Why Do We Play?

Via WoW Insider, to Altoholic, to Part Time Druid (in that cannibalistic way that all blogs recycle topics from other blogs for their own interpretation, around and around and around), the subject “Why Do We WoW?” You could expand that to include any MMO…why do we spend so many hours in a virtual world? What are the rewards?

Truthfully, there are a lot of ways that I could be spending those leisure hours. We could do a lot more face-to-face socialising than we do…if I were more into the pub scene. I could buy another horse, and start showing and training again…but I’m rather enjoying the break from mucking stalls on early winter mornings, and we really can’t afford that massive money sink right now. We could watch TV…but I would rather read or play.  Why do I find MMOs to be so rewarding?

Part of it is the social aspect. It allows someone like myself, who is normally very antisocial, to socialise in a more detached way, so I don’t feel that people are right in my face. There is a distance there that works for me…I love talking and joking around in chat without having to sit across a table from someone. Perhaps that’s strange, and I do love having our closest friends over for weekends, but most of the time I prefer people at a bit of a distance.

I like belonging to a guild. I don’t belong to any real-life clubs, so being part of a group is nice. We work for success as a group, and even if it feels a bit like a second job at times, there is still great reward in that.

It allows that achieving type-A side of me to feel satisfied. Sure, you can equate WoW to a Skinner box, but you do get a feeling of satisfaction in levelling, in raiding endgame content, and so on. I was telling Miz recently what I missed in Conan – that visible sense of exploration. You don’t discover new areas, you don’t fill in those here-be-dragons areas on your map like you do in WoW. I like that, in a schoolkid kind of way…you know, like getting stickers to fill in your map of the States.  :)

I like escaping into other people’s lives. I’ve always seen my characters as people in their own right – I’ll have a hard time playing an alt unless the looks, the name, etc., click into place and she becomes a person for me. Kitsune is a very different “person” than Ravven is…and I feel different when I play each one. I’ve even taken an alt to see the Darkmoon Faire, because she had never seen it before. Sure, I’d seen it tons of times…but she hadn’t.

Grinding is even a pleasurable experience sometimes. When I’m really burned out after a hard day at work, it’s relaxing to grind, to get into the zen cycle of gathering or hunting – it soothes me.

So, those are some of the reasons why I play. Sure, I spend an ungodly amount of time playing an online game. But I think I’m a lot more mentally and emotionally involved during that time than the average TV watcher is. It relaxes me, it challenges me, it makes me come out of my private shell and interact with people. For now, it’s a healthy thing.

2 thoughts on “Why Do We Play?”

  1. I agree with a lot of what you’ve said. I forgot who said it on the forums but the quote was “The bigger your friends list is, the less likely you’re going to quit”.

    Personally, I’m at the point where I would have quit months ago but the only reason I’ve come back is because of the social side of the game.

  2. Yes – it’s very hard to leave friends. I play with people that I will probably never meet in real life, but they’re no less friends for that. They matter to me.

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