Leaderboard: Why do you ‘work’ in MMORPGs?


A while back, WAPO put up a piece called Why do we enjoy games that make us work?
Proficiency, control, fairness, escape. This is a topic I have come back to over and over through the years, a search through our database shows me. But I can’t help it: There was the one about workification vs. gamification, the one about sandboxes using work as gameplay, the one about work simulation as fantasy escape, the one about finishing games as homework, the one about overt busywork in MMOs. I’m obsessed with this because too many MMOs literally use boring work as a stand-in for progression, and we go along with it. This is weird and fascinating.

The WAPO piece attempts to examine why we do it and why this content is appealing, moving from the Untitled Goose Game to Animal Crossing New Horizons to quote devs and academics who suggest that the rise of these types of “work” games dovetails nicely with the generations of gamers for whom good jobs and home ownership are far beyond reach. You may never own a house in the real world, but you can build a gorgeous one in The Sims, among plenty of other things you’ll never get to do, like fly a plane or travel to the moon.

I thought it would be interesting to poll everyone on the different types of reasons for “work” in games, as given in the piece, to see which ones resonate with you. Some of these definitely overlap, so pick your top three.

Leaderboard: Why do you 'work' in MMORPGs?

  • Sense of agency or control (5%, 17 Votes)
  • Sense of being in the zone (5%, 14 Votes)
  • Sense of disatisfaction in real life (5%, 17 Votes)
  • Sense of doing something unachieveable otherwise (7%, 23 Votes)
  • Sense of escapism (7%, 23 Votes)
  • Sense of mastery or achievement (15%, 47 Votes)
  • Sense of challenge or progression (14%, 44 Votes)
  • Sense of boredom (2%, 6 Votes)
  • Sense of comfort or fulfillment (11%, 33 Votes)
  • Sense of fairness or justice (2%, 5 Votes)
  • Sense of social obligation (1%, 4 Votes)
  • Sense of frugality or financial hardship (1%, 2 Votes)
  • I don't see MMOs or games at work at all (7%, 21 Votes)
  • I avoid MMOs and games that feel like work (12%, 38 Votes)
  • Something else (tell us in the comments) (3%, 9 Votes)
  • No reply / view tally (3%, 8 Votes)

Total Voters: 162

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This is not new. Why do people put effort into hobbies?

Bryan Correll

Sense of disatisfaction in real life

12 votes at this point. Glad it’s not just me.


“Sense of challenge or progression”
Seems funny to me to group those two together. In the MMOs I play, challenging content (endgame) has basically no progression, while content with progression (level, story, et cetera) has basically no challenge.


I don’t play games to work, I play games to have fun. If a game starts to feel like a job, I’m probably going to stop playing it soon after.

Jon Wax

It’s just a throttle to slow progress to hide overall lack of depth.

Without larger background purpose I’m done chopping trees, busting rocks, etc etc

Great question though

Hints at possible awakening to how everything is in a spiral


Something else: I play games as a sense of escapism.

…and /Elf butts.

Toy Clown

When I realize an MMO is about work, I quickly lose interest. For example, I picked up playing WoW a little over a month ago, having not played it but for about 5-6 months over 10 years ago. With the lack of anything new on the horizon in the gaming field I decided to dive in.

Leveling was fine; that’s work I don’t mind as it leads into the ability to do lots of other things. Then I started getting into systems after leveling, which I did not want to put the work into as I knew WoW was going to “throw away” those systems with a new expansion. I decided to work on things that the work would “last” on so began to unlock BfA flying. Yep, my interest started tanking here so I started to divide the “work” up into swallowable chunks. I read about a mount that could be gotten through archeology and began that grind, but quickly realized it’s more work for something that I wasn’t all that keen on other than as an activity filler. My interest tanked further.

I discovered running old raids and dungeons. Finally! Something fun to mesh in with all the work systems! Until… I spent over a week running them only to realize that item drop rate for your character is so low as to be laughable, then only punctured by wrist and belt drops. Couple that with having to run massive distances between bosses and it all began to fill like unrewarding work.

My interest took a hard nosedive by this point and my WoW sub was promptly canceled. Yes, I know an expansion is being released soon but I also know that whatever work I apply toward it will be thrown away in two years as well.

It was a good break from RP, showing me the other side of how MMOs work, and I’m ready to run screaming back to RP once again where at least I can choose who, and what becomes part of my share of collaborative stories.


Sense of progression towards a goal

ichi sakari

“its only work if you’d rather be someplace else”


I do the things that feel like work only when they are a barrier I need to get passed in order to access the fun content.

For example, leveling in MMOs often feels like work as it’s easy, monotonous and full of rubbish quests. But, I do it because I know that once I’ve gotten past that 50-100 hours of boredom, I’ll have access to endgame which with (hopefully) provide me with many hundreds of hours of fun.

If the “work” is purely optional, i.e. not standing in the way of me doing what I want, then I’ll just ignore it, or wait until my mood / interests change and the work becomes fun.