Every day somewhere in the world millions of people, many older than 35, log into World of Warcraft and lose themselves for hours at a time in a 3D environment that combines fantasy action with team and solo strategy, social networking, entertaining story-telling devices and gorgeous, colourful, beautifully realised worlds.
So, as long as you are sufficiently desensitised to the basic premise of “go kill stuff for loot and status,” there is no reason not to love this game. The quests range from having to kidnap the cubs of the nearby wolf-men in order to earn status with some walrus folk, or introduce a lost sea-bull to a sea-cow every day also to grind rep, so it’s not all killing.
But that is, of course, a contrast to those quests where you steal a dragon and fly around eating villagers and razing their city to the ground, or you team with five friends or randomly selected players to fight your way through some lost tomb, or mountain or dungeon or castle or burning city. There are battlegrounds; massive multiplayer real-time strategy hack-and-slash fests. There’s ship-to-ship combat, flaming catapults to ride around in, beasts to ride and fly.
The game starts off very simply so as to draw in the novices. When you start out you have very little in the way of equipment, skills or experience, and the quests you get assigned in the starting zones are all focused on training you up in the mechanics of the game. But all of a sudden you find you have skills, spells, weapons and buddies in a guild that you can team with to solve more complex quests
I was given WoW more than five years ago and I am nowhere near having experienced everything there is to experience in the game, and while I will go months at a time without playing at all, I’m certainly not tired of it and I’m certainly not the only corporate executive with a handful of high-level characters either.
South Park parodied WoW’s addictiveness in an episode Make Love not Warcraft. Unsurprisingly Stan’s dad ends up addicted to WoW. They shot the episode within the game, and Blizzard introduced an achievement called Make Love not Warcraft, which you can earn by killing another player, then quickly hugging their corpse. WoW is nothing if not stupid at times. I mean there is legend of players having s-x in the DeepRun Tram.
Eighteen million people paying around $13 or so per month to play means a lot of money to keep generating content. WoW has had three major upgrades since it launched, and each one advanced the world-history and added new races, new professions, vast swathes of new territory and content, and boosted the graphics power. My five-year-old iMac barely copes now and I am considering buying a sparkly new one just to play WoW on. But I’m not addicted.
*Dave Sag is a founder and executive director of Carbon Planet Limited