My Precious Pixels!March 11, 2010
People often talk about their investment in MMOs in terms of time or money, but I believe what we also invest emotionally is something we can’t ignore. Yesterday’s post has has got me thinking — whether it’s a bridge officer, a vanity pet, a piece of armor, or the player character itself, I think it’s only natural for us to develop a fondness for our virtual items. I find that the more of these attachments I develop, the more I find myself enjoying a game, and the more likely I’ll keep playing it.
While there are things a developer can do to help us along in this department, in the end I believe it’s really up to the player to cultivate his or her own attachments to a game. I’ve picked apart my own personality, and have seen how it can affect my play style or influence the experiences I’ve had in games. For instance, I possess a powerful “collector” mentality that’s so obsessive it’s almost pathological. As a result of this, my character banks are constantly chock-full of useless crap I’ve hoarded over the years that have somehow become treasured items for one reason or another. I’m also a casual role-player. I enjoy coming up with back stories to explain my character’s motivations, and while I never try to make myself when I create my characters, I can still recognize every one of them as an extension of my personality. It’s how I’d imagine I would react if faced with those circumstances in a new world, which in turn makes it easier for me to form that attachment.
Anyway, it just amazes me how we as gamers are able to assign value to otherwise pixelated mumble jumble. It doesn’t mean our imaginations should do all the work though. Like I said, there are some things developers can do, like giving us options to customize our characters. I mean, I liked being able to give my Star Trek Online officer aggressive eyes to go with her impulsive and destructive nature, the same way I liked giving my Age of Conan healer her softer features and an overall more angelic face. Adding in-game achievements is a nice touch too — as long as they give players a sense of accomplishment, or a feeling that they did something worthy. Sometimes, it simply comes down to providing valuable content to keep our imaginations alive. A lot of the reasons for emotional attachment may come from within, but I think fulfillment and ultimately enjoyment is likelier when presented with more in-game opportunities.