A while back, I came across a rather interesting article by Qiaolei Jiang of Peking University in China. Jiang researched the factors of games that keep gamers coming back for more. He outlined four stages that create a sort of lifecycle for gamers within a specifice game.
Gamers' lifecycle can affect gamers' feelings and behavior. In the different stages of a gamers' lifecycle, gamers pay attention to different characteristics of the game. They care more about features and entertainment in the early stages, but in the late stages focus more on socialization and relationships, which are also the main reasons why the stay or return after leaving.
The four stages discussed are Confusion, Excitement, Involvement, and Boredom. When I first started playing WoW, I was lost as can be. It took awhile for me to figure out the game mechanics -- learn how to fight beasts, complete quests, talk to NPCs, etc, which is why those spiders were probably so scary! We all went through the stage of Confusion, and I'm guessing that if you're reading this, you got to the second stage as well!
The Excitement stage is pretty self-explanatory. This is the part where we started really getting into the game, leveling up, joining guilds, engaging in chat, and exploring the "World" of Warcraft. This stage, undoubtedly leads to the third stage of the lifecycle: Involvement. Now we're in and attached. This is said to be the longest period, marked mainly by social events within the game.
The last stage is Boredom, and it's a stage that most of us may have experienced mildly at some point. "No matter how interesting a game is, after involvement, when there's nothing new or exciting, the gamers will leave." I think Blizzard has done an amazing job of never allowing us to stay bored for very long. Between frequent patches, two expansions and a third on the way, the supply of things to keep us busy in-game seems infinite! I can also say, for WoW in particular, that the game content has morphed tremendously from "Vanilla WoW" to the current state of gameplay. Personally, I have not reached the point of boredom in a long time.
I have been playing WoW since launch, and despite all of the new content from Blizzard, I can honestly say that the most memorable experiences that I've had in-game have come directly from relationships and social events. When I look back over all the years that I have been playing, the memories that stand out the most are those of people that I have met while playing. Yes, the rest of the game is fun and exciting. I love taking down bosses, gearing up, and pwning noobs in PvP. But I don't think any of that would have been as exhilarating and enjoyable without the people that accompanied me in all of those experiences.
That is precisely what I think keeps me coming back for more. That gets me. I took a break from WoW for an entire year, and the reason that I came back was because of the people!
Am I all alone in feeling that this is true? Or can we all agree that when it all boils down, it's the social aspects of the game that keep you coming back for more? What really gets you about the World of Warcraft?
Source: Qiaolei Jiang, Peking University