MMOG: An Overview of the Massively Multiplayer Online Game Phenomenon

Main Page - Introduction
Contexts for Libraries
What are MMOGs?
The Development of MMOGs
Issues and Discourses
Works Cited
About the Author

What are MMOGs?

        In essence, MMOGs are games played online that are able to support hundreds - or even thousands - of players at once. MMOGs require the players to purchase the game software that must be installed on their computer, and to have an internet connection capable of supporting the large flow of information to and from the internet servers that host the game. Certain games require the additional player expense of monthly subscriptions to the game, although there are many popular games that do not require such subscriptions to enjoy online play. Several sub-genres of MMOGs are directly related to non-MMOG games and are often derived from single player offline games. The three most popular sub-genres are: Role-Play, which is generally driven by strong story lines and encourages player character development; First-Person Shooter, which is often characterized by player-versus-player (PvP) combat, a relatively unimportant storyline, and swift, violent action; and Strategy (or Real-Time Strategy), which focusses on carefully planned out manoeuvres and logic-based game play that is frequently compared to chess.

        MMOGs take place in alternative worlds, usually based in science fiction or high fantasy contexts. These game worlds often have intricate histories, and behave in a nearly real-time manner, taking on lives of their own in which the players add to their ongoing histories. Known as ‘Persistent Worlds’, these fantasy-world settings allow players to immerse themselves in a very rich and very ‘real’ environment. In these worlds, players create a persona and design their character, carefully determining features such as the character’s ‘class’ or vocation, and appearance. These highly personalized in-game characters are commonly known as avatars. The game software includes real-time chat functions and allows characters to not only interact with the game software’s standard, pre-generated non-player characters (NPC), but, through the mediation of the internet, with other players and their characters as well. NPCs serve a vital function in MMOGs, as they provide convenient methods of assisting players, and may also act as consistent characters, instruments for driving story lines and plots, and foes for players to fight in order to gain skills, wealth, and experience.

        There are several characteristics common to MMOGs which, according to game researcher Mirjam Eladhari, include the following:

      • thousands of players registered to the game server
      • a large 3D environment including urban and rural areas
      • in-game items that may be acquired by players
      • in-game item trading among players (this sometimes extends to out-of game buying or selling of in-game items)
      • quests or missions for players to accomplish
      • evolving story lines
      • methods of forming social groups, guilds, clans, or tribes with other players
      • in-game NPCs run by the game software

        It should be noted that many of these commonalities may take varied forms between games, and especially between MMOG sub-genres. The evolving story line and quest characteristics are excellent examples of such inter-game distinctions. The story lines of Role-Play MMOGs tend to be far more complex and involve more character-development quests and story points than those of First-Person Shooters, which are often kept to simple missions of capturing flags or bases and story goals such as advancing in rank.

Created by Lauren de Bruin
School of Library and Information Studies
University of Alberta
Last updated on March 8, 2006.