Top 6 MMO Motivations

by Tyler Edwards, October 12, 2013

People play MMOs for a lot of different reasons. Developers have worked hard to make their games attractive to many different play styles, as MMOs are arguably the game genre most dependent on having broad appeal. Every MMO has many different hooks to engage players, and different individuals will be grabbed by different features. For this list, we'll be doing a rundown of the most common motivators for people who play MMOs - the goals that keep them coming back for more month after month.


swtor dialogue

6: Story:

Some players don't care too much about the nitty-gritty of game mechanics. They're not out for the most epic gear, and they don't particularly care if an MMO has the latest and greatest combat physics. For these people, it's all about the story.

These players gravitate to MMOs because they offer the chance to truly immerse yourself in a living, breathing fictional world. Single player games aren't enough to quench their lust for plot. They want to become true citizens of their fantasy, to see a world and story grow and evolve over time and play their part in shaping it.

Such people will base their opinions on content almost entirely on its relevance to the story. They'll probably disregard PvP as meaningless, and if they get into raiding or other endgame activities, it's only to see the conclusions to major story arcs. They'll likely gravitate more to quests and other story driven content, and they'll often level alts of differing races, factions, and classes just to get a new perspective on the plot.

Story fans are an interesting bunch because they're often among the most casual players, but also the most passionate fans. They might have meager achievements and crappy gear, but give them a world to care about, and they will stick with an MMO until the day the servers shut down. This probably why so many MMOs are set in pre-established universes.


gw2 charr ranger

5: A test of skill:

There is a certain segment of gamers who view video games as purely a test of skill. All other considerations are secondary to the challenge, the thrill of overcoming the most brutal bosses and the most vicious virtual opponents. They are always looking for new strategies, new ways to hone their skills, and new hurdles to overcome.

These are not the people who bemoan that MMOs have become too easy because it doesn't take eight months to grind to max level anymore. True skill seekers are often the most opposed to grind and tedium. Anything that gets between them and new opportunities to test themselves is unwelcome.

They don't care about gear, rewards, fame, or prestige. They live for the moments when they narrowly save their group from wiping to a difficult boss, or the tension of squaring off against a player of equal skill on the fields of PvP.

For such players, MMOs are a constant learning experience as they continue to find new ways to fine tune their performance. The greatest among them learn to play their keyboard like Yo-Yo Ma plays the cello. They are the maestros of macros, the queens of cooldowns, the princes of PvP.


defiance pvp

4: Socializing:

For this section of players, it's the "multiplayer" part of "massively multiplayer" that is by far the most important. Things like graphics, gameplay, and story are little more than window dressing for an environment to hang out with old friends or make new ones.

These players are mainly only interested in content as an excuse to come together with other players. If they join a raid team, it's because they like the sense of camaraderie, not because they want to save the land from the evil dragon or claim the +1 Uber Heavy Shield of Screeching Cacophony. While some might judge a game based on how friendly it is to the solo player, social players will be more concerned about anything that inhibits grouping.

To social types, MMOs often live or die by how well they can support player interaction. Chat systems, guild functionality, and roleplaying support are often at least as important to them as things like combat or endgame options. Sandboxes requiring lots of player cooperation are more likely to appeal than are solo friendly story driven games like Star Wars: The Old Republic and The Secret World.

In extreme cases, some people treat MMOs as little more than elaborate chat clients. For such players, things like quests are mostly there as a way to pass time while you wait for your friends to log on.


elder scrolls online

3: Prestige:

Some people want to be the top of the totem poll. They want to be the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be - and they want everyone else to know it.

This sort of player is similar to those who seek to test their ability, but they tackle the most difficult challenges less to hone their own skills and more for the fame and glory that comes with it. These are the people who go after server first achievements, the top PvP ranks, and the most epic grinds.

These players tend to have a reputation for obnoxiousness, and it's not entirely undeserved. No one likes a gloater, after all. You can only see some uber raider block off the door to the auction house with his two story rare mount so many times before you just sigh in exasperation.

Prestige seekers can be especially obnoxious when their skills don't match up with their lofty dreams. With no real accomplishments of their own, they can only build themselves up by knocking other players down. These are the nastiest of elitists.

But not all prestige players are jerks. Some are happy to let their accomplishments speak for themselves, feeling little desire to obnoxiously flaunt their achievements or look down upon other players. These are often the true leaders of our virtual worlds, the best of the best whose knowledge and skill enriches the entire online community.


rift acheivements

2: Completionism:

Some people look at the endless achievement panes in MMOs as an insurmountable hurdle, a mountain they'll never be able to climb. But some look at them and say, "Challenge accepted!"

These players aren't attracted by any one kind of experience. They're not out to simply be raiders, PvP champions, or dungeon heroes. The view the vast buffet of MMO content as a checklist. They want to see it all and do it all, and have the massive achievement score to prove it.

These are the sort of players who will earn the achievement for having two hundred mounts and then complain that there isn't an achievement for three hundred mounts. They'll travel to the ends of world and beyond for a mini pet they'll never use. Gotta catch ‘em all, right? They'll do every quest, run every dungeon, kill every boss, and explore every corner of the game world simply to be able to say they were there.

Completionists are rarely bored, because there's always another achievement to pursue, another mount to grind for. They're happy to go along on their merry way, ticking off box after box on the achievement panes. It's all part of a grand journey to sample everything the MMO world has to offer.


challenge accepted

1: A combination:

The truth is that most people who play MMOs aren't motivated by just one thing. There might be one thing that attracts them above all others, but there are probably at least one or two other elements helping to draw them in.

For some, the draws are separate. They may care about story and challenge, but feel no particular need to combine the two. Others only truly fall in love with an MMO when they can combine their motivations.

The most hardcore of raiders are often those who value both prestige and challenge. Roleplayers are people who want to combine the story of MMOs with their social element. Some people are story completionists, who must experience every little bit of lore no matter how obscure. Some value socializing and challenge equally and become team leaders who help bring victory to their friends.

One of the great strengths of the MMO genre is its ability to appeal to a wide variety of people and play styles. Even relatively niche games often have a lot of variety in the way their players approach them. Everyone brings their own reasons for playing, and it creates great diversity and depth in MMO communities.