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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 factors.

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 problems.

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. [m, 13]

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 and needed.

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. [m, 26]

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.

Copyright, October 2002, by Nicholas Yee

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