Blizzard Entertainment makes some sweet games. I put many hours into the likes of Warcraft, Starcraft, and Diablocr — er, Diablo. The consistent level of quality in the graphics, sound, and gameplay is always high. Of course, this includes their MMO behemoth, World of Warcraft.
It was 2005. That was the year in which I played. Several of my friends played, and even my girlfriend (now wife). I was brought in by those friends, but as is my nature I often struck out on my own. Occasionally, Robyn and I played together without them. I sunk several months of man-hours into traveling the virtual world of Azeroth, making my numbers bigger, and helping other people make their numbers bigger, as well.
The thing is…my social anxiety carried over into the game. Having to work with others in a group, be it a simple quest or a complicated boss fight, just gave me grief. I enjoyed chatting. I enjoyed helping fight. But as the stakes got bigger and the rules of when and how long constantly came up, I just wanted out. I wanted to play the game on my own terms. I didn’t want to be judged or put into a situation where I could be. I wanted a Massively Parallel Single Player Online experience (this means that I wanted to be in a game where lots of people were also hanging out, but I didn’t want to ever be forced. Getting a big group of people together to do some complex task that couldn’t be done by myself became a drag. I’m sure it comes off as anti-social, but so be it.
Eventually I got bored of what one could do alone or with one other person and I quit. Several friends kept playing, becoming more entranced. In fact, at least one still plays occasionally. He showed me what’s changed in the game since I left. They’ve added new areas and new races and new this and that. Some of the new areas look cool, and flying mounts help getting around a lot easier. They’ve made the game more casual-friendly and accessible. That is interesting, but not enough to get me to play again. After all the sweet visuals and music, the core game is the same, and I know I’d play it the same way now as I did then. I wouldn’t want to join a guild and I wouldn’t really want to deal with strangers in an instance. The time requirement plus the lack of interest in the core gameplay means I’m still done with the game. My friend’s 30 minute tourist showcase whet whatever appetite I may have developed from not playing the game for 4 years, and at the same time satisfied it.
I enjoyed my time in Azeroth and WoW is still a fun game. But I’ve already accept a ride on the zeppelin to Oblivion. And I’m not coming back.