Last summer, I was overcome by a fit of irrational curiosity and started playing that terrible World of Warcraft thing. I keep telling myself it was an experiment – I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. The inevitable happened and I got a bit hooked – knowingly and with intent, in this case. I know the game is set up to provide a very precisely calculated set of tasks and rewards, I know it’s designed to be addictive, but the thing is that it’s a job quite well done. Playing the Warcraft thing is, for me, like giving fifty pee to a grafter on the bus: I know their story’s a load of old groats but if they tell it in style I’m prepared to throw them a bone for making the effort.
It’s simple to play without being as crushingly, jaw-droppingly I-could-train-a-dog-to-do-this dull as Diablo, but the larger encounters have just a hint of actual complexity in them and the classes’ capabilities upgrade regularly enough to provide new ways of going about them. Plus it looks pretty (I’m an especially big fan of the Undercity: it’s surprisingly vibrant and colourful for a city in a sewer built by undead).
Of course, it does cost money, and that’s the bit that makes Shiny laugh at me for playing it, but here’s the thing. Warcraft costs about eight quid a month. Going to the cinema (after bus tickets, refreshing beverages and a big ol’ pack of Revels are factored in) is about as expensive and provides maybe three hours’ entertainment. I’m not particularly concerned about wasting money as long as I’m getting an evening a week’s play out of it.
The real danger is turning it into Serious Business and caring about playing the same small area over and over again for days on end, looking for one item that has a nought point three percent chance of dropping from a quarter of the creatures in there… that way lies madness, and it started getting that way the last time I played it. This time around I’m going to make myself introduce myself to some other players and actually roleplay on the bloody thing. It helps that my main character this time ’round is a healer-type – gives me a ready-made reason to interact with people. I’ve also resolved to have nothing to do with any of those guild things: they make playing the WoW into an obligation and frankly it’s when you start obliging yourself to play that the trouble starts.
At least, I think that’s how it is. If I manage to stick to all these resolutions and still drop off the face of the world then we know it’s all nonsense, right?