There was one (in)famous time where I hadn't won a game of Settlers of the Stone Age all evening, and I kept my wife and another friend playing the same game until 3 AM when I finally was able to pull out a victory. Back in the days of the original Sid Meier's Civilization, I once played three full games back-to-back because I'd lost at the last second twice in a row. I may be older (and, theoretically, wiser), but there are times when thoughts of 'winning' cloud my brain.
Of course, 'winning' in an MMO means different things to different people.
The PvP oriented may focus on being an Arena Master or winning Rated BGs. (Or even winning regular BGs as much as possible.) The PvE people may focus on raiding or pet battles or dominating the Auction House.
But what do you do when you've got limited time to play and you get that itch to 'win'?
Sometimes, that urge gets channeled into something like dailies or reputation.* Or maybe you become a completionist, hunting down and finishing every last quest --group quest or otherwise-- that you can find. In the pre-Cata days, you had to use a third party app to try to find those last weird quests out in the middle of nowhere in the Azerothian Old World. TOR makes the completionists go crazy when they stick area quests on a planet, so you end up cruising all over, say, Alderaan trying to find the one zone you might have missed. LOTRO has taken that idea and run with it in their recent revision to the Moria expac, and Age of Conan sticks individual quests in the middle of group quest areas, leaving you to fight your way through just to collect that extra quest for another zone**.
Or maybe you just content yourself with following the story to the end --sans raiding, of course.
To get that last one, you don't have to be a completionist. After all, just how many side quests are out there in an MMO these days? But finishing a story can become a Civ-like obsession: "just one more quest!"*** While WoW has all but eliminated the old class stories from the game, there still are two faction questlines to progress through. Star Trek Online seems to follow the WoW pattern of having a set story for each faction, but I've not gotten anywhere deep enough to confirm this.**** LOTRO has only one questline track (but two different starting zones, so that provides some variety). AoC has one real story line, but each zone has it's own set of stories to follow; they're almost like side quests in a way, but the real story line's quests show up once you reach a certain threshold level: L30, L50, etc.
TOR, however, is a different animal, with questlines for each class from L1 through L50. And then there are the companion quests, the zone quests, and... You get the idea. A story freak can take months --years even-- exploring every aspect of a game like TOR.
The obsession with "winning" an MMO can drive self destructive behaviors.
Just like a gambler has issues with getting up from the poker table, an MMO player can spend way too much time in game, seeking that rush of victory and, more importantly, validation. Think of the money spent on gear to get an extra edge, whether it be a bigger screen, faster CPU, or that awesome keyboard (want!). Also, consider the cost of extra purchases via a cash shop (whether you play a F2P game or not, the cash shop is still there) to give yourself an edge in some aspect of the game. All of that money adds up, and the urge to overspend just to "win the game" can be very seductive.
When American sports fans talk about destructive behavior, the name Art Schlichter often pops up. Art's compulsive gambling ruined his pro career and led to jail and drugs, and yet Art still can't stop. This is a direct parallel to the board gamer who can't stop buying new board games, or the video gamer who will spend every waking moment playing to the chagrin of coworkers, family, and friends.
I've never crossed that line, but I understand its appeal. I also understand how it impacts others playing the game: the people who sit around and complain in Gen Chat that they "finished" the game and now "there's nothing to do, this game sucks", the people who refuse to play nice because they want to "just win, baby!", and the player who thinks nothing about being a ninja looter or griefer because it's all about them.
That inevitably begs the question as to what do these people get out of this behavior? While that sort of thing might work for a while, eventually it catches up to you. Turn off enough people, and they isolate you. You start to live in an echo chamber, where everybody thinks the same thing as you, behaves the same as you, and validates the way you do things. The trouble is that we don't live in an echo chamber, but in the real world, where people don't think and act like this.
I've kind of wandered a bit far afield when I started this post (shades of Cynwise's old Field Manual posts, I suppose), but obsession and addiction are but one output of the need to "win the game". Competition can be good, if channeled well and doesn't venture into that morally grey territory. I play MMOs to enjoy myself and explore a good story, and I try to avoid obsessive behavior as much as I can. I understand my limits, which is part of the reason why I don't try too hard to raid. But I have become acquainted with obsession, and I'd rather not try to get to know it any more than that.
*"I will finish all of the dailies I can find and I will reach Exalted!" Not that I've ever said that. Okay, I did, once, back in Wrath days. At least at the time, it seemed achievable, which is why I kept slogging through the Crusader dailies.
**There's one in Conall's Valley that sends you in the direction of the true end boss right when you think you've slain the end boss of the region. For the record, it takes a player of about L50 or higher to bring down the pseudo-end boss who is L30. Yes, the AoC elite bosses are THAT tough.
***Sid Meier memorialized this urge for "just one more turn!" by building that quip into later editions of Civ.
****Oh, did I mention I've begun tinkering with STO? I like it much better than Aion, and while I can see what some people complain about with you becoming your starship, I don't mind.