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In Their Own Words: The Achievement Component

The Seduction of Achievement

Other players elaborate on how achievement is structured differently in MMORPGs than from real life, and it is this difference that makes advancement seductive in MMORPGs.

It's encouraging because in an MMORPG you can see a consistent progression of development in your are getting better at a steady rate...In RL you don't level up when you get ahead, it isn't as obvious. [WoW, M, 31]

Part of the reason I play online games is to experience a sense of achievement. When I put a good deal of time and effort into an in-game task, I am rewarded in a way that's meaningful and measurable: I gain a new item, I finish a difficult quest and get experience points or money, I gain a higher level of proficiency in a skill or ability, or I gain notoriety in the virtual game community. The real world isn't like that. In the real world, there are few quantitative rewards for the effort one puts out merely 'to live'. In the real world, you have to run errands, shop at the grocery store, clean your house, do your taxes, keep all your papers organized, do the laundry, etc. etc.. There is no sense of 'achievement' or forward progression in these things -- they are merely daily must do's. There is no sparkly new item or new skill waiting for me after I do my 6th load of laundry in a week.

Then there's work: you go to work and do your job. You may be lucky and have a job that's incredibly rewarding and offers you a sense of achievment, but I'd bet that most folks do what they do out of necessity for an income, and not because the work fulfills them in a spiritual or emotional sense. Your reward for doing your job well is the occaisional promotion or raise. But it's never guaranteed. There are many factors involved in progressing in a career that make it much more complicated than 'to achieve y, I have to do x'.

As children, we are taught to 'achieve' by being given milestones with specific goals. 'If you eat your green beans, you can have ice cream.' 'If you get an A in biology, you can get your driver's license.' 'If you work hard at school, you will get into a good college.' 'If you get a 90 on a test, that is an A-'. We are graded in school, critiqued by coaches, evaluated by theatre and musical directors, sized up by our peers and family: we are always being judged both quantitatively and qualitatively as we make our way slowly and methodically to 'adulthood'. There are direct relationships between 'doing' and 'accomplishing' that I think disappear to an extent after we enter the 'real world'. Achieving becomes much harder, especially if you're not sure what goals you want to set for yourself to begin with. There is no structure anymore - the world is more freeform, and less supportive. There are no rewards hanging out there waiting for you to pluck them. You have to go out and create them, then strive to achieve them, and it takes a lot of effort, and a lot of time. While I personally own and run a successful small business, and have enjoyed reaching milestones and goals I've set for myself, they come fewer and farther between than i NEED, and so, playing online games allows me to find a positive outlet for that need to achieve on a regular basis. [WoW, F, 37]

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Posted on March 13, 2005 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

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