In order to understand how a game can become addictive, let’s first see why do people play games? According to Richard Ryan, lead investigator at University of Rochester, there a lots of reason why people play games, not just fun. Lots of people just play games to run away from problems in their real life, regular things like an argument with your girlfriend, a hard project at school or at the stressful work assignment.
Another fact that is making people play more and more is the social aspect. Most of the games require you to make a party or a form of collaboration in order to get to greater levels. And for those that have problems making friends in real life, a game is the perfect environment to do that. Most games are build on a reward-base system, meaning you have to perform some action in order to get better items like: gear or weapons.
People also play because of the competition, it’s in human nature. And what better environment to compete with others, if not in a fantasy world where you can become anyone (cut scene din south park – make love not wow). Other people feel the need to destroy things, and a game can provide them enough things to destroy without having repercussion in real life. Since more and more people are becoming addicted to games, more studies were made. One of the conclusion was that MMORPG’s are the most addictive games. Such a game is World of Warcraft, which on November, 2005 received the award “Most Addictive Game” and the fact was proven in June, 2009 when World of Warcraft received the Guinness World Record Gamer’s Edition award for the most popular MMORPG with 11.6 million subscribers. On October, 2010 World of Warcraft reached 12 millions subscribers.
So how come World of Warcraft is so “popular”? Let’s take a closer look at the game mechanics.
World of Warcraft is an MMORPG game, made by Blizzard and it was released back in February 2001. In World of Warcraft (aka WoW), the player controls a character (avatar) in order to explore a 3D mystical world, defeat monster and interact with others players. The player has the possibility to choose between 2 factions, each faction having 4 races. After picking a faction and a race, the player could choose his class (9 classes were available back then). We all need diversity and we can see that Blizzard give his players a lot of diversity, but that is not all. In WoW, player can choose professions, that would help them to grow their character as they would benefit most (such profession include: tailoring, herbalism, mining, skinning, first aid, fishing, cooking and lots more). Also, player can make Quest (or mission) in order to accommodate faster with the game, and gain experience. Quest, are base rewards, meaning after completion it will give the player: in game currency, items (equipment), new skills, etcetera. You may want to check out Nightbane Priest for more.
Another aspect of WoW is the PvPvE system (player vs. player vs environment), meaning a player can kill monster in order to gain experience or equipment for his character(s) or he can fight another player. So this system gave players something else that is in our nature, competition. This game is so complex, that there is always something to do in game (if you are not finishing a mission, you can go train your profession, or you can go and engage others players). But the game it would be nothing if it didn’t have something we all need, social life.
So Blizzard, though of that too, while a character can be played on its own, players can also group with others to tackle more challenging content. Most end-game challenges are designed in a way that they can only be overcome while in a group. In this way, character classes are used in specific roles within a group. Only for 1st release, Blizzard created over 30.000 items, 1.400 locations, 7.600 quests.
Curiosity is another characteristic of human kind. So, in January 2007, Blizzard released the first expansion, which brought 2 new races (one for each faction), so new races, new maps where brought to be explored by current players and new players. Also the capped level was rise from 60 to 70. But that was not the end, in November 2008 Blizzard announced the release of the new expansion The Wrath Of The Lich King (and so new content was brought).
Blizzard recently announced the 3rd release called Cataclysm, which will be release in December 2010. The new expansion will bring 2 new races, new professions, and etcetera. As we can see, Blizzard will always bring new content in order to “feed” his clients (not players). In other words, Blizzard created a game to act like a virtual Skinner Box. The effects of being addicted to World of Warcraft will only lead to poor personal hygiene, migraines, sleep disturbance, losing friends even to lose the job or abandon school.