Isn't it funny how when you get together with a fellow gamer, especially an MMO player, you immediately start sharing experiences of how you play the game? I was out for a walk with my neighbor Jack and we got to talking about World of Warcraft, and I had a sudden realization about the success of the game.
Yes, it's a solidly designed game, friendly for newbs, and all that, but - it's also a game that supports what I think of as layerability. In other words, you can sometimes layer the experience of WoWing over and under other experiences.
In WoW, about ten percent of my time in the game requires ninety percent of my attention. The other ninety percent of the time requires anywhere from five percent (say, flying to another area) to fifty percent (grinding a familiar area, or helping to power level a low-ranking friend). So I find that more often than not I am checking email, on AIM, making tea, etc. during my WoW sessions.
That goes against the notion that games have to be immersive, or that the strength of games as a medium is that they are so immersive.
And yet WoW *is* immersive, in the sense that I played last night until 3:30 am without even noticing it. "Just finish up this one last quest" we told each other in our group, "just one more quest item, just one more mission." I'm wondering if the layerability of the game contributes to the play sessions - because you can continue to do some other things as you play, you are more likely to keep playing longer.
Hm! I don't think most console games can get away with this - can they?