World of WorldCraft-Social Experiences and Guilt in MMORPG’s
I’d ask that you forgive the pun. But I’m not sorry I made it.
Most MMO gamers have heard it before–how online games are a giant waste of time and are populated by the scummy underbelly of the gaming world. It’s been popularized in TV, Movies, and even other games, that MMORPGer’s have no lives, and that once prevalent stereotype of the fat nerd living in his parents basement that was spread across all of gaming, nowadays has largely been localized to the MMORPGer’s, specifically.
My first experience with MMORPG’s was anti-climatic: I bought a copy of Guild Wars for my PC, only to realize it wouldn’t work very well with my dial-up connection, so I returned it soon afterwords. I was about 11 years old at the time.
It took me 8 years to get interested in MMORPG’s proper after that, although I did dabble in some free online browser games–DragonFable (The guys at Artix Entertainment will probably get an article in the future), Runescape, Dead Frontier… nothing that required a commitment, and certainly nothing that sucked me in for the long term.
And then, out of sheer boredom, I downloaded the 14-day free trial for World of Warcraft, and my life hasn’t been the same sense. Really, that’s the only way to describe buying a game like WoW: It’s a life-changing purchase, if it draws you in. It becomes a sink of money and time. You spend entire evenings on World of Warcraft, sometimes you’ll spend a whole day there, leveling up and making new characters and farming for items and completing raids… and while some would call it sad, or worst, a waste, I would argue otherwise. Playing Skyrim for 960 hours would be a little sad, sure, but World of Warcraft and other MMORPG’s? I wouldn’t call that a waste of time by any means.
What World of Warcraft and other MMORPG’s have that validates the time I’ve spent on it is a social aspect that’s been ingeniously weaved into the gameplay–what keeps you coming back isn’t the PvP or the dungeons or raids (there are only so many and they get stale around the fourth run each), but the people you do them with. I’ve made more friends on WoW than doing anything else I’ve done, and at times it feels like the 15 dollars a month I pay to keep playing is just a subscription fee for their friendship. Because I can’t quit THIS month–we’re doing the Ice Crown Citadel raids on the fourth of July weekend!
I suppose you could say, in that sense, guilt is the primary way WoW keeps most of it’s customers. You don’t want to disappoint the friends you’ve made, so you keep paying to come back. And while that’s a bit nefarious, the only reason it works is because WoW DOES make you friends. Joining guilds, or getting into a dungeon while drunk and chatting up the strangers you’ve been paired up with, or talking over the general chat… you have to go out of your way to not meet anybody over World of Warcraft. And it’s those other people, and those friends you make, that keeps WoW from being a total “waste of time”. Sure, spending every waking moment on WoW is as unhealthy as it would be for anything, but even one, two hours of WoW a day is perfectly fine. It’s like going to a club and meeting people… except, you know, no dancing, booze, or sex may immediately result from meeting people on WoW.
This is doubly true on the small but somewhat tight-knit roleplaying servers, where in addition to having actual game content to play with friends, you have role-playing, where storylines and in-character relationships are enough to keep people coming back. I’m not ashamed to admit that’s what’s been keeping me hooked on WoW–I got bored of the end-game content months ago.
It’s the same with most MMO’s I’ve played–after WoW, I looked into others, such as City of Heroes and DC Universe Online, and while at that point I was so used to the World of Warcraft setup that I couldn’t really adapt fast enough for the game to keep my attention, I noticed the same trends. People met one another. They talked, they socialized, and more often than not the trolls people associate with MMORPG’s were just outright ignored, or quarantined with the rest of their ilk.
The video reviewer Yatzee described World of Warcraft as a glorified chatbox where you could go kill spiders if you were bored, and you know, while spoken as a condemning of the game, I sort of think he’s right, and it’s a good thing. It’s a bit like Facebook in all the best ways, and sometimes that’s all you need to keep coming back. Even if it’s a little draining on the wallet. Which it is.
- Blizzard games
- Massively multiplayer online role-playing games
- Video game genres
- Video game publishers
- Windows games
- World of Warcraft