Automation in MMOs and “Tibia” – An overcomplicated assessment

So this is an interesting article about the ‘deskilling’ of players through the automation of tasks by bots and macros. It makes some interesting (if laboured) arguments, including a brief foray into MMO grinding production behaviour is better defined by Taylorism or Marxism *rolls eyes*.

One thing I noticed was that when comparing repetitive MMO behaviours to industrial production there is little discussion about risk. The question of “skill” arises – knowing how and when to defeat an enemy – but the psychological implications are not discussed. While it may be fair to say that repeating grindy tasks is analogous to “welding two sections of a fender together” the excitement of combat and rush of success is not present in the welding task. Yes, grinding is boring, but the mere process can contain elements of enjoyment not present in manual industry. Likewise there is a sense of ‘improvement’ that exists in both the literal XP gain and in the development of techniques and skill that far outweigh the welding of a fender in complexity and interest.

I recently returned to playing WoW a little with some friends and found it particularly interesting that some of the old ‘masteries’ required of the player in the form of spell combos, rotations, and talent choices, are instead replaced by ‘skill’ requirements – “press this now” “use this now” “activate that next”. This reminds me in part of the difference between the parkour aspects of early Tomb Raider games and those in Assassin’s Creed, where the fiddly positioning and timing aspects of clambering and jumping between surfaces and locations is replaces in the latter by a simple timed button press. The mastery is removed and replaced by skill.

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