On MMO ‘jobification’

Perhaps there’s something to be said for drone-like activity after a long day at work. Learning and repeating patterns, solving small problems. Simple games that require little thought on your part in order to feel that you’re gradually progressing towards some greater goal.

– Sean, Who Wants to Pay for a Second Job? (Contains Moderate Peril)

There was a time when my response to such a sentiment would have been a curl of the lip and a slow shake of the head.

Thank the gods for the perspectives of age.

No, I’m not saying age made me a Harvest Moon convert. My outlook on game design has never changed. But at the very least, I can now look at games of the ‘busywork’ variety with some degree of objectivity. And realize that, as long as ‘the goal’ is right, nobody cares.

Neverwinter is my favorite example of this. One has only to look at the Neverwinter Gateway to see how deep the ‘busywork’ factor can infect a conventional MMO. Its crafting system already reminded me of 90’s browser games (Utopia, anyone?), what with all the hours of waiting and random opportunities to encourage intermittent logins throughout the day. Making it an actual browser game was the gaming equivalent of a company rolling out an enterprise mobility initiative. (Work anytime, anywhere! Ahem, I meant all the time, everywhere.)

I have no experience with WoW’s Garrisons, but they probably go along such lines, don’t they? I’m aware I’m talking MMOs here, while Sean’s post was more about single-player grinds. But MMOs are where the jobification issue shines. Working for yourself, you always have the option to shift gears if the slogging gets to you. Working with others, you can’t do that without becoming deadweight.

I remember the flak thrown at my guild leader back in WoW for his martinetish approach to ‘raid discipline’. He was a lion among housecats: a competitive powergamer type in charge of a casual, social guild, who hated inefficiency with a passion and wasn’t afraid to show it. People who didn’t bring buff scrolls, didn’t stick to the rotations he directed, and stood a few inches out of their designated spots during boss fights were castigated.

Nobody wanted to hear it, despite the undeniable fact that it got results. He was ‘too serious’. It was ‘just a game’. They’d have rather foregone the loot than put up with such treatment. And so on. Heck, substitute job for game and pay for loot and it still makes sense to a lot of working professionals.

Naturally, one small guild does not a sample make. If raid discipline is a ‘second job’, and ‘the goal’ is phatlewt, common sense dictates dissenters would be far outnumbered by willing cooperators anyway.

Perhaps jobification is not something inherent in a game, but in our mindsets. Everybody wants something out of their playtime; attaining that something can take the unpleasant connotations out of the slog.

Which, incidentally, may just be a sizable contributor to the cultural decay in MMOs. I’m thinking of a comment I read a few days ago, somewhere, that (paraphrased, my memory isn’t what it was) “more and more people no longer log into games because they care about the setting or the community, they log into games to kill their boredom for a while”.

In other words, the goal is not so much finding a home anymore, but finding a hostel for the night. If earning that room means a spot of dishwashing or floor-scrubbing, why not, right?


4 Responses to “On MMO ‘jobification’”

  1. […] Iron Dagger is looking at the case of mmo “jobification” where MMO’s can become a second job but in some cases is that a bad thing. […]

  2. […] means failing at a lot more in general, in many jobs. Gaming isn’t a job (though it certainly feels like one at times), but all the same, I wish I had mustered the interest to learn about RSS readers and top […]

  3. […] that’s the nature of any online game as a commercial venture. As has been brought up before, a large proportion of any MMO playerbase comes to a game looking for distraction – or […]

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