The Weekly Raid: Can MMORPGs Be Used For Good?

I don't know about you, but I love me some Black Mirror. Season 4 started with a bang with a plot that could be said to involve a MMORPG of sorts. As per Black Mirror custom, a new technology product was quickly shown to be a hidden horror. But does it have to be that way? Can MMORPGs be used for good?

If the recent VRChat craze is anything to go by, it seems Black Mirror had it mostly right. While I'm sure there's some wholesome conversations and relationships building on VRChat, I'm willing to bet most of what passes as 'content' on the platform is a form of trolling, screeching, or otherwise fishing for laughs.

But we know from personal experience that hidden away in even the most ruthless open PvP MMORPG, there are pockets of deeply enriching personal experiences. I've made good friends in MMORPGs, and I believe part of what forged that bond was going through hardships together. Bonds that I think would not be as strong without those MMORPG challenges present. We're all equally aware of how fulfilling MMORPGs can be when we are otherwise aimless. Of course this property of the genre is a double edged blade. There are many cases of students dropping out of college or otherwise stunting their personal development due to MMO addiction.

I'm curious if there are any yet unexplored positive use cases for MMORPGs. Could they be used to ween addicts off drugs? Get people to care about their environment? Its an open question and we'd love to hear your thoughts!

Lifelong gamer always looking for the next virtual adventure. I'm still waiting for the next big MMORPG. Until then, you can find me hopping between multiple games.

  • ivan_

    I think the Black Mirror episode, while good on its own as a sci-fi thriller, has less to do with MMOs than it does with ethics of transferred consciousness (similar to a previous episode of Black Mirror that duplicated consciousness).

    As for whether or not MMOs can be used for "good", the developers behind RuneScape had (have?) a time-limited feature that allowed players to donate in-game gold to charity. The exchange rate was obviously in favour of the real-life currency side, but it was still a way for MMOs to directly "benefit society" through charitable donations. I don't know the details because I haven't played for years, but based on what I just read on the wiki they still do charity stuff every so often.