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Wednesday, January 5, 2011


I played Warcraft II. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I played Warcraft III. It was... okay. I played World of Warcraft. I didn't get it.

Why do people play that game?!

Okay, okay, I can understand the psychology behind the addiction. The game is designed to lure players in and keep them there for as long as possible. The longer they keep playing, the more money Blizzard makes off them, thanks to subscription fees. Players are sent off on hundreds of little quests, collecting items and performing various menial tasks in the hope of gaining experience/items/notoriety. It's like those lab rats who learn that pushing the red lever will dispense food. Except in WoW, the red lever only SOMETIMES dispenses food. Sometimes, it does nothing. So the rats frantically push the lever, day after day, and every so often they get a randomized reward that makes their little hearts go pitter-pat.

I understand how the design of the game works to keep players coming back. What I don't understand is how anyone finds the game amusing at all. Where's the appeal?

I played the game for a while, years ago. I achieved level 12 before giving up. Understand, it takes a while to reach level twelve. We're talking maybe fifteen or twenty game hours. After all that time, I realized something. I had not yet had enjoyed myself while playing.

Now, it's possible that the game becomes more interesting at higher levels. But I doubt it. From what I've seen and heard, it continues to be formulaic and uninteresting. You talk with someone with a question mark, roam around killing stuff and collecting stuff, talk with the person again, get something from the little adventure. Wash, rinse, repeat. And people will do this FOR MONTHS. Some people have been doing it for years!

I don't get it. When does the game get fun? Someone has to explain this one to me.

Here is one of several problems I have with the game: It doesn't end! Granted, it's a game whose primary goal is to keep players paying the monthly subscription fee, so it's in the companies best interest to keep the storyline, such as it is, going for a long time. This is a great money-making scheme that has worked for television shows, comic books, and horror movie franchises for decades. But it rarely makes for good story-telling.

One of the reasons I prefer Japanese manga to American comic books is because manga writers are much more willing to finish the story. Trigun has a beginning, middle, and end. Once the story finishes, that's it. There is no more. Hope you enjoyed the ride, because that's all you get out of these characters and this universe. But my GOD, it's a fun ride. Batman, on the other hand, has been going for decades, with the occasional gritty reboot. Don't get me wrong; I love Batman. But I could never read the comics. I like my stories to eventually get wrapped up nicely.

World of Warcraft ostensibly is telling a story about a young adventurer who rises to power/fame/glory/whatever. This adventurer apparently makes his or her rise by collecting wolf pelts and fishing at every opportunity, including while raiding enemy cities. This adventurer's story never ends, though. He or she just keeps getting wealthier and more powerful, and probably has to wander around as a ghost every once in a while, looking for his or her body.

I play video games because I am interested in the story. The Zelda games, despite being quite formulaic, tell a fun and engaging story, as well as provide interesting and enjoyable gameplay. Dante's Inferno, a video game released last year, had many flaws, including shoddy cinematography which made combat and platforming unnecessarily difficult, some truly obnoxious puzzles, and an incoherent combat system that was fine when battling bosses and mini-bosses, but made fighting hoards of minions ridiculously easy, albeit somewhat time-consuming and repetitive. Despite all that, I enjoyed the game, because I was engrossed in the storyline.

Deus Ex? Cool storyline.

God of War? Cool storyline.

Dead Space? Very cool storyline.

Resident Evil 5? Terrible storyline, which is partially why it sucked so bad. (Although the fact that you were never alone--you always had a partner with you--made it difficult to feel fear and get a nice adrenaline rush during the supposedly scary situations. Solitude is what makes survival horror games frightening. Take away solitude, and your survival horror game isn't going to work. End of rant.)

World of Warcraft? Storyline is... just a disguise. A mask, to help players forget that they are just performing the same task over and over again. So all you WoW fans, you keep pushing that red lever. I hope you find the reward your looking for. As for me, I'm going to read a book.

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