Player experiences in MOBA games!

Player experiences in MOBA games!

MOBA’s (Massive online battle arena) have become huge within the Esports. So what makes them so great?

Actually, first things first, what is a MOBA in the first place. Well, take some time to enjoy this short clip that concisely describes the main element of what makes a MOBA:

Part of the answer as to what makes these games great can be found in Daniel Johnson, Lennart Nacke and Peta Wyeths’ article All about that base (2015).

In their article they look at two things:

‘Our first study investigated PX factors in different video game genres and the
implications of the various difference found between all genres are discussed.  Notably, MOBA games emerged as lacking many of the components of PX that motivate players to engage with other genres of games. Given the immense popularity of MOBA games this finding intrigued us’ (Johnson et. al. 2015, 1)

And this also intrigues me! Usually factors such as immersion, connectedness and autonomy are able to determine whether a game is good or not. But apparently MOBA games do not satisfy these needs particularly well. So how come so many people are playing this genre of games?!

What they found out in their studies is that MOBA’s strongest feature is the challenge. They offer a hard challenge with quite a steep learning curve. You may think this would only serve to scare people away from the games, but it doesn’t. From my own personal experience with these games I believe there are two main components to get you hooked initially.

One, is the sweet taste of victory; you merely have to win one or two games and feel the rush of satisfaction to get hooked. Then you want to improve, specialise and become good at one particular role and aspect of the game.

Two, a friendly introduction. Often it will literally be a friend introducing you to the game. As they found out in their studies during the second phase that included interviews with players, playing with friends were one of the most important and enjoyable aspects of the game. It will also tend to be the case that a new player is introduced to the game through someone they know, and can learn quicker through a sort of mentorship between the experienced player and the less experienced.

This second point may prove to be quite important. Indeed mastery and self improvement does seem to be important when it comes to personal motivation, but what makes this type of game great to play is the importance of teamwork:

‘Participant reflections on teamwork were tightly interwoven with the importance of both competition and mastery. Participants discussed the need to constantly interact with team members, with a focus on what the team is doing and what to do next. Success is highly reliant on the performance of your teammates: “teams need cohesion; Groups with cohesion will win even if some players [on the other team] are better” (P5), “the main draw is the competitive aspects of the game, especially when the team is integrated” (P2), “you can’t do one [succeed] without the other [teamwork]” (P5) and “when you’re doing well, everyone enjoys the game” (P1).’ (ibid. 8)

Johnson et. al. interviewed 5 people for this part of the study, which is not a lot, and would need more evidence to back up sufficiently, but it’s findings are nonetheless interesting. The entire games design is built up around the competitive aspect. Five players aiming to beat five other players in order to win. That is it. More or less, and teamwork is key.

Throughout history we have been very dependant of cooperation. A long time ago this was necessary to survive, and nowadays it is often essential in order to prosper. Even if we look at the sports world, some of the biggest and most popular sports are those that include several people on opposing team, which requires teamwork. Maybe it isn’t so strange that a game genre that makes use of the same recipe (teamwork, strategy and skill) has become hugely popular.

‘Our findings raise the possibility of two broad
constellations of player types; those more motivated by
presence and immersion and those more motivated by chal-
lenge and the social aspects of play’ (ibid. 9)

And these social aspects of play are becoming increasingly significant. If you haven’t already heard of Esports (Video game contests), then you surely will hear of it soon – as it is an area that is growing at a very fast pace.

Please leave a comment below if you agree or disagree with any of the above. 

Hope you enjoyed the reading, 
Have a nice week! 


Johnson, Daniel, Nacke, Lennart, & Wyeth, Peta. 2015. All about that base: differing player experiences in video game genres and the unique case of MOBA games.  SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Conference). Seoul, Korea.

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