Office Space

Office Space
All Work and No Play?

Richard Aihoshi | 30 May 2006 12:01
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The full epigram from which the title of this article is derived says, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." But in the contemporary world of games, what's play for some is work for others.

Lee is a hardcore massively multiplayer gamer. For the past year and a half, her game of choice has been Blizzard's popular World of Warcraft. She logs in almost every day, usually for a couple of hours on weekdays and longer on weekends. These sessions typically add up to about 20 hours per week - a few more than the average player. She has two characters at the current level cap. One is a dwarf Hunter she has developed and equipped for solo adventuring, the other a night elf Priest for group play. In addition, she has a few "alts" (short for alternates, it's the slang term for secondary characters). Her Rogue and Mage are for variety, and she also has another Hunter and Priest she uses when playing with members of her guild who have lower-level characters on the same server.

For Lee, playing World of Warcraft is a hobby. She does it because it's fun. Depending on her mood, she sometimes goes exploring or hunting on her own, but a lot of her enjoyment has a social component - joining up with friends, meeting new people, hanging out and chatting, etc. She's not especially fond of having to pay a monthly subscription fee, but deep down, she knows it's a great bargain for the many hours of enjoyment she receives.

Li also plays almost every day. He puts in even more hours, usually eight to 10 per day, frequently in a single, long session. In an average week, this means he plays two to three times as long as Lee. So, it may be a bit surprising to learn that he only has one level-capped character, a gnome Mage. However, there's an explanation: He has actually had several others, but he sold those accounts.

For Li, playing World of Warcraft is a fulltime job. He does it to make a living. Most of the time, he "farms" gold; in the argot of online gaming, this means his main purpose is simply to maximize the amount he harvests per hour during his working day. Consequently, he does little exploring, seldom meets anyone new, and never just hangs out. He almost always plays with the same people whose characters complement his in a party, and they invariably go to the same few locations and kill the same few enemies over and over - with no real challenge - since getting killed costs time. His sole focus is his yield. He sells his "crop" to an online brokerage, which takes delivery in the game and pays him real cash outside. This company then resells the gold to consumers after adding a healthy markup that can approach 500 percent. He sold his characters the same way.

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