It’s the fundamental conflict between gamers. You have two kinds.
1. The gamer who engages the MMO fully, researching builds, tracking DPS, understanding the game’s prevailling culture and meeting it’s demands.
2. The gamer who engages the MMO casually, exploring, not delving deeply into mechanics, but instead doing less rewarding or meaningful content at his own pace.
Gamer #1 is engaging the game as Work. This is not to say he is drudging or grinding, but the purpose of work is to achieve an end goal and receive reward or adulation. Work is task-oriented and involves conforming the individual to an outside system in order to get those rewards. In MMOs that system is a hybrid of both the game mechanics and the player community.
Gamer #2 is engaging the game as Relaxation. Relaxation is centered around the individual and isn’t goal-oriented. If anything, the purpose is to forget pre-existing goals and reach a flow state similar to Buddhist mindlessness. Ironically, while you submit to an outside system when you work, you retain yourself and your goals and ego. In relaxation the goal is to forget those.
These two gamers are the archetypes of the two sides of conflict in designing. Things that aid the relaxer are often meaningless to the worker, because they don’t aid in reaching goals, reward, or adulation. Things that aid the worker often disrupt the zen needed for a relaxer to lose himself in the game. When the two clash over limited resources, it’s quite a conflict.
While people mayplace themselves in between these two extremes, most identify with one side or the other. Which side do you see yourself as?