Massively-Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG)

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Massively-multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) is a type of massively multiplayer online game (MMOG). It is a computer-based role playing game in which at least one thousand people are interacting, competing or collaborating at the same time within a virtual environment.


Basic Characteristics

Screenshot of a scene in World of Warcraft: Blood elf Paladin in the capital Silvermoon City

While MMORPGs can vary a lot regarding their story, graphics or handling there are also a number of features they have in common:

  • The player needs a client to connect to a server which is most commonly run by the game publisher. This server hosts the virtual world and stores the player's data and progress in the game.
  • Fantasy is the most popular theme of MMORPGs (see also: Examples of MMORPGs). Further possible genres are science fiction, historical, sports, horror, real life and super hero.
  • The user plays a fictional character represented by an avatar.
  • The game takes place in a persistent, ongoing world that can not be stopped or restarted by the player, but continues to exist and evolve even when the player exits the game.
  • In almost every MMORPG, it is a player's main aim to progress and see how their character develops.
  • Social interaction and cooperative behaviour are essential elements of MMORPGs.
  • Players act anonymously which allows them to try out different behaviours without having to fear consequences in real life.
  • Players communicate via integrated chat by using a particular type of jargon. (Some of the most common terms and abbreviations can be found in Nick Yee's MMORPG Lexicon.)

MMORPG as Topic of Research

Logo of the Exploring Virtual Environments project of the Professorship of Media Use at the Chemnitz University of Technology

Nick Yee is one of the most famous researchers in the field of massively-multiplayer online role-playing games. Yee is working as a research scientist at the Palo Alto Research Center. Within his so-called Deadalus Project, a long-running study on psychological and sociological aspects of MMORPGs, he surveyed over 40,000 MMORPG players and published numerous articles on topics such as demographics of players, gender differences, motivations for play, computer game addiction and play as social phenomenon. On 8th March 2009, Yee announced to put the project into hibernation mode after six years of running.

Within the project Exploring Virtual Environments (EVE) the Professorship of Media Use at the Chemnitz University of Technology researches in the fields of media psychology and computer game studies. Studies on MMORPGs, including topics like the creation of avatars, the attractiveness of avatars and the schema of childlike characteristics in World of Warcraft, are an integral part of research and teaching at the professorship. Further information about the findings within the EVE project can be found in the student papers, studies and publications sections of the project homepage.

There are also about 5,780 papers, abstracts and citations on MMORPGs available on Google Scholar.

Examples of MMORPGs

There is a large variety of MMORPGs available. Some of them are free, for other games players have to pay a monthly subscription. The web development company Cyber Creations Inc. provides a long list of MMORPGs on their Website including information about genre, game developer, release date, monthly fee and a rating of each MMORPG.

The following tables show a selection of pay-to-play and free MMORPGs which are ranked by as the top massively multiplayer online role-playing games. The ranking is based on different aspects such as, among other things, playability, popularity and community support.

Pay-to-Play MMORPGs
Name of the Game Genre Developer
World of Warcraft Fantasy Blizzard Entertainment
Lord of the Rings Online Fantasy Turbine, Inc.
Aion Fantasy NCSoft
EVE Online Science Fiction CCP Games
Final Fantasy XI Fantasy Square Enix
City of Heroes/City of Villains Super Hero Paragon Studios
Champions Online Super Hero Cryptic Studios
Dark Age of Camelot Fantasy Mythic Entertainment
Warhammer Online Fantasy Mythic Entertainment
Age of Conan Fantasy Funcom
Name of the Game Genre Developer
Guild Wars Fantasy ArenaNet
RuneScape Fantasy Jagex Ltd
Dungeons & Dragons Online Fantasy Turbine, Inc.
Perfect World Fantasy Perfect World Entertainment
Free Realms Fantasy Sony Online Entertainment
FlyFF Fantasy Aeonsoft
Rappelz Fantasy NFlavor
AdventureQuest Worlds Fantasy Artix Entertainment
Maple Story Fantasy Wizet Corporation
Sword of the New World Fantasy IMC Games

Gallery of MMORPG Screenshots


  • (2011) 'Best MMORPG games in 2011' [online], available: Top MMORPG [accessed 12 Feb 2011].
  • Filiciak, M. (2003) 'Hyperidentities: Postmodern Identity Patterns in Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games', in Wolf M. J. P. and Perron B., eds., The Video Game Theory Reader, New York and London: Routledge, 87-102.
  • Myers, D. (2009) 'The Video Game Aestethic: Play as Form', in Wolf M. J. P. and Perron B., eds., The Video Game Theory Reader 2, New York and London: Routledge, 45-63.
  • Perron, B. and Wolf M. J. P. (2009) 'Introduction', in Wolf M. J. P. and Perron B., eds., The Video Game Theory Reader 2, New York and London: Routledge, 1-21.
  • Yee, N. (2009) 'The Deadalus Project: MMORPG Research, Cyberculture, MMORPG Psychology' [online], available: [accessed 03 Nov 2009].
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