Why do 7 million people play World Of Warcraft ?
I guess it’s a combination of things. Work was taking up more of my time and WOW felt like a second job when just one job was already enough for me. But ultimately it came down to this. If I put in 10 hours pumping out presentations for my boss, reading about mutual funds online, etc. I came out the better for it. However, if I spent the same 10 hours playing, maybe I’d get a level up out of it but when I log off the game, what do I have to show for the last 10 hours of my life. Not much.
Therein lies the problem though. I quit WOW because I would rather “level up” in life than level up in the game. By not allowing myself to devote long hours to the game, my character would never be high level or have great items or be valued by “virtual friends.” In short, I chose to pursue real life status and achievement over game status and achievement.
However, for those that do and can put in the hours and hours the game requires, the experience is quite different from mine. They join prestigous guilds, bond with people they “adventure” with, deck themselves up in really great equipment, (epic equipment in WOW are to guys as jewelry and namebrand shoes are to girls - neither gender understands why the other values it so much), etc. In short they become “da shit” in their game world. Now you wonder, “so what? It’s just a game so it doesn’t matter how awesome you are.”
My response is to guys it doesn’t matter when or where you’re “da shit” as long as you are. We love to be the guy who makes the last shot in our weekly bball game even if noone even remembers who won last time. WOW gives an outlet for that part of the male ego. For much much less time and pain than it takes to get into Harvard, graduate, get into Goldman Sachs, get promoted to director, buy a Ferrari and marry a trophy wife, a WOW player can become “da shit” in his game. If he games religously, he can get into the Destiny guild, finish his tier 2 epic set, get promoted to guild officer and buy his epic mount in 6-8 months. And once you reach that revered in game status, it just feeds the urge to play even more. Maybe in real life, the players feel like ordinary Joe’s but in the game, low level players bow down to them and their friends inundate them with excited greetings whenever they sign on.
With that kind of daily ego massage, a dedicated player just becomes more and more sucked in. He feels an obligation to the game and the players he plays with. It’s the same as living a double life. A life where you can smite down a dozen monsters with the click of your mouse or make more gold in one night playing than your entire year’s salary. In conclusion, WOW makes its players feel larger than life. It lets them project their dreams and aspirations onto a digital landscape where other “real people” respect and applaud them for their accomplishments. And this point leads to the final kicker. If you take nothing away from this essay I just wrote, at least take away this next line:
WOW is a manifestation of our culture’s love affair with instant gratification. It sucks gamers in with this promise: as long as you pay 15 bucks a month and play 8 hours a day, you’re guaranteed to become a living legend in the world of Azeroth, rich, powerful, adored. Unfortunately in real life, there is no deal that even comes close. Rising up and living the American dream takes blood, sweat, tears, perseverance, money and a lotta luck. It’s a brutally hard road which is why Blizzard (producer of WOW) is making billions betting that if they provide a much easier, alternative road, many people will take it.