Attraction factors on their own are probably
compelling enough to extract a large amount of time investment
and personal attachment from players, but a subset of players
who are playing obsessively may also be influenced by Motivation
As Dodes mentions in his book, an addictive
behavior functions by empowering the individual and thereby
easing the sense of helplessness that they may be experiencing.
In essence, Motivation factors are real life pressures or
problems that can use Attraction factors as outlets. MMORPGs
are surprisingly good outlets for a variety of common real
life issues that people struggle with.
Individuals who have low self-esteem issues
in real life can temporarily overcome these issues in virtual
worlds. In an MMORPG, they may be able to feel strong and
competent in ways that they are unable to in real life. In
this way, an MMORPG empowers the player and reduces their
sense of weakness and vulnerability. The following two players
describe this compensation.
I've always been shy around people and never
had a great social life and online gaming pretty much become
the outlet for that. I've basically spent every waking hour
online playing games so I could basically make up for my
poor self-esteem in the games by leveling my characters
so I'd be better than most and socializing a lot so I'd
become a liked person. I recently tried to quit EQ, but
after a month I was too bored with normal life again so
I got sucked right back into it. [m, 20]
I think I am addicted. I think about EQ a
lot, it makes me feel a little more powerful than I am in
real life. It lets me feel like I'm actually accomplishing
some amazing, like killing a dragon with a lot of my friends
and I'm actually doing something useful, but I'm really
just typing on a keyboard. [m, 19]
Survey data provides support that a
player's self-esteem is correlated with the likelihood that
they are addicted to an MMORPG.
While it makes more sense to think that it
is a pre-existing sense of low-esteem that causes some players
to become drawn into MMORPGs, some may argue that it is playing
the game that causes the low-esteem. However, the data shows
that not all players have low-esteem, and if it is playing
too much that leads to low self-esteem, it still doesn't explain
why some players choose to play too much to begin with. Therefore,
it makes more sense to think that it is a difference among
players, low self-esteem in this case, that is causing the
different degrees of addiction, instead of thinking that the
game causes low self-esteem.
A close variant of low self-esteem is poor
self-image. Individuals who do not like the way they look
in real life can throw away their flesh and bone bodies for
a few hours and live in the mask of their attractively-shaped
avatars. The attention that a shapely female avatar receives
may be intoxicating to an individual who suffers from self-image
Another common problem that many individuals
face is a sense of feeling trapped in their circumstances,
or a sense that they have no control over their own lives.
What an MMORPG offers them is a place where they can make
a difference by granting them super-human powers, or a sense
that they have control over the choices of their characters.
An individual who isn't in the position to make decisions
in real life may in an MMORPG cast the life-saving heal or
be asked for assistance in a group battle. An individual who
is ordered around in his everyday life may be able to lead
a group and be admired for his abilities. In this way, an
MMORPG empowers the player by giving them control and the
sense that they can make a difference.
The rush of leaving yourself behind and being
someone else, being able to do things without consequence,
that is amazing. I think that is why I love RPGs, because
you step outside of the real world and be whatever you want
to be because that's what you like to be. Life without an
RPG like EQ would suck. Always the same boring crap trying
to climb the economic ladder. Meanwhile, on EQ your killing
things and questing for awesome equipment, gaining experience
and socializing with total strangers without the fear of
being harmed by them. THAT is why I feel I am addicted.
I think anyone that plays more than 20 hours
a week is addicted though most would deny it. The sad truth
is that in many ways EQ is better than RL. It is easier
to succeed in EQ, I can be beautiful, fit and healthy in
EQ - in real life I am chronically ill and there isn't much
fun or achievement to be had. EQ is more than just an opiate,
and much more than just a game. In a very real sense EQ
gives me an opportunity to feel free. [f, 36]
Survey data provides support that a
player's sense of control of their own life is correlated
with whether they are addicted to the game.
Some people may feel undervalued or unable
to be useful in real life. An MMORPG provides an environment
where players need to depend on each other, and where every
character class fills a vital role in a group. For individuals
who feel undervalued, an MMORPG allows them to feel useful
My mother (67 years old) is so addicted to
EQ that she spends hours upon hours playing it. Drives my
father crazy. She is now going to a convention for EQ players,
meeting up with game people from all over the country, and
god knows what else. What is it about this game that makes
people go over the edge of reality? She "loves"
these people. She thinks she is needed by these people.
[from a message on the EverQuest Widows message board]
I worry about my game life as much as I worry
about my real life. If I am late getting on, I feel like
people will be disappointed with me. As a guild leader,
when conflicts arise people come to me to resolve them.
People look to you to have events, help them get things,
quest, etc. I have had people in my own guild leave because
they didn't feel we gave them enough of our time or enough
"phat lewt". I try to please everyone, but it
is unrealistic to think you can be everywhere for everyone,
keeping them all happy. It gets to be a heavy burden to
bear, and sometimes I end up in tears out of frustration.
I am an addict. Will I quit? No. Why? Because I love it.
=) [f, 30]
Some people may have difficulty forming
and sustaining relationships in real life. They may have problems
with platonic or romantic relationships or both. An MMORPG
effectively simplifies the channel of communication, and relieves
the pressure of having to deal with real-time face-to-face
conversation. Some individuals who are shy or have low self-esteem
may be able to form relationships in the virtual world which
they aren't able to in the real world.
And finally, many people accumulate a lot
of stress and frustration in their daily lives. Or perhaps,
certain people are dealing with a sudden landslide of stressful
events in their real lives. The fantasy world of an MMORPG
provides the perfect escape from these problems. An individual
who is finding it difficult to cope with his problems can
avoid them by immersing himself in a make-believe world.
I am addicted to EQ and I hate it and myself
for it. When I play I sit down and play for a minimum of
12 hours at a time, and I inevitably feel guilty about it,
thinking there a large number of things I should be doing
instead, like reading or furthering my education or pursuing
my career. But I can't seem to help myself, it draws me
in every time. I have been out of work now for over a month
and now find myself in a stressful, depressed state that
it only quelled when I am playing EQ, because it's easy
to forget about real world troubles and problems, but the
problem is when you get back to the real world, problems
and troubles have become bigger, and it's a bad, bad cycle.
I continued to play because I was unhappy
with the circumstances in my real life and needed to "forget"
about it for as long as I could. I was having financial
troubles and marital problems as well. I could ignore my
real life and escape into EQ. This wasn't for the fun, it
was a "need" that I felt to not deal with my life
responsibly and EQ was my chosen method of "drugging"
myself into blissful ignorance. [m, 33]
Survey data provides support that the
amount of stress in a player's life is correlated with whether
they are addicted to the game.
Here is a summary of the Motivation
factors a player may be facing in real life that an MMORPG
can provide an outlet for. The associated Attraction factors
are also provided.