Virtual pubs and virtual casinos
Melf_Himself made a good post about reward gameplay. Playing an MMO is a bit like going to a pub in my view. You go there to relax and enjoy yourself, socialise and chat with friends, perhaps play some dart or pool – and most likely drink something.
Spending time in the pub is not something I expect to get some particular reward from. And if it is not particularly enjoyable I might just head off to a different place or do something different. There is not really much pressure from the pub that I should do otherwise. They will of course want me as a customer, but they are very much just providing the facilities for people to enjoy themselves in some way, as long as they do not harass other customers too much.
A casino is a slighty different entertainment facility. There is a more focused set of activities you can do, much centered around the prospect of winning money. Also, the casino will gladly try to condition you to stay within the premises in various ways, in order to keep you gambling. The casino will happily keep you there to just sit by the slot machines all day if needed, doing the same thing over and over.
I would really like for the MMOs to be my virtual pubs, but some are putting in slot machines in the facilities and try to keep people around, enticing them with the prospect of loot. Some seem more like virtual casinos, some are somewhere in between. And many are successful in getting people to the casino-like parts. I think this is unfortunate, but who’s fault is it? The virtual casino-like facilities, or the people that buy into that entertainment en masse (not just the occasional gamble)?
In either case I do hope that the attitude could be more pub-like. There can always be more pubs, but there can certainly be too many casinos.