February 22, 2011 by Jeff Hurt
Online games, MMOs, are changing the way people work, meet and interact.
Multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs, MMOGs or MMOs) are sophisticated games with immersive environments. They support hundreds to thousands of players simultaneously. Played on the Internet, they feature a virtual world, a story with goals, avatars and guilds. Players engage in real-time interactions, often collaborating in teams to achieve specific tasks.
Some popular MMOs include EverQuest, Lineage, Star Wars Galaxies and World of Warcraft.
MMOs are often confused with virtual 3D online social worlds like SecondLife, Habbo for children and Webkinz. Like MMOs, these online social worlds have real-time interactions and virtual economies which allow people to buy, sell and trade virtual goods. Unlike MMOs, virtual social worlds lack structured, mission-oriented storylines, distinct character roles and clear, precise goals. People simply do things together yet do not collaborate on game objectives.
Why are people willing to spend extraordinary amounts of time in MMOs? Is it more than just an escape from society? Is it just a pleasurable way to pass time?
Total Engagement authors Byron Reeves and J. Leighton Reed discovered common reasons people engage with MMOs that correspond with basic human motivations. These motivations fall into two categories: personal–achievement, immersion and exploration; and social–competition and socializing.
Reeves and Reed believe that the highest use of games will be to redesign work so that it is more like a game. Sometimes work may even be conducted within games.
Conference and event organizers like GMIC’s 2011 Sustainable Meetings Conference: Game On, are beginning to take notice as well. They are thinking about their conferences as immersive environments, taking cues from MMOs on how to engage participants.
Paraphrasing Reeves and Reed:
Even if MMOs seem irrelevant to your business or conference, they certainly aren’t to people you’re going to be hiring or will be attending your event. That’s reason enough to discover what makes people spend hours totally engaged in these virtual games.
Reeves and Reed identified ten ingredients for successful games in their book Total Engagement.
They operate like the real world where no instructions are needed. Browsing a virtual space is more like taking a walk than searching a directory. Discovering what is around the corner is a primitive motivation.
Engaging games have good back stories. Players become part of the overall story adding and changing the narrative. These stories also tell players what to do.
MMOs provide dashboards with real-time feedback. Feedback is communicated in both auditory and visual cues. It helps players break game objectives into smaller tasks and changes behavior. It also makes the game fun, offering both long- and short-term reinforcement.
Digital reputations are an accepted practice online today. We rate and rank airlines, articles, books, businesses, hotels, restaurants and more. In MMOs, everyone can see users’ ranks and ratings. They are continuously updated and difficult to fake.
Currencies allow players to make trades and quantify value. They work like real money. Social micropayments and economies enable scorekeeping.
Players know the rules. The computer enforces them and therefore players trust the game.
People thrive in groups. Survival depends upon social affiliations. In MMOs, teams or guilds must collaborate and cooperate together to win. “I win when we win,” is an underlying theme.
Audio and visual communication (chatting by voice or text) enable much of the social interactions. Players can summon everyone to a virtual meeting, time and place. Players are also expected to communicate with people they don’t know.
MMO gamers seek to collaboratively achieve a goal within a specific time. Clocks create limits, pressure and emotional connections (excitement, anticipation).
Which of these ten traits can easily be integrated into conference experiences?
Filed Under: Conference Networking, Experience Design
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