World of Warcraft’s completely malleable online universe

World of Warcraft is the most renowned, massively multiplayer online role-playing game in the world. At last count, World of Warcraft had approximately 5 million registered users. It’s also important to note that playing WoW is not free. Each of these 5 million players has to pay, depending on the country, at least $15 per month.

World of Warcraft is like Tolkien’s library pixilated, modified and then personalized. Online, a gamer begins by selecting a character from a host of fantasy-contrived magical races. As cash from gamers’ wallets is pumped into the game, levels are advanced, skills are learned; as enemies are defeated, weapons, armor and currency are earned. Having a completely malleable online world gives gamers total control over their character. Having certain buildings and realms off-limits to new characters lends incentive to devote more time and money to level up.

WoW, like many other games, lets the players create an online persona from scratch. Initially, this character is weak and technically unarmed. As one devotes hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars to this character, however, it becomes personalized as the gamer chooses what role the character plays, what weapons it uses and what clothes or armor it wears.

Created years after StarCraft, WoW‘s programmers constantly update the game’s depth of story and overall length. Due to software updates and expansion releases, there is no end to the myriad of activities or quests that a gamer can play. There is always something else to do. Rather than purchase, enjoy, win the game and move on, to progress in WoW, gamers must bind together in “guilds” or “clans” and go on “raids.”

Raids are elaborate real-time online gatherings where upward of 40 people will log on simultaneously to achieve a certain goal, like killing a certain large and powerful enemy. Though purely an online experience, these guilds can create real-life friendships. Even if raiding gamers never meet offline, they do speak in real time using microphone headsets. The added psychological draw to WoW is that it is much more cooperative than any previous online game.