World of Warcraft is a behemoth. The massively popular MMORPG celebrated its 10th birthday this year, and with millions of players worldwide it shows no signs of slowing down in its age.
I initially avoided the MMO scene altogether until I was well out of college, and I was admittedly turned off by WoW’s comically negative reputation (here’s looking at you, South Park). Still, I couldn’t help but wonder what the big to-do was over this quirky-looking gaming experience.
When a free trial got dumped in my lap, I decided to go questing—literally—for the answers. Color me surprised when I discovered how charming the game actually was. This was years ago, and WoW has changed a bit since then, but I could certainly see what all the hullabaloo was about.
I’d started out as a Human Mage for the Alliance–one of the game’s two opposing factions. I plugged along for fifty-some levels until I realized that something was…missing. My gameplay until that point was a mad dash through the content with friends who wanted to get to the end-game as quickly as possible. Interactions with belligerent power-gamers weren’t helping the game’s image and discouraged me from wanting to adventure with others. I was missing out on all of the rich story and well-crafted lore that was rumored to make Warcraft’s world of Azeroth such a compelling and beloved setting.
Worst of all, it was starting to feel like a chore.
I wanted to slow down and explore the setting. I wanted to know what made that game so beloved to the point of cultural phenomenon. I wanted to get to know the playerbase and take part in more than just mindless dungeon run after mindless dungeon run.
A flicker of hope came when I’d heard about the thriving roleplaying community within WoW’s other faction. Packing up my Mage’s bags, I decided to create a Blood Elf Hunter for the Horde.
What a much-needed change that was. I tackled the game’s content with a greater focus on exploration. I discovered and engaged in a more open and creative side of the playerbase. I found the adventurers and the storytellers who took what the game provided and crafted it into something even more dynamic and exciting. That was how I wanted to enjoy Warcraft, I realized.
Sadly, real-world obligations took over just as that realization hit, and I was forced to give up the game. My account was subsequently taken over by hackers while I was attempting to get it canceled, and I let it go thinking that I’d never need it again anyway. To this day, my corpse is probably still being used to spell out advertisements on the streets of Stormwind.
Not so long ago, my fiancé suggested that I try to get back into the game. He’d been playing WoW since its beta days and was convinced that the game’s changes since my hiatus would be worth a look. I gave a million reasons why I couldn’t play, but they all sounded a little hollow. After all, I was having fun before I had to leave the first time, wasn’t I?
With my previous characters lost to a gold-farming enterprise somewhere, I decided to start from scratch with a fresh account, and a fresh approach on how I would tackle World of Warcraft. This time around, I wouldn’t have to deal with negative peer-pressure and the expectation of treating the game like a job. I could focus on the world, the roleplaying, and a discovery of what makes WoW such a dearly loved pastime to millions of people across the globe.
So, pack up your purples and kindly ask a Mage to conjure up some food, because we’re going on an adventure, friends.
Let’s go find Azeroth.
Want to follow my adventures in Azeroth? Be sure to check out my new Warcraft-centric character blog over on Tumblr!