One of the aspects of World of Warcraft that has made it such an enduring part of my life over the years is the scale of content available.
It’s obvious, but it bears mentioning; Azeroth and Outlands are vast in size and deep in lore. With such a massive world to explore, and with things changing every so often, it keeps me coming back for more.
I am more than willing to return, too.
My journey in playing Playing World of Warcraft over the years has often reminded me a little of my journeys in learning to play chess as a child.
I was introduced to the game of chess by my father. I wasn’t really sure of the rules, or the goal, other than head to head games usually meant trying to outsmart the other person. Battleship, Stratego, Chess… head to head domination. My father liked that kind of arena, so that was what I expected going in.
After playing for a few weeks, I learned the basics of the rules, understood where I could go and what my standard options were, and I felt I could take on other players. I even won a few against my father.
The longer I played, the more connections I made between the rules, the moves, the layout and the way you needed to play a deeper tactical game. Instead of action and reaction, move to move, you needed to think ahead, plan. Move one piece here seemingly for no reason, and the next piece you move could be protected by the first. Using the first piece to protect the second by threatening retaliation through a rudimentary overwatch.
And it was mental, of course, because once your turn was over, the initiative was in the other players hands. He had the choice to make, was it worth it to take your piece, knowing it was covered by another that would take his in turn?
Had he already anticipated your move, and was planning his own attack around your flank where you weren’t paying attention, having nothing to do with your two pieces out there in the open?
The more I played, the more I saw that there was a deeper game to learn than what was on the surface. Much deeper. And I felt pretty sharp for seeing it. I was going to get really good, and kick my fathers ass.
Then there came the day when I checked my local library for books that someone might have written about playing chess better. It seemed a long shot, I mean, who the hell would write an entire book on how to play a board game like Stratego, Checkers or Chess? That’s why they stick little rules pamphlets in the box with the game.
What I found out was that the world of chess that I thought I was getting a handle on, that I was just now discovering, was old, familiar, highly debated and researched territory.
Thousands of books, movies, programs, historical data on matches, newspaper games using some kind of obscure letter/number code designations, omigod are you shitting me?
I just hoped to find a book on how to play a deeper level of the game, and now suddenly, it felt like if I really wanted to play the game well, I couldn’t just do what I was doing, or even just read a book, I needed to make it a career.
I came here to play a game, and I wanted to play it well. I didn’t want to devote the rest of my entire life to mastering all this…. this shit. I’m fucking seven years old! Screw that, I ain’t got time for that, summer’s here! Time to see if I can use the garden hose to tunnel a hole in the back lawn that will go all the way through to China. I hear it’s on the other side of the world.
Do they all stand upside down, down there?
Yep, that’s what I’m reminded of when I play World of Warcraft. The difference is, in WoW I was fortunate enough to start at the very beginning, and as the game grew and changed, I was there every step of the way to adapt and learn.
I can’t imagine what it must be like now to approach this game from the outside.
I do know that I don’t ever feel comfortable calling anyone a noob. If I do get annoyed, the other person has to be max level in some decent gear, because that to me says they’ve been around the horn long enough to have had lots of opportunity to see how things work and ask other people questions.
I never assume anyone else has visited a website to study the game.
Much like chess, if you start getting into the game, what would it be like to be told, “If you want to play well, you need to go watch this list of videos, read these website guides, use these training dummies, and practise a lot first. Also, you need to go find these addons to install, otherwise, you’re never going to be able to compete in a tournament with other people. You’re never going to be at that level on your own. Too much study and research has gone before you to catch up and be rediscovered all on your own.”
Would you do what I did with chess, and decide it’s just not worth it? To choose willingly to remain a dilettante, a player who enjoys playing the game, but knows that they will never be in the big leagues of top play because they just aren’t interested in investing that much time and effort into research?
Or, now that we are mostly mature adults, do you start playing the game, love what you’re doing, and when you poke around looking for information on how to play better, see the hundreds of websites and guides and blogs and tools and addons, and rejoice that for every question you may form, there are a dozen people eager to answer?
It’s questions like this that fascinate me, because there really are no ‘right’ answers. It all comes down to how you feel at the time, what you like, and when you began playing the game.
If you’ve just gotten into WoW, do you wish you too could have been in at the ground floor when it all began?
If you are fairly new to WoW, and sick of hearing about ‘vanilla’ or BC or how great Karazhan was, are you trying to dig in deep and catch up, or are you looking with interest for a new MMO. A game that you can try at launch, see from the very first baby steps, and be there for from day one?
You can never go back and be someone that played WoW from beta, but you can find something else to start with fresh.
I wonder, how many people look around the aging, established insular WoW community, and find that one of the reasons they want to leave for Rift or Star Wars: The Old Republic or Guild Wars 2 is the opportunity to be part of a revolution, to forge a brand new community and be there at the dawn of a new era.
And having seen what the WoW community grew into, is it even possible for such a thing to happen again? Nothing succeeds quite like success, and bandwagons are made for jumping on. How do you forge a vibrant community for another MMO when there is such a monolithic leviathan sloughing along the tracks, sucking the light from the room?
With all the interest in SWTOR and Guild Wars 2, such are my thoughts on a boring Friday afternoon.