Game design has certainly come a long way from Ultima Online, the first real example of what we now think of as the MMO genre. We've gone from games with no restrictions on behaviors to games where it's almost impossible to be truly horrid to other people, from ones without any real structure to a clean path of progression, from obtuse game mechanics to transparent and clear information. So with all of these changes, asks Brian 'Psychochild' Green, why are we feeling like there's something missing? Why do we find ourselves less than satisfied in our cleaner, better-designed, and well-built virtual worlds?
The article asks the interesting question that if leveling and gear were removed from the games we play, what would we do? In most current games, he argues that there isn't a whole lot left once you take away the achievement axis, and that leads to a sense of hollowness in many -- achievements only fostering further achievements. He goes on to argue in favor of a greater sense of adventure and more options for exploration without requiring a strict advancement path. Whether or not it's a truly viable theory is up for debate, but the core concepts should prove interesting to anyone looking for an answer to the question "why am I doing this?" We've seen a rise in prominence of goal-focused games following the success of World of Warcraft, and perhaps it's time to start moving to the other end of the spectrum.