World of Warcraft: Looking for Group (2014)
Despite having played a broad spectrum of games in my time, I've never really had much dealings with the Blizzard. Beyond owning Overwatch, a game I’ve long stopped playing and trying a free trial of both World of Warcraft and Hearthstone, I have little personal experience of their games. However, I am fully aware of their product range and their reputation within the gaming industry. Overwatch has taught me how well-conceived and polished their games can be. Blizzard may not be incredibly innovative, but they learn from others and produce titles with all the elements that work well. Sadly, I have no real affinity to their flagship MMORPG, as my point of entry with that genre was LOTRO. My interest in World of Warcraft mainly stems from a business perspective and the place it holds in gaming history. Overall my curiosity about the game, its community and culture is mainly academic. So, I finally got around to watching the documentary World of Warcraft: Looking for Group that showcased at Blizzcon in 2014 and was subsequently released on You Tube thereafter.
Despite being three years old and there being major changes to the game in that period, I was hoping that the hour-long film would be relatively informative about the MMO. Sadly, World of Warcraft: Looking for Group is a curious mix of marketing, nostalgia, talking heads and self-congratulation rather than an in-depth analysis of a financially successful game and cultural phenomenon. If you are looking for a rigorous dissection of how Blizzard created one of the most financially lucrative games ever and the way it changed the gaming landscape, then look elsewhere. This is not an independent analysis but more of an ode to the community and the fans. That in itself is not without merit and certainly it’s nice to see the community recognised. But it means that the discussion is somewhat partisan and contains all the tropes and memes one associates with modern day public relations. Viewers may well learn something of the game’s history, but it's not as thorough as some may hope and a lot of the sound bites from the players are somewhat generic. They are often applicable to any MMO.
Overall, I think that World of Warcraft: Looking for Group is ultimately meant as a tribute to the games player base, as a friendly “attaboy” or virtual high five for their loyalty and support over the years. Sometimes a bit of mutual back slapping goes a long way in buying good will. One thing is for certain; there aren't any other Western MMORPGs that warrant or could justify having such a documentary of this nature made about them. Blizzard's ongoing success with World of Warcaft is a prodigious feat and is attributal an esoteric mixture of skill, business acumen and being in the right place at the right time. The latter quality is possibly a reason why they haven’t seen fit to create a second game of this nature. Although metaphors about lightning striking twice are technically inaccurate, they certainly applicable in this case. So, if you have a history with World of Warcraft then you may wish to watch World of Warcraft: Looking for Group for a fix of nostalgia. For those seeking a more nuanced analysis, you may wish to try another gaming documentary, which appears to be a growing genre.