Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games
In MMORPGs, social interactions take the form of virtual behaviors, in-game communication, development of group, and interpersonal relationships. In these types of games, cooperation among players in the fruition of a complicated task is an integral part of gameplay. As a function of having a common task to accomplish, groups of players, that are organized, emerge. These groups are sometimes called clans, guilds, or factions. Research has shown that relationships between inline players have the capacity to metamorphose and spill over into the real world, manifesting themselves as romantic relationships or simply as friendships. The reverse is also true; people whom are related in the real word also strengthen their relationships and bonds by playing together online (Chen & Duh, 2012). Having discerned that there is a social concept to MMORPGs, this paper will analyze this notion.
Cognitive Social Phenomena Specific to MMORPGs
Much research has been conducted in the analysis of the social cognitive phenomena that emerge from this type of gaming. Some of these phenomena cannot be found in normal face-to-face gaming or, at least, not in as much proportion. In online gaming, for example, the concept of trash talks to elicit anger within opponents so that they could make a mistake is more common than in the average chess or checkers game. In face-to-face gaming, normal rules of courtesy and civility are applied. The above is not always the case in MMORPGs where these rules do not limit mind games and often take the form of insults. The reason this type of gaming has created so many friendships as enmities results from the depth or rivalries in the games (Ducheneaut & Moore, 2004).
Comparison and Contrast of MMORPG and a Face-to-face Interaction Environments
The environment of MMORPGs is also a unique one and is majorly responsible for the social output of this type of gaming. For one, the environment is usually fantastic. Players can bond over their love for the imaginary and creative, thus starting off a relationship with something in common (Ducheneaut & Moore, 2004). In face-to-face games, such as poker, chess, spades players seldom take the time to bond or share personal information or dealings. The second difference between real-life and online role playing gaming environment is in the stakes of the games. Research has shown that while online games are played mostly for the fun and love of the game, many face-to-face games have high stakes which pretty much take the concept of fun and socialization out of the equation. When, for example, two teams play a game of spades where money is at stake, the pressure will not only make them unable to socialize but will affect how they play the game. This is unlike a game of World of Warcraft where four people are playing for a common goal and fun. Ducheneaut & Moore (2004) state that the lesser the stakes in a gaming environment, the higher the chances of socialization and fun and, based on research, the higher the output of the players. The two environments are similar; however, in that players get to regulate their interaction depending on the game they are playing (Chen & Duh, 2012). For example, World of Warcraft players will be closer than people playing online poker. This is also the case between poker players and team mates in other face-to-face games.
Another important aspect of MMORPGs is the user interface of the games. Research has shown that UI preferences differ among players. The study was done in the game World of Warcraft which provides its uses with much control than the UI modifications do. The study involved members of the gaming community who designed their interfaces. It revealed that developers should create games that allow players to modify and make their interfaces (Chen & Duh, 2012). However, there are rudimentary requirements that every good gaming interface requires. For one, the interface needs to have suitability to its task. Dialogues will have this quality by supporting user’s inefficient and effective completion of their objectives. It should also be self-descriptive. This requirement is met when all dialogue steps are comprehensible via feedback or explained to the user when they ask. Controllability is also an important requirement. This means that players or gamers should be able to control the direction of the interaction with the system until they meet their objective (Hsu, Wen & Wu, 2009).
Hsu, Wen, & Wu, (2009) also state that the dialogue should also be able to conform to the expectation of the user. When the user’s expectation is both consistent and corresponds with their features, such as education and experience in the game, the dialogue should conform to this. A good UI should also be tolerant to errors. This means that it should be able to get to the target even despite minimal errors in input. They should also be suitable for individualization. The interface should be such that the user can modify it to suit their preferences, task needs, and their gaming skills. It should, for example, have options for choosing difficulty levels in the game. Finally, a good UI system needs to support learning. As the user learns to use the system, the dialogue should prompt them with tips (Hsu, Wen, & Wu, 2009).
Two of the above mentioned stand out as being specific to enhancing the player’s experience in a game, thus, engaging them in the MMORPG environment. The first is conformity to the expectations of the user. For example, anonymity is a fundamental aspect of the MMORPG environment (Hsu, Wen, & Wu, 2009). A good UI should know this about players and therefore conform for their need not to give our real information such as email addresses and home addresses. The second is suitability for individualization. Because most of MMORPGs are based on virtual worlds and fantasy, the player should have the ability to customize their experience in these worlds by, for example, choosing the creature they want to be or the weapons they want (Hsu, Wen, & Wu, 2009).
Online role playing gaming is a culture that has taken over a large portion of today’s generation. While debate has surrounded what online gaming does to the social lives and social capabilities of players, research has shown that it serves as a means of socialization. This is evidenced by the number of people that have become friends or have entered into relationships after meeting on online gaming platforms. More to this, the environment of MMORPGs also fosters better player experience and output. Finally, the elements necessary for a good user interface have been highlighted, and the common theme emerging from these elements is that good software needs to allow the user or, in this case, the player maximum control over the interface. Two requirements fall under this theme are conformity and suitability, for individualization these two have been found to be present in most addictive MMORPGs.