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DiscussionMar 26, 2024 8:00 am CT

Why do game companies think engagement equals enjoyment? (In which we didn’t ask for a committed relationship with Warcraft, or any other game for that matter)

For the most part we play games because we find them fulfilling on some level; they scratch an itch, they’re (hopefully) fun or challenging in a way that’s enjoyable. But they’re generally not a lifelong committed relationship, nor should they feel like a job. So why do so many games companies design their games in a way that leaves little, if any, time to try other things if we are going to play their game? It’s not like we’re asking to go exclusive with World of Warcraft or Fallout or Call of Duty or Fortnite or Candy Crush, but sometimes the gameplay loops make us feel like that’s what they are looking for.

Many live service or persistent world games look at engagement metrics (minutes played per month) as one of their key performance metrics. To encourage us to keep playing, rewards are locked behind grinds or we’re flooded with limited time events to keep us coming back. Are game companies that insecure about whether we actually play their games? Because it feels like they need to bribe or guilt us to log on constantly. [Ed’s note: It’s exhausting.]

In-game mechanics like ladder rankings or reputation grinds where falling behind has a visible impact on your ability to engage in the game, or your real world reputation with other players, exist to motivate you to play daily. Sometimes the penalties for missing a period of time are so great that people would rather quit playing entirely than try and make up lost ground. For many of us our social networks are also tied to our gaming activities, increasing the pressure to play regularly.

As said by Monsoon, one of our Discord members: “Make a game that I want to play all day, not a game that I have to play all day.”

Do you feel pressured by game mechanics to log on more frequently than you really want? Does gaming feel like a chore to you sometimes? Do you have a backlog of games you’d like to try but just can’t find the time due to other gaming commitments?

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