MMOs Fulfilling Human Needs
By Kei Beneza (dividelife) & Vincent Haoson(vincenthaoson), OnRPG Journalists
No matter how successful you are in this world, you will never be a sword wielding hero in the midst of battle. This means that regardless of how big your establishments are, you are still bound to this mortal coil, as well as the laws of reality. You can’t fly (unless you ride a plane of course), you can’t bash heads and be praised for it, you can’t steal money from chests you happen to find lying on the ground, and no you can’t cast spells (screw David Blaine). Here we will discuss the relevance of video games, as it fulfills our inner most desires. This is not OZ anymore, and no way will you ever want to tap those shoes to get home again.
Why do we play Video Games?
We play mainly to separate ourselves from this mundane life. How boring is this world anyway? Comparing it to the awesomeness of actually having to summon demons from the depths of hell to fight for you, life is pretty dull. We humans need variety! And no, I’m not talking about stock markets and heavy workloads, I’m talking about something a bit more adventurous and risk free. The world is too matured for its own good, and the only way for people to actually take risks is when their lives are truly on the line. That’s not fun right? In fact, it’s bloody STUPID. So why spend 24 hours in total linearity when you can jump right in and experience life like you’ve never seen before.
Some of us need to take risks
Welcome to the world of fantasy, where dolphins fly and you get paid to kill people. I mean, how cool is it to actually have the right to barge inside someone’s home, steal his money, and still get rewarded for it? Living in this alternate universe kills the effects of reality; this is the reason why people also tend to role play. Let’s think about it, it IS called a ROLE PLAYING GAME after all. Here you can explore the deep oceans without scuba gear, ready to pounce on sharks that block your way. You can also gallop around the endless desert in search for treasure (try that in real life, and you’re bound to get a lot of cactus juice). Killing Demons and Dragons is definitely the best way to live. They’re probably a lot scarier than your boss, but at least they reward you better <_<.
I’m sure everyone wants to be important, and what better way to be more important than being the head of the state than to be the leader of a race at war? Since war is the theme of the game, everyone is important, and yes, even the beggars who ask for gold can serve as the enemy fodder. People can actually count on you to perform tasks of utmost importance. Now I’m not saying that you’re a total loser who can’t do anything good, but I’m sure you get the point. If you’re a mage, people count on you to deliver massive damage, and at the same time, you can count on the tank to protect you from enemy attacks (because you’re such a wimp). As you can see, everyone is relevant in the system, and no matter how level you are, everyone’s bound to help to you in order to become a soldier worthy of protecting your people (provided that they are worthy of your awesomeness).
I remember my first raid. I was with 5 people then. I was fully aware that my character was weak but the other players actually asked me to do things for them as their classes are unable to provide that service. One thing about MMOs is that each class is important in various situations. You will always be needed, regardless of which class you take or what level you are.
Physique: Hubbah Hubbah!
Not everyone is happy about themselves, hence the hot character creation system of most MMOs. No longer are you bound to your not-so-Johnny-Depp look; instead, you can be the perfect dude next door, with your 6-pack abs and chiseled physique. Why exactly do people want to dress up their characters? Believe it or not, fashion is also a big factor when playing MMOs, for in this world, everyone’s permitted to design their characters the way they want them to be. Why wear a shirt when you can wear that revealing dress that shows everything but your butt-crack? Games give a virtual form of physical satisfaction that would be comparable to an expensive plastic surgery in real life. No longer will you have to work it out in the gym to achieve that Spartan spark, for all it needs is for you to click that left arrow in the body panel of your character creation screen.
Normal human male: Clearly gay
Some bodybuilder: Nice try, but still pretty feminine
WoW human: Manly man
According to my survey, people also play games to satisfy their desires. Most players actually think it to be close to the real thing, but it’s quite understandable at some point, seeing that Valeera Sanguinar can never be found in real life. Arousal doesn’t necessarily have to do with sexual urges, but also the player’s methods of appreciation. If you’ve ever felt the same kind of energy rush through your body while playing an MMO, as you had while listening to your favorite music or attending a sports match, that’s the type of feeling we apparently look for while playing games as well. If a game cannot make your heart race and if it cannot make you gather your effort and concentration while playing it, then we generally won’t like the game. We need to feel the positive energy, in order to play.
Perhaps one of the things non-gamers will never understand is the balance between online friends and real ones. In my experience (as a long time gamer), online friends are just as good and sometimes better as we have more things to do than my friends in real life. You may think I’m exaggerating, but are your friends capable of taking down a dragon? I didn’t think so. Drama comes natural in the virtual world. When your friend is ganked, you go out for revenge. LOL Try doing that in real life! You would probably get handcuffs as a reward. Anyway, don’t think that social interaction only revolves around friends.
As most of you know, LOVE has also worked its way into the online planes. I wouldn’t really underestimate the intensity of this interaction as online relationships have the tendency to break real ones, and could even become real when time sees fit. I can probably cite a lot of examples as I have met people who got married after meeting each other in the game (note that it was roleplay at first). Love is not for everyone, and yet the virtual world can give it out like candy. It’s easy to be in love when your Blood-Elf partner has hooters like Mt. Fuji LOL.
Challenge and Competition
While some focus on love, social life, and hubbah hubbah, some players focus on challenges and competition. Call it a more enjoyable form of work, where you sign war papers instead of binding contracts that consists of numbers that would only annoy the hell out of you (turning you into a brainless corporate zombie). Anyway, everyone wants to prove that they have the biggest sword, hence PVP battles and achievements that have become staples in most MMORPGs. This is also the reason why some MMOs are focused on the PVP side of things, giving birth to other sub-genres like MMOFPSes, MMORTSes, and other versus games. You can always beat the crap out of your neighbor to prove that your “fence” is bigger than his LOL, but do that and you’re looking at 20 years in the dungeons (sorry, couldn’t help but say it). At least now, people can suppress their urge to fight, as well as their urge to KILL (provided that they have one). Killing people is fun really, but due to the laws of humanity and “morality”, the next best thing is to fight them online. Sure, some people take it seriously, but that’s the fun part as it really proves that you’re pwning them like hell.
As far as challenges are concerned, games have a particular difficulty that makes it quite addicting, encouraging players to think fast in order to take the glory. Endurance is the name of the game, and unlike your Monday workload, you’ll actually enjoy getting pissed here.
Stimulation: No not your p3nor
Unlike work where you are forced to use your head for the benefit of your company, games actually entitle you to exercise your conscious thinking (voluntarily) in order to conquer the next challenge that await you in your gaming life. Games have this addicting element that makes it almost drug-like, that even though you rack your heads strategizing, it will never be close to work or schoolwork due to the fun factor. This can also apply to building your character where picking between stats is never really a career-ending choice. You can always find a way around every situation, and that is what makes it fun. There is no game over, only resets.
Thinking in games is never stressful but rather stimulating. It is never dull as each choice you make can often lead you to great things (not an extra two dollars in your salary, LOL). Then there is the safety net of redoing your character when making mistakes, so everything never ends with one wrong choice.
Stimulation of the mind can also work in terms of teamwork, where players are entitled to work together to reach a common goal. Just as they would demand from work, you are still forced to perform 100%, when doing various tasks like raids and even PVP. Regardless of this demanding requirement, you will always be willing to succumb to it, as the process of doing so will always be fun and fulfilling.
Non-gamers may never be able to understand this, but games are actually good stress-relievers after a tiring day at work or a hellish day at school. Although grinding may come off as work to some, it’s actually a lot of fun and even we can’t understand why. Maybe it’s our own exclusive way of unwinding, similar to non gamers ending their day in a bar drinking beer.
As I have stated earlier, games serve as an alternate reality. For those of you who don’t know, you actually turn into a different person with different goals and problems when logging on to your favorite games. Diversion is a rather official word when describing this feeling, but being a different person all in all can be a good remedy for a problematic life. Don’t you ever wish you were someone else? A different person who doesn’t face the mundane problems of our everyday life?
It’s easier to live by the rules of the game than face the consequences in real life. This is perhaps one of the reasons why some players actually stop living in the real world (Yep! Morpheus really tricked them), locking themselves up in the world of mages, knights, and endless quests.
The Virtual Zen
And here we have it. Games have provided us with an alternate universe filled with magic and adventure, providing us with a form of escape that greatly fits our human needs. Whether it’s love, adventure, relevance, or simply a distraction, people can always count on games to deliver what’s missing in this mundane world. This could also be considered as the dark side of the spectrum as games tend to give people too much comfort that they tend to forget what is truly important.
I know that games serve as form of release and could greatly benefit those who need it, but always remember that real life is real life, and you can become that young brave knight in your own REAL way.
Note: Some of these intrinsic motivations have been taken from the following publication: Sherry, J. L., Lucas, K.; Greenberg, B. S. and Lachlan, K. 2006. Video Game Uses and Gratifications as Predictors of Use and Game Preference. In: Vorderer P. and Bryant, J. (eds.) Playing Video Games. Motives, Responses, and Consequences. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.