The WoW Je Ne Sais Quoi
I don’t often invoke the language of French but sometimes those lovely croissant monkeys have the perfect phrase to sum things up, in this particular case my feelings towards World of Warcraft. I commented today on Twitter how I hadn’t played RIFT in a while and yet, instead of feeling compelled to get back into it, I had the urge to return to WoW instead. Just what is it about that game that keeps luring me back like a sultry siren to a bad relationship? I quite officially a couple of months ago and stopped playing several weeks before that, so irritated and despondent with its community and achievement porn culture that I couldn’t take it any longer. But here I am again, contemplating resubscribing.
It’s all very strange as I like to think of myself as sensible and rational person who makes intelligent, educated decisions. I know WoW isn’t perfect and doesn’t fulfil my conscious criteria of the type of MMO I truly want to play and that ultimately its points of frustration will eventually drive me to my knees in agony again. However, regardless of that, here I am with an itch that only it can scratch. I feel a desire to play it once more, a stronger desire than playing RIFT for instance, and I can only think of possible two reasons why that might be.
Firstly, it could be because Warcraft is the absolute epitome of psychological manipulation. Maybe its beautifully crafted blend of micro-achievements, synapse zings and easy accomplishments has truly had a long term addictive and compelling effect on my mind. The bright colours, the flashing lights, the sense of familiarity and the feel good factors could all be appealing to my subconscious, so much so that my body is now literally having withdrawal symptoms. Perhaps Blizzard have created a product so perfectly exploitative of the human psyche that I am powerless to resist.
Secondly though, it could just be that WoW is actually a very, very good MMO. As much as we hate to admit it, it could be so fun and so enjoyable that we keep coming back to it time and time again, especially after playing less pleasing and less interesting alternatives. Leaving it and taking a break to try something else is possibly only a healthy act of curiosity and that, after a period of time, we realise that nothing else out there quite competes and we return to the best product available, like a stray cat returning home. Maybe nothing else has ever managed to capture the magic WoW holds.
Of course, I’m sure one could argue that point one and point two and both the same thing and that a “good” game is one that compels us to play. I suppose my stance is that, although the line is perhaps thin and murky, the first point is about an unwelcome manipulation of our mind whilst the second is about the appreciation of a finely crafted product. I want to play a game and consciously enjoy it, I don’t just want to feel addicted because it’s somehow triggering the right responses in my head. Hence my dilemma because, in that situation, I may as well forgo the entire gaming experience completely and just stick a needle in my veins or some probes in my brain.
I suppose regardless we have to concede that is there something unique and different about WoW, a certain je ne sais quoi, that draws us in. For precisely what reasons though, good or bad, I have no idea.