WoW Addiction: Game Mechanics Research of World of Warcraft

world of warcraft gamificationWorld of Warcraft Game Mechanics

World of Warcraft (WoW) is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) created by Blizzard Entertainment. Released in November of 2004, World of Warcraft holds the Guinness Record for most subscribers of any MMORPG.

World of Warcraft’s popularity has seeped into popular culture in many forms, and has been known to be addicting. Some players report losing months, and even years, of their lives planted in front of their computers while questing and leveling their characters. World of Warcraft’s popularity and addicting nature can be traced to the game mechanics design implemented by Blizzard.

Gamification is design that places the most emphasis on the human in the process. It’s Human-Focused Design, as opposed to “function-focused design”. The gamification framework Octalysis, makes it very easy to see how World at Warcraft can be so addicting.

Game Drive #1: Epic Meaning & Calling

Epic meaning and calling refers to the drive players feel when they believe what they are doing is greater than themselves. Whether it is helping fellow players, or contributing to a wiki, players often feel that the good of the community rests on their shoulders.

World of Warcraft relies on epic meaning and calling from the beginning of character creation, and throughout the game as players become more involved. First, players must choose between opposing factions, the Alliance and the Horde. Additionally, players may also join guilds or groups. Much of World of Warcraft’s gameplay is designed so that players can only complete certain quests as a member of a group. Because players must rely on one another, every individual must understands that his role in the game also supports the greater good of the group.

Game Drive #2: Development & Accomplishment

This refers to overcoming challenges, making progress, and developing skills. The challenge aspect of this portion of the framework is essential for players to find meaning in their activity.

Development and accomplishment are probably the most prolific aspects of gamification within World of Warcraft. The majority of players who experienced WoW addiction to the game report the overwhelming need for their characters to level up, gain new skills, or become more powerful. Completing quests allows players this opportunity, and is one of the driving focuses of the game.

Game Drive #3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback

This is when users come to a decision where they must decide how they are going to build their character and how that character is going to battle against their enemies. Most of this planning happens in real-time due to constant changes in PvP.

Another important part in creating their characters is giving them ways to express their creativity. They need to be able to see the results of their creativity, receive feedback, and respond in turn.

Game Drive #4: Ownership & Possession

This is the drive to “want” something, or protect and improve what they feel like they have ownership over. This aspect of the Octalysis is the main factor that drives players to obtain virtual goods and play collection games. Weapons and gold in World of Warcraft provide the sense of ownership to the player.

Ownership & Possession in World of Warcraft also come in the form of more powerful weapons and skills from completing quests and destroying enemies. As players progress, they gain new talents. Those skills must be further refined to make the character more powerful. Players may feel the need to complete a match to acquire a new weapon, or level up to gain a new skill. This is one of the main factors that players report keeping them from walking away from a session long after they had planned on stopping.

Many World of Warcraft addicts describe the feeling of pride they find in the grind of obtaining gold and new weapons. Similarly, players find a sense of ownership in their character, and its avatar. When asked for reasons on why they felt they spent so much time playing World of Warcraft, most addicts responded that the need to accumulate the best gear and collect more gold was the most important aspect of the game.

Game Drive #5: Social Influence & Relatedness

This drive refers to the need for companionship, acceptance, and belonging. Players seek to find shared experiences with their peers, and strive to elevate themselves in front of others.

There is a large social element to World of Warcraft. Many quests are designed in a way that players must cooperate with others in order to complete challenges and defeat more powerful enemies. Additionally, players who are active guild members reported they were more likely to play at inconvenient hours if friends and members of their guild were playing.

Game Drive #6:  Scarcity & Impatience

This drive revolves around the player wanting what they cannot have. This drive can become even stronger if players are forced to wait for their rewards.

In World of Warcraft, scarcity and impatience are linked by multiple aspects within the game’s design. The catalyst of scarcity is the need for gold, equipment, and time. Gold and equipment are received for the completion of quests and challenges. Players want to master their skills, they want to perfect hteir gear, and they want to beat the hardest bosses, but they just can’t – yet. This sense of scarcity, limitation and impatience drives a lot of activity within World of Warcraft.

Game Drive #7: Curiosity & Unpredictability

This drive compels players to find out what might happen next. Whether the expected result is positive or negative, the element of chance spurs players on.

Many aspects are built around unpredictability in World of Warcraft. Random equipment and gold amounts are dropped by defeating enemies; NPCs may offer mini-quests, or open player vs. player requests may come at random. Those players that preferred the player vs. player aspects of the game were more likely to challenge a more powerful player, in the hope of an unlikely win.

Game Drive #8: Loss & Avoidance

This drive centers on the need to avoid a negative effect from an action or loss of action. This could also mean avoiding hard truths that a player’s time has been meaningless.

Some recovering World of Warcraft addicts have admitted that before they stopped, they realized they had spent too much of their life playing the game. Their reasoning for continuing to play after they knew they had a problem was the feeling that if they quit, their loss of time, jobs, relationships would have been for nothing.

World of Warcraft Game Mechanics are powerful.

As you can see, World of Warcraft utilizes a good proportion of all 8 Core Drives in Octalysis, which is why it does so well in getting over 10 million players actively paying and playing it. It is clearly a game of WoW.

14 thoughts on “WoW Addiction: Game Mechanics Research of World of Warcraft”

  1. I’m a bit torn. On the one hand, I am so glad I never started playing it. On the other, I am left curious about what I have missed. What to do? What to do?

  2. I loved the earlier versions of Warcraft. I saw the even-more addicting qualities with WoW & ran away from joining. Too many CD’s would suck me in, I’d die over my computer at 40 kilos!

  3. HiSocial It’s a game mechanics analyze and design framework. It’s just the most useful in Gamification 😉
    The origins of Octalysis is deep game study!

  4. I’d also like to say that this article was a bit personal for me.  I played WoW for 4 years and it greatly affected parts of my life negatively.

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