Ah, World of Warcraft. Even after a decade, the world’s biggest MMO shows no signs of giving up its crown. Love it or hate it, there’s no denying that WoW has touched the lives of millions of people. What’s its secret? To commemorate its tenth anniversary, both Blizzard and Gamespot released videos full of testimonials which provided some clues to understanding the game’s transformative power.
In some ways, Blizzard is the Apple of game developers. It doesn’t invent things; it innovates and then dominates. It didn’t invent the MMO genre, but it took what had been developed in Ultima Online and Everquest and made it more user friendly and accessible. People felt excited to explore Azeroth, a beautiful, cohesive world, full of lore and things to do. With each new patch and expansion, Blizzard continually refined its formula to attract more players. although this process is not without its critics (more of this later).
Why do people love WoW? Because of its moments. Moments are created by events that trigger powerful emotions. When the adrenaline/dopamine hits you, you get a rush not unlike a drug high. Your consciousness expands, and you feel more alive than you ever thought possible. These moments stick with you and become part of you.
WoW is full of such moments. Maybe it’s a quest or character that resonates with you or downing a raid boss with your guild after weeks of effort. But not all moments are scripted. Some moments are player-created like making a good friend or meeting your future partner.
Others are born of discovery like the first time you enter a capital city or, my favorite, catching a sunrise or moonrise in game.
Why do people hate WoW? One word: addiction. They play and play until there is nothing new left to experience, and then they are bored. Very, very bored. Yet they still log on, sit in town, clicking on space bar, jumping on mailboxes. How does this happen?
Video game addiction is said to be uncommon overall, but I would wager that it is more common with MMOs because of the genre’s nature and the players that it attracts. MMOs are very time consuming, and if you spend days, weeks, or months doing something–anything–it becomes a habit, and habits are hard to break. MMOs are infamous for its grind or what South Park dubbed the “RPG loop.”
Quite a few WoW players get trapped in this loop. They repeatedly go into dungeons to collect tokens so that they can buy gear that boosts their performance enough to go into even harder dungeons to collect different tokens so that they can buy even better gear so that…you get the idea. After about the 200th time, these dungeons are no longer fun, yet player keep on because that helmet is oh so hot. They are never satisfied though, even when they get it, because the Tier 2 helm is even better. Don’t laugh. This is basically the digital version of quintessential American pastimes such as shopping and climbing the corporate ladder. Search your feelings, Luke. You know it to be true.
Eventually though, there are no rewards left to get, and the players drop off…until the next expansion comes out. New gear! Level cap raised to 1000! Who can resist those siren calls? They return in droves, and the cycle begins again. Over time, it can take its toll, as you no doubt have heard. WoW widows. Depression. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. The list goes on. This is the dark side of gaming for some players.
To be fair, Blizzard did try to address the problem by making WoW less grindy. They introduced daily quests and other relatively quick ways to earn rewards. Dungeons also became shorter and easier to complete, even with a random group and playing while blindfolded. This is what caused “hardcore” players to complain that the game was being ruined by “casuals.” Easier rewards are meaningless rewards, they said. You can’t please everyone, can you? They have a point, but then again, is it really a good idea for people to sacrifice their health and real world commitments for a pixelated piece of armor?
Real world skills
But let’s end on a more positive note, shall we? I don’t know anyone who plays WoW with the intent of learning practical skills, but people can and do learn some useful things while playing the game, as these testimonials show. How to manage a team. How resolve disputes. Planning. These are all unquestionably valuable, real world skills.
You’ll occasionally hear of people putting WoW on their resumes with some success. I wouldn’t recommend it unless you are confident that the hiring manager or organization is forward thinking. Outside of tech, though, companies are typically more conservative. Hopefully in time, this will change. Skills are skills. Why should it matter how you learned them?
Share your story
These videos brought back some vivid memories–some good; some not so good. More importantly though, they helped to illustrate the transformative power of games. Here at Transformed Games, we are looking to collect these type of stories because we believe society needs more transformative games. The best way to find out how to make such games is to hear from the players about games that moved or changed them. If you have a “game diary” that you’d like to share, hit us up! We’d love to hear from you.