The Frustrations of Free Online Games

Well, I did it again.  I spent over an hour last night playing one game on Miniclip.com.  I couldn’t even tell you what the name of the game was, and yet I wasted the golden hours of my work-time window on this stupid game. The game involved shooting a squirrel/chipmunk/critter out of a rocket, and as you collected acorns, you gained points that you could put towards upgrades, which would help you launch the critter further, ultimately gaining you more points.

It is apropos that today’s lecture should be about motivation and engagement, because I believe that both aspects play a large part in our learning.  Last night, however, my time spent playing that frustrating online game led me to challenge the concepts that we have discussed in class.  I believe that motivation and engagements are only two tips of the triangle, and that reward, or compensation, must also be considered in order for the concepts we have discussed in class to fully be realized.  In sports, for example, a victory in a game accomplishes all three of the aforementioned concepts because it is a step towards the championship.  In video games, fully thought out and developed games for gaming systems, gamers are often rewarded or compensated for their success with bonus games or material, unlocking new content, or new gameplay options.  Hundreds of other real-world examples, including grades, competitions, and extracurriculars, exist to support this theory.

The point is that we engage in these activities because we know that when we finish them we will be better off than when we first began.  There is a distinct difference in these games than a game like Tetris or Solitaire, which one can play simply for the value of wasting a little time.  A distinct line is drawn between the simple time-wasters and the multi-dimensional games.  The problem that I have experienced is that these free online games fall directly in the middle.  The games are developed and lengthy enough to be motivating, but not engaging enough to produce any feelings of value, ultimately leading to the frustration of free online gaming, which leaves you with the feeling, “That’s it? I played that game for over an hour!  I don’t feel accomplished.  I just wasted a lot of time.”

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