There was a time in my life where the World of Warcraft consumed the better part of my waking hours. To this day, every time I see or hear something about an MMO I am struck with starkly contrasting reactions.
On the one hand, MMO-ing was easily one of the most deeply satisfying, and highly enjoyable things I have even found in the digital world. My brain remembers that. I quickly feel the draw of nearly carnal satisfaction, and can’t keep my self from day dreaming: “What if I picked up an X-Box 360 and a copy of Destiny?”
On the other hand, MMO-ing was easily one of the most uncontrollable and absurd addictions I have ever faced. I played for hours straight in Raids and instances, and then followed them up with hours more of dailies, crafting, PVP, or otherwise general fuck-off-ery. I missed classes for it, bailed on social activities, skipped eating, lost sleep, called in sick, and otherwise shirked off nearly every responsibility I encountered at one point or another for the sake of WoW. In hindsight, it’s a little disturbing and sickening.
This duality ultimately lead me to swear off MMOs forever, partially just because I learned I can’t control myself when playing them, but more because I ultimately saw this activity as a complete trick, of the dirtiest, most exploitative nature.
As I look back on my own experiences, or even observe the experiences of friends who still provocatively dabble in the MMO art, I see an emergent pattern. Very rarely do players actually report that they enjoyed the gameplay, atmosphere, story, or art, but instead just pontificate on their recent gains, or potential rewards. “That weapon I dropped last night is fucking insane!”, “That run was crazy, I got 55 gold just from trash drops.”, or “If we grind these birds for 3 hours, I should have enough mats to craft you that shoulder piece.”. But the question that arises is why? If you have these things, will the game change in some dramatic and ultimately entertaining way? Will you unlock a new play mode that is just crazy fun? Will you enjoy the 3+ hours you spend daily in this game more? Unlikely. In fact, past a certain point, the time you spend really effects the gameplay incredibly marginally. In short, the game turns into a job. You are no longer playing it because it’s fun, you are playing it because in exchange for your time, the game will reward you with something, something completely ephemeral, that actually has little to no affect on your life. (Don’t think too hard about what this means for your professional life, you might has a sad.)
The revelation that I think is valuable, and not just grumpy ramblings about these observations is the following: People are pretty easy to trick into accomplishing small tasks, when those tasks are rewarded, or gamified. Why is that awesome? Because any-fucking-thing can be a game. Want to lose weight? Lost pounds are points, get as many points as you can. Think of it as inverse Pacman… without Ghosts. GO! Need to save Monies? Have a contest with your spouse. (competition in games is especially addictive) If we could all take advantage of this concept heavily, we’d likely all accomplish our dreams, and likely very quickly. With our dreams accomplished, we could dream some new dreams, and play the shit out of those till we win. And unlike a new chest piece in WoW, accomplishing goals in ones life can have a profound and lasting effect on the quality of said life. Artificial addiction can be a tool as easily as it can be a curse. Gamify your life and do some awesome shit.