Home > Design, Games, Rant > When did Games become Work?

When did Games become Work?

Or did work become a game? While World of Warcraft is not the only game guilty of it, this is high among the reasons I stopped playing that particular game. A significant portion of my game time eventually became dominated by repetitive actions which in themselves were not particularly enjoyable, but promised a contribution to future activities. Why not just make the whole game fun and fresh? I understand the ideas behind the needs for these items, such as an economy or producing new usable items and weapons. Still, farming cloth or metal, or grinding, does not make for a compelling gameplay experience. There must be a more mentally rewarding method to provide the player with these resources. The word grinding holds a negative connotation for me now, because it represents going through the same portion of the game time and time again. Sure, a game should have some replay value, but this is a separate issue.

I should mention that it shows up in other games too, but more commonly in role playing games. RPG’s and grinding are a very obvious example of this phenomenon, but the genre is not bound to this fate. Mass Effect 2 is an excellent example of a role playing game that avoids this behavior almost entirely. Yes, you can scan planets for resources, but it doesn’t take a lot of time, and you don’t really have to if you don’t want to.

As always, I’m interested to hear different viewpoints on this topic, and your comments are most welcome.

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  1. DrLabman
    July 9, 2011 at 5:28 am

    It’s the way they are designed to be fun in the first place 😛

    Basically it’s like this:
    These types of games make themselves fun to you by working on the dopamine system in your brain. One of the main functions of this system is in pattern matching, when it thinks it recognises a pattern which leads to something it gives your brain a reward, making you feel good about it. That’s why these types of games have a lot of small rewards like levelling early on and all the drops you get while killing mobs. Your brain goes ‘I want this reward’ and the dopamine system starts looking for the pattern which gets that reward so you get a little rush every time you get a drop because it thinks it found a pattern which works. Eventually you find less and less new patterns and you get bored.

    On the other side before you can make a game ‘fresh and fun’ you would need to define what ‘fresh and fun’ is. Fresh is easy, it’s something new, in these games new stuff means new patterns starting the reward cycle again. Fun however is much harder to define I’m going to suggest a book here: A Theory of Fun for Game Design by Raph Koster – http://www.amazon.com/Theory-Fun-Game-Design/dp/1932111972 It goes over this kind of stuff really well.

  2. July 11, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    MMOs like WoW are not directly designed to be fun; they’re designed to keep players at the computer and keep them renewing their monthly subscription. Part of this design involves some degree of fun, but only inasmuch as it serves the greater design goal of player retention. The main thing WoW does is pads out time – it strings you along by making the time to each goal take as long as they think the player will tolerate. Why else would flight paths require you to sit and wait a few minutes, doing nothing? They don’t want the player burning through content and goals too quickly.

    Jonathan Blow called this “unethical” game design:
    http://www.smh.com.au/news/articles/ethical-dilemmas/2007/09/19/1189881577195.html

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