Thursday, October 11, 2012

Boredom: Solving a Social Problem

"I'm bored." It is a terrible thing, boredom and it strikes people for random reasons. Hearing it can be a nightmare. Boredom is a destructive force in a game. I do speak of Eve. Our in game society is so real and so deep but it is affected in a different way then our out of game lives due to the simple fact that playing is voluntary (for most).

There is a lot of discussion about Eve's strengths, Eve's niche game problems, Eve's sandbox and Eve's player retention. It is often agreed that people who do not stick with Eve often do not get it. But, I will offer up another problem. Many people become bored with Eve because they are used to receiving more from their game play.

I do not think that these people inherently dislike Eve or do not 'get' Eve. I think that they need exterior motivation, be it from the game itself or from the group of people (in game or out) to help them achieve personal satisfaction. I am not saying that Eve is shallow. I am saying that Eve does not beat the players over the head with the content without their participation. Some people need a catalyst (and not just the ship) to participate.

Why don't they just occupy themselves? As someone who spends the bulk of her in game time working through personal projects, I've wondered this for a while. My tasks may change if people are on or are not on but my boredom only comes when I don't want to be productive. At that stage I just want to sit and vegetate and the chances are good that Eve is only acting as a glorified chat program for me then. My boredom is not dissatisfaction with the game.

But I am not everyone (shocking). It is a problem I have been pondering for two reasons. One, is that I have a friend who is bored whenever his corporation is not logged in. Although there are things he could do by himself, his motivation in Eve seems to come from doing things with others. I say 'motivation in Eve' because he is highly motivated in other games. What I realized was that in the other games he was given goals by the game. For him, the grind adds a layer of interest to the game because it gives a check point in progress and that check point is important for him to see how he is doing. Now, I can compare that to myself and check points only irritate me. If my entire day consists of nothing but rearranging my hanger and making sure my containers are sorted I am still a happy bunny. I will probably even tell people about my intense productivity. But for him, someone needs to take the place of the goal giver so that he can see his achievements or personal advancement from outside of himself.

The second reason is because our corporation is growing. Our social demographic was once very small and simple. With the addition of new people that has broadened. While self sufficiency is essential group activities and corporation activities have become a bit more important. Someone has to step forward and become the goal giver or the event planner. It can be a singular person or it can be a group effort. However, it is an active task that must be taken on.

It is a task that I have accepted. I've started to learn how to help others not be 'bored'.

Technically, I do not need to do any of this. I could blink blankly at my corporations new members and tell them to occupy themselves as I occupied myself when I was alone so often. But, many of our new members have joined on a more social platform. While they do not need to be nursed they are nourished with company and group activities. Even the bitter vets thrive some under the social responsibilities. One of the things that I enjoy about Eve is that I can just do stuff. With more corpmates there is more stuff to do.

The creep of boredom is a problem in large alliances. It is also a problem in small ones as well. Solo players, I believe, are most besieged by this. Unless they are dedicated to doing everything without friends or completely out of touch with the multiplayer aspect of a MMO, boredom is a problem. It is not just a problem that CCP needs to solve for its players it is one that players need to solve for other players. Thusly, the goal is to help suppress boredom. It is a social problem.

I do not have to take this social problem. It is not mandatory. I could leave it where it lay and walk by it. But, my belief is that Eve is best played with others. I picked up this social responsibility by my own choice. It is not one that will interest everyone but it is one that interests me. When I picked it up, it unraveled into a puzzle. A puzzle of how to motivate and interest people in the game, the corporation, the alliance and each other.

It is a puzzle that shapes itself into many forms. Each side has a picture on it. Each piece can connect to multiple others. There is no singular design for this puzzle. That makes it both fascinating and frustrating at the same time. The patterns created are not always positive. Sometimes, they are shockingly negative. Yet, the negativity also holds positivity due the basic fact that during the negative event boredom was removed. One just has to hope that boredom was not replaced with rage quitting and if it is then again hope that the social matrix that was created can cushion and sooth some of the blow until it starts to heal.

And the solutions? They come in many shapes and sizes. From task assignment to connecting two people with similar or supporting personalities, solving the problem involves being resourceful and using resources. People are a resource. Tapping them, talking to them, using and shaping the energy from them are viable ways to have them help solve the puzzle without directly asking them to solve the puzzle. From giving people 'achievements' as a goal such as medals or titles to setting up battles with rules and rewards the solutions can be as endless as the problems themselves.

It just takes some social engineering mixed with awareness of the situation. The solutions are not always immediate or successful. I wish that they were. Not everyone will want to participate. But for those of us who find pleasure in these supporting roles attempting to solve the problem creates an answer for the same problem in ourselves.

9 comments:

  1. Very nice post. It is a very rewarding feeling once your effort to motivate other players starts to generate fruits.
    In my case it is more rewarding than gaining personal achievements. I just like it to see how well players integrate and contribute to the community I introduced them to.

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  2. As a one time CEO of a 50 person corp I know what you are talking about Sugar. I learned early on that if I as the CEO could get people motivated towards a common goal (e.g. Corp standings) then most players would stay busy.One of the most successful activities we used to fight boredom was requiring each member get their personal standings above 8.0 to help the corporation maintain its standings with an NPC corp so that we could get jump clones. Also members could do this even when no one else was logged on.

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  3. Hi Sugar, I would like to answer since I stopped my subscription few months ago mainly for boredom. I agree with most elements in your post but disagree on certain as well.

    EvE is shallow?

    A sandbox is hardly shallow in concept as you make it what you want. However would you say that PI or missions are very deep and interesting? Hardly so and that's a problem for new players.

    EvE vs "grinding" or a different sort of grinding

    Every MMO has a grinding element to it and it is alright. EvE has a different form of grinding based on time. The majority of things are highly time consuming (skills, ISK (most of it), travel). It is important when your skills limit what you can do.

    My biggest grief against EvE: its PvP.

    I think I would have kept playing if EvE gave me more PvP fun. I looked for it hardly and never found it resulting in boredom. From my opinion it is down to the following points:

    - Money sink. Everyone is bothered by the money requirements to it as your ship is easy to blow-up and hard to get. You also cannot use one cheap ship, you have to be able to use many depending of your need. It has been a problem for me from the time I started playing EvE and it seemed to me I was not the only one.

    - It is easy to avoid combat, if you are not stupid. In consequence you will always face people convinced that they will win (by numbers usually 2 to 1 or more).

    - It lacks objective. If you want to force combat, you usually force one side to defend something and the other to attack it. They tried and failed on FW. I thought a null-sec alliance would be better and I was very disappointed as griding NPCs was the only source of revenu (welcome to the drone region!).

    - It waste time (on null-sec at least). The first corp I had on null-sec we were roaming for X jumps with everyone hidding. I remember spending 20 minutes or more just to join my corpmates. I can hardly do anything against that time wasted. Unfortunately, I don't spend 4 hours per night playing so it matters to me.

    I won't claim that I am an EvE veteran and that my opinion is more important than others. I think I came back to EvE everytime with a positive attitude and always stopped playing disappointed. It might be easier for some players to blame it on myself, my way of playing and that I am blind to so many good things in EvE. I feel EvE has missed potential.

    Coming back to the main discussion, I would like to ask you a question.

    What is your goal in EvE? What are you trying to achieve that cannot be done in other games?

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    Replies
    1. My Goal: I have None

      What am I trying to achieve that cannot be done in other games? Nothing. I am not trying to acheive anything.

      That is what Eve gives me. I can putter about, fly my ships, roam, build, destroy, do nothing, make friends or just use it as a big chat client.

      I am not a competitive person. I am not someone that often finishes a game. The end has no interest for me. The journey does. Eve is like a book that I pick up and read over and over again because I enjoy the book. Knowing what happens does not deminish my enjoyment of the book becuase reading the book itself is a pleasurable expierence.

      I love space, ships, 3d enviorment and the single shard. Is everything perfect? No. But I have never been the one to critique in that manner. I don't care that PI sucks. I don't do it becuase it does not interest me and I do not *have* to do it. That is a fantastic thing to me.

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    2. When I was speaking about goal or achieving it was not about ending or being competitive. It was about seeing the difference between EvE and other MMOs / games. Sharing what you see in it. Why EvE? And not GW2, WoW, SWTOR, ...? Only space?

      I am asking this question because there is a common ground between some EvE players (specially veterans) that the game is deep and interesting (it does not mean you think this way). They all say that it is what you do of it. You just need to read the "EvE is shallow" blog post to see the reaction when someone disagrees. It cannot be the game fault. If you bored in it, it must be your fault.

      I agreed that EvE has something but I fail to see what exactly except space and a unique server. I just don't know what it is. PI was taken as an example of one of the shallow things in the game and it is not the only one.

      If you just like EvE (for its space, 3d, ...) and has no-idea about what I am talking about, fair enough.

      I expressed my opinion and asked for yours because I value it. I didn't meant to force it as truth or judge your way of playing. I respect others opinion, I just want to understand it better.

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    3. It's a hard question to answer because it can go either way. I can list things and I'm sure that other games may have them. but one of the deeper appeals of Eve is the people. people are everywhere but the people that enjoy this game the most are people I also enjoy the most.

      PVP was an earlier example. You found it fusterating because it was often hard to find and the roam ended with out the goal of pewpew accomplished While that may b irritating I find that the hunt and chance of not achieving a draw. I hate arenas because they are predictable while the roam with its chance of no PvP or not winning a fight has appeal. For me, it has more depth. But it is not just that its being out with people I like.

      The forums often say find better friends. It sounds harsh but it is often true. If you had people helping to create your wants and needs you might find more. Or you might find more from helping others accomplish theirs.

      I'm well known to be picky about when and why I pewpew. Yet I spent the other day putting together something I did not want to participate in but wanted to create. The work was rewarding. Others were amused. I'm not sure that guild wars or Wow would give me the same game tools.

      But I have always loved world building games and RTS the most. Eve is all of that with out the built in goals and lots of awesome people to meet.

      Through my blog I share my game 'life'. My pros and cons and worries and sucess. It is what I do in the game. No defines. No goals. I will walk on the edge of excess fandom and call it a life in the game as fluid and dysfunctional as a real one. Because that is what I have made of the game. I have reread your posts a few times and I feel that the pieces of the game may feel incomplete to you because you view them as the game and not tools to make your game in the game?

      Also, the human factor picks everything up and shakes it sometimes. You can PVP but only if you find it. People can just avoid you and there is nothing you can do to stop that. If you find frustration in that is it because you want PvP as a thing you can access at want vs chasing other people about and hunting them down in an elaborate dance that may or may not succeed.

      I'm just tossing thoughts out in the wind. I can taste your dissatisfaction as clearly as you can read my happiness. I am not brushing you off but attempting to elaborately say that what seems crystal clear.

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    4. First thanks for your answer it is helpful.

      It is interesting that you talk about the people factor because in the last month before unsubscribing I jumped from CORP to CORP trying to find the right people. Finding people that you enjoy playing with, play at the same time, do not always play on their own ... That's hard to find! People are everywhere but often it doesn't go beyond pew-pew.

      A MMO can be rich and interesting at start but if you always play it solo it will be quickly losing its flavour. It is certainly sometimes a contributing factor to MMO boredom. Watching JonnyPew on YouTube, I can see that some people just enjoy the solo space experience. At the same time he has his YouTube channel and in-game channel. I am guessing he likes some interaction.

      There is also a clear reason why I still read EvE blogs despite I have many other games I can play. I often feel that EvE is a game that you can play solo and I am about to fell on the same trap. Coming back and failing to find what I am looking for.

      It all comes down to a simple question, simple to ask but hard to answer.

      How to find the right people to play with?

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    5. I talk to people. Everything I have/do now in Eve stems from one singular choice to accept someones offer to do some hauling from the rookie chat.

      I talk to people in local, I wander into channels, I wander into public channels if corps have them, I settle down and I talk. You start to make connections and they spring from there.

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    6. I decided to give it another go (resub 1 month) with less pressure and more on fun / people. I will certainly try to apply to RvB and have fun.

      I will see you around, thanks!

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