Gordon wonders to what extent MMOs are fun versus habit-forming. We have addressed this before, but I find it always a healthy question. For anything you do often, pause and ask yourself how much you are really enjoying it. A favorite book applies that to spending your money: was that worth it?
When I was experimenting with social media games, I found them immediately absorbing. It was an entirely new area to Explore, and it obviously appeals to the Achiever without all that messy “gameplay” getting in the way of watching bars fill up. Quite a few of them are very good at that structure encouraging habitual play. So one day my wife asks, “Are you enjoying that?” Huh. Good point. “That’s all it took?”
The core gameplay of many things is, quite frankly, poor. We cover it with distraction and decoration, but when anything reduces a game to its purest mechanics, you laugh for a bit then ponder how much an entire genre sucks. Progress Quest and Cow Clicker are important thought experiments. It is very easy to be busy with things to do, a digitally refined archetype of the unexamined life. You have your daily quests to do, some things to gather now that the timer is up, maybe a bit of grinding or a few scheduled and structured activities, maybe repeat that on a few alts, and oh goodness it’s past bedtime. Busy busy busy.
There are many games that get the crap out of the way and let you play. They remove the inconveniences and streamline everything. Some of those are some of the best gaming experiences around, minute-for-minute unbeatable. Some of them are just horrible, as you realize just how many fig leaves the genre needs to be presentable. And either way, its purity limits its ability to be habit-forming, so you find yourself back amidst the distractions, “getting your dollar’s worth” from a game where the content is dragged out. And that is where the dollars are, so that is where the industry trends.