Eve Online lead designer, Kristoffer Touborg, has suggested that his MMO appeals to many people precisely because so much of the gameplay often involves boring, mundane tasks.
"I think trying to reinvent the wheel is sometimes a little bit crazy," he said, "but 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."
Frankly, we think putting the word "space" in front of any noun instantly makes it slightly more cool, but Touborg said it extends to other concepts as well. One aspect he'd love to explore, in a virtual universe based upon trust, is marriage.
"One thing that we’ll never put in, probably, but I love the idea, is marriage," he stated. "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.
Of course, part of that, he feels, is that people like boring - grinding out gameplay in low risk scenarios for visible reward. It's the same thought processes that go into stocking your Tiny Tower or tilling your Facebook farm.
"Part of it, I think, is that people like boring," Touborg concluded. "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."