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The Megatrends of Game Design, Part 3
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The Megatrends of Game Design, Part 3

December 3, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4
 

Multiplayer gaming: a public health issue?

There is a sub-genre of multiplayer games that will probably increasingly attract the attention of the media and the medical profession: the massively multiplayer online role-playing game. These games have the unique characteristic of being exceptionally addictive, for three primary reasons:

  1. They take place in a persistent virtual universe -- the game has no ending, per se.
  2. The game system relies on the endless improvement of the player's avatar. In other words, the game offers an inexhaustible source of challenges to motivate players.
  3. Their multiplayer dimension: it is far more stimulating to chase after a dragon with a bunch of friends than on your own.

The experience in Korea, where these games are immensely popular, demonstrates that a significant portion of MMO gamers may become completely and utterly intoxicated. The same issue is emerging the western world. In France, for instance, the Marmottant hospital, a leading institution for the treatment of addictions, has opened a therapy for treating the increasing numbers of addicts of this new "drug".

Thus a question arises, which affects both game design and publishing strategy: is it ethical to conceive such powerfully addictive games? Many gamers will tell me that only a fraction of players become victims of MMOs. True enough, but would these very same gamers feel the same way if such an addiction seized their own son?

Many players are still too young to have children, and consequently to understand the joys and torments of being a father or a mother. But there is also a growing number of gamers that do! I think this public health issues truly warrant a public debate. It is better that we talk about problems before they get out of hand rather than wait for legislators to enforce regulations upon us that will hurt the industry.

If this problem is taken into account by game publishers, game design solutions for limiting the potentially harmful effects of MMOs could be found. For example, we might reward avatars that sleep, i.e are idle for a certain amount of time, or somehow penalize those who do not get enough rest.

The case of players with multiple avatars might be dealt with by developing some kind of in-game parameter common to all of a given player's avatars: i.e. if one of his avatars consumes too much of this energy, the player will not have enough left to use his other characters to their full potential.

Next article

In my next and last chronicle on the megatrends of game design, I shall address three less obvious trends that are nevertheless rife with potential for future paths of development:

  • User-generated content
  • The aging of players
  • The emergence of emotions in games

Previous articles


Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4

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