Thought of the Day: Measuring engagement with games

As a gamer, what I really want in an MMO is to be able to hook up (for gaming :P ) with other players who are roughly as engaged in the game as I am. That’s much more important to me than how hardcore or casual they are in terms of hours played. If I care about the lore, I want to play with other people who care about the lore to about the same extent – maybe a bit more or less but not with a huge difference in approach. If I care about raiding, I want to raid with people who care roughly the same amount that I do. And so on.

Alongside this, players tend to get more engaged in a game (assuming they like it enough to keep playing) as they play, possibly reaching an apex and then either burning out or dropping to a more casual level of engagement. And some players will never be all that engaged with a game because it’s not their ‘main’ game anyway.

The games I most enjoy will tend to be the ones where I find a guild that also attracts other people who share that sort of level of engagement. The officers are likely to be more engaged and rank and file tend to be less on the whole, but people who really don’t fit will be in the minority. Add to this that some players are more engaged in some of their alts (or guilds)  than  others (“Oh, this is just my goofing about alt”) and really the problem of finding the right match in a player group is just becoming so huge and complex than I am amazed we can ever find a good guild in game.

So the problem is: how to find other players who are similarly engaged with the game to you, will share the same engagement curve for awhile at least, and that you are able to get along with. That is to say, players who care about it as much as you do, but not too much more or too much less.

Gearscore, for all its faults, is a kind of way to measure engagement because you usually have to put a bit of effort into the game to get better gear. But this isn’t really useful if gear can be easily bought and sold for RL cash (as in Diablo 3) because RL money spent doesn’t equate to engagement in the same way that time does.

And although I think there is an increasing drive to find a guild through out of game communication (eg. fellow bloggers, people who post on the same bboard, members of a previous guild), you cannot really KNOW how engaged a player will be with a MMO until they actually play it. So the best guild matching can only be done in game.

Is it possible to be too engaged?

Whilst it can infuriating to play with someone who genuinely doesn’t care about their character, playing well/ better, or reaching any in-game goals at all unless you’re coming from exactly the same angle, it’s also really annoying to be playing with people who just take the whole thing too darn seriously (unless you are one of them in which case it’s great.)

I have been thinking about this from a discussion I was having with Stabs in the comments to his post about Prime, which sounds like a fun game that will inevitably be dominated by people who take it too seriously for my tastes. It’s not for me, but if you enjoy playing with a hardcore take-no-prisoners crowd, then keep an eye on this one.

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11 thoughts on “Thought of the Day: Measuring engagement with games

      • I thought it was a fair point. I have played games that were more like that, and I may be done with that kind of competitiveness now (unless the game can guarantee me a fairly supportive realm which I think would be hard in the modern day player base.)

        But I did want to highlight it because for anyone who finds that type of game intriguing, it sounds as though it’ll be really good.

  1. It’s things like “a real EVE player needs two accounts” that scares people away. I don’t know if it’s true as I didn’t continue playing EVE and never really reached the Corp Wars level.

    Nobody can blame Stabs for analyzing Prime the way he does, but I find it unfortunate that you got that utter “HARDCORE” impression! :(

    I am quite sure it scares people away. A lot of those who might enjoy it. I think that is doing Prime: Battle for Dominus a disservice. The game isn’t even in Beta and I don’t know anyone who played it so far.

    Yes, it will be 3 Faction PvP but … was DAOC that hardcore? Rather not.
    It is highly speculative to assume that Prime will be only a game for the hardest of the hardcore and must be played the way Stabs suggested.

    • IIRC there was a sizeable minority who did play that way, but that was always hotly contested among other players. I honestly think that the playerbase is different these days (more tainted by Sirlin’s views) and you wouldn’t find all that many ‘honourable’ PvP Realm vs Realm players around.

      I know he represents the more hardcore ;) But I also don’t much fancy a PvP game that doesn’t have safe areas.

      • It does have safe areas. I don’t know if it has end game safe areas but the first few planets are not contested and by design rvr is driven to just one of the 11 planets.

  2. Good point about the differences. That’s something I’ve noticed more and more while running a guild. It can be quite a pain especially when people are motivated to join because of success rather than what fits them. We try to be upfront about recruiting; we’re not an overly active or social guild and a lot of people just want to be on for the raids.

    We get people that want social focus or for lots of people to be on despite us warning them it’s not us. We get people that join knowing they’re creating an overflow but then they never want to sit. We have people join and the raid times don’t suit them (bad day for them, too late, not enough, etc.).

    Don’t try to make it work – either it does or it doesn’t, accept it and find something that will work for you.

  3. > Gearscore, for all its faults, is a kind of way to measure engagement

    In WoW it’s only useful to measure _RAID_ engagement.

    All other activities like dungeons, lore, playing the AH, collecting things aren’t reflected in the gearscore.

  4. “So the problem is: how to find other players who are similarly engaged with the game to you, will share the same engagement curve for awhile at least, and that you are able to get along with. That is to say, players who care about it as much as you do, but not too much more or too much less.”

    I don’t have an answer for this, but would sure appreciate a solution to solve this problem. After quitting WoW almost a year ago, it’s been hard to get into other multiplayer games, namely due to having no personal connections within them.

    I have been looking for something like an online dating service, but for gaming. Players could join “groups” before even entering the game – and could even play different games, instead of just one. Why do my WoW/LotRO relationships need to be confined to just that one game? I’d also like to play Dungeon Siege, or Diablo, or what have you with the same group of friends.

  5. I left WoW mainly because I felt it pushed too much social engagement on me. The last straw for me wasn’t the dungeon finder, it was the change to the Enchanting. Allowing other players to bid on my character’s crafting materials was just too much collectivization for me.

    I don’t miss the game a bit.

    I do love Lotro and the players in that game aren’t as intense.

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