Lentis/Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games

Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPG) are online role-playing games that can host a massive number of players in a shared virtual world. Each player creates or takes on the role of a fictional character, representing the player in the game world. Players interact with each other by collaborating on tasks, exchanging game items, or engaging in battles. Unlike offline games, MMORPGS engage players by continuing to develop the game world and interact with other players, even while the player is not actively playing.

MMORPGs originated in the 1970s from Dungeons and Dragons, a role-playing game played with pen and paper. Computers revolutionized role-playing games. The first commercial MMORPG was 1985's Island of Kesmai, a multi-user dungeon (MUD) available via the CompuServe online service and supported up to one hundred players. The first large-scale online MMOs were released in the late 1990s, including 1997's Massive Ultima Online, then 1999's Everquest and Asheron Call [1].

The boundary of what constitutes an MMORPG continues to expand. Whether simulations such as Second Life and Farmville are considered MMORPGs is widely debated. To limit the scope of this chapter, we consider only the MMORPG industry, social problems arising from MMORPGs, and the roles played by various social groups.

BackgroundEdit

The increasing popularity of MMORPGs has led to a rise in the online gaming industry, including physical and online products, businesses, and advertisements targeting gamers. Globally, the MMO market is projected to grow from 10.32 billion USD in 2015 to 26.65 billion USD by 2025[2].

Product AdvertisementsEdit

In traditional advertisements, TV commercials are aired in the weeks leading up to a release date. Brick-and-mortar game vendor stores such as GameStop will even stay open until 12:00 a.m. to encourage purchases. In recent years, video game streaming services such as Twitch have grown in popularity as a mode of advertisement as well[3]. In addition to the games themselves, there is an increasing demand for high performance hardware for gamers. Computer manufacturers began creating PC models specifically geared toward gaming. Modern games also require higher rendering of images; thus, graphic card manufacturers began to include images from popular MMORPGs on their product packaging to draw in gamers.

Game MonetizationEdit

In MMORPG game worlds, players compete in a virtual economy for social status, strength, and wealth. Developers use Gamification to leverage this social aspect to gain revenue beyond the game's initial purchase value. Some MMOs require a monthly subscription to play, or include a premium membership option. Many include in-game advertising, as well. Others sell virtual items that can only be bought with real currency through Microtransactions, which gives the player advantages over non-paying players [3]. This accruing of in-game possessions and status helps retain old players as well as attract new ones, increasing their consumer base[2].

In-game and Real-World EconomiesEdit

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 trades are vulnerable to scams due to lack of legal guidelines. An emerging business in recent years involves acting as a broker in virtual game trades, ensuring safe transactions while taking a portion of the funds as commission.

Social Interaction and ImplicationsEdit

In Game InteractionEdit

Within the games, interacting with others is often necessary to progress. Players begin at low levels and unite to complete harder quests and pass more difficult dungeons. While it is possible to reach higher levels without group gameplay, the experience can be challenging and less enjoyable. Some games such as World of Warcraft set a minimum player requirement to enter endgame dungeons. In order to complete higher-level content, grouping up with others is a necessity in order to complete the end game dungeons and quests. Group gameplay is also enhanced by character roles, such as support, tank, or melee, so that players form cohesive teams with the necessary abilities to proceed.

In Game CommunicationEdit

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. Some games offer means for voice communication, although 3rd party software such as Discord or Skype is most often used.

Forming Relationships OnlineEdit

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 [4]. 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 InteractionEdit

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 [5]. 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 groupEdit

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 GroupsEdit

InvestorEdit

The MMORPG development cycle begins with people investing dollars to see the game come to life and be successful. This has usually been done by traditional means such as game investment firms or specialty venture capitalists, however, the industry has recently seen a shift towards player backed games. This is most clearly seen on the popular platform Kickstarter, where individuals can purchase a startup company’s pre-released product at either a discount or exclusive offering. The MMORPG Ashes of Creation, sold in game virtual items to raise over 3.2 million in crowdfunding [6].

DeveloperEdit

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 [7]. 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.

GamerEdit

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 [8]. 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.

ParentsEdit

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.

SpousesEdit

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 SocietyEdit

AddictionEdit

Game addiction is a social problem that emerged with the rapid evolution of the gaming industry in the past 30 years. According to statistics, an estimated 72 percent of American households play video games and 3-4% of gamers struggle with addiction challenges[9]. 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. 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.

MMPORGs are especially addictive because they offer an endless adventure inside a fantasy world where players can essentially live a different life as a new person. They provide an opportunity to escape reality and leave behind problems of the real world. Furthermore, MMPORGs host large communities of players where many people feel welcomed and appreciated. An MMPORG player can join clans, help other players, make friends, and develop a status. Although the setting is virtual, the relationships are real. For the player, the sense of being part of something and having a role to play can be important and meaningful, especially if the player does not experience social gratification in real life. For many people with a video game addiction, playing the game is not just “for fun.” It is their social life and a pillar of their self-esteem [10].

Mock Criminal ActsEdit

The violent 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 Columbine High School massacre in 1999 was referenced as an imitation to a video game Doom. The perpetrators, twelfth-grade students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, murdered 12 students and one teacher [11] . Some MMORPGs emphasize sexuality as a means of increasing marketability [12]. This is sometimes believed to have an increase in the number of sexual assault cases. In fact, a study shows that people with aggression and narcissistic personality traits are more prone to game addiction[13]. This makes mock crimes from games more likely as addicted gamers tend to be aggressive.

Hidden IdentityEdit

In the online gaming environment, players cannot physically see each other. This sense of invisibility gives them courage to act in a way that they would not in public. 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[14]. At the same time, this invisibility and compartmentalization of online/offline behavior allow players to express a different personality in either situation often causing split personalities to emerge. Moreover, the fact that they do not have to disclose about themselves gives gamers temptations to fake their identities.

Conclusion and Further ResearchEdit

The view of MMORPGs has both positive and negative implications and depends entirely on the perception of the individual whose opinion is being voiced. While the market for MMORPGs has been increasing, there have been increasing social issues as well. This brings to a question of whether there should be regulations introduced on MMORPGs. Further work is needed to extend the examination beyond the United States and compare the cases in different countries.

MOBAs vs. MMORPGsEdit

In recent years, MOBAs (multiplayer online battle arena) such as 2009's League of Legends are overtaking traditional MMOs in popularity, largely due to more fast-paced leveling and gameplay. Unlike MMORPGs which mimic real-time, MOBAs have battle rounds of typically 20-60 min each. Players restart at level 1 each round, so success is more based on accumulated gameplay skills rather than total time played. Overall, MOBAs are more psychologically thrilling due to a much shorter traditional grind & reward cycle, and lower time investment[15].


ReferencesEdit

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  2. a b Theinsight Partners. (2020, August 14). MMO Games Market 2020 Size. Business. https://ipsnews.net/business/2020/08/14/mmo-games-market-2020-size-major-companies-analysis-opportunity-demand-share-growth-factors-revenue-innovation-and-forecast-analysis-till-2025/.
  3. a b Banfield Agency. (2020, January 22). How gaming is changing the marketing and advertising worlds. Banfield Agency. https://banfield.agency/our_blog/how-gaming-is-changing-the-marketing-and-advertising-worlds/.
  4. 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.
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  6. Bowen, N., (2020). The 10 Most Successful Video Game Campaigns On Kickstarter (& How Much They Raised). GameRant.com. <https://gamerant.com/kickstarter-successful-video-game-campaigns/>
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  9. Addictions.com Medical Review, (2018). Alarming Video Game Addiction Statistics. Addictions.com.
  10. Bezrutczyk, D. (2020). Video Game Addiction. AddictionCenter.com.
  11. History.com. (2020). Columbine Shooting. History.com.
  12. Kaya, B. (2018). Sexual Harassment In MMOs. Medium.com.
  13. 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.
  14. Pan, W., Feng, B., Wingate, V. S., & Li, S. (2020). What to Say When Seeking Support Online: A Comparison Among Different Levels of Self-Disclosure. Frontiers in psychology, 11, 978. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00978
  15. Dial M for MOBA: Why battle arenas are replacing MMOs. Game Skinny. https://www.gameskinny.com/pjquw/dial-m-for-moba-why-battle-arenas-are-replacing-mmos.