It’s a 15min in-game hike to the ship taking you to the next continent. What a waste of your real-life time, isn’t it? I wish we could just insta-port everywhere, don’t you?
Ok, I lied. I don’t wish for teleporting to be commonplace. As a matter of fact, I despise it. I equally despise creating the desire for teleporting by having lack of pertinent content in the online world of an MMORPG. Games take time, involvement. I don’t want these to be shortchanged with shortcuts, but I want my activities (that take time) to come with meaning.
What a wise man. He understood the purpose behind mundane activities. He was able to create a task with an ulterior purpose to be gained. Granted, the taskee unaware was unappreciative at the time, but such is the difference with a young buck versus an old master. Each of our goals, somewhere along the line, should be to transfer from the former to the latter.
In time, one learns to see the silver linings in activities. But I’m also not advocating for the player of any game to see through necessary evils to justify their lack of fun with some arbitrary purpose. Where parts one and two of this series explored player source-sink mentality and content source-sink interdependence, exposed here is the need for a time sink- lesson source.
Everybody Loves Cake!
Ideally, activities are layered, performing an activity of immediate value while simultaneously learning something passively. But there needs to be a reason for these activities and lessons- a purpose other than being self-fulfilling. For how to achieve this, one has only to read through the series.
A point of great game design would be simultaneously teaching an extrinsic lesson while the player is made to learn an intrinsic one. Bonus points for then to have these two lessons need to be simultaneously applied, fusing their value and thus creating a lasting lesson set the gamer will undoubtedly take with them through the rest of the game.
Ya… But How?
Remember the example of chasing down a rare ingredient to use in a crafting recipe that was located in a hostile zone? The beauty of this kind of game design is that the player is actively engaged in the extrinsic process of collecting a material, but will passively learn through experience how to spot danger in a PvE/PvP situation. Essentially, it’s a twofer, but better than that it is layered: either activity or lesson can very well be applied individually, but they are also shown a manner in which they can interact. Hervorragend!
Or better still that the lessons learned can be applied across gaming genres, or even life itself. Playing the market in an MMORPG economy can teach the gamer, or allow one to practice, real life money values. While playing the game, and doing activities of interest, I generate lessons elsewhere as well. This is true game design. None of this self-fulfilling ‘feel good’ hogwash- a true game gives you those emotions after true accomplishment of having learned a real lesson.
What we need in games are activities that are filled with meaning. Whenever time is traded in doing a task, a quest etc, something needs to be gained in return. Lack of meaningful content is what results in a ‘now’ desire, and why shouldn’t it? If I’m not getting anything out of an activity, then there is no incentive to put any effort in. Because of a breakdown in activities, interdependence is lost. It is worth noting that interdependence can be the source of meaning in activities, as well. And of course, because the activities have no meaning, and there is no positively building cyclic function, a downward spiral instead manifests, allowing the ‘now’ gimme-gimme generation to breed.
So next time your MMORPG of choice leaves you with a feeling of lacking, take a gander at the source:sink relationship. In this series, 3 separate (but interconnected) facets to this ratio were outlined, surely one of them will hold the reason for a given game’s decline of quality. Don’t accept poorly engineered products, demand more. Proper game design starts with ideas that build off each other, through iteration, that give something back to the gamer. Gameplay that seeks to extract, withholds content from gameplay proper, or marginalizes the purpose of progress is not a game worth playing. It’s only too easy to build a game right, but sadly only easier still to create what degenerates into a cashgrab. Never settle.