Finding of the week #242

Entertainment or Chore?

During my ongoing literature review I often discover interesting facts about things I’ve never thought about. Sometimes I can connect these facts with my own observations: The result is mostly a completely new idea why things are as they are. Maybe these ideas are new to you, too. Therefore I’ll share my new science based knowledge with you!

This week: This time, I think about how repetitive gameplay is perceived differently depending on the player’s type and overall personal goals.

Yesterday, I had an interesting discussion about different ways and attitudes how a computer game can be approached. In particular, we were discussing how certain repetitive tasks in World of Warcraft (WoW) can be tackled and if the resulting gameplay is still entertainment or just a chore like washing dishes or vacuum-cleaning the house.

WoW features seasonal events that take place every year and provide players with special activities and quests. For instance, every year around Halloween, the special „Hallow’s End“ event takes place and allows players to virtually celebrate this spooky event by defeating a Headless Horseman, wearing costumes, or gathering lots of candy. In addition, players have the chance to obtain unique collectables, i.e., virtual pets and toys, during an event by completing the special activities that reward players with an event-specific currency tradable for these special items.

However, this is not a simple or quick task as the prices for these items are designed to be relatively high thus requiring players to work towards their goals for several days by repeating the same activity over and over again. As a result of this, the gameplay stops being compelling and simply becomes a chore. Interestingly, as long as players add some value to these virtual collectables, this gameplay concept fulfills the requirements for flow by providing players with a clear goal and constant feedback which results in a high motivation to continue completing the event-specific activities.

On the other hand, although players have a clear goal in mind, the gameplay still stops being real fun and often is done while watching TV or browsing the internet. This indicates that the computer game itself lost its immersive effects and can no longer attract a player’s full attention as the tasks can also be completed subconsciously. This raises the question, if the resulting gameplay is still entertainment or just a normal chore.

This question can not generally be answered as it depends on the player type and the player’s goals. For instance, while a player who seeks tough challenges or new experiences will probably feel bored after a short amount of time and cease to complete the activities, a different player seeking a relaxing activity potentially keeps on completing the quests and even derives some joy from it.

In the end, while a good computer game should normally gain the full attention of the player and completely immerse them in the gameplay, certain games like WoW can make an exception due to the overall structure of being a vast narrative that spans over several years and has to provide content for all kinds of player types.