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Jesse Schell is a video game designer and the CEO of Schell Games. Hehas led research projects at Carnegie Mellon's Entertainment Technology Center, and he is the former chairman of[…]

The concrete sense of the achievement, combined with the opportunity for social engagement and a never-ending source of challenges make massively multiplayer online games a highly captivating form of entertainment.

Question: Why are massively multiplayer online games particularly popular in Asia?
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Jesse Schell:  Part of the reason I think massively rnmultiplayer games are so popular in Asia is partly because the bandwidthrn and infrastructure is there.  They've had bandwidth and infrastructure rnthat has been miles ahead of where we've been.  So they've had more timern to kind of work on it.  There's greater opportunity for an audience.  rnThen, on top of that, you have situations with copyright over there thatrn are problematic.  The retail game model, the traditional retail game rnmodel, of selling discs in stores has very much been destroyed by rnpiracy.  But a massively multiplayer game is not destroyed by piracy – rnin fact, it is enhanced by piracy because the pirates become a network rnto distribute the software.  The players have to connect online, and rnthere's no stealing the game because you pay as you play.  So I think rnthat combination, then you also consider the lower penetration of rnconsoles in Asia is something that kind of has pushed people more to thern PC, and massively multiplayer games work well on the PC.

Then rnfurther, you can kind of take it to kind of a social angle.  Some peoplern would suggest that people in Asia are more likely to work together on rnteams.  They're more comfortable working that way, and that's what rnthe... If you're gonna succeed in these games, it's about forming large rnteams and working together and succeeding.  It's a combination of rnthings.  One thing we're definitely seeing is almost everything that rngoes big and succeeds in Asia starts to come over here.  We started to rnsee it happening... We saw it initially with subscription-based games, rnthen we saw micro-transactions taking off there, and now they're taking rnoff in America and Europe, as well.

rnQuestion:
Why are these games so captivating?
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Jesse Schell:  I think for massively multiplayer games, rnit's a combination of things.  One of the reasons people like to go to rngames at all is games give you concrete achievement.  In life, we seldomrn get very clear, concrete achievements.  Anything you achieve, it's rnalways like Well, it could have been a little better.  But when you've rnmade level nine [clap] – it's level nine!  I mean, there's no you half rnmade it, or you sort of made it, or someone made level nine better than rnyou.  You made it.  Bing!  Gold star – there it is.  And people like rnthat concreteness.

So you take that factor of the concreteness, rnand then you combine it with a persistence.  Traditional video games – rnyou play them, you win them – it's kind of over.  You turn it off, and rnit's gone.  These massively multiplayer games are persistent.  You rnbecome level nine and you turn it off for three months – you come back, rnand you're still a level nine.  You can go to level ten.  These can rnbecome something that you do for 10 years, 20 years, 50 years if you rnwant to.  People like that; it makes it more solid, it makes it more rnreal, it makes it more meaningful.

Then you combine that with thern social interaction where you have a lightweight connection to people – rnin other words, you don't have to go through the headache of forming rnsocial commitments, but you still get to do something meaningful where rnyou work together as a team, and you did something that you all can be rnproud of.  There's a lot of factors in there that... There's really a rnlot to like.

Recorded on June 21, 2010
Interviewed by Andrew Dermont