Introduction Why are people becoming addicted to World of Warcraft? I’ve been asking myself that question since I started playing a bit over two years ago. When we got this assignment I thought I’d take a closer look at what might be causing this, but a game is so much more than just a game. I needed to see the whole picture and therefore I’ve taken a look into the expanded game experience of World of Warcraft.
Made by Blizzard Entertainment, now Activision Blizzard (Diablo, Warcraft, Starcraft)
Released in 2004, two expansions since then
Over eleven million players world-wide(!)
Fantasy story based on the Warcraft series earlier released by Blizzard
The game You are a character designed by yourself, picked out of ten different races, and trained as one of ten different classes. Your allegiance is with either the Alliance or the Horde, each home to five of the races. You start off as a simple warrior trying to prove his worth and defend what’s important to him. As you move on by performing quests and defeating monsters you become stronger and learn more and better abilities. From a lady having lost her bag to a world-threatening demon, there’s no limit on what you may set off to do.
The core World of Warcraft uses a simple click-to-target kind of play, where you highlight what you want to target and then have a key assigned to execute the action. You observe from a third person perspective, but can zoom in to a first person as well. The controls are very similar to FPS-games, using a combination of the keyboard and the mouse to play. You use the regular WASD keys to walk, the numbers to use different abilities and the mouse to steer and target. Although, this is just the normal way of doing it. There are endless ways to configure almost every action you can make.
The shell World of Warcraft is set in a whole world which actually exists there the whole time, it’s not instanced (loaded on demand). The world itself includes every possible kind of climate and environment; from snowy mountain peaks to moldy moist dungeons and green jungles. It is indeed a spectacular view when you fly over the landscapes going towards new adventures. For a game that is this big the graphical effects are stunning, and made in a very distinct cartoonish way that has become the signum of Blizzards games. As it is a role-playing game, most of the non-player characters can be interacted with in one way or another, even if it’s limited to a programmed respons.
Here’s a picture of some of the quite impressice effects in-game
Expanded game experience When you’re talking about the expanded game experience, or EGE, there are six points of interest in particular that one should look closer at, as explained by Annakaisa Kultima in one of the podcasts. These are information retrieval, enabling, preparations, gameplay, afterplay and disposal. I will now look into each one of these points to try and gain further understanding of the game I’m playing. (For the gameplay, see previous slides)
Enormous media coverage when released
Easy commercials through common Blizzard portal for all their games
A whole magazine dedicated to World of Warcraft alone
Innumerous websites, both a large official one and lots of fan-sites
The sheer number of people playing the game; almost everyone knows someone that plays World of Warcraft, at least in Sweden
Monthly fees, making a lot of people hold back
First month included with the game itself
Free ten-day limited trial account included when someone buys the game box or new play time (meaning there’s a lot of them around)
Beneficial friend invites; if you invite a friend and he keeps on playing you get a free month
Available as digital purchase on the official website as well as in the physical stores
For the full graphic experience a very good computer is required, but there are alot of options to reduce the hardware needed
Takes a lot of time to install and update
An account needs to be created, and requires a valid credit card to be assigned to the account
Lots of how-to-play guide websites
Huge discussion forums on the official website, where you’re logging in as your character
Even larger discussion forums on the inofficial sites
The game itself can work as a meetingplace, with lots of chatting options available, including an in-game voice chat for the people currently in a group with you.
Merchandise available, such as t-shirts with game-motives, and collectors figures
Everything is stored on your account, meaning easy removal and re-installing of the game without losing your progress
Account can be frozen for a set amount of time so that you don’t have to pay while not playing
You can’t really finish the game as there’s no real ending, but when (if) you’re done or bored with your character, it’s a whole new experience to create another one
Conclusions With all these things going on around the game itself, it’s easy to understand why some people can spend so much time on it. It’s quite easy to get started, but I think that for a person to get through that first step of upgrading from trial to full account he needs to be a curious one. And when there’s this much to do and explore, and curious person is caught. I don’t know if I have understood why people are getting addicted (as opposed to playing a lot) yet, but I am at least a step closer. Perhaps I need to take a closer look at myself next!