Monday marked the fifth birthday of World of Warcraft, and - enormous success though it is - there are many millions who haven't played it, and honestly don't care to. I'm one of them, and here we have our say.
Let's understand each other: I have nothing against Warcraft or Warcraft gamers, or MMOs. I don't fear addiction to them, because I've built my life around deadlines and never missing them, and I'm fortunate to have some every single day to keep me honest. It's not the fantasy setting or the stigma, either - I was trundling AD&D books to my seventh grade classes and suffered enough teasing that I truly don't care about such things, now that I'm older. Maybe it's the fact that I've never been a serious PC gamer. Maybe it's my lack of comfort with WASD and mouse controls.
I think mostly it's how I was raised on RPGs. When I play a fantasy role-playing game I expect dice. I expect dice chalk. I expect character sheets. I expect stacks of hardbacked manuals. I expect a dungeon master screen. I expect rainy Saturdays with nothing to do but read "Unearthed Arcana." I expect going over to a friend's house on a Friday night. I expect paying the DM $US20 to let me re-roll at name level. I expect everyone telling Eric to shut the fuck up, we're not letting him name his drow paladin-bard-illusionist "Zartan."
While I can't say these things have no analogue in WoW (except for paying the DM), the experience does seem to me to be a little less social. Yeah, you can form a raiding party at 3 a.m. and battle both sleep and orcs. For me, nothing beats lurching into one last cavern full of bugbears, and watching your pal, laying on the floor with his eyes closed, confidently tick off his weapon and spell choices to save the day, and then finding him the next morning asleep in exactly the same posture.
Again, nothing against Warcraft, but back in the day, that's just how we rolled. Literally.
Stephen Totilo, Deputy Editor, Kotaku
I don't play World of Warcraft. Haven't touched it since a single Saturday a few years ago when I brought a Tauren Druid to his 12th level and had a player, controlling a Tauren-turned-bear, approach my character and lick him. I believe this was the same player who, earlier in the day, went on a quest with me and didn't actually disconnect when I needed him most — he just had stepped away to change a load of laundry. I get what's appealing about WoW: The leveling, the oddities that occur when you're playing a game full of real people. But I quickly decided that I feared the game. I feared its monthly drain on my budget. I feared the sense of obligation to keep playing a game I continuously paid for. And I feared the amount of other games I wouldn't have time to play in order to play this single one. I like to play games that people consider to be great. I like to try to understand them. But with some disappointment, I stay away from World of Warcraft. I think it's better for me that way, that I gain more than I lose.
Juan Perez, Editor-in-Chief, Perez Start
Easy answer, addiction. MMO players are a different type of gamer. They live for the grind. Previously, I played Star Wars Galaxies - the first release - not that "revamped" watered-down version. There were not enough hours in the day to rank up my Twi'lek Bounty Hunter, join the Imperials and raid Anchorhead looking for Rebels who took the battles a little too serious by "reporting" other players. World of Warcraft then came along and swooped all those who still had the itch to game MMO. Macro nerds really pissed me off. You know the type, the ones that made all their actions a damn script. What enjoyment did they get from that? Sure, it was practical but gaming should be fun not a job. I already know gaming is an addiction that some can handle, while others become infatuated. WoW changed lives and kept some living like hermits. Monthly fees forced them to play "more" because of the "Geez, I'm paying for this crap so I'm going to use it" mentality. WoW is a cult I may have missed thanks to SWG setting my standards for MMOs, but I'm glad it did. Not sure how much time a week a WoW player plays but I bet it's close to 20 to 25 hours. No Thanks! Oh yeah, and that South Park episode helped keep me away. "Make Love, Not Warcraft". Staaaaaaan!!!
Fergus Mills, Senior Editor, The Koalition
Many people have tried to get me to play World of Warcraft, but it never appealed to me. Playing a game like WoW consumes so much time and all WoW players that I know play for hours on end everyday. There isn't enough time for me to have a social life, go to college, get enough, sleep, and play WoW the way they seem to. I have nothing bad to say about WoW players in general. Now that I am older I realise that people are just passionate about things that increase their quality of life. I just don't see why WoW is worth my time, so I stay away from it. It seems like just another game to me.
Overall, I think World of Warcraft has an extremely niche audience. I might be wrong, but WoW seems to take a certain amount of time and resolve to really get into it. It's not a game that you turn on and start to have fun right away with. My roommate DeJarvis Oliver says that he never got into WoW because it takes too long to build a character, level him up, and enjoy the action. I never got into it because of its monthly subscription. I have an internet bill, Netflix, Gamefly, and a cell phone bill to pay to name a few things. World of Warcraft does not have priority over any of that. I can cop a few console games and have satisfied experiences without any additional cost (besides XBL hitting my wallet up once a year). I realise that some of this additional cost is perceived and justified to some aspect, but I like variety in my games. Playing one game for too long is not my style. I don't think World of Warcraft has done a good job in letting people know why this is the game that they should playing. The commercial with Ozzy Osbourne is cool and all, but c'mon. Ozzy isn't going to convince me to play this game. He looks like he doesn't play it himself.
Brian Miggels, Editor & Graphic Designer, GameSpy
I don't play World of Warcraft at all. I never have and I never will. There's something that makes me cringe whenever co-workers start talking about raids, loot, and whatever level their blood elf is. I find it easy to sit back, relax, pick up a controller (not a keyboard with strategically popped out keys) and be labelled a "con-tard" by a number of people here at the office that specifically play PC games. Point number 1: Whatever the minimal difference is between my computer screen and my HDTV, it's enough to make me separate my worlds as far as a life is concerned. The symbolic gesture of closing my laptop at the end of the day is a brief reminder that it's game time or going out time. Point number 2: WoW is one of the most obviously addictive games there is. I have a full time job that I largely owe to me getting my shit together and doing away with some of my tendencies of being a highly addictive person. If I started playing it I know I would like it so much that my entire career would fall apart and I would go back to living in my parents' basement — although they never really even had a basement to begin with, but you get the point. Not for me, and no thank you.
Marc Normandin, Baseball Prospectus
Most of my close friends played WoW a few years back. They would play at a LAN centre we visited often, and eventually would only play WoW. I still went to hang out with them, but that became harder to do as they morphed into hot-key-striking zombies.
Thanks to watching all of the riveting non-action as they stood around for hours waiting to organize themselves for daily raids, and what I can only assume are the same feelings a resentful, scorned girlfriend would have towards the game, I have had no interest in giving it a shot.
Shaun McIlroy, U.K./European Editor, One Last Continue
There's a simple reason why I no longer play World of Warcraft, I've got too much to lose in my life. Back in 2006, as a lowly college student, I managed to justify my then-addiction by claiming it was a way to unwind after a busy week. It was then that grades began to suffer. After a time I decided that enough was enough and the increasing workload was definitely more important than collecting animal pelts.
In short, life had, and has, more to offer than a trip across a virtual land for a nominal fee each month. I'd much rather use that money on a night out with my girlfriend, or a book for my games design degree, or even something more basic such as rent. I'm not sure how many hours I'd need to invest into that world again without risking my University degree or my wonderful relationship, but I know it wouldn't be worth it.
To contrast, my older brother (38) spends a hell of a lot of his personal time on WoW. Then again, and I say this with the utmost love and respect, with a lack of a real social life outside of Azeroth he can afford to.
Kreyg Dezgo, Editor, Hot Blooded Gaming
To this day, I have never played or so much as tried World of Warcraft. Some might say, "what kind of gamer are you?!" and I would reply sarcastically with, "a smart one?" While the game seems fun and like something I would greatly enjoy, the price of addiction is not one I wish to pay. It seems that everyone I knew who played WoW became addicted to it in some way. Working at a gaming LAN center/retail store didn't help either. Co-workers would play at work instead of working, friends would rather stay in and when asked to hang out, they would "not feel like it" It seemed like everyone just wanted to play World of Warcraft.
Instead of jumping on the bandwagon, I stayed away from the game. Co-workers and friends tried to peer-pressure me into playing many times. It was almost like those situations they told us about in [anti-drug program]D.A.R.E. Luckily I remember the "eight ways to say no," "broken record" and "say no and walk away" seemed to work best. Over time, my friends stopped playing, but periodically they would relapse and all their old patterns were back. The South Park episode later came out and I said to each of them, "at least you weren't as bad as that guy" Ultimately my friends are the reason I do not play WoW.
Josh Robinson, The Blue Banner (University of North Carolina Asheville)
The first time I tried World of Warcraft was when I was in the 11th grade. My buddy let me try the "friend trial" that came with the game. I gave it a try, but I was just so bored with the repetitive nature of the game. The never-ending leveling up, or "grinding," wasn't fun to me – I'm still not sure how it is for everyone who plays that game.
My friends were obsessed with the game from about the 11th grade until somewhere around the end of my sophomore year of college. I've still go friends who play it, but none that play it nearly as religiously as they did.
I don't have the time to play most of the video games I'd like. I don't see how people have the time to dedicate to a game like that. I definitely understand the appeal of the community aspect. I played EverQuest: Online Adventures for the PlayStation 2 while I was in the ninth grade and then Final Fantasy XI on the PlayStation 2, as well, in the 10th grade. I made some relationships with people that I still keep in contact with today.
But these days, I don't have the time to give to an MMO. I'm a full-time student and I have a job, as well. That alone ties up most of my time. I'm a senior, which means no rest, even in death, haha. Any spare time I have isn't going to be spent on a game that requires a monthly fee.
To me, WoW was not as fun as the other two MMOs I had played before. Can't really put my finger on what it was, but WoW lacked something the other two had. But obviously there's something there that appeals to a much larger group of people than the two MMOs that I played before it.
Your turn. If you don't play, now or ever, why not?
Check back all week for more stories related to World of Warcraft's fifth anniversary.