I like many non-WoW players spent years on the outside looking in. Hearing stories of WoW addiction, picturing in my mind that overweight, unkempt, hygienically challenged WoW fan. While over the years I definitely realized the fallacy of that stereotype, meeting folks of all walks of life that enjoy and sing the praises of World of Warcraft. Now that I’ve taken the plunge into the “WoW-nerd” family and thought that I’d share some of my observations about the game as an “experience”.
I find myself at an interesting and unique position within my World of Warcraft progression. that being that I’ve advanced my character to lvl 77, I’m approaching Mists of Pandaria, and then will be moving into Warlords of Draenor, having moved through a massive amount of the world and the content put forth by previous expansions. I’ve literally moved through YEARS of content. I’ve put in nearly 7 days worth of play time in game, and one would think that I would have a good grasp on the world, the lore and the overarching story of the game.
Amazingly I don’t have much of an idea what’s going on in Azeroth. It’s so very easy to move through this game and simply mindlessly quest, to move through the expansions and worlds without truly experiencing them. For most quests it’s not even necessary to read the story, you can skim over it find the key words like “gather”, “murloks”, or “go to”, and from there determine what path you need to take and where you need to go without truly taking in the story and experiencing much of anything in the way of a narrative. The ability to gain a flying mount and completely remove interacting with the world, simply dropping in and out of quests and flying back to the quest giver without ever truly having the experience of being “in” the world, definitely makes one feel removed from the experience.
This play through has been about leveling, about getting my character up to 100 as quickly as I can so that I can play with my friends who’s tenure in the game is much longer than mine, and are already involved in the end game content. I find myself yearning to experience the depth and breath of the World of Warcraft experience more than I currently am. There’s so very much to experience within the massive world that Blizzard has created, so many characters with their own stories, and so many rich fleshed out story lines. At times it seems that there’s equally as much to miss within the game as there is to experience.
Players with a WoW tenure of years will take this for granted, they’ve know Thrall, Jana Proudmore, and many of the other characters, for some, most of their lives. The story has evolved organically over time and many have had the honor of being involved in that ever-expanding story. Players have seen the world grow, shape itself, and tear itself apart. As a newb simply rambling about this can be a daunting experience.
One revelation that I came to late last night running dungeons from Wrath of the Lich King, was that the beauty and longevity of WoW is not that there is one experience that the developers want you to have as in many games that I played in the past. The game is a living book, something that is meant to play the way that you want to, but within the confines of the developers storytelling. WoW with the entirety of the world and the additions to the game over the past years, the game is unlike anything that I’ve ever played. While there is a story-arch and something to follow, there’s also an inherent freedom in the game, the ability to play the game in the way that you’d like to, to explore and grind levels, role-play, pet battle, truly explore the rich lore of the world, or anything else that you can imagine.
While I was upset and frustrated at my play experience and the fact that I felt like I was missing out on things, I’m encouraged by the fact that they way that I’ve played this character is simply the way that I’ve played this character WoW will still be there when I hit the level cap, and level all of my raid gear, all I need to do is spin up an alt and play the game entirely different. That’s amazing feeling to have as a gamer, and finally after years of gaming I see what the big deal is with WoW and I would encourage anyone that considers themselves a “gamer”, not that you should experience it, but you need to experience.