After all this time… why?

My last post was a reflection on my past five years worth of playing World of Warcraft.  I am far from the only person to have played the game since launch, and I’m far from the only person who is still playing today.

In a conversation with a friend of mine yesterday, the thought came to me: why?  Why after over five years, am I still playing WoW?  It’s a little more than a simple answer, of course.

There have been many other games that have come and gone over the course of five years.  Many console platforms have also come and gone, but Blizzard has somehow made WoW persist throughout all of it.  I can’t think of many MMOs that are still around that were out at the time of WoW’s launch – EverQuest, Final Fantasy XI, Dark Age of Camelot to name some – that are still around.  The bigger question is what their population is now.

WoW isn’t my first MMORPG.  My very first one was a game called Nexus: The Kingdom of the Winds.  I started playing it when I was in grade 10, and continued until the first year of WoW – so altogether about 4-5 years, off and on.  The game isn’t all that great, it’s a 2D top-down game, a North American version of a Nexon Korea game called Baram.  There was very little for “end-game” then, there was literally no cap as to how high of a “level” you could go, as you could increased your stats through selling your experience once you reach the highest level.  I think because of this, there was a very distinct society that was brought out of it, one that tried to encourage roleplay and get people to work together and form personal bonds.  It was this that kept me there for all of those years.

Ultimately it was also this that caused me to leave the game.  If you weren’t high enough in stats, you didn’t get into any hunts, because you needed to be certain stats to get into the caves to hunt.  I kept myself occupied through the “sub-path” system, which was what was there to encourage roleplay.  I was a guide of the Diviners, I was a Primarch of the Lost Kingdom clan.  Yet, I felt that instead of playing a game, I was paying to do a job for the company that should have done it in the first place.

I still keep in contact with certain people who played Nexus, many who have also moved on like myself.  I wonder how long that game will last.

World of Warcraft has taken many different great ideas of many different games and amalgamated them together.  If I wanted to, I can log on to one of my characters, do a few quests, do some crafting, and log off in a few minutes if needed.  With having a four-month-old baby, that is a very important thing to me.  I can’t sit around for an hour and hope that something happens – I want to be able to do it.

I am an altaholic (the topic of another post to be coming), so WoW also caters to this.  I believe that the cap of characters you can have across all realms is 50 – I think I’m at around 25.  I have many different levels, including three level 80s.  If I want to work on my level 22 Warrior, I can.  If I want to do some dailies on my level 80 Druid so I can make some money, I can.

My guild has kept me here as well.  As mentioned before, I’ve been in basically the same guild (just different names) for my entire WoW career.  Unlike in Nexus where you’re working for your clan so you can get more stuff, your guild is even more tightly knit.  We’re working to help each other, we get to know each other, and I’ve even met some of my fellow guild mates from different parts of different countries.  We have goals, we work to achieve them, and we succeed.

This also ties in with my next point of raiding.  I heard a story about a FFXI boss that took over 12 hours to beat, and the guild wasn’t able to continue because of people falling asleep at their keyboards, passing out, and various things like that.  I can log on for a three-hour raid twice a week and have full progression.  While we’re doing this, we’re having a great time.  Even though we may wipe on trash immediately after downing a boss perfectly, we laugh it off – and think of it as an unofficial guild motto: “Band of Thorns – We Down Bosses but Wipe on Trash”.

Basically, Blizzard hit the nail on the head of what people are looking for.  They want to be able to have fun, not need to spend lots of time doing it, and be able to be casual without being penalized.  At the same time, for the people who want to be hardcore, they’re also rewarded with rewards in things like the arenas.

I’m still having fun playing WoW.  Looking forward to Cataclysm, I think that my enthusiasm will continue for quite a while.

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