Wednesday, October 21, 2009

MMORPGs; The myth of 'cheap entertainment'

I've run into this before, but this is the most recent case.

It's the idea that mmorpgs are cheap entertainment per month. "Hey, it's only $15 a month for hours of entertainment!"

This is kind of a weird phenomenon, because it seems to equate all video game entertainment as being absolutely equal. That's weird, because we all think some TV shows are better than other, some movies are better than others, but bang, here you get some sort of mental flat tire that treats all video game entertainment as exactly the same and only the cost matters.

I think part of the problem is quantifying fun - people just think something is fun but honestly don't think of it in any terms that could compare it to something else that is fun. But it's not hard to get over - let's rate fun on a per hour basis, on a scale of 1 to 100 (hundred being pretty damn fun).

Now the other thing to do is rating lifespan spent, as a cost. Yes, a cost - one that goes right next to dollars and cents. And lets avoid self referencing logic like "Life spent is not a cost if I'm having fun - and I am having fun. Because spending time on this game is fun! How do I know spending time on the game is fun? Because life spent is not a cost if I'm having fun - and I am having fun, so it must be fun...etc, etc"

The equation runs something like:
Fun per hour / Monetry cost + Lifespan cost

Take the following
  • Single player game: Gives 20 hours of play, at say a fun rating: 50 out of 100, at $80
  • MMORPG: Gives, say, 56 hours of fun (about two hours a day), at say a fun rating of 20 per hour. Contraversial! Well, lets just put it in at 20 for now, as clicking and waiting five seconds for a node to gather, then waddling over to another node and repeating probably isn't >20, right? Also, this is at $15 for the 56 hours
Single player: 50 / 80+20 = 0.5
MMORPG: 20 / 15+56 = 0.28

The single player is simply more fun/better.

The problem is, people think in reverse - they think only of how many hours they are buying. As if hours are a fun commodity!

Hours are not fun in and of themselves, people! Go watch paint dry for an hour, and tell me that hour was valuable in itself! This is a Pavlovian miss association! Fun is being associated with time spent like Pavlovs  dog associated music with food - and then when hours are presented, we salivate like the dog does. But it's only being presented with music and no actual food! Wow, 56 hours of entertainment! That's good value! Can't wait to buy that!

"But I find MMORPGs to be way more fun that 20 per hour!"

Fair enough, maybe you do. From my experience though, they set around the 10 to 20 range. Sometimes they get a possitive spike in fun, but then that averages out (simply because they take so long).

But in this case, you would have to get 40 fun per hour to only just beat the single player game. That's not exactly far off the single players fun per hour rating.

The cake is a lie, and so are the hours/the idea it's cheap entertainment.

Edit: Here's a concise version of the same idea that time <> value:

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