Archive for the ‘MMO’ Category

WoW: Why Do We Play?
October 22, 2009

Hi all, Dan here.

I feel it would be fitting for my first discussion to focus on a game that has captured an enormous amount of my time over the last five years or so, and one that continues to occasionally suck me in despite repeated attempts to give it up. I am of course speaking of Blizzard’s World of Warcraft. Is this game fun? Why do I keep playing it? Why does anyone play it? I suppose it must be “fun” in some definition of the word… but when I’m playing that’s not usually my choice descriptor.

Hypothetically, if I max my level and collect every item the game has to offer (which of course entails doing everything that can be done in the game) will I still have the impetus to continue playing? I think most of us can agree that it would be much harder to maintain an interest. Fortunately for Blizzard, they simply need to keep creating content in order to keep us happy.

So it seems that the “fun” part of the game lies in the discovery of the new. New places give us new things to explore, new items to drool over, and new levels/abilities for us to unlock. Surely the climax of each pre-80 level is in the attainment of the next level, yet inevitably we are presented with the task of reaching yet another level. Can anyone else identify with the following statement as it relates to WoW: “I am constantly excited to be doing whatever it is I’m not doing right now?”  Think about it.

Granted, the endgame material and PvP systems help to add some variety. I can honestly say that an arena match is a fun and exciting end to itself. If the game was more PvP-centric then perhaps the fun would revolve more around the journey and less around the destination. Unfortunately, in order to get to the interesting PvP you need to grind your way up to 80 (or 85 in the near future, or 105 in the further future, etc.) But don’t get too comfortable with your PvP-fun-times because sooner or later Blizzard is going to raise the level cap, and you’re back to the ol’ grind.

Ah, there’s the rub: Endgame material is fun. Getting shiny new weapons is fun. But in order to keep giving you new experiences, Blizzard has to keep raising the level cap and thereby keep depriving you of the endgame. It’s a vicious circle of content obsoletion. Whenever I inevitably quit the game after a few months of playing, it’s because I re-realize this paradigm. No matter how hard I work toward that staff-of-ultimate-awesomeness, I know that a year from now there’s going to be the staff-of-even-more-ultimate-awesomeness thats makes mine look like a glittery Q-tip. So why do I even put in the effort? I Don’t.

So what are some remedies to this systemic problem? Well what if there were only a fixed number of some items in the world and they had to be forcibly taken from players? That would make things more interesting… guilds would need to really start working together in PvP and loot would take on much greater values. Or what if the game actually ended at some point in time (ridiculous I know)? This would necessitate some end condition, say either the Horde or Alliance destroying either each other or some mutually hated boss. At this point the game could be declared “over” and one side would win. The game could then begin again fresh. Now clearly these examples are major design overhauls that Blizzard does not plan on implementing, but I hope they make you think about what the game might be like with a redesign of purpose.

As it stands, I simply can’t get into the game for any long stretch of time. The whole process just seems so futile. I’m sure there are those that disagree with me, and I welcome your counterpoints.