Why is World of Warcraft so addictive?
When Paul Sams, the COO of Blizzard (the company that makes WoW), was asked why people play World of Warcraft, his answer was a bit depressing: “How often in your everyday world do you get to feel heroic?” he said. “How often do you get to step into a world and do something big and meaningful? People need an escape from ordinary life. It’s just something people need.”
What’s implicit in this statement is that our normal lives just aren’t good enough. Our life in WoW and other MMOs seem fundamentally better than our real lives.
But not only do we feel like we’re accomplishing something meaningful and significant, there’s a huge community attraction that’s praised by almost everyone I talk to about why they play WoW.
Thirty-year-old Ta-Nehisi Paul Coates writes about his former WoW addiction and says this:
What I came to understand was that WoW was not necessarily an escape, but a surrogate for a community that is harder and harder to find in the real world. I lived further from my parents and siblings than my parents had. I wasn’t raised in the church. In my 20s, I built a shocking amount of community around illicit substances and bars. But with age and a child, that was no longer as attractive or even possible. Into that void, I brought WoW, which instantly connected me with the world—not just mine, but others I could never have imagined or found on my own…. [Now that I’ve quit playing WoW] I miss my guild, Gnomeland Security, a loose cross-section of military guys, history majors, high school students, writers and singers. They were the place where everyone knew my name.
Community might be the number one aspect of MMOs that keeps players coming back for more — to earn a reputation and be accepted by other people.
Through many weeks of brainstorming and even analyzing some of my own attractions to the MMO game, Guild Wars, here’s a list of why I think the MMO gaming genre can become so addictive:
- You can be the best in the world at something.
- Because you are the best, you become valued and needed by your guild and others in the game.
- You are able to earn the admiration and respect of other players and thus make a name for yourself.
- There is a high level of aggression, which feeds a constant flow of adrenaline.
- You have complete ownership over building your character into whoever/whatever you want him/her/it to be (unlike other games that only give you a selection of characters to choose from, like sports games). You develop the character’s strengths and weaknesses, craft armor, build weapons, learn skills, perfect those skills, and, in some cases, even develop their unique personalities. It makes you feel that you have a unique identity, that you’re different and special from everyone else in a crowded world.
- There is a rewarding and satisfactory feeling of conquering and achieving something difficult.
- Interest in the paranormal and supernatural and controlling aspects of them for your advantage is very intriguing to teenagers and young adults. (Christianity even plays off this sometimes, too, doesn’t it?)
- Death is never the end or “game over,” it’s only a development of character or an annoyance, which feeds an internalized feeling of invincibility.
- The only laws/limitations are the laws of physics and sometimes even they can be overcome.
- Fantasy is always attractive. Everyone has fantasies and imaginations to explore and carry out.
- Relationships between real-life people abound and thrive in these online communities.
- All the women are beautiful and all the men are handsome.
- There are no families, only guilds and clans (of real-life people) that adopt members based on skill level, achievements and common goals. Thus, there is again pressure to excel and surpass everyone else.
- The feeling that you’re actually making a difference as the enemy is defeated/eliminated/forced to submit.
- There is no sleep, no need to rest, only the need to be better and stronger.
- There is no mourning, only revenge.
- Strategy and critical thinking are required to outwit and ultimately defeat your opponent. Victory does not always belong to the strongest — it often goes to the smartest and most knowledgeable. (A very attractive aspect for the little guys in real life who are often picked on or feel physically inferior.)
[tags]World of Warcraft, MMORPG, MMO, spirituality[/tags]
Posted on January 23, 2007