An Introduction to MMORPGs

 By Michelle Addison Umansky

Virtual worlds or video games have mesmerized the world over the past twenty years. From the simplicity of the first Nintendo console or the first PC games to the complex nature of World of Warcraft or the Xbox 360 – it is undeniable that the video game production has become a global giant in the entertainment industry. With the growing popularity of video games and virtual worlds specifically MMORPGs[1] a myriad of legal issues arise with more complex situations. MMORPGs are exceedingly interactive online computer games in which the worlds or realms[2] are made-up of players whilst using avatars[3] to create their characters or personalities within a game. In order to play most MMORPGs game companies[4] require players to purchase the game CD-ROM or download (from the game developers website) then subscribe monthly to game services which include updates, fixes, new game content, and other challenges. Additionally, because these games have no real control borders, game developers purport to use End User Licensing Agreements (EULAs)[5] to protect intellectual property rights within the software and trademarks. More importantly, these licenses prevent players from exercising intellectual property rights in their avatars or materials they create in the game.
CNET[6] reported the average gamers spend over 13 hours per week online playing their beloved games while there have been reports of players spending over 50 hours a week playing[7]. Nevertheless, for some gamers online-gaming isn’t just a mere hobby. The desire to play MMORPG stems from the form of interaction gamers get whilst playing. In the realm of online-gaming there are no restrictions for the most part as to whom you play with and the range of constraints in the game world topography is limited while ‘leveling-up’[8]. Therefore, many gamers for ‘better or worse’ end-up spending a substantial amount of time in-game and feel extremely invested in their avatars and the game itself. To add to the aforesaid, the development of most of most MMORPGs cultivates from both game developers but also a vast amount of feedback from gamers received in the game’s beta stages. Being part of the beta makes gamers also feel like they have contributed or invested into the game. For example, Blizzard Entertainment usually hosts a two to three month beta prior to the release of any game expansion[9]. This input does contribute to a grander logic of gamer prerogative.


[1] Massively multiplayer online role-playing games or referred to as “online-gaming.”
[2] Pending on the setting of the storyline or lore in each game.
[3] Note: These avatars are highly customizable – and usually players have many options in the creation of their avatar forming their individual “character”. For example, Bioware’s/LucasArts’ new MMORPG: Star Wars: The Old Republic has over 400 different options in the creation portion of the game.
[4] Namely the most prominent MMORPG gaming companies: EA, Ubisoft, Activision Blizzard Entertainment, Linden Lab: Makers of Second Life, Sony Online Entertainment (SOE), NCSoft or Bioware.
[5] Garlick, Mia. Player, Pirate Or Conducer? A Consideration Of The Rights Of Online Gamers
 Yale Journal of Law & Technology. P. 6: Discusses when accessing a gamer be required to scroll through and acknowledge their acceptance of an End User License Agreement (“EULA”), which purports to govern the use of the software stored on the gamer’s computer, and a Rules of Conduct (“ROC”), which purports to govern the gamer’s behavior when connected.
[7] Personal experience in which I came to find that groups of players would form guilds and compete against each other for first kills in new raid dungeon content. Moreover, the release of new raid content marked somewhat of a gaming marathon for many high-end raiding guilds. 
[8] Whereby characters perform tasks to gain levels in-game by questing or missions completed in-game.
[9] Blizzard Entertainment currently has a forum setup for beta feedback for their new release of the expansion “Mists of Pandaria” for World of Warcraft, on these forums gamers comment on bugs, game items, and raid encounters: