Inspiration and Incentives in MMORPGs

Let’s face it, the day-to-day grind of any MMORPG is pretty dull. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing quests or crafting, the hint’s in the name, it’s a grind. What interests us in MMOs, however, is the bigger picture. Rewards, status, social occasions, large scale events, they are all inspiration and incentives for us. We don’t necessary enjoy the act of the build-up but we certainly enjoy the achievement.

I guess it boils down to the old adage “no gain without pain”. I doubt anyone really enjoys the act of putting foot in front of another to trudge up a snowy mountain but I’d bet they very much enjoy the feeling when they get to the top. However, in order to accomplish these goals, we need to put in the effort. It’s not about being lazy, no, we just need to be inspired and incentivized in order to be motivated. Most MMOs do this through itemisation, titles, and opportunities (such as accessing new areas, dungeons, raids etc) although some use more abstract incentives as part of their bigger picture.

Lord British assassinated

Lord British assassinated

Back in 1998, I was incentivised to play Everquest all because of a single article I read in a magazine about Ultima Online. It was a story about how Lord British had been killed by a player even though he was deemed to be immortal and the act impossible. The way the article was written made it sound like the most exciting thing ever and I remember imagining rampaging anarchy across a virtual world after its leader had been slain. I desperately wanted to be part of an online fantasy world like that.

Again, a couple of years later, whilst actively playing EQ, I was inspired to push my character forward and hit level 50 after reading about the acts of one particular guild – The Imperial Guard. I remember being told a story about how some player had died in the depths of a dungeon and couldn’t retrieve his corpse so he called forth The Imperial Guard to lay waste to the entire zone and reunite him with his body. Awesome stuff.

I hadn’t really felt inspired by tales like this in a few years until I started playing EVE Online and I read about The Great War. For those of you are unfamilar with EVE, this is an infamous period in which two of the largest corporations and their allies faced each other in an epic struggle to control the entire galaxy.

The balance between pain and gain has undeniably shifted in the last five years and we very rarely hear stories like these any more which I think is a shame. Part of the attraction of MMOs to me, other than the socialising , is the “big picture” and being part of something grand and epic. I mean, isn’t that we all want?

If you’ve got any inspiring stories about MMORPGs, please let me know, I’d love to read them.

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