Teamwork, competition and mastery motivate MOBA players

Player experiences differentiate according to the game genre, as shown in #MOBA games #hci #ux #gamestudies

Video games offer their players a wide variety of experiences. Researchers Daniel Johnson and Peta Wyeth from Queensland University of Technology along with Lennart E. Nacke from the HCI Games Group in University of Ontario Institute of Technology have studied the player experiences in different genres. They pay particular attention to the unique experiences in the widely popular genre of massive online battle arena (MOBA) games.

Originating from a Warcraft 3 modification called Defence of the Ancients, MOBA games, such as League of Legends have become the most played online games available. In these games, two teams of players battle against each other by trying to invade the opponent base on a map. The players can choose their characters from a roster of heroes with different abilities, and equip them with enhancing items.

The field of game research provides yet relatively little knowledge on how player experiences vary across game genres. Johnson and others conducted the first phase of their study by asking a group of 573 respondents for the name and genre of their favorite game and asked them to fill two surveys (the Player Experience of Need Satisfaction and the Game Experience Questionnaire) about their experiences during the gameplay. According to the results, flow and competence are experiences that all games seem to nurture. Action adventures and role-playing games (RPGs) emphasize immersion and presence. Action RPGs provide a sense of autonomy, but are less frustrating and less challenging. MMO (massive multiplayer online) RPGs are less challenging than other genres. First person shooters were not perceived to cultivate feelings of relatedness. Generally, the games that are likely played with the other players stimulate less immersion and presence. MOBAs stand out in the results, since they seem to offer more distinct player experiences than the other genres: there are less presence, immersion, and autonomy, but more frustration and challenge involved. In the second phase of study, the researchers interviewed six experienced MOBA players to acquire further knowledge about their motivations.

The interviews revealed three key aspects of MOBAs. First, competition is highly valued. Winning and sense of achievement are a major motivation for playing, while losing causes frustration. Second, satisfaction stems from a sense of mastery. The games have a steep learning curve and progress brings positive feelings. Third, teamwork is a key motivational driver. Shared experiences of performing well, and engaging in a serious activity, or just having fun with friends were all experiences encountered by the players. The results of the study can be interpreted to point out two distinct player types: those more motivated by the presence and immersion, and those more motivated by the challenge and social aspects of play. Different genre conventions are prone to elicit certain experiences, about which the designers should be aware of. The environments, where certain experiences commonly appear could be studied in the future to also guide the design of digital environments and services other than games.
Reference: Daniel Johnson, Lennart E. Nacke, and Peta Wyeth. 2015. All about that Base: Differing Player Experiences in Video Game Genres and the Unique Case of MOBA Games. In Proceedings of the 33rd Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’15). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 2265-2274. DOI=http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2702123.27024

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