Compuculture: Why We Play

Apr 28, 2020

Why do players choose to play VR games? It appears to me there are exactly 3 reasons that can describe almost every player’s actions.

This week, I took a dive into the farther corners of Rec Room’s VR. One game I played was named “Union City.” Union City is a ‘crime game,’ where players form street gangs, gather (paintball) weapons, and control parts of the city. It was an interesting experience for a variety of reasons, the greatest of which I believe is its ability to demonstrate what I call the ‘purpose divide.’

The purpose divide is the division between the three types of players that I’ve seen. The divide categorizes players based on the reason they play VR games.

Type 1 is “Gamers.” Gamers play VR to complete in-game objectives, score points, and win. The number 1 pet peeve of a Gamer is cheating — when another player breaks the rules or exploits a bug, Gamers are very likely to react negatively.

Type 2 is “Socializers.” Socializers enjoy talking, meeting new people, and joking around. Socializers are annoyed when other players disrupt their conversations or break the social norms of their conversation group.

Type 3 is “Expressors.” Expressors play VR to let out emotions. Unfortunately, most of the time that emotion is anger, leading Expressors to go on rampages, insult others pointlessly, and break the rules. Expressors are bothered when another user attempts to stifle their ability to let out their emotions.

All three categories share another pet peeve: interaction with the other categories. Within their own group, each type gets along very well — Gamers enjoy playing with other Gamers, Socializers love chatting with other Socializers, and Expressors are just fine attacking each other. When there is a cross-over, however, tensions run high as each group (perhaps accidentally) violates the norms of the other groups.

In Union City, I saw all three types of players clearly divided. Gamers would run about the city, collecting money and weapons to heighten their scores. Socializers climbed onto rooftops and balconies to watch the conflict below as they chatted. Expressors mostly remained in the same area, the city square, and could be found endlessly taking revenge against each other in an attempt to release their anger.

As it’s my job to hear people’s opinions, I naturally fell in with the Socializers and could be found sat on top of the weapons store discussing VR and game design with other users. While on the roof, I heard all the sounds of Union City — chatter and paintballs whizzing through the air. Up there, I was able to pick out the talk used by each category to describe the other two.

Gamers call Socializers ‘lame’ and ‘boring,’ citing that Socializers are ruining the game by refusing to participate. On the other hand, Gamers think Expressors are ‘overreacting’ and ‘crazy,’ arguing often that ‘it’s just a game.’

Socializers call Gamers ‘try-hards’ (a gamer term used to describe someone who refuses to relax in-game, even in appropriate settings). They call Expressors ‘toxic’ (another gamer term meaning ‘unnecessarily aggressive and/or mean’).

Expressors use a large vocabulary of mostly curse words when describing other categories due to the already mentioned anger they often exhibit.

I have noticed these same 3 player types in other games, too, although Union City appears to draw out the most extreme reactions from each category. I suspect the open-ended nature of the game combined with its criminal theme has an effect on players. I’m currently exploring other games to understand what it is that causes these extreme reactions.

This week’s post focused on some less fun aspects of VR (name-calling, social divisions, etc), so here’s something to counteract that. I met a really nice player in-game while searching for players to interview. He spent a good 10 minutes kindly greeting new players who joined the game and showing them this sign he made:

(The sign reads “You’re amazing!”)

It was very uplifting to see someone dedicate all that time to being nice to others for no specific reason.


That’s all for this week on the VR front. In Ruby on Rails, I’ve been busy adding even more functionality to my practice website, with it now having the ability to send password reset and account verification emails using a framework called “SendGrid.” The site feels more like a real website every day, and I only have a few more sections left in my tutorial.

Next Week: More interviews, overall thoughts on VR, and Ruby on Rails.


One Reply to “Compuculture: Why We Play”

  1. ashleyb says:

    This by far has been my favorite post. Your description of VR world and its “community groups” reminds me of post apocalyptic movies/shows, where people are divided based on their own nature/personality and the world that now exists around them. This is very interesting and I appreciate your break down of the individual groups.

    Sounds like your Ruby on Rails is coming together nicely. I am glad it is taking shape and feels more real as the time passes.

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