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There is no doubt that all computer games are addictive and mmorpgs take this addiction to new heights as they are actually engineered to be addictive, whether this is done consciously or not I don’t know but the end result is the same.
There are various aspects of MMOs that cater to our basic human instincts which lend themselves to creating this addictive environment to which we expose ourselves on a daily basis and as such it is no surprise that we turn in addicts, some harder than others as seen with people dying from playing to much, to guys losing their relationships etc.
Human beings love to gather and horde things; it is a basic human instinct. How many of us keep all sorts of junk at home, stuff we know we will never actual use, but cannot bring ourselves to throw away. In MMOs we are always gathering stuff, armour, weapons, resources for crafting, knickknacks of all sorts, our bags get full, bank space get full and we never ultimately have enough space.
We are forever gathering things in game, Quests allow you to gather things(rewards), killing mobs allow you gather things, killing players, raiding, etc.
So whether you realise it or not this satisfies some inner desire to have more and more and keep it all.
This is closely related to the human instinct to continually better ones self. In the real world this is sometimes hard to achieve as the competition and efforts involve can be quite hard. Whereas in game you usually start at level 1 and in a few minutes you gain a level and become level 2, actually doubling your previous self.
This new level gives new skills and attributes, allows you to wear better armour etc. You are then shown what you can have when you get to level 3 which immediately makes you want to strive to get there and so it continues for the next 60 or so levels. And then on to the next class, and then the next game.
MMOs allow for gladiatorial type combat without consequence, pitting yourself against your fellow man in martial combat without risk of injury or loss of property can also be seen as a caveman instinct, apparently, this is more so in males than in females, something to do with man’s desire to conquer, there is some psychobabble that explains this as the brains mesocorticolimbic centre, the region typically associated with reward and addiction being stimulated and more so in men than in woman.
In game PvP caters to this competition and gamers take this aspect of MMOs extremely seriously, with entire games dedicated to it (GW). This has been taken further to incorporate faction versus faction or in some cases even a 3 way realm versus realm. This leads on to the next compulsive aspect of MMOs…
MMOs facilitate the gamer’s involvement in tribal warfare. Traditionally tribal warfare allowed for the display of courage masculinity and the emotion without great risk of death or serious injury. In an MMO there is of course no injury or death and so can be taken to extreme heights without consequence.
Football supporters exhibit all the symptoms of tribal warfare when chanting and supporting their teams at matches, and it is common to have fights between rival supporters which are organized by the mutually agreement. Although MMOs players do not go to such lengths the same feeling and emotions are arose when participating in Factional warfare in your favourite game.
Wealth, everybody likes money and although the coin obtained in an MMO has no real life value (Gold sellers may disagree here) in game it has. We are after all part of a society that has a market and a rudimentary demand and supply mechanism so the player can actually feel the power of their coin. Some actually play the auction house or the markets and amass great amounts of coin.
I am sure that there are other aspects of MMOs that further feed our addiction which I cannot think of just now.
However back to the topic of this post, I believe that the aggressive behavior of trolls and fansboys stems from this addiction.
Have you ever argued with an addict about his favourite drug, try telling them that it is crap or his drug is not the funky-est that yours is etc.
So when arguing and debating online about your favorite MMO, and you are sure that you yourself are not suffering the effects of an addict, then bear in mind that your are actually arguing with an addict and the realisation of this will better help you understand where the Troll/Fanboy is coming from.
Also bear this in mind when addressing game devs and producers on the forums, although I believe they must realise this already and take a lot of unnecessary crap from we the gamer when there is something wrong with our fix!