I was recently asked to answer a few questions about my experiences with World of Warcraft. As I was writing out my answers, I discovered something about me and how I feel about people who play MMORPGs. Keep in mind that these are only my opinions on the matter, but I’d love to hear what others have to say about it, too! Check out my responses below:
What aspects of the game did you really enjoy?
Hands down, it was all about the interactivity with my real life friends. I only picked up the game because at the time I was stuck in my college town during the summer, far enough away from my friends that this was the best way for me to keep contact with them and digitally “hang out” with them. Then afterwards, I was hooked, but I did notice that when I had friends close enough that I could hang out with them in person, my gaming would definitely lessen.
Other aspects I really enjoyed were being able to make new friends while playing and gaming in groups (instances, guilds, battlegrounds, and just plain old group grinding/mission accomplishing). Over time, even getting the special drops was quite a draw, too, but only when I was super addicted to the game.
Beyond the obvious engagement between the other players, what did you find the most satisfying about the game?
Haha, sounds like my first answer was anticipated. Besides the multiplayer aspect, I really enjoyed that each area of the “world” was quite different. The races were distinct from each other and so were their respective home areas. It was like exploring a brand new world, and at peak times of playing, it was like I was really there, rather than staring at it through a computer screen. There was so much to explore either through your main character or even while trying different characters.
I also immensely enjoyed the fact that each character could specialize in several different things, making group playing different depending on who you were gaming with. This led to having more than one character build and a mixing and matching to maximize our strategy depending on what our objectives were.
Was it the overall social experience or the game plot that really made it enjoyable?
Definitely the social experience. I often times never even followed what my missions were because I preferred to let my fellow players read the quests for me and then lead me to the quest objectives. Over time, I realized that most of the game plots or objectives were generally the same handful of tasks reworded in a different context. That becomes a little tiresome at points, but it’s easy to overlook when you’re fully immersed in the game and enjoy the people you’re playing with. I’m not sure what else they could have done better here, but I definitely would have enjoyed more involving game plots where it wasn’t work to learn of the plot (the majority of the plot or tasks were revealed through text, which basically left this to be more of a chore).
If you could sum up what your thoughts are on the audience or participants of WoW and other RPG games, what would it be?
I’ve given a lot of thought to these gamers so this might be a bit long. I believe it is a result of our times that there are so many of these gamers at this very time in human history. First off, I believe a majority of these gamers are either in college or fresh from graduating from college. These recent college grads try to get jobs, but in my opinion, college doesn’t really prime most of their students to find jobs, just to be good college students. So most of these college grads have trouble finding jobs, and they’re sitting at their parents’ houses twiddling their thumbs after applying to tons of jobs online each day. It doesn’t take much time before they’re looking for something else to do while they’re waiting for employers to contact them back, and these MMORPG’s are the perfect games for many of them.
These games only involve a one time fee to buy the game, then a small monthly fee (usually about $15/month) to keep playing the game, and you get unlimited play time to go hang out with your friends digitally and meet new friends (especially attractive to socially undeveloped individuals since meeting people online is much easier and less anxiety-driven than meeting people in real life). Then the return on investment here is another huge draw. Since most of these gamers don’t have jobs and are waiting to get jobs, they don’t have much money, usually getting free rent and food from their parents. And since the game only costs $15/month with unlimited access, it becomes much more preferable to hang out with your friends online for no more than $15/month than to even go out and watch a movie with them ($10 per ticket for a 2 hour experience, plus gas to drive to the theater, plus money for food since you’ll likely get hungry while watching a movie).
On top of the financial factor, there’s the feeling of accomplishment. In real life, due to the bad economy or whatever other reasons, most of these gamers are not making any money and not getting their dream jobs or even a job in their chosen majors/industry. There’s little success in their lives besides having a college diploma. But in the game, it’s completely different. Even playing for 5 minutes will lead to success for your character. And every time you gain success in the game, there’s this magical aura and sound that plays around your character. It’s the most addictive thing ever, and you become bent on accomplishing the next success to get that magical feeling again. After just a few days of playing, you get a sense of accomplishment and success in your life, even if you don’t have it in real life, you have it somewhere, and who cares if it is just in a digital game? Your friends see your success, so you still have the social factor of success. And everyone is always very positive and congratulates you on your new accomplishment. Why would you want to go back to the real world where you are lacking all of this when in this digital world you get so much success and moral support from friends?
It seems that these gamers are just a new generation of addicts, but I don’t believe they are in the same vein as drug and alcohol addicts. These gamers are different. They’re looking for something to do with their time, and this game is a great way for them to express themselves while accomplishing tasks and making themselves feel successful. They’re certainly not lazy or untalented or unskilled. In order to succeed at WoW or something equivalent, you need to develop your persistence, cognitive, strategy and multitasking skills. This makes these gamers have a great diverse set of skills that the world and future employers need to recognize. And instead of calling these gamers addicted to a new drug or a generation of slackers, I believe there is a great place for these individuals to discover their place in the world. And I, as a former MMORPG player and newly realized media entrepreneur, am very excited to see what happens with them!
What do you think about MMORPG gamers or World of Warcraft? How would you answer these questions? Do you agree with me or think I’m giving these gamers more credit than they’re due? I’d love to hear about what everyone thinks!