Monday 24 February 2014

ISK/hour versus FUN/hour

In previous posts I have touched on the ISK/hour metric and the concept of fun/hour. Many games, particularly MMOs, have activities that can be repetitive in nature, typically referred to as grinds, which are important in progression or maintenance of other in game activities. The outcome of the activity is desirable, sometimes mandatory to progression, although the activity itself isn't often considered fun. In EVE, many activities are considered boring and typically end up having an ISK/hour value attached to them. ISK allows players to buy modules and ships for PvP. It allows players to get started in industry. It is required to buy skillbooks. ISK is undoubtedly required to take part in a large number of activities in EVE. However, I feel that too much emphasis is often placed on how efficiently that ISK is earned.

Two examples immediately come to mind: Missions and Mining. Missions are PvE content which is carried out to gain faction standings and/or to earn ISK. Faction standings can be useful for a number of reasons, such as reduced broker fees for traders. However, the consensus that I have observed is that the majority of mission running is done in pursuit of ISK and that the missions themselves are boring. I agree that they are a bit behind the times and could an update to make them more dynamic and engaging. However, sometimes I wonder if the obsession in maximising this ISK/hour ratio contributes to them not being fun? Often forum posts come up asking what the best ship to mission in is, in order to reap maximum rewards, rather than going with what is the most fun. I don't mission very often. When I do its usually just for the hell of it. I grab a random ship that I haven't flown yet and go do a couple of missions to pass the time. Isn't that partly what video gaming is for after all?

Mining is viewed in a similar light. While I don't consider mining fun, I do sometimes find it relaxing. Maybe I'm not looking to do something in EVE that eats all of my attention but want to stay connected to the Universe. I'll fire up my Retriever for an hour while I relax watching Netflix. However, whenever mining is brought up it is often dismissed as a boring, poor ISK/hour task not worth wasting time on. There are dedicated mining corporations out there. Though I haven't participated in fleet mining, I assume they keep at it due to the social aspects rather than the ISK/hour aspects otherwise they would do something else. Other people might mine as part of a personal ship building project, just for the sheer satisfaction of building something from scratch, even if it wasn't the most cost efficient way of getting the ship in the end. For example, Sugar Kyle over at Low Sec Lifestyle mentioned mining the minerals herself to build an Orca. I admire that and appreciate that satisfaction that can be gained from such a project.

What is my point here really? Well, I often wonder what percentage of the playerbase are caught up in an ISK obsession. I appreciate that some people do genuinely enjoy watching their wallet blink ever upwards. I know I certainly feel satisfied when the effort I put into my market operations come to fruition. I enjoy the planning involved and just spending time in the EVE universe. However, how much fun is "lost" because of players becoming obsessed with ISK making rather than simply doing activities for the sake of it? There are players like Gevlon over at Greedy Goblin who put great emphasis on opportunity cost in relation to ISK/hour. Why spend x hour doing y to make z ISK when you could spend x hours doing w to make 10z ISK. Maybe he gets more satisfaction from the planning a project and the end result, regardless of the actual activity in between? When I think of gaming, I suppose I still apply opportunity cost. However my cost usually places emphasis on the fun/hour rather than this ISK/hour.

It leads me back to the drive towards PLEXing accounts. How much of this ISK/hour culture is attributed to the existence of PLEX? Goals are important in sandbox games like EVE. Great satisfaction can be gained from planning the way forward, executing that plan and then reaping rewards from the end result. Though in EVE I often wonder how many activities are "made" boring due to the obsession with ISK/hour. When I look at an activity in the game, my first thought shouldn't be "how many hours would I have to spend doing that activity to make enough ISK to buy a PLEX?". It should be, "am I having fun". If I'm not having fun, I should be doing something else. I feel sorry for the people out there treating EVE as a job rather than a videogame. It really is a fantastic Universe to be a part of. I think more people would enjoy it if they could free themselves of their ISK obsession.

Maybe my success in the markets has coloured my perception here. I'm by no means space rich relative to other traders. However of the limited set of ships I can currently fly I'm in no danger of going broke at losing 1... or 100. I know that in real life financial hardship can be an extremely harrowing experience, being at the forefront of your mind. EVE is probably the same to a degree. People often say that "money can't buy happiness". While this might be true, I would suggest that money can set you free. Free of certain burdens which can lead to happiness. Maybe EVE is the same?

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