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Over the duration of the past two weeks I played a trial account of World of Warcraft. I made a point to play at least one hour a day, made note of things I liked and disliked within, and have formulated an opinion on the game based on my short time with it. I understand that there is a massive wealth of content that I was unable to experience due to limitations put on my trial account and a general lack of time; I suggest that anyone reading take my opinion with a grain of salt.
After waiting a day for the World of Warcraft client to download, install, and update I dove right into playing one of the most popular games of all time. I picked a server whose name interested me, Firetree, and set about choosing my faction, race, and class. I ended up with a relatively sexy Night Elf Huntress by the name of Amaranthine, her allegiance pledged to the Alliance for what would be a short life.
As I adjusted to the interface and controls, something that took hardly anytime at all, I got a taste for the depth of the lore on display. Over the duration of my playtime I never felt particularly immersed, but I did feel that the world was crafted masterfully. NPCís existed for the sole purpose of being scenery, different exotic creatures populated every nook and cranny, and famous heroes from Warcraft lore stood proud at the thrones of their respected cities.
While I never felt that the gameplay was necessarily compelling. I did enjoy experimenting with new abilities and tactics. Itís obvious that a large portion of the game was designed to steal my time, and in turn my money had I been paying, there were moments of enjoyment pocketed throughout. While the goal remained the same throughout my entire stay in Azeroth, level up, I did see glimpses of more interesting goals in the form of dungeons and epic loot.
The different players I met were a varied sort. Many seemed to be adolescents who were taking refuge in World of Warcraft as a means to escape the horrors of middle and high school, others were regular people who enjoyed the escapism that World of Warcraft offered. By the time my trial account was up, I had met dozens of different personality types and creeds. The stereotype that hardcore World of Warcraft players are all basement dwelling losers whose only friends are their custom figurines is nothing but a myth. Below Iíve outlined the reasons I believe WoW remains so popular, and while most are obvious, I hope that at least few are insightful.
Much in the same way that the adults featured in Darkon created a mythical kingdom in their respective tired towns, certain World of Warcraft players have found a refuge in the realm of Azeroth. While their hobby is certainly less extreme, the basic principles remain the same. Everyday life has a tendency to be boring, full of rote tasks that are far from fulfilling. World of Warcraft provides a world where you can make an impact, or at least appear to. Azeroth is a world where your actions lead to the slaying of mighty foes, as opposed to the payment on your apartments utilities.
Do not misunderstand me, this isnít at all a bad thing, unless taken to the utter extreme. Video games by their very nature are forms of escapism. World of Warcraft simply takes this to the next level, providing players with a persistent world; one that is influenced by the actions of those who would populate it.
Even before the recently added achievement system was put in place, a large part of what has made World of Warcraft popular was itís lure of ďone more thingĒ. The idea that if I complete just one more raid I might obtain a mythical and rare weapon or piece of armor, something that few other players on my server has accomplished. In the end these accomplishments amount to nothing outside the realm of Azeroth, but going back to my point of escapism, to the average WoW player that hardly matters.
Ever since the addition of a tangible achievement system with in game rewards, that addictive quality has quadrupled. Friends of mine will spend days of their lives grinding for achievements in order to obtain a new mount or pet. I find this to be unfortunate and detrimental to the average WoW player. Instead of allowing them to decide what is a noteworthy accomplishment and what isnít, they are now being told what they must to do to have a sense of worth.
Many people struggle with approaching their fellow human beings. That doesnít make them total shut-ins who refuse human contact and fear sunlight, it simply means their shy. World of Warcraft provides people like this with a mask to hide behind. Making relationships isnít nearly as scary as it once was when youíre Kelmdor, the first of few to slay the Lich King on your server. As our resident community blogger Zodiac Eclipse is proof of, itís entirely possible to cultivate a meaningful relationship through something like World of Warcraft.
Some people may look down on those who shun reality and instead choose to make intangible internet friends, but Destructoid itself is proof that lifelong relationships can be birthed through anonymity with ease and grace.
As a video game, World of Warcraft is a decent foray into the RPG grind with solid art direction and inspired quests. As an experience, World of Warcraft is phenomenal, so long as youíre the type of person it caters to. Iíd suggest that anyone who hasnít tried it does so, you may find it to be something youíll love. Just be wary that your new life in Azeroth doesnít begin to take precedence over your life on Earth. You may regret where that time went someday.