As you may have noticed, my posts have remained few and far between as of late. No, I’m not sick yet again. Or am I? Does an emotional addiction to a MMORPG qualify as an illness? Let’s delve deeper.
Basically, the reason that I haven’t been writing much is that I’ve been spending pretty much every minute of my solo free time either playing World of Warcraft, or scheming and reading about World of Warcraft. (I still set aside as many evenings to spend with my lovely wife, so don’t think me completely hopeless, faithful reader.)
Why is this game so enticing that I have played it for more hours than any other single video game I’ve ever been exposed to? My /played command for my main character, Erilar, now displays as just shy of 25 straight days of playing time since I bought the game last December. Assume roughly a year of ownership, and that averages out to 1.6 hours of WoW per day, every day, during 2005. Comparing such a schedule to the roughly 20 hours required to complete the typical video game, I have to wonder what insidious magicks ensorcelled the contents of that unassuming little brown game box.
Why do I find it relaxing, after a long day’s pursuit of life’s responsibilities, challenges, and obstacles, to delve into a virtual world rife with virtual responsibilities, challenges, and obstacles? Why is it so rewarding to brave three hours of dire, mortal (imaginary) combat in the company of twenty other happily delusional gamers for only the off chance at a random die roll on a single piece of shiny, new (albeit completely pretend) armor? But it is! It is, damn it all.
What could be so charming about Blizzard’s creation that would keep players coming back, again and again ad nauseam? Certainly, Blizzard has followed the model of their previous successes, namely choosing an existing game genre, surgically removing all of the annoying hiccups and wrinkles, and polishing the resulting project to an edge one could comfortably shave with.
So what were they left with upon completing this same operation on the quirky beast known as the MMORPG?
- A vast, breathtakingly beautiful, immersive world drawing on all the rich lore, art, and nostalgia revolving around the previous Warcraft titles.
- A MMO intentionally designed around reducing (or anaesthetizing us from) all the tedium, repetition, camping, grinding, and slogging that was all genre forerunners. A game where the casual player literally receives a tangible progression bonus for playing less than the typical slavering MMO fiend.
- Intricately play-balanced character classes, races, and factions.
- A rich, engaging fantasy RPG setting, loaded to bursting with interesting quests, unique and powerful items, sporting a friendly and useful item crafting system, and boasting a cunningly woven, entertaining epic story line.
- An open, customizable interface allowing fan developers to create tools to further enhance their experience.
- An ever-present prickling, tangible gnawing sensation that the most amazing spectacle of natural splendor yet witnessed, haunted by the most challenging, heinous beasts one has yet faced, guarding artifacts and weapons of the utmost eldritch power and might, lie just around the next bend in the road, beyond the next copse of trees, or over the next yawning mountain pass.
I am convinced though, that the crux of this cybernetic siren’s call lies in the latter. WoW is not about the big payoff. WoW instead keeps one coming back, again and again and again, in anticipation. Anticipation of the completion of that next quest, the exploration of that next dungeon, the achievement of that next character level, the conquest of that next big raid boss, or the receipt of that next player ability or Epic drop. WoW is not about the now, but rather the what is to come. I can’t wait.