On particularly successful days of playing World of Warcraft, my mind will continue thinking game-related thoughts as I try to go to sleep. Since this weekend saw the acquisition of both a breastplate and a pair of pants I had been gunning for (not to mention some awesome shoulders), I continued to consider WoW while dozing off, and I wondered what kept me playing. It’s a game I enjoy a great deal, despite a two year hiatus, and I continue to have fun playing something that should, by all rights, bore me.
As I swished thoughts about the game around my brain, though, I began to think about the framework of WoW. Your character, regardless of race, begins and ascends as a hero. You are told from the outset that you are one of the last of your kind, or that your people are fighting some sort of war, and that you may be the last hope in our stand against evil.
Which, of course, appeals to me. In our middle-class, American lives spent eating, sleeping, and going to work Monday through Friday, we don’t often get the chance to be a hero. And, truth be told, we don’t really want that chance. While our characters run across continents, being attacked by fantastic and dangerous creatures, getting killed repeatedly while risking their lives, we (the players) sit comfortably in air conditioned rooms, eating pizza or drinking coffee while chatting with our friends.
Even if you’re not into roleplaying, you suspend your disbelief and sort of become your character for a while when you play World of Warcraft. The game gives you permission to put on a mask and become a hero, to work towards a goal with comrades and Save the World (of Warcraft).
We all want to be part of something greater than ourselves, and the vast world (of Warcraft) gives that feeling. Even when ascending to the heights of heroism, there’s still a great deal going on around you, and Blizzard continues to expand the world and add content for you to explore. What felt cramped prior to the current expansion now feels huge and ever-changing, and a second expansion will be released soon. New lands await for exploration, conquering, and storytelling.
As simple or complex as you make it, WoW continues to thrive, and continues to let us be the heroes of which we dream. A lot of people speak disparagingly of World of Warcraft, but you have to wonder why it retains and gains so many subscribers. The answer, to my mind, is simple: no other game or experience lets you feel so awesome. World of Warcraft is structured to stroke your ego and make you feel like a hero of legend and renown. That’s a sort of thrill that’s hard to find elsewhere, and even though I recognize the manipulation and suspension of disbelief required, the game continues to be fun for me. Every day I can become an even greater hero than the day before.