10 years of World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft turned 10 years old yesterday. I’ve been playing the game since August 2006, and have ranged from being a totally casual player to the most addicted, 60-hour per week hardcore gamer. 

Before playing WoW I’d never been into video games — we weren’t allowed consoles growing up, and there was never a computer game that held my interest for very long. And, despite trying (CivIV, GTA, etc.) I haven’t been able to get into a game since. Yet, from the moment I logged my character, Mofftarkin, into WoW for the first time (yes, I started playing WoW at a Boy Scout conference and named my avatar after a Star Wars character; there’s no half-ass nerdery here), I was hooked.

While I leveled my character during classic WoW, it wasn’t until the Burning Crusade that I became fully invested in the game (my girlfriend/future wife, Zeynep, was equally addicted and we spent most of our weekends on the couch killing all manner of beasts). Through Wrath of the Lich King I was playing 40+ hours per week; I was the Guild Master of <The Church>,  a high-end raiding guild that entire expansion. I didn’t play much at all during Cataclysm or Mists of Pandaria, but recently returned (casually) for both the 10th Anniversary event and the new expansion, which is pretty good so far.

Sad fact: I’ve played 254 days of in-game time as of today. Even considering how little I’ve played the last three years, that’s almost a year of my life, inside the game! Yikes!

So why has WoW endured as an interest of mine for almost a decade? There’s three things:

- Exploration. Especially when I was newer to the game, it was exciting to discover new areas of the world. WoW is such a massive environment, with such a rich backstory (and it's very well designed), that it’s enjoyable to lose yourself in the game. I remember riding around just to unlock new areas of the map, find Easter Eggs, or learn about the lore of the game. Strength of story and characters truly sets WoW apart from other games. The gated content in the game (not so much anymore, but back when it was hard to get access to the end-game raid content) was thrilling to see for the first time. New expansions have bring that feeling back, which is why they're so popular when they first launch. Northrend (for the WotLK expansion) was rich and exciting to explore. No other game has given me the sense of wonder I got from being immersed in WoW.

- Achievement. Leveling and questing is the most literal application of this, of course. But as time went on, I began doing things only available to a small set of players (when I was GM, our guild was a top 200 guild in the world). Accomplishing these feats or one-time kills felt special, and it was nice to be known as a group/player capable of accomplishing that. Our guild was killing bosses before anyone else on our server (and most of the world!), and it was satisfying to be in a rare group of players. Defeating certain bosses took an enormous amount of preparation, coordination and leadership (most encounters require 25+ players all working together and executing specific roles to a “t”), but the feeling when we finally defeated them was immensely satisfying — more so than many real-life accomplishments.

- Community. <The Church> is a unique guild. Despite being committed to high-end raiding, we wanted to attract more mature players. We only raided three nights per week (as opposed to six like most comparable guilds) and were still able to compete against those spending more time in the game. We attracted people who I’ve met in person and am happy to call friends. While most guilds are lucky to last a year, <The Church> has been going strong since 2007, and even those who aren’t playing are active participants in our forums. This sense of community, and the enjoyment of hanging out with people I got to know very well, is the primary thing that keeps pulling me back to WoW.

When new content comes out, or I’m thinking of resubscribing out of boredom, I don’t look at what the new features are. I find out if Kirae, Torger, Quad, Tek, Saph, Karg, Aestil, Ryegeleye, Zarock, Gizzmoe, Chat, Wrylac, Lion, East, Nhy, Gavinn, Daha, Sem, Sigard, Cough, Blazs or others are still playing, and if they are, I come back to spend time with them.

Happy anniversary, WoW, and thanks for all the fun times!