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A New Kind of Addiction: World of Warcraft?

A New Kind of Addiction: World of Warcraft?

            “Play in our world, live in yours,” is the motto for Play Station game systems.  Millions of people around the world indulge themselves in make-believe worlds and adventures.  They are drawn by the game and cannot help but to continually play.  So what is it about video and computer games that cause people to be so addicted or wanting to play?  More specifically and in example, what causes people to play online computer games such as Blizzard’s World of Warcraft?   Perhaps it is the learning through endless quests and options available, the competition, and the online community that is created.

            World of Warcraft, created by Blizzard Entertainment, is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game.  It creates a fantasy world with different races and professions and a number of quests to complete to level in the game.  The main goal is to reach level 60, the highest level you can reach, or to become top tier of your server.  It takes a lot of time and work to get there.  Getting there involves a number of things including questing, running instances, playing battlegrounds, and grinding. Grinding is a term used when someone just kills creeps with out a quest objective, just to receive the experience, in order to level faster.  In the process of leveling you can pick up a number of items that you can use or wear: food, armor, weapons, and trinkets.  You always want to find the best armor you can, and even armor has different levels.  Everyone wants to get the most elite items to not just eventually become level 60, but to be top player of your server.  A whole economic system exists in World of Warcraft which is part of what keeps it interesting.  The currency system is in gold, silver, and copper, and the more you have, the better items you can buy, and the closer you come to being able to get a mount (a pet that you can ride which increases the speed of your movement).  “From level 1 to 40 all I did was farm for gold so that when I reached level forty I would be ready to buy my mount.  For two months straight all I did was get home from school and level, level, level, and collect gold.  When I finally got my mount I felt so accomplished!” said Zork, a player on World of Warcraft.  Playing World of Warcraft myself, I asked one of my guild mates, (guilds will be explained later), Vergaley, what keeps him wanting to play World of Warcraft, or as frequent players call it, WoW, for short.  Vergaley said that “there is always the objective to get to level 60, then there is PVP and high mod armor, and epic mounts and all that stuff….The game never really ends.”  Another guild mate, Tokanara also says it is about “trying to level.”

            Then, as Danface, a WoW friend, says, it is about competition.  He says he “wanted to be better than others.”  Firaley (yet another guild mate) says part of the addiction is “social dominance.  We want to dominate each other.”  Perhaps when in reality people are the weak, the crippled, or just cannot win at anything, in this “World of Warcraft” these people can be the strong and the dominant.  It is sort of like sports; you play for fun but also to compete.  Firaley goes on to say, in an attempt to sound wise, that “it is all about greed and gathering; and has been since the stone ages.”  Perhaps he is right though.  Man has always had a need to compete and a want to dominate and be his best or be better than others.  “I play to beat my friends,” says Tokanara.  Those that ultimately want to compete PVP.  PVP stands for Player Versus Player.  When one PVP’s he or she duels another player and earns honor points for beating the other person if they are on the opposing side.  There is continuous competition between the Horde and the Alliance.  The Horde consists of Orcs, Taurens, Trolls, and the Undead; the Alliance consists of Night Elves, Humans, Gnomes, and Dwarves.  In battlegrounds such as Warsong Gulch, the two forces have a chance to compete against each other in an objective to catch and retrieve flags. 

            A big part of the games is also “the social part of the game,” as Danface puts it.  Within the leveling and the questing, there is a huge social community behind WoW.  While playing, you can also chat with others.  First, there is general talk where you can talk to anybody in the area.  Next there is whisper where you have a private conversation between you and someone else.  Lastly there is guild chat, where you talk amongst a group of people that are in the same guild (a group) as you, and you only become a part of one through invite by guild master.  After questing or helping someone out, if you find you work well with that person, you add them to your friends list.  Then next time your on if the two of you share the same quest you help each other out.  Guilds are tighter circles of friends, and a special sort of friends list.  Guildees trade amongst each other first, give first priority to other guildees, and help each other with quests, raids, instances, and battlegrounds.  Here is where you generally do the majority of your chatting.  Bonds are created with these chats, just like Instant Messaging, or something similar to Myspace (with a substitution of your pictures for pictures of your character).  You can even send each other mail through WoW. 

Some say that WoW has even become a dating service, in a small measure. In one story that I know, a couple met on WoW and the engagement was even WoW-styled.  In World of Warcraft, when you go to accept a quest, there is a gold exclamation mark above a NPC’s (non-playable character’s) head.  A quest scroll pops up and it tells you your objectives.  After completing the quest you go back to that same NPC, and there will be a gold question mark above its head now, which means you can now turn in the quest and receive your reward.  Well when the girlfriend came home one day she saw that there was a stuffed animal with a gold exclamation mark above its head, on her stairs.  She read the quest (more like directions), and when she met her quest objective, she found another stuffed animal with a gold question mark above its head.  She opened the door to collect her reward and found her boyfriend there, on one knee, and he proposed to her.  Romantic? Maybe, but it goes to show how socially people get involved in these games, and how entering this world isn’t just for the fun of playing, but also for the connection that has been made with others.

Bearslaws, a high ranked player on my server, has an interesting story to just how addicted this game has become to him.  He graduated with a Masters in biochemistry, one of the hardest majors, and has been out of school for a year or two now.  He does not have a job right now, and has not used his degree to find a job in biochemistry.  So what has he been doing the last year or two?  He sits at home and plays WoW all day.  Granted he’s almost number one on our server, but it is all because WoW is his life.  When he was not looking for a job he spent his time playing this game on the computer, and slowly began to fall into this world.  He wanted to be number one on his server so he kept on playing, and now he almost is.  His brother, who he also got addicted to the game, has also fallen into an addiction.  Here is someone who graduated valedictorian from high school and is now failing his classes.  He started out college on a good foot, and when his second year came around and he really started playing WoW, he started playing more, and studying less.  He started to fail his classes and even had to drop one.  Whenever I would get on he would tell me, “Get off WoW and go study, it’ll ruin your life, you’ll get addicted like me, I swear! Don’t fail college like me!”

Although it does not come close to an addiction of drugs or alcohol, World of Warcraft can be typed as an internet addiction. The fascinating world that we can not live in, but we can certainly play in, somehow captivates the mind.  Endless possibilities, and to escape reality and be whatever we want to be in an entrancing game keeps us coming back for more.  Blizzard Entertainment has managed to create a series of games, including Warcraft I through Warcraft III (the series before World of Warcraft), and found a way to make them one of the most popular game series out there.  They somehow have managed to create a game that keeps people paying the monthly fees, or selling their accounts on e-bay to other players. The thrill of beating someone else and gaining rank or being beat, the pleasure of chatting with others and making new friends, and the sense of accomplishment, gives reason to want to keep playing.  Perhaps this is all a learning experience as well for real life. 

“Unlike education acquired through textbooks, lectures, and classroom instruction, what takes place in massively multiplayer online games is what we call accidental learning. It’s learning to be – a natural byproduct of adjusting to a new culture – as opposed to learning about. Where traditional learning is based on the execution of carefully graded challenges, accidental learning relies on failure. Virtual environments are safe platforms for trial and error. The chance of failure is high, but the cost is low and the lessons learned are immediate.” (Brown and Thomas).

  These two men have created a job for those who are addicted.  They believe that the economy of WoW prepares you for the economic world we live in, and prepares you for social challenges if you were not socially acceptable before.  Whether it’s the trade and economy, the endless possibilities, the competition, or the social connections behind WoW, the want to learn more and do more all plays a part in keeping the player interested and “addicted” to this wonderful World of Warcraft.

 

Works Cited List

Brown, John Seely and Douglas Thomas.  “You Play World of Warcraft? You’re Hired!.”

            Wired. April 2006. Date accessed: 7 May 2006. <http://www.wired.com/wired/

archive/ 14.04/learn.html>

Wikipedia.  “World of Warcraft.”  Wikipedia.  Date accessed:  28 April 2006.

<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_of_Warcraft&gt;.

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