Not Playing World of Warcraft
World of Warcraft is still the biggest western MMO around and despite the ebb and flow of its player base, it remains a powerful presence within the gaming community. With the release of the pre-patch for the next expansion Battle of Azeroth yesterday, naturally there has been a wealth of blog posts as players dust off their subscriptions and return to the game. It’s a timely reminder that WoW was the MMO that made the genre more mainstream and commercially viable. For many gamers it was their stepping stone into other titles and sub-genres. The importance of World of Warcraft in gaming history and its place within pop culture is significant. The games success has bled through in to the mainstream. WoW is a known quantity outside of gaming circles and is social reference point, in the same way as Dungeons and Dragons, Batman or Star Trek.
However, as a gamer, if you do not play WoW or at least have some sort of history with it, you can find yourself in some kind of quasi MMO community minority group. It’s an "odd" phenomenon. Fellow blogger UltrViolet from EndgameViable goes so far as to say, “WoW expansions always make me feel like I just don't belong in the MMO genre”. Such is the status and ubiquity of the MMO. I wrote a while back about how “not liking sport”, especially football in the UK, can be a social impediment of sorts. In some respects, not playing WoW is the gaming equivalent of that. Often when talking to fellow gamers, especially those who enjoy the MMORPG genre, it is pretty much taken as read that you will have played the game at some point. Beyond a short trial, I’ve never really spent any major time playing WoW. It simply didn’t click with me. I didn’t and still don’t care for the aesthetics of the game, and I found the overall narrative tone to be a little too “knowing”.
My gateway MMO was LOTRO back in 2008 and right from the outset I liked the cut of its proverbial jib. I spent some time over the following years trying various other MMOs as they launched. Star Trek Online, Rift, The Secret World, Guild Wars 2 and SWOTR, to name but a few. However, for many gamers that was not the usual MMO route. Virtually every other gamer I know has a WoW background of some kind. Furthermore, the game is often further lionised due to it being associated with a particularly significant time in the gamers personal life. People have discovered the joys or gaming through WOW. Or had met the best friends of partners via it. WoW remains today, a safe and familiar haven for gamers going through tough times. Like a loyal pet or a much-loved book, WoW appears to at times transcend mere gaming to be a Mary Poppins-like presence that impacts upon gamers lives.
Overall, the current wave of excitement regarding Patch 8.0 does leave me feeling like a bemused spectator. To quote that great fictional character Ned Seagoon “Breakfast had just been served at Beauleigh Manor. I was at the window…looking in”. That is at least how WoW makes me feel sometimes. It’s like something quite “important” is going on but it always seems to be happening to somebody else. Now it is at this point that some may draw a similar parallel with EVE Online. That too is a monolithic game that casts a large shadow in the gaming community, allegedly. However, I feel that not playing WoW and not playing EVE, is an apples and oranges situation. Being outside of the current WoW hype makes me at times feel like I am missing out on something potentially fun. Observing EVE is more like rubbernecking a major road traffic accident. Either way, I am not sufficiently motivated to change my habits and start playing WoW. We exist as separate entities and never the twain shall meet. Like politicians and the truth, Love Island and human dignity, and Star Wars fans and self-awareness.