MMO EVE Online is totally boring... but people like it that way. That's what EVE's lead designer Kristoffer Touborg told PC Gamer, anyway. When asked about the appeal of repetitive, low-risk, low-reward occupation of mining in the game, Touborg said:
Part of it, I think, is that people like boring. Or, well, maybe low effort, maybe low risk stuff. I used to do some of the really boring stuff just because you know that at the end of the road there’s some reward. Trading, for example, is relatively low risk, but you make the money and it feels good. Seeing your bank account go up.
I think that not every game was meant to be Counter-Strike. Not everything has to be twitch action-based, super-intense, in-the-zone, adrenaline rush 24/7. Everybody complains about mining, but I think it’s the finest hangover feature you could ever do. I’d just switch the miner on, I’d watch sports on Sunday and be hungover and eat pizza. I think that’s great. Not everything has to be super wild.
Touborg on space truck-driving:
I really love to take mundane things—once you’ve put them into a game environment, for some reason, they become fun. Like hauling minerals across EVE: it’s viciously boring, but people still spend eight hours a day doing something [in real life] and then they go haul minerals in EVE.
I met a truck driver who did this. He drove a truck in real life, and when he got home he drove a space truck. There’s so many real things that we think of as mundane, but they become great game features. One thing that we’ll never put in, probably, but I love the idea, is marriage. Not because of the whole love and kissing thing, but because EVE is so much about trust. If you could marry two characters, they’d have shared inventory and shared bank accounts and all that stuff. There’s all these dynamics that come out of sharing. Something as mundane as having shared credit cards, in EVE, becomes a feature. It doesn’t have to be like the biggest dragon you could ever find. Just take something from real life that might be slightly boring and put it in a different environment, and just watch what happens.
While I agree about boredom appealing to some gamers, Tourborg doesn't really focus on another important reason that it's "OK" for games to be sort of boring: Dynamics, specifically, in the musical sense of the word.
In a song, there can't really be loud parts without quiet parts to balance them out -- that's why Jane's Addiction are a fantastic rock band and Creed are terrible. In my personal gaming theory, the boring parts just make the exciting parts more exciting by providing contrast. I think Eve: Online is the perfect illustration of this.
I don't have the time or the patience to play EVE, but occasionally I read about the amazing epic battles, epic con-jobs, and outright in-game piracy that make EVE what it is, and I think, "That's the most epic game ever!" but it only got that way through tons of boring, boring non-epic toil. It doesn't matter if someone steals the assets of an in-game corporation if the corporation was formed 45 minutes earlier. But if someone rips-off an in-game corporation that's worth $45,000 of actual money, that represents many, many man-hours of concerted effort from hundreds of people over years, it's epic, and you don't get that kind of bang without a lot of boredom.
It's like my 70th birthday party. I figure I'll lead a responsible life until then, slowly and calmly building up assets, friends, family, a credit rating, a reputation, etc, and then I'll spend it all, on one night. It will be debauchery on a scale that could hardly be imagined. I'll take a hover-car up to the arctic to snort double-cocaine off the backs of baby seals made of gold! I'll create an underground river of electricity just to go white water rafting on it! EPIC!
Anyway, what do you think about boredom in games?