More on MMORPGs

I’ve been (slowly) catching up with my reading on MMORPGS. Here are summaries of another couple of papers I’ve read recently.

Dickey (2006) describes the elements of MMORPGs that he hypothesises foster intrinsic motivation, in particular the character design and narrative environment. He describes how the small quest structure, common in MMORPGs, provides a model for designing learning by: a) ensuring players have been exposed to resources; b) providing experience at increasing difficulties; c) fostering teamwork and collaboration, and d) providing a sense of ongoing achievement.

Interestingly, Dickey also relates available quest types to learning different types of knowledge. He describes four areas with examples of types of quests: declarative (e.g. identifying, labeling or defining something); procedural (e.g. delivering a message in a certain way); strategic (e.g. defeating a particular character); and metacognitive (e.g. goodwill quests that involve reflecting on past experience while helping lower-level players).

Dickey, M. D. (2006). Game design and learning: a conjectural analysis of how massively multiple online role-playing games (MMORPGs) foster intrinsic motivation. Educational Technology Research and Development, 55, 253-273.

Charlton and Danforth (2007) examined the differences between high engagement and addiction in players of MMORPGs. They say that in the case of high engagement ‘the individual is not compelled to perform the behavior towards the end of symptom alleviation, but rather engages in the behavior in pursuit of enjoyment’ (p 1533) but that addiction causes features such as withdrawal symptoms and guilt when the activity is not performed.

They argue that MMORPGs might be addictive because ‘they are particularly good as inducing operant conditioning via variable-ratio reinforcement schedules’ (p 1534) and because other players provide social reinforcement. They used six criteria on which to assess levels of engagement or addiction:

  1. salience – the activity dominates the player’s life;
  2. euphoria – the player experiences a ‘buzz’;
  3. tolerance – increasing exposure to the game is required to experience the same levels of euphoria;
  4. withdrawal symptoms;
  5. conflict – with others or the self;
  6. relapse and reinstatement – attempts to give up the activity are followed by restarting.

The paper argues that high score in the first three criteria indicate high engagement, while the second three are related to addiction. It also provides some evidence that there is a developmental sequence from engagement to addiction.

Charlton, J. P. & Danforth, I. D. W. (2007). Distinguishing addiction and high engagement in the context of online game playing. Computers in Human Behaviour, 23, 1531-1548.

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