There is a trend in games that is still fairly new. It’s only been popular for the last five years or so. It’s the idea where games add “rpg elements” into non-role playing games. Things like leveling up or collecting loot. It’s an interesting trend because it creates a bizarre outcome, games become jobs.

So, what happens when a game becomes a job? Is the game still fun?

The simple answer is to say that it depends on the game, but it also depends on the gamer. It’s really a question of motivations for gaming.

Some people play games to escape their current reality. Games are immersive enough to transport you to a far away land with monsters or aliens or even things that are more familiar like gang violence or war. If you just want to get away from it all an experience a different reality, maybe games that feel like jobs are less appealing.

Some people play games for the competitive aspects of them. Competition requires practice and a job-like daily dedication to practice and competiton. Competitive gaming to me ends up feeling like a job because it really is work. To become truly great at say Starcraft 2 or Call of Duty or League of Legends, it takes a strong work ethic.

Also, many people treat MMO grinding as a competitive thing and thus literally speand as much or more time playing World of Warcraft as they do living out their real lives and working at their real jobs. Being the first to clear a dungeon or having the highest rated guild on a server requires as much teamwork and time as a real job. To “win” at MMO’s you are in effect playing a job.

Even sports games have job like elements to them now. For example, dynasty modes on college and pro football games are all about recruting better players, winning games, and slowly “leveling up” your teams until you win a championship. You’re playing virtual coach and/or general manager. I guess that’s why they call it John Madden football right?

All of these different type of games play off of a human desire to earn victory or collect stuff. The slow progression from being terrible at something to being the best in the world. From having very little to having a lot. It’s a powerful motivation.

I would say adding rpg elements to a traditional game works well because you already have a solid base game to begin with. Where it all goes wrong is when you don’t have a base game. You just have leveling and loot collecting.

The biggest offender in that way are the early Zynga games like Mafia Wars and Farmville. Those games are barely games at all. They’re simple progression and collection with a themed UI on top of it. They boil down the whole experience to leveling up and collecting things. There isn’t really a game they are building on top of.

I would bet that you could create a “game” where all it is is random quests where all you do is click a button with a semi-random outcome. As long as the player progresses and collects things, there is a coninued incentive to play. But, is that really a game worth playing? Should that be entertaining enough to spend your time on?

I’m not sure what the answer is, but it is truly a strange phenemenon that many people work all day long at a job, and are now coming home and playing games that have more elements in common with their day job than they do with Pac-Man.

-Brian

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