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The Difference Between an MMORPG and a Normal PC Game

Updated on July 12, 2013


The Difference Between an MMORPG and a Normal PC Game

The term ‘MMORPG’ tends to throw people for a loop the first time they see it, and that’s understandable. It stands for “Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game”, and has become perhaps the most popular genre of computer game today. It is no wonder why people want to learn about MMORPGs; practically everyone plays one! This article will talk about the difference between an MMORPG and a normal PC game, and will describe a little of the history of the genre as a whole.

The Difference Between an MMORPG and a Normal PC Game: What Is It?

An MMORPG is a role-playing game that takes place online in real time with a real-life community of players connected via a network. These players can play with each other and interact with each other in real time as all progress through the game. A role-playing game is one in which the player assumes the identity of a character and progresses through the story, developing the character as they go. Character development – adding new spells, “leveling up”, obtaining new weapons, learning more backstory to the character, etc. – is the key component to an RPG.

The key component to an MMORPG is the online community, so when you put the two together, you get a role-playing game that involves thousands – even millions – of players instead of just one or two.

The Difference Between an MMORPG and a Normal PC Game: The History

MMORPGs got their start essentially in the modern era with the release of Neverwinter Nights, in 1991. Ultima Online came along in 1997 and made the genre really popular for the first time in history. Shortly after that, a slew of games, including Asheron’s Call, Nexus, and the award-winning Everquest franchise, advanced the genre even further. Finally, the release of World of Warcraft, in 2004, marked an explosion in the number of subscribers of MMORPGs in general that now numbers in the tens of millions.

The Difference Between an MMORPG and a Normal PC Game: A Comparison

The Community

The biggest difference, by far, is the presence of the massive online community with MMORPGs. No other genre features thousands of players playing together in real time, during a persistent (i.e. always running) environment. Entire websites have been devoted to guilds, which are essentially clubs of players within a particular game. The community is the defining characteristic of an MMORPG.


Role-playing – adopting the persona of a fictional character and controlling the character’s actions as well as background, personality, etc. – is another defining difference. When you play an MMORPG, versus a racing game, or first-person shooter, you are essentially ‘living’ as a fictional character, instead of merely controlling a character’s actions and nothing else.

Character Development

Related to the difference above, character development is yet another key difference between MMORPGs and normal PC games. Even in normal PC games that feature characters, the character typically progresses through the story without really being changed – and then the story ends. In an MMORPG, the story never really ends – and the character develops or “grows” as you play.

There are plenty of other differences between the two types of computer games, but essentially, an MMORPG involves a massive online community of players interacting with each other while role-playing and developing characters in an ever-changing, non-linear story. Those are many of the reasons why MMORPGs are some of the most popular games on the market today.


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    • FridgeWheeL profile image

      FridgeWheeL 8 years ago from Pretoria South Africa

      This is a very informative hub written (by a true mmorpg player it seems) for people that don't know what mmorpgs' are. what mmorpgs' do you play if I may ask?