Lentis/Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games

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Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games(MMORPG) refers to a kind of game that can host a massive number of players in a virtual world of the game. Each player takes the role of a character, which represents the player in the game world. In the game world, the players interact with each other by helping each other, exchanging game items, or engaging in a fight. Unlike offline games, even when the player is not playing(offline), the world continues to develop and interact with other players who are online. This make the game more engaging compare to the offline games. In the world, the players compete for social status, strength, and wealth. MMORPG originated in the 1970s from Dungeons and Dragons, a game played with pen and paper. Computers revolutionized role playing games. The first was in 1997 with Massive Ultima Online then Everquest and Asheron Call. They were considered the big three and attracted players.

The boundary of what constitutes an MMORPG continues to expand. Whether simulations such as second life and Farmville are considered MMORPGs is a matter of the precise definition you chose to use. Undoubtedly though they include elements of MMORPGs, namely large numbers of players sharing the same virtual environment, trade, players helping each other, players fighting with each other, characters presenting persona that are different to the real world identities. By those criteria the very web page you are reading now can even be considered a part of an MMORPG. Due to the limited space, in this chapter, we will only consider the MMORPG industry, social problems arising from MMORPG, and different social groups.

Trade of Game Items for Real World Currency[edit]

The fast growing MMORPG and their popularity has created high demand for the game items that in some cases, the game items are sold for real-world currency. Such trade were vulnerable to scams, and dishonesty for there was no law regarding a trade of virtual items. A new business has emerged, which act as a broker in such trade, ensuring the safe trade and taking a portion of the money as commission.

Market Size[edit]

The increasing popularity of MMORPG has lead to emerge of advertisements and businesses targeting the gamers. Numerous commercials are aired informing the beginning date of sale. Some stores such as GameStop will stay open til 12:00 a.m. that day to allow purchase. There is increasing demand for high-spec PC for gamers. Computer manufacturers made PC models geared toward gaming. Due to higher rendering of images Graphic card manufacturers began to have images from MMORPG on the package of their products to draw gamers.

Monetising Games[edit]

MMORPG industries seek revenues in different ways. Some MMORPG require monthly subscription to play. Others make and sell items that can only be bought with real currency, which gives the buyer advantage over the other players. Many computer games include in-game advertising which is an additional potential source of revenue.

Social Interaction and Implications[edit]

In Game Interaction[edit]

Within the games, interacting with others is a necessity to progress. Players begin at low levels and must unite in order to complete the harder quests and pass the harder dungeons in order to level up and gain new abilities. While it may be possible to reach the higher levels without grouping up to play with others, the experience is much more daunting and far less enjoyable than playing with others. In order to complete higher-level content, grouping up with others is a necessity in order to complete the end game dungeons and quests. In some games such as World of Warcraft, end game dungeons have minimum player requirements to enter a given dungeon and players will be barred from entry unless they are in a group with the necessary number of players. And even if solo players were allowed to enter, they would stand no chance of successfully beating the tasks and bosses inside.

In Game Communication[edit]

Every MMORPG also has means to facilitate in game communication. Most use a combination of chat systems based on location and the players' goals. Friend’s lists are used to keep track of the people they enjoy playing with. This often leads to the formation of guilds and clans. A few games also offer means for voice communication although most hardcore MMORPG players prefer to use 3rd party software such as Ventrilo or Skype.

Forming Relationships Online[edit]

Studies have shown that nearly 40% of players feel that their online friends are just as good if not better than their real life friends [1]. This leads one to wonder how such powerful relationships can develop from an online video game with no physical interactions. While the emphasis on social interaction can certainly help explain how, several other strong factors exist as well. Due to the hidden identity players keep while playing, they often feel far more comfortable discussing personal issues with their online friends without the fear of being judged. Eventually this causes a trust bond to form which is often an important factor in strong relationships. In most cases players also tend to act far more extroverted online and are able to interact more freely and naturally with their peers. This is especially true in adolescent players who may be stigmatized in real life and can use the online gaming environment as an escape from the undesirable reality that they live in. In rare cases, these individuals are often seen taking out the rage they develop due to real life bullying and transfer it into the game where other players cannot judge them for their appearance or other reasons.

Outside Game Interaction[edit]

Due to the heavy emphasis on social interaction built into the games, many players find themselves forming close relationships with other players. Many of these develop into real life relationships where the players will travel hundreds of miles in order to meet the people they've befriended online. Relationships as deep as real life marriages stemming from online interaction through MMORPG’s are far from uncommon [2]. Conventions such as Blizzcon are often held specifically so that in game players can congregate and meet one another in real life to meet the man or woman behind the online avatar and take their relationship to the next level.

The MMORPG social group[edit]

One of the most important reasons why relationships form in these games is the fact that every individual is likely to have compatible interests. Due to the uniqueness of this form of entertainment, as soon as they purchase the game, players are instantly sorting themselves into a niche or social group. Similar to forming bonds with people in similar jobs, classes or hobbies, the MMORPG social group lays down a strong foundation for the formation of meaningful relationships.

Social Groups[edit]

Developer[edit]

The success of a MMORPG is appealing to the gamer by allowing them to do whatever they desire within a fantasy world. This allows for an escape from reality and the development of an alter ego. These games take longer and are more expensive to develop than traditional video games [3]. This results in a larger world with significantly longer game play. There are often over 500 hours of content involved. The games have a deep back-story allowing for the experience to seem real. This causes the gamer to become attached to the game and consider it a part of their life.

Gamer[edit]

The gamer is the major contributing factor in MMORPGs. Their ages vary from children to adults from both genders. The average age of video game players is 34 and have been playing for 12 years [4]. MMORPGs are complex and alluring causing them to become vital in everyday life. This allows the gamer to live a fantasy life and entices their imagination. Since typing is the major method of communication within the online world, it improves typing strength and can increase a players' vocabulary through reading and understanding quest dialogues.

Parents[edit]

Parents are a strong adversary against their children participating in MMORPGs. They feel that their children will become disconnected from the real world and prefer them to be outside interacting with others. Children may become addicted because they devote their time and effort to conquer the "worlds" of MMORPGs. This can cause a decrease in the child's health due to lack of sleep and physical activity. However, some parents advocate MMORPGs as a lesser of two evils. MMORPGs engage the brain while teaching teamwork rather than just watching television.

Spouses[edit]

Undying focus towards a game can cause addictive behavior and cause attention to players' spouses and children to be reduced. Addiction may start slowly and continue to control their life by making excuses to stay home and play the game. Spouses consider this as being "video game widowed." Their view of household responsibilities may decline due to a higher priority for the game. There could be a higher absenteeism from work or lack of performance which can cause the player to be fired. Some players develop a marital relationship within the game while maintaining a marriage and family outside of the game. This could cause them to focus more on their virtual relationship compared to their real-world one. When you become attached to something you inevitably lose something in return. This can be detrimental to the relationship between spouses and children and cause resentment and eventually divorce.

Problems in Society[edit]

Addiction[edit]

Game addiction is a relatively new social problem that emerged with the rapid evolution of the gaming industry in the past 30 years. According to the American Medical Association, up to 90 percent of American youth play video games and as many as 15 percent may be addicted [5]. Addiction to video games manifests just as any other addiction. Interpersonal relations cause people to become dependent on the addictive substance. Human attachment and comfort drives a human's sense of pleasure and gratification. When these requirements are not met, humans turn to substances that eventually become addictive. A study shows that people with aggression and narcissistic personality traits are more prone to game addiction[6]. Moreover, many computer games are addictive by design. In some games, physiological responses of players are sometimes measured to gauge the emotional impact of the game. Through virtual reality, MMORPGs allow the real life human connection which some players lacked before. Many get addicted to MMORPGs and play to a degree devastating to their real life. Brain scans of avid players reveal that areas of the brain involved in self-reflection and judgment appear to behave similarly when they think of their virtual self and when they think about their real life [7]. This may result in dual personalities expressed by the individuals. Addiction can also make it hard to realize what is real and what is fantasy. While a player can always play alone, the advantages of interacting with other players cause them to become socially active. The more engaged players tend to be more socially active online. The more engaged players experience optimal enjoyment and value the importance of social interactions more than non-engaged gamers[8]. Engaged players often sacrifice their real life activities to stay socially active and highly ranked in their games.

Mock Criminal Acts[edit]

The violence features of many MMORPGs is believed to induce mock criminal acts especially among teenagers. Addiction causes the gamer to mimic what they see as possible in the game because they feel like the game is a part of their life. For instance, the shooting that occurred in Columbine High School was referenced as an imitation to video game Doom. Some MMORPGs emphasize sexuality as a means of increasing marketability. This is sometimes believed to have an increase in the number of sexual assault cases.

Hidden Identity[edit]

In the online gaming environment, players cannot physically see each other. This invisibility gives them courage to act in a way that they otherwise would not. It allows players to express themselves in ways they may not feel comfortable doing in real life because of their appearance, gender, sexuality, or age. When people have the opportunity to separate their actions online from their in-person lifestyle and identity, they feel less vulnerable about self-disclosing and acting out[9]. At the same time, this invisibility and compartmentalization of online/offline behavior allows the players to express a different personality in either situation often causing split personalities to emerge. The fact that they do not have to disclose who they are also gives people temptations to fake their identities.

Retrospect[edit]

The view of MMORPGs has both positive and negative implications and depends entirely on the perception of the individual whose opinion is being voiced.

References[edit]

  1. Yee, N. (2006). The Demographics, Motivations, and Derived Experiences of Users of Massively Multi-User Online Graphical Environments. Vol. 15, No. 3, June 2006, pp. 309-329.
  2. Cole, H., Griffiths, M., (2007). Social Interactions in Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games. "Cyber Psychology and Behavior" Vol. 10 Issue 4. pp. 575-583.
  3. Wilson, T. (2007). How MMORPGs Work. HowStuffWorks.com. <http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/mmorpg.htm>
  4. Entertainment Software Association, (2010). Game Player Data.
  5. Tanner, L. (2007). AMA considers video game overuse an Addiction. The Associated Press.
  6. Kim, E. J., Namkoong, K., Ku, T., Kim, S. J. (2008). The relationship between online game addiction and aggression, self-control and narcissistic personality traits. European Psychiatry, 23(3), 212-218.
  7. Callaway, E. (2009). How Your Brain Sees Virtual You. "NewScietist, Life".
  8. Chen, V., Duh, H., Phuah, P., Lam, D. (2006). "Enjoyment or Engagement? Role of Social Interaction in Playing Massively Multiplayer Online Role-playing Games (MMORPGS)". Lecture Notes in Computer Science, 4161, pp. 262-267.
  9. Suler, J. (2004). The online disinhibition effect. CyberPsychology and Behavior, 7, 321-326.