Games that blur the boundaries of work and play

Video games are often framed as sites of play and entertainment. Their transformation into work platforms and the staggering amount of work that is being done in these games often go unnoticed. Users spend on average 20 hours a week in online games, and many of them describe their game play as obligation, tedium, and more like a second job than entertainment.

So begins Nick Yee’s study “The Labor of Fun“, an article about the work like duties that come along MMORPGs. Today I wanted to give a quick shout out to this study which I think you might find interesting if you are an MMO player like me.

Thinking of all the labouring (the crafting, the grinding for gear and levels, the guild management, the raid leading etc, etc) it’s fascinating that we still enjoy MMOs so much and that they remain as popular as they are. I think this is tied in to the subject I discussed earlier in “The Virtual Skinner Box“. These games are programmed in a certain way to give us a quicker sense of achievement and stimulate our senses faster than real life challenges do.

Video games are inherently work platforms that train us to become better workers. And the work being performed in video games is increasingly similar to actual work in business corporations.

If you like me find this topic intriguing, also make sure to check out Murph’s blog post about how gaming can provide you with experience that can prove useful in professional environments.

Why do we keep playing these time consuming games? As Nick Yee so tragically puts it: “The central irony of MMORPGs is that they are advertised as worlds to escape to after coming home from work, but they too make us work and burn us out. For some players, their gameplay might be more stressful and demanding than their actual jobs. And the most tragic irony is that MMORPG players pay game companies on a monthly basis (between US$10 and US$15) to work and get burned out.”

How stressful is gaming to you? Are you a casual player who would never let the game become anything but fun or are you a guild leader with lots of responsibilities? Let us know your thoughts and experiences below!

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