games in any clinical sense, I do display certain behavioural compulsions when it comes to gameplay,” he writes. “For example, I really struggle with completionism in my games, single-player or MMOs. The thought of doing something out of sequence, and at less than 100% complete, almost gives me a feeling of nausea. If the MMO has a zone, well, I have to ‘finish’ the zone – every quest, every puzzle, every boss or major achievement – before moving on. This means it takes me YEARS to ‘finish’ an MMO, and frankly, it’s not something I’ve ever come close to doing in any MMO, ever. This curse is less impactful in single-player games, where there is typically a finite amount of content that can actually be ‘completed’. But MMOs offer a player like me a compelling and daunting challenge: the prospect of hundreds of hours of ‘fixed’ completions, alongside a treadmill of new ones. And I’m not just talking new content like DLCs – I also mean features like Guild Wars 2’s ‘live events’ and other emergent activity chains. As soon as one comes up, I need to finish it.”
I definitely feel where Alex is coming from. I am not this kind of “do every quest” completionist, but I definitely feel the tug of “gotta finish” in other areas. For example, I’m currently playing on a Star Wars Galaxies emulator, and my urge to stay up late or blow off an art project to finish stocking my vendors, moving my harvesters, and restarting my factories is real. It’s absolutely encroached on some of my other hobbies, to the point that I’ve intentionally scaled it back because I know my personal weaknesses (which, I admit, are probably not shared by most of you!). Those are the specific mechanics “tricks” that work on me, and the saving grace is that the emu is not making any money off me with them.
Do you ever feel addicted to MMOs or entrapped by compulsive gameplay mechanics? What’s the game or the template?