What's interesting about the Immersion scores are they are the exact opposite of what we've seen so far in the general pattern of Achievement and Social scores. Players start by caring a lot about being immersed in the game, but by the Mastery and Burn Out stages, they care a lot less about it, and this rebounds a bit in the Casual stage. We also see an interesting gender difference throughout. Women have more extreme feelings about Immersion than men. They like it more than men in the initial stages, but they also dislike it more during the Mastery and Burn Out stages.
Looking back over these three motivation factors, another interesting observation can be made. Both the Achievement and Immersion scores show a similar rebound curve. What is important during the initial and ending stages are not important during the middle stages. On the other hand, for the Social motivation, what becomes important in the middle stages remains important in the end stage.
While this set of data provides some information on player life-cycles, it also raises many other questions that are still unanswered. For example, as I noted early on, it's not clear how players get to the Casual stage. Is it truly an end stage after recovering from Burn Out? Or a stage that players can jump to from any other stage? There is also an issue of whether players at the Casual stage may get sucked back into the Mastery stage, and how the cyclical nature of the stages may play out. From a data perspective, the constant attrition of players over time may also distort our understanding of what is really happening by only looking at the players who stay. For example, do players in the Casual stage have low Achievement scores because they have actually changed or because strong Achievers have all quit the game by then?
I know you've recently put this on hiatus, but I wanted to comment that I think there is an upcoming new life stage. I think it is equivalent to a human mid-life crisis. Some of my older player friends that either quit MMO's or are in the Casual/recovery stage seem to be wanting to relive their glory days.
Only a few MMO's have been around long enough to have this, so many of them were old Everquest players that burned out on it, and played the next generations of MMO's casually. A few of them have been on the lookout for the next game that makes them feel "fresh" again to the MMO world. Make them feel like they did in their "young" days, and relive the rush of end game raiding. Some complain that they know too much about EQ-esque mmo's to ever feel new to them again, leading some to test out Eve or other non-standard MMO fare.
Now, I've known these people for a while. The thing I notice is that the complaints from their hardcore days aren't spoken of. It really is like looking back on nostalgia with rose tented glasses. When they quit, they complained about the hours, the things in life they gave up, the frustration of getting so many people organized. But now, those complaints are gone, and all they talk about is the incredible nights of doing things in game that people claimed they couldn't. The night they killed a mob after spending months gearing up the guild or questing the keys.
It would be a hard to document life cycle, as I doubt many would admit to it. It is usually not a flattering thing to be told you're having a mid-life crisis, and I'm sure feelings would be similar to MMO players.
I have seen much the same as Skypp observes.
I can also add that from my point of view, a certain percentage of old guildmates actually comes back after either quitting MMOs, playing different MMOs or looking for greener pastures in other guilds or on other servers.
I have been in the same EQ guild for the last 5 years or so, (a kind of family raiding guild- we raid 3 days per week and do some serious targets, we just tend to lag a bit after the true hardcore guilds contentwise. The guild manages to offer interesting content in a very cooperative and non-competitive setting, with nothing but member's own drive to progress as motivator. no compulsory raiding.)and we have a surprisingly large amount of returnees among our applicants. I would guess at about 50%.
As one of the relatively few surviving euro-based guilds in EQ, and probably one of the last of our kind, to be honest there aren't that many alternatives either these days ,but they all state that they miss the people and the fun.
Most stay on after the return.
Drachenreiter guild, The Rathe, EQ
The majority of poeple I know have, like mentioned in this report, 'skipped' to the casual stage, myself included. In my case there was never the opportunity to peak then burn out just because of commitments, although I would have liked the opportunity to so some of the end game content its not really an option. The other members of my guild however are not interested at all in end game, and just want to progress as a small guild. We all know each other from real life and play together when we have the time and that is how we like it. This highlights that there are different reasons for skipping to casual content.
I think the article makes the division between "burn out" and "casual"
I believe players that burn-out or quit are simply players that cannot
find a game they enjoy within the mmorpg.
On the other hand, players that reach the "casual" stage are those
that actually find a game they enjoy --- the game they end up playing
may not be casual at all! (i.e., farming gold to play cutthroat pvp in
This article talks about player life stages in mmorpgs (which I know
nothing about, really).
I myself have experienced a similar set of stages for a variety of
games/hobbies/pursuits. Although, the experiences I enjoyed most
typically have the following stages
0. develop interest: This is probably the most important stage. Some
games, albeit rich in structure, just never pique my interest3. Games
are, in general, a large investment of time for me. Therefore, if I'm
going to pick up a game I need to be reasonably sure that the
experience will be satisfying. I don't really know why some games do
this and other games don't.
1. immersion/exploration: In this stage I try and find out as much as
I can about the logical structure of the universe. For example, in a
CCG like magic the gathering one may try to figure out all the
infinite combos, and the various mana-ramping speeds available to
different color combinations. In a tabletop skirmish game like
mage-knight one may try to figure out all the different geometry
tricks possible to control movement and attack options. In a game like
street-fighter one may research the threat-range, response time and
damage-output of the various characters.
2. Practice and develop intuition: In a good game no amount of
calculation can serve as a substitute for intuition. By playing a good
game a lot one can typically develop intuition about how the game
works --- intuition which guides a player's choices. For example, in
magic the gathering practice allows one to determine which game-states
are dangerous and which are advantageous, and to guess when the
opponent is bluffing. In mage-knight intuition lets one develop a
broad sense of "strategy" (i.e., which combinations of units tend to
beat which other combinations of units). This larger sense of strategy
allows the player to spend more of the game-time focusing on
"important" tactical decisions. In street-fighter intuition lets one
read the opponent, predict their responses, and counter their moves.
3. Find a game you enjoy within the trappings of the original game: In
most cases the most enjoyable experience for a given player involves a
subset of the possible options/goals/features presented within the
original game. For example, in magic the gathering I like designing
combo decks. The actual competitive game itself (playing lands,
attacking with creatures, dealing damage to the other player etc.) is
not that interesting to me. In mage-knight I like playing with the
basic set only, without using the newer expansions (too many of the
recently released abilities seem overpowered and take away from the
tactical complexity of the original game). In street-fighter I like
playing street-fighter 3 using the crappy characters --- characters
like chun li, ryu and ken have combinations which, when mastered,
serve to reduce the opponents effective life total (i.e., ken's super
combo can deal 1/4-1/3 damage with a single opening, whereas remy's
most damaging ranged combo deals 1/8 damage per opening).
It's an interesting site here, im just sad i found it after it shut down...
I play the MMO WoW on the thrall server. I have been playing games my entire life. Everything from Atari to Playstation 3 and competer games. I first started out in the MMO community in a game called Diablo. While this wast a true MMO it did hold alot of the characteristics that lead into the behemoth that is the MMORPG community we know today. At the time i think there were only a few actual MMORPG's present and Everquest was just being introduced. I think i was probably close to about 9 years old when i had this first delve into the online community. Before i went online nothing really interested me in the online gaming craze and i preferred games like Ninja Turtles the Arcade Game, or other action based games i. e. Contra. I think the one that really won me over was final fantasy 7. I had originally wrote off the RPG players for nerds and dorks at the time until i was convinced to try that game out then i was completely taken over with the genre, to a large extent it's the only type of game i play outside of the RTS realm. However i believe that the RTS realm and the RPG realms are very closely related. If you ever re-institute this project that may be something to consider. For the overall draw of the game, i cant really say what draws me to play. For the most part im as lazy in the games as i am in real life. I can say tho that the stages proposed here are fairly accurate. However there are some key things that were missed i think and i would like to point them out. 1. the burnout phase is unavoidable for any player that passes the start phase. 2. after thae start phase it is possible to go to the casual phase from any other phase. it is also possible to go to the mastery phase from any other phase EXCEPT start. 3. Personal life out side of the game suffers the most severely during the start phase and will continue to suffer to a lesser extreme at the mastery phase.
Some of the key things missed here as well were the general hours played by each player during the phases. I think that should be a key element considering immersion was a subject touched on however it's the content of the game that causes the immersion of the game, and the longer you play initially the easier it is to become immersed. The argument has been presented that 2 hours or more on games a day is could be considered addictive. However almost all RPG's and MMO's are designed to keep you drawn in for much longer than 2 hours at a time. Another factor to consider in the gamers lifecycle. On the flip side of this i would like to see a study done on the average I.Q. of a gamer vs the normal population that does not game very much if at all. I would be willing to theorize that the average I.Q. of the MMORPG gamer or gamers in general andyone fitting the timeslot of 2+ hours a day would be at a higher I.Q. than the general public.
Anyways, im just rambling now, but great site and i will be on here alot more often i think reading up.
I personally believe that the difference between those who report a "casual" stage and those who don't is personality. From what I've seen there are two kinds of gamers:
The first type of gamer is definitely an "Acheiver". They want to continually progress, make their character the best, and "finish" the game. They are not interested in anything that slows down their progress. They like to go through First Person Shooters as fast as humanly possible and treat MMOs the same. I don't believe these people ever reach the Casual stage.
The second personality likes to take their time. They don't want to play 10 games of chess really fast in an hour - they'd rather play 1 game in an hour and take the time to think every move out (totally frustrating the first type). These people I believe go straight from Ramping up or Mastery to Casual and are probably pretty casual throughout.
I have just recently started playing, and I believe this is an interesting site. I believe you should conduct research on RTS games. I have noticed that I have phases, I will play it a lot for a couple of weeks, and then not play it for another month. I have RTS games that range form the space age to the ancient ties, I still same the same phases with each of them.
Anyways, I think a research project would be very interesting going into RTS games. Keep up the great work. I think the world needs more people to research things that have to do with the virtual world.
How I became casual..
A strong motivation for me, other then self achievement, is to become useful to other people. It's vanity, plain and simple - I want people to see me walk by and go 'Look at that powerful XX, and did you hear he has 450 Enchanting and Tailoring?'
Even as I grow tiresome of people hitting me up for things, I want to be valued. There it is, plain and simple, without modesty.
And that leads to.. how I became casual. Perhaps as mentioned, it differs between personality I believe.
At 80, I discovered on my 80 Paladin that I was again 'equal'. It was tiresome going into groups, raids, etc, and not standing out - not being unique or special. I was just.. someone. So I (eventually) sought out who was still valued - the Priest. No matter how people may downtalk it, everyone wants it in a group and everyone seeks it out.
So I made one, and I leveled, and I recaptured some 'former fun' (become Ramp-up a while) before time restriction and 'same old same old' feeling caused me to return to casual play. Where, I immerse myself as a guild leader and as (now) high level priest to build my own self confidence.
Self confidence is something I lack in real life, being one oft in a low end job and while I'm always the center of attention and liked, I rarely take risks in friendship or keep them long term. I often fear what others think about me.
In a strange sense, building my confidence online has helped my offline life, since it's given me the confidence to do things I wouldn't have done - I did them online, why not offline? I lead online, why not offline?
I'm also learning to keep down the number of hours I spend on WoW, both from family obligations and lessening interest, and stronger interest in other events outside of WoW - I no longer NEED to go online, despite running a guild. But when I'm there, it's fufilling.
How's that for self anaysis?
It would have been interesting to find out how well articulated the players progressed into the game. By that I mean, some players make a few characters and take a liking to one sort or class perhaps, and then progress that character heavily and may not progress a second or third (or more)character type/class/profession combo etc(CoH comes to mind).
Other players play many characters but might not ever progress a particular character to the end game stages (highest level, greatest/high quantitites of gear etc.).
Essentially a casual status could emerge in any or all stages of character development. If a game has tons of character types and a player takes to intense development of one character after another, achievement may be prolonged--or that process may become, in itself, a casual stage.
High progression level games like WoW and FF can be contrasted with lower progression level games like CoH--all have classic MMO hallmarks. Yet another interesting comparison might be made with the less classical--yet still sociable GW.
Based on personal experience, the cycle is cyclical between Ramping Up, Mastery, Casual, and Burn Out (in that order), where it returns to Ramping Up or Casual with each expansion. I believe many players can also jump to Casual from any stage. However, the best explanation for why there are so many Casual is probably the antisocial stigma associated with gaming. In some instances, I would describe personal non-casual play as casual to avoid being lumped into that demographic.
If there was a way to determine the stage of the player without asking them directly, then that answer might present itself.