Starting a new video game is always fun – there’s a new world to be explored, new skills to learn and try, and new people to meet. As the game goes on, however, it can feel like a chore as there is only so much to do once the initial honeymoon phase goes away. Quests in MMORPGs are some of the biggest offenders as they can be categorized into kill X monsters, collect X items, go to place X and talk with character Y. After a while, it simply becomes droll.
Why do players keep on playing despite how boring and repetitive it is? I would argue that there are two main reasons: the vision of an end-goal and the ability to see progress. In most games, there is a tangible end that you can calculate. In games like World of Warcraft and Runescape, players have mastered efficiency and have created the most effective way to reach a specific goal, like mastering skills or having the best armor and weapon. Instead of aimlessly wandering around and hoping that you can achieve an end, it becomes a matter of time and dedication instead of blind luck.
The other part, an ability to see progress, is extremely important for keeping games fun while it should not be. In most progression games, it is in the form of bigger numbers, through damage or money, or fancier looking gear (armor/weapon/pets). Despite how minuscule the actual change it might be, there is a sense of immediate satisfaction and seeing stats change from equipping a new piece of gear.
Reality often does not have this luxury of measurability and immediate change. Unless your job has a clear description of “complete four deliverables and attend two workshops for a pay raise,” most of us are trying to navigate through the game of life – some better equipped to than others, but mainly blindly. If life, however, manages to write a manuel that clearly details the steps necessary for progression, it can make the boring and droll aspects fun again.