Gaming is an ever-changing and ever-adapting world. Some games are a flash-in-the-pan and fizzle out before really reaching their full potential and others live in the hearts of gamers as classics. Yet there has never been a more successful video game to keep its players engaged like Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft.
World of Warcraft has left such an impact on the world of gaming that it’s transcended the requirement to become a classic while simultaneously giving constant updates and evolving. Back in 2004, there already were several games in the Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing game (MMORPG) genre. Everquest and EVE Online predate Warcraft by a few years and at around the time of its release there were many more MMOs alongside it. Every MMO to come out after it is still community-labeled as “the next WoW killer.”
Spoiler alert: they weren’t.
The game providers did what very few things in the fantasy genre can claim — they made fantasy easy enough for everyone to join in and cool enough to draw non-nerds in. World of Warcraft never played like the standard fantasy game where you need to be heavily invested in fantasy to get what’s going on. World of Warcraft makes the game simple enough that a kid could grasp the concept and challenging enough to engage mature players, whereas other games just simply toss the player in and hope for the best.
There are many draws to World of Warcraft but one of the key selling-points is the enticing story. Even when you start out as a low-level paladin, your character feels like they’re now apart of this massive ever-changing world. Each quest your character takes on along the way feels like the stakes have organically risen from the days of killing boars in the forest. Before you know it, it will truly feel like you’ve earned being the world-saving paladin.
The previous games in the franchise, Warcraft, Warcraft II, and Warcraft III, all place an equal standing for the two opposing factions — the Alliance and the Horde. The moment a new player comes in and picks a side, they’re unknowingly drawn into a massive player base that sees themselves as the good guys and other players as their enemy, despite both being just regular players. Other MMOs either put every player on the side of good or they clumsily made a war that didn’t feel grand enough.
This feeds into the player’s identity that is felt throughout their time playing. Feeling like you’re actually this great Dwarven Paladin or fierce Undead Warlock keeps you hooked into staying into the game. While many players have multiple characters to choose from, they feel an attachment to their main character far more because of the first time they played through the storyline.
Each expansion pack released after launch has managed to carefully take on a threat just slightly more intimidating than the last. The stories always continue and give you a sense of “this is the bad guy — fear them” before you eventually take them down with your friends. Generally, new major pieces of content are added to the game every other month or so (with content admittedly winding down just before the next expansion) so there’s always plenty of gameplay.
Not only are players able to take on the actual story, but each other. Players are able to skirmish each other at every opportunity they come across. If you feel like attacking a lowly player of the other side, go for it. If you want to band together with scores of other players of your faction to attack the enemy capital city, go for it. The player-versus-player is fun and rewarding. But if you didn’t want to fight other players and just enjoy yourself, that’s fine too.
Another aspect that keeps many fans coming back is the sense of community. Players can form parties to clear dungeons with their friends and guilds to clear raids on the previously mentioned baddies. The guilds form a close knit bond that eventually becomes year-long friendships with people you’ve never met before.
World of Warcraft is coming on its fourteenth year since the servers went live and the next expansion based on the faction war is about to be released in early August. As long as Blizzard keeps up the good work, players may be around for another 14 years.