The Daily Grind: Do you ever feel addicted to MMOs or entrapped by compulsive gameplay mechanics?

    
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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?

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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Pandalulz

I wouldn’t call it addiction. I don’t feel the need to play when I’m not. But when I decide to play games, MMOs have sort of broken me in that I can play a single player game that requires thinking, paying attention, headphones for immersion… or play an MMO with very little challenge, repeating the same three button presses over and over, and don’t care if I hear anything. And I have to fight myself to not take the path of least resistance.

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NeoWolf

I’ve never felt addiction to MMO’s, I have zero issues turning them off and walking away when I need to.

I have however felt the frustration that comes with being a completionist. When I do zones for example I DO zones, I don’t leave until all quests etc.. are done and all the map is revealed and if I cannot for some reason finish something so I can move on to the next zone it bugs the heck out of me :)

harbinger_kyleran
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harbinger_kyleran

No addiction issues here, I just post all day in gaming forums and play RPGs every evening while watching Netflix at night.

I can quit anytime I want to.

I just don’t want to.

Functional ‘gameaholic’ I guess.

;)

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Paragon Lost

I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that it’s pretty common among we gamers to feel like this.

laelgon
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laelgon

Having dealt with addiction to other things in the past, I definitely keep an eye on my gaming habits. It’s actually ruined a lot of things in MMOs I used to enjoy, now that I’m more aware of the mechanics that exist just to continually provide that steady stream of dopamine hits. I usually just alt+f4 the moment I realize what I’m doing isn’t actually fun, but rather just satisfying that itch in the brain for a feeling of accomplishment.

I know all games do this to some extent, but MMOs definitely refined the process. I think that’s part of the reason so many games launch with insane hype and crash so quickly. We want something new that provides the same high we first experienced with the genre, but nothing will ever live up to it.

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Daniel Reasor

There was a time when I felt like I was pressuring myself to log in to Star Trek Online every day in order to refine my daily allowance of dilithium currency, whether I had any use for it at the time or not. The stuff you spend dilithium on casts so much that it’s weeks of waiting to save the stuff up if you don’t have a good supply on hand. I think the option to spend Zen for dilithium on the exchange probably does more to drive real money transactions in that game than ships do.

Andy McAdams
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Andy McAdams

This is weird (and why I think the gaming disorder classification is problematic) because someone just looking at numbers and my decision making might incorrectly arrive at a “gaming disorder” conclusion. I play games more than I do any other single task other than work my day job. There are times when instead of going out and being social, I would rather stay home and play games, and I make that decision.

But gaming is also my primary recreational activity. I don’t really care about TV (I mean, I’m 34 and 9/10x you’ll find Teen Titans Go or Spongebob on if I’m controlling the TV). But I also read a crap ton, I write on the side, I intensely exercise around 5-6 hours every week. I cook dinner, I’m successful at work. I just also happen to play, on average, about 30-40 hours of video games a week.

I dunno, I’ve never felt entrapped or compelled, but I feel like someone would assume I was based on the amount of time I spend gaming.

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Alex Willis

Very much a similar situation on my end (although my numbers are more like 20 hours a week). It’s the WAY I play that I struggle with, as I definitely exhibit compulsive tendencies while playing. And those kind of behaviours are the sort that, maybe if I had less self-control, could easily spiral outwards.

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Toy Clown

I have this thing inside of my brain that causes me to go nuts when things become tedious and monotonous, and EQ1 raiding broke me in the sense that I have a hard time sitting in my chair if I’m forced into gameplay that lasts over 30 minutes to an hour. When I hit a certain point in an MMO, which is usually ‘endgame’, I tend to take a step back and ask myself, “Am I really finding this fun?”

In fact, it was EQ1 that was the last game I think I was addicted to, in any sense. I really, desperately wanted top-end gear and was in a high-end raiding guild. But the constant carrot-dangling on a stick that game designed didn’t reward very well. Sometimes I think Asian MMOs copied the original EQ design when they created their unrewarding grind fest games.

What finally broke my addiction to EQ1 was when we went into Fear to farm a rogue epic weapon piece, which shouldn’t have taken more than an hour or two tops, and it resulted in an 8-hr nightmare over-and-over again corpse run where I lost a level, and was up until 5am on a work day. My husband at the time was pissed off. We fought when he tried to pull the plug on the computer to get me off of it. I overslept and didn’t make it into work and got fired. Not to mention that my husband removed EQ from my computer as well.

So yeah, things like that have a way of causing “aversions” in my behavior when I feel an MMO is trying to lock me into compulsive/addictive behaviors. High-stress events, like fighting with a spouse and losing a job, definitely snap my focus back to where it needs to be and gaming no longer interferes with my real life.

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John Mclain

I used to be somewhat addicted to mmos, however amusingly enough I was cured of that addiction by the MMO industry itself, as the quality and number of mmos plummeted into the abyss I found myself being tapered off of them entirely. These days I don’t even play mmos anymore, but keep an eye on the industry still.

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Eboni

Due to my depression, I tend to escape into MMO worlds way too much. When I played Neverwinter I got sucked into a cycle of logging in to do dailies and every so often during the day to pray and mess around with my professions. Also I get really into to fantasy life type games like Mabinogi and sandboxes and can play all day if I’m not super careful.