I’ve been having a lot of Visual Novel and Anime themed posts lately, so this week I though I would turn my attention to gaming. Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games are pretty popular nowadays, with new ones popping up all the time. I haven’t played a huge number of them, but I can tell you a lot about the one I have played: World of Warcraft.
For those of you that haven’t ever heard of MMOs, they’re a type of game that you play online with other people. You generally progress through different areas, becoming more powerful and learning new skills as you fight the various foes arrayed against you. The difference between normal games and MMOs is the social aspect; you group up with other people in order to achieve goals that no single individual could achieve alone, form guilds or alliances of players that work together to enjoy the game, or just hang around and chat. The friends you make in online games are what make the games so special, though I didn’t know that when I first picked up World of Warcraft.
World of Warcraft is an MMORPG developed by Blizzard Entertainment. It followed a series of Real Time Strategy (RTS) games that were immensely popular and still are today, with 3 main games and a couple of expansions. I remember late-night Warcraft game sessions at the local internet café, with groups of other gamers shouting at each other across the room, and i’m sure many have had similar experiences. Though I had played others RTS games in the past (most notably Command & Conquer and Age of Empires), Warcraft was the first to grip me with a story that I actually cared about. Maybe it’s just nostalgia talking here, but my interest in the Warcraft universe was one of the major factors that made me love Blizzard’s hit MMO.
Just to give you some perspective: when WoW was released in 2004 I was only 12 years old and highly impressionable. The night I got it was spent waiting for the then-massive 4GB game to install and then just jumping my character around the world I had already been introduced to by Warcraft 3 in glorious 3D. I hadn’t even really played the game yet and I already loved it. Looking back, I made a huge number of mistakes as I leveled up my first character, but it didn’t matter because the very idea of playing as an inhabitant of the Warcraft universe amazed me. To begin with I may have been biased toward liking the game just because it was my first MMO experience and because of the world it was set in, but it was over the many years I continued to play the game that I realized its true value.
It was when I finally joined a guild (The Marauders) that I really began to enjoy myself. Having a group of friends that I had never actually met, yet enjoyed spending time with was strangely exhilarating. Interestingly enough, nobody ever guessed how young I was despite talking over Ventrilo, a voice chat-room program, though there were some people that I told. Maybe I enjoyed being treated as just another adult; I can’t remember, though I know that at the time I was very proud of being an officer in my guild. Over the three or so years that I spent playing with the same group we had a huge number of amazing experiences both inside the game and just chatting in Vent. I know that if I had played alone I probably would have quit years before I actually did.
One of my favorite past-times back when The Marauders still existed was Role-Playing, which is probably related to my love of fictional stories in general (read: anime, video games, visual novels). While I don’t really participate in RP any more, it can be really amazing if you manage to get into it with some friends. Acting as a character within the universe I already loved and was invested in was one of the highlights of my MMO experience. I’ve tried to get into it again since but haven’t quite been successful, perhaps because my new experiences just can’t stand up to the nostalgia I have from those early years.
As I said earlier, The Marauders didn’t last. I continued to play, jumping from guild to guild as they either disbanded or fell into inactivity. While the social aspects were what I really enjoyed, the gameplay itself was also fun and kept me hooked for another two expansion packs. Still, the people I met kept things interesting and i’m glad I hung around even after losing my first guild. I don’t play actively any more because my studies take up too much time, but when Blizzard gives out a free week of game time i’m always greeted by the friends I left behind. World of Warcraft took up a frightening portion of my teenage years, and I don’t regret a single minute of it. Every single one of the friends I made and experiences we had together are extremely precious to me. In fact, there’s a The Marauders group on Facebook and we still talk from time to time. Relationships with the people you meet in games, or just online in general, can be just as important and long-lasting as the real thing (though i’m obliged to say that playing them with your real-life friends is awesome too!).
While some readers probably turned away as soon as I mentioned World of Warcraft and the game certainly gets its fair share of flak, there’s a reason that millions of players have played and still play the game after the 9 (nearly 10) years since its release. I implore you to give an MMO a try at some point, even it’s not WoW. You might just find you enjoy it. Hell, i’ve even heard of married couples meeting each other through MMOs; anything can happen.
“FOR THE HORDE!” – Just about everyone who matters.
Well, if you really want a serious one:
“The beginning of wisdom is the statement ‘I do not know.’ The person who cannot make that statement is one who will never learn anything.” – Thrall (World of Warcraft: Cycle of Hatred)