Something WoW Does Better Than Anyone Else
Today, I’m not going to talk about how easy or hard WoW is, about whether or not it’s dumbing down the MMO genre, or even what impact it’s having on the way we socialise in game. These may all be valid (and interesting) topics but right now, right at this moment, all I want to discuss is something that I believe WoW does better than any other game out there: it stimulates and cultivates our imagination.
I’ve commented before on the psychological way WoW (and every other MMO out there) exploits us and tries to addict us by leveraging the human need to collect and complete but that’s not what keeps me coming back to the game (thankfully). What keeps me returning time and time again is the way it manages to kindle that fledgling spark of excitement in my brain about playing a certain race or a particular class. Call it roleplaying, call it escapism, call it immersion, call it whatever the heck you want but when I load up WoW and roll a new alt, I really feel it.
Indeed, World of Warcraft is incredible in its artistic direction. Regardless of the fact it can run on a toaster and has a stupidly low polygon count, it just oozes character and personality from every pore. In fact, when you actually think about it, it truly is a massive accomplishment and regardless of you feel about WoW, you’ve got to take your hat off to the way the game manages to captivate, embody and execute a huge varying range of locations, races and virtual cultures.
I suppose I’ve always identified this about WoW but it’s not been until recently when I went on a low level alt binge, creating new characters all over the place and even deleting some high level ones in the process, that I truly recognised and appreciated the immersion available. Start a Worgen, a Goblin, an Undead, a Blood Elf, a Death Knight, a whatever, and you’ll realise that each starting environment is radically different from the other. It’s the subtle things that exist too – the different types of trees, the different melodies of music, the style of buildings, the shades of colours used everywhere. It’s all distinct, it’s all varied and it all helps allow the player to buy into their role while crafting a real and vibrant world.
And for me that’s hugely important. Just as the real world is varied and diverse, so should the virtual ones we inhabit and only a few of the MMOs I’ve played have managed to accomplish it. WoW is one, Everquest was another, perhaps Dark Age of Camelot was a third. They succeeded because every race was unique, every class was special and every location and area had a unique and immersive design.
I actually think this is why I never managed to get into more recent games like RIFT and Aion. They were fun, polished and very well technically executed but they lacked the variety and subtleties to keep me occupied for a long time. I know the lack of starting locations and playable areas were all design choices to try and aid the longterm PvP gameplay but I can’t help but feel that they were decisions made with the head rather than with the heart and that’s never a good thing. Play RIFT once and you’ve played it a hundred times.
So say what you want about WoW but don’t ever insult its artistic execution and direction. It’s one of the few MMOs that really has it nailed and, no doubt, has been a huge factor in its success.