I was enormously hesitant to put Warcraft as my number five. I still am. I enjoy playing WoW, but I can’t say with unassailable conviction that it is my fifth favorite game ever made. There are plenty of other contenders; Dark Souls, Skyrim, Bioshock: Infinite, Mass Effect 3, Fable II, the original Halo, Final Fantasy VIII, Pokemon — I could keep listing the games that would qualify for the number five with practically no end in sight. Mass Effect in particular comes close, but falls short if only because I’m still super salty about how it ended.
At the end of the day we gave number five to WoW if only because ten years from now I’ll probably still be playing it.
I used to give WoW a lot of shit. I don’t even remember about what or why, other than that it was just cool to hate on people who played Warcraft. The only reason I succumbed in the first place was because I spent a week one summer languishing within the deepest, darkest depths of utter boredom and Gamestop was sold out of Red Dead Redemption.
World of Warcraft is fucking fun. There’s a reason why it consistently boasts a subscriber count of several million — even ten years after it came out. And there’s a really simple, easy answer as to why.
A little while back, one of Warcraft’s developers, popularly known to the community as Ghostcrawler, left Blizzard to take a job at Riot to help develop League of Legends. Not too long thereafter, GC was questioned as to whether he regrets opening up WoW to be more casual, and he responds, “Let’s just say that after working on Age of Empires and World of Warcraft for a total of 16 years, it’s really refreshing to work on a game where I don’t have to worry whether someone’s grandmother can pick it up or not.”
Now, at first glance this sounds incredibly dickish. I was a bit peeved when I first read it myself. he just left and he’s already talking smack? League isn’t even a difficult game by comparison. Just, what the hell?
But then it dawned on me — that’s why Warcraft is so enjoyable for so many people. The accessibility factor. Damn near anyone can pick up the game and learn how to play it within an hour. You might not play it well, and you certainly won’t be first pick to go hit up Raids, but that isn’t going to damper your enjoyment at the beginning.
Leveling is fun, especially the first time. Wandering around the massive world Blizzard created is fantastic, even when you end up in the Plaguelands about thirty levels before you’re supposed to. Killing mobs, completing quests, running dungeons or even just wandering — its all open to the player to decide how they want to play. This mentality extends throughout the game, even when you hit the level cap; You can raid, you can achievement hunt, you can look for rare mounts, you can pet battle, you can play dress up with your character, you can level up alternate characters to the cap and get them decked out, you PvP in Battlegrounds or camp lowbie areas because you want to channel your inner asshole.
Warlords of Draenor made current content raiding a doable prospect for the people like me who aren’t in very large guilds, or who don’t want to invest dozens of hours every week into progression. I miss how nice LFR was in that regard, but I’ll take what I can get.
Even still, the vast amount of my enjoyment doesn’t stem from gearing my toon out mindlessly every week for no reason other than just getting bigger numbers. My enjoyment comes from doing all the old shit that the veteran elites did years ago. I have fun having occasional discussions with the Lich King on why he won’t drop me his invisible pony, or skipping through the Firelands in search of Ragnaros’s hammer, or punching Deathwing in the face because I want that Alexstrasza recolor’d mount.
And I can do all of this because while it might not start out simple and easy, it becomes simple and easy given enough time. Soon enough I’ll be walking through Throne of Thunder for those delicious Heroic Achievements.
Warcraft isn’t great despite how simple and easy it is to get into and play. Its great because of how simple and easy it is to play. All the fantastic art and music and even how creative and challenging the raiding and dungeons are — its all secondary to the one immovable fact that WoW’s success is because at the end of the day its a game for casuals.
I am a casual. I embrace that title and mindset. And I’m glad that WoW is here for me.
Now if they could just give me a Death Knight class quest, that’d be great.