Archive for the ‘Gaming’Category

Ph.D. Madness, RPGs, and Mass Chaos!


This title sounds like a call-out for some monster truck commercial.  MASS CHAOS!

As I am nearing the beginning of a long journey into doctorate academics, I’m also trying to narrow my research focus. Right now, I’m interested in video games, yes, but specifically MMORPGs (like WoW, Everquest, Rift, etc.). I want to look at the narratives of these games.

My theory is that gamers care less and less about the storylines and are more goal-oriented. I hope to try and procure some time on the CSU WoW server (they have their own World of Warcraft server for research).  Or, perhaps find another way to set up the following research. I four conditions in mind.

  1. Low narrative quests.
  2. High narrative quests. (Same quest with more “storyline”)
  3. Low narrative quests WITH CURSE addons (CURSE will show players where to go to complete quests, taking all the guesswork out of where and what).
  4. High narrative quests WITH CURSE addons.


I want to see how long people are reading (and where that fits into an average). Are they clicking through the quest text quickly? Are they taking a long time to read it?  Maybe a short quiz at the end (or open-ended question) that asks them what they remember about the narrative.

I have a feeling that when given the “cheat” addons, people will be less interested in narrative and will simply go for the end result.

First step? Finding studies who have either done this already, or, have done something similar.

I can also look at transcripts to content analyze for things like gender, age, education–to see if that plays any part in how closely gamers look at narrative. Maybe women pay more attention to it. Maybe men do. Maybe younger people do.

Some great shift happened in MMORPGs where it became less about narrative and more about goals, raiding, flagging, and working through a progression. Back in the old Everquest days, there was still attention to quest lore and material. I remember reading quests and being interested in the storylines. Sometime around Planes of Power (and after) I read the lore material less and less.


What is also cool about all of this is that I think RPGs in general (tabletop games like D&D) have some answers. I consider the RPG “heyday” to be AD&D time, when they were cranking out boxed sets with new worlds and new stories: Ravenloft, Dark Sun, Birthright, etc. Instead of revamping rules and stat-keeping, they were simply giving players new worlds to play in. Along with that came new mysteries and new things to explore. The cool part? Most of those boxed sets had extremely successful novels that accompanied the set. Dark Sun, Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance. There was narrative everywhere.

Then, RPGs changed, too. D&D came out with 3.0, and 3.5 and 4.0 and on and on. RPGs went D20 and tried to standardized game mechanics. They seemed to become so focused on getting the perfect game system that people stopped caring about the storylines and narratives.

AD&D (and 2nd edition) to some extent wasn’t perfect, but most people came up with homemade fixes that worked well enough for their campaigns.

Perhaps mechanics took front seat to narrative enjoyment.  I don’t know, but I aim to find out.


08 2013