I think we all at least have a vague idea of what World of Warcraft is. It isn’t exactly the most difficult thing to hear about, with the simultaneous notoriety and famous. There are always stories, particularly laughing criticisms, about the longstanding (not always mutually exclusive) addictions and accomplishments people have for this game that would now be approximately old enough to want its own computer, but isn’t quite mature enough yet. (Who didn’t want their own personal internet machine at 10, before parents started shelling out iPhones to satisfy complaining children?) Some particularly amusing reviews of the game, such as the one below, remind us repeatedly of the sometimes unhealthy amount of play people put themselves through as characters within Azeroth.
World of Warcraft is an open world MMORPG, and one of the most long-standing and upstanding of its kind. Using keybindings for spells, clicking for targeting, and personal macros for customization of any and every other function you can think of, a player can navigate the world as an avatar of either a member of the Alliance or the Horde. Thousands of other people who would be located on a chosen server enter the multi-continent world of Azeroth (recently including a second planet called Draenor) to do practically anything within reach. The main “goal”, should a person choose to accept it, is to reach a level cap (currently 100) and take on whatever adversity or lootable creatures are around, eventually becoming a relatively powerful member of their chosen class. This sounds like a sort of “numbers game”, but there have been many other games that have sought to be as popular as World of Warcraft is. Fostering an online population that, at one of its peaks, was over 10 million, WoW is still the most subscribed and highest populated game of its kind. As much ribbing as we give this doting and axe-wielding grandfather of a game, they are somehow doing something that makes it worth playing for all this time.
I would know, I’ve been playing for nearly ten years myself.
This is my current “main”, a blood elf hunter named Eonys, that I’ve played since 2008. I’ll admit this to be a rather old picture, from around when I first made her. Her and I had rather humble beginnings, as she was the first character I managed to get to a level that was higher than my age. Thirteen year old me had reveled in the introduction of a “pretty” race to the tusk and horn covered Horde, but I wasn’t exactly good at playing, nor did I make the best character-related decisions. I mean, I did decide a mail-wearing character needed to be a tailor so she could make dresses for herself, and I also seemed to think that trying to walk to a floating city through areas rife with level 80 creatures was a grand idea. Why did I think a place called Dragonblight would be a friendly place for a level 18? Exploration, that’s why.
That was my focus for a long time- straight up exploration of the world. I wanted to get everywhere, as soon as possible. Since I was poor, even visually, mounts had been a frighteningly expensive concept for my characters. It was the entire reason I made Eonys, since hunters running speed could be increased by 30% on a whim, and thus I could outrun (some) creatures that would kill me as soon as they saw me in a place I didn’t belong. It was thrilling, going off to far-away lands to sneak up on a higher-level friend. At times, I even managed to both impress and amuse strangers that passed me by as I ran from a herd of area aggro’d horse-sized grizzly bears. There was nothing stopping me from reaching my end-goal, the mystical mage city called Dalaran… except for gravity.
(Told you it was a floating city, I wasn’t exactly able to sprout wings and fly at the level I was at, sadly.)
I did manage to make it to Dalaran, but it took some proper leveling and some purposeful corpse runs. I did nearly everything I could find to make myself a proper hunter, and World of Warcraft seemed to be making it easier as updates went on. Having to pay money for training became a thing of the past after a few game patches, I only needed a bow on my person after another space of time. Eventually, I even was able to get a proper mount with some friendly assistance from guild-mates who remembered and greatly enjoyed my traveling tendencies. I had become rather nicely situated in my chosen group, and since they were rather concerned about the lengths I would go to in order to reach the same places they could, they eventually convinced me that I was in desperate need of raid-tier gear. They took me through dungeons filled to the neck with everything from wolves to undead abominations that were at least ten Tauren tall (or very large bull men, I promise, they’re huge). When I’d managed to gain a few levels, reach close to where they were, they took me to take on the Lich King himself. Needless to say, the loot there made sure that I was able to make Eonys look and perform a little more like the hunter she was meant to be.
A lot happened during that time, more than armor, more than raids. The friends that practically dragged me to the level cap came and went, and I was rather alone at times. Another two expansions came out, the first changing much of the landscape I had so thoroughly explored, and the next managed to give me a bow, a shoulder piece, and a very shiny cloud serpent companion that I never knew I needed. I am now at a level that I can personally kill Deathwing the World Destroying Aspect of Death on my own. And somehow along the way, the game had becomes something I’d “needed”, though I’m quick to say it’s not in a sheer addictive “I MUST PLAY” kind of feeling. It was more of a “I’ve got to go visit Eversong and catch some fish, maybe throw a little feast of sorts for the guild” or a “I should fly to the Valley and check on my material farm” kind of feeling. At this point, I’ve played for 10 years, nearly half my life, and it’s almost as if I’m going to visit a home town to see what’s still there and what isn’t. All the while, WoW has made sure it isn’t boring. New areas surface on the map, and I immediately go to scout the landscape. A new elusive creature is lurking in the shadowy fields in the South of Draenor, and I may be able to ride it if I can get the mount-item to drop from it. There’s going to be a round of Cards Against Humanity for the guild this evening, come hang out and be raunchy with the people you’ll be raiding with next Tuesday. I won’t go so far to say that World of Warcraft is “more than a game”, because I do admit that it is a game, and little more in an objective sense.
The one thing I am certain of is that there is a magic circle, a context that I’ve come to be familiar with in a way that I did not entirely recognize until recently. I didn’t come into the game and feel an immediate attachment, it was built. It was a circumstance that me and many other players can connect with and relate between us all, even outside the game. It’s an odd little sense of stability to take part in, with enough change, space, enough to do that there is something for nearly everyone who wants to play can find a niche. You could play the auction house, make enough gold that you could buy nearly anything you desire. You could raid and claim items for yourself to show your achievements and determination. There is a whole world and a lot of lore to learn and explore. There are even people writing their own tales, entire communities of storytellers role playing within the environment. Or, you can take to hacking each other apart, if that’s your shtick. All of this, such a wide variety, is available right there, and even after all the time I have played, there is still more to explore and do. There are a lot of reasons to stay, old ones and more being added or refined on top of that.
Eonys and I sure are happy about it, so what’s not to like?