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There are three main Attraction factors of MMORPGs that encourage time investment and personal attachment. One of these is the elaborate rewards cycle inherent in MMORPGs that works like a carrot on a stick. Rewards are given very quickly in the beginning of the game. You kill a creature with 2-3 hits. You gain a level in 5-10 minutes. And you can gain crafting skill with very little failure. But the intervals between these rewards grow exponentially fairly quickly. Very soon, it takes 5 hours and then 20 hours of game time before you can gain a level. The game works by giving you instantaneous gratification upfront and leading you down a slippery slope. And it overlays different reward cycles so you're always close to some reward - whether this be a level, a crafting skill, or a quest.

The game is set up to make you want the next best thing. "Oh look what that guy has! How do I get that?" The answer is always to spend more time online either getting higher level to go camp the item, or to just go camp the item (or slight variation, camp the quest items that result in the new item). But you are rewarded for playing more. Better items, more freedom on where you can go. [m, 21]

A more elaborate analysis of the rewards cycle can be found in the Virtual Skinner Box essay.

The other main Attraction factor is the network of relationships that a player accumulates over time. There are several reasons why relationships of a platonic or romantic nature occur so frequently in MMORPGs. The anonymity and computer-mediated chat environment facilitates self-disclosure, and many players have told personal issues or secrets to online friends that they have never told their real life friends or family. The high-stress situations inherent in the game also help build trust and bonds between players very rapidly. Of course, another important reason is that the games were designed so that you have to group to achieve most goals. You can find a more elaborate analysis of the formation of online relationships in the Online Relationships presentation.

A network of online friends encourages players to invest more time to the game for several reasons. First of all, a player now plays to catch up or remain around the same level as their friends. The pace is set by the player that levels the most, and oftentimes causes a chain reaction of others trying to catch up. Secondly, a playing schedule, whether tacit or explicit, may be created and there is an expectation that each player will show up to join the group. And finally, the more friends you have, the more obligations you have to fulfill. If you play a cleric, you may be asked for rezzes. If you play a druid, you may be asked for teleports. And many of these requests take a substantial amount of time, but this is all part of the normal expectations of what friends do for each other. Being in a guild is one way in which these obligations become structured and recurring. Thus, having a network of friends encourages both a higher level of personal attachment and time investment.

The third, and final, Attraction factor is the immersive nature of these virtual environments. This factor works by encouraging players to become attached to their characters and the virtually valuable items that they own. The immersive nature also encourages players to become personally invested to what happens to their characters, and to be empathetic towards their characters. In the same way that a movie or fairy-tale enchants you, the immersive quality of MMORPGs tries to enchant you with a fantasy, and make you feel that you are part of something grand and extraordinary.

Clearly, these three Attraction factors are not equally attractive to different players. Data collected for the Facets study showed that individuals who are competitive, aggressive and rational are more likely to be interested in the achievement and rewards cycle of the game. Female gamers are more likely to be interested in the relationship aspect of these games. And gamers who are imaginative and open-minded are more likely to be interested in the immersive quality of MMORPGs.

Copyright, October 2002, by Nicholas Yee

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