Why World of Warcraft is one of the greatest games ever made

For a second, forget about whether or not playable pandas will ruin World of Warcraft (hint: they won’t). Forget about “welfare purples,” “broken” class mechanics, or the jaded WoWers’ ill-conceived belief that Blizzard is inept when it comes to MMO design. World of Warcraft is, without a doubt, one of the best games ever. It took ideas and mechanics straight from the genre’s originators and streamlined them in ways no game had before. WoW wasn’t a niche experience enjoyed almost exclusively by the fantasy crowd--it infected the hard drives of families and hardcore gamers alike. In any given pick-up group, you were just as likely to party with husbands, wives, ex-husbands divorced by neglected wives (or vice versa), kids, teens and tweens.

Prior to WoW’s launch in 2004, MMOs were often structured in such a way that only players who were able to dedicate hours of play per day could enjoy them. Many had taxing death penalties (ahem, Everquest), and several more required lots of grinding to hit that ever-elusive level cap. WoW, on the other hand, allowed you to quickly get back in the action after death, simply diminishing the durability of your gear instead of detracting experience points from your character. It also revamped the leveling experience by establishing myriad questing hubs--small outposts bloated with quests--to disguise the amount of grinding necessary to level. No, quests weren’t a new idea, but WoW piled them on you seemingly ten at a time. Killing 20 monsters under the guise of a quest was far more enjoyable than killing them just for experience points, especially when completing quest objectives yielded additional rewards.

What’s more, those quests embellished the rich lore established by the Warcraft series--especially the hugely popular Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos and its expansion, The Frozen Throne. To this day, the Warcraft universe maintains one of the most fully realized fictions in gaming, spawning a series of comics, novels, board games, trading card games, and more. It’s immensely deep, and produced some fantastic fantasy heroes and villains. From its launch, WoW was extremely successful at dividing its fanbase into two of the most fiercely loyal factions in all of gaming. If you chose to play on the Alliance side, players often lamented that the Horde were better at structured PVP, while Horde players complained the opposite, often adding that Alliance players predominantly consisted of babies and sexually inexperienced males.

While none of the claims from either side were ever statistically proven, both factions resented one another with immense hatred. Those grudges often carried over into real life. Just watch Youtube videos from Blizzcon, Blizzard’s once-annual convention, where you’ll see thousands of players en masse shouting “for the Horde!” or “for the Alliance!” in unison.

That faction loyalty was further fueled by guilds--large groups of players that worked together under one uniting banner. While guilds existed long before WoW, the game’s sheer number of players resulted in huge communities that promoted teamwork and rivalries while cultivating friendships, marriages, and (probably) lots of break-ups.


  • joerevs300 - September 22, 2012 5:04 a.m.

    I might be one of the few people left in America who has not played WoW. What's the big hook, outside of losing days of your life in a game which eventually will fade to black, with nothing to show for your efforts (or your money spent)?
  • KnowYourPokemon - September 22, 2012 1:28 p.m.

    You can say that about every game in existence. Games are meant to be played for fun. If you're not having fun with a game then don't play, obviously. Why would I even need something to show that I enjoyed a game in the first place?
  • Teron - September 20, 2012 2:55 p.m.

    First off, outright trying to discredit pretty much any alternative opinion to your article in the opening lines is a really poor writing method. WoW was good, at one point perhaps; or we simply have romanticized memories of our time spent to make them feel worthwhile. But it is far from one of the greatest games ever made, it did set a few bars, but many games did without necessarily being great. What you have lauded as being WoW's greatest assets are either only half-truths or in the eyes of many others, dark and negative aspects of gaming. Additionally, any greatness it did have has been tarnished in recent years as well due to poor discussion making by the Devs in how to proceed with additional installments of the game; poor management of time and resources and a lack of responsibility to produce quality has also become painfully apparent. Coupled with little to no receptiveness to the feedback of the community the created, even when their involvement in specifically for such as with the Betas; WoW is far from great today, it is a disappointment to many. When launched, 'World of Warcraft' was far from a casual friendly and come and go game. It was every bit as grinding and dedication demanding as Everquest or other MMOs of the era. Comparatively it was easier to hit level cap in WoW than in EQ, but it was still months of evenings and weekends consumed to do so, and then Raiding began. Things didn't get any easier with Burning Crusade, it added more to do, while still having to grind through the existing content. I was one of those who didn't dedicate entire afternoons and evenings to WoW, and it took me over three months just to hit 40. It wasn't until Wrath of the Lich King 'easy mode' leveling started to come to be, which then really came to existence in Cataclysm. PvPing back in vanilla was a grueling, life consuming project, which some people quite literally killed themselves to try to be the top-ranked in; compared to the apathetic rabble you see today. That old PvP is also what birthed the bile-filled, hate-laden attitudes between the two factions, which you praise; but I would heavily contest that praise, anything which drives people to the point of physical assaults between factions in the real world is something not at all good or right. Blizzard fostering and encouraging this, such as with the Blizz'con Corpsegrinder Incident, should be something truly criminal. Back in the day, 'Soon' was practically a Blizzard trademark which meant "It's ready when it's ready, and no sooner." Nowadays it doesn't matter if something is broken and incomplete, it launches. Prime example being Cataclysm, which lacked a major portion of content intended to be in-game; the majority of it on the Alliance side. The Ally Twilight Highlands intro, the Stormwind Gilean District- Hell, the Gilnean Worgen in general. Blizzard admitted they failed the Draenai and promised to not do it again; and they turned around and failed even worse with the WOrgen, who have no major involvement in their own expansion whereas their counterparts are everywhere. Goblins have goblin quests from 1-85, Worgen become Night Elves after Gilneas. The greater whole of the Alliance Lore in Cata was left in the books, leaving players clueless as to why many things were the way they were. These facts, along with many Alliance Zones getting only a half-assed revamp or practically none at all, left Ally players in the Cold, half the player base; which a great game does not make. On top of this, Beta-players for months and months in advanced made mention of these flaws, to which Blizzard often failed to even respond, whereas silly things and polishing touches requested by Horde players were implemented into the game. If Blizzard had stuck to their roots of simply making a good game, not playing sides with their player-base, whom should be treated equally, and respected as their consumers and not viewed as cash-cows; WoW would still be great, and arguably one of the greatest. But due to Blizzard's own greed and favoritism within the story they themselves write, they have sullied it and are destroying what remains.
  • PhantasyPopStar - September 20, 2012 5:47 p.m.

    no seriously. you typed aaaaall that? for what? a game? an mmo that is othing but stat based addiction and you care about the lore!? BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! They don't care! half the shit was probably written with a few beers, few laughs and maybe a few spliffs! whilst laughing at lonely pathetic geeks like yourself! IT IS A GAME. lighten up. get outside maybe? meet a girl??! ..AAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! YA POOR CUNT YA
  • PhantasyPopStar - September 20, 2012 5:50 p.m.

    And on closer inspection, you literally registered a account here on the sole purpose to write out a meaningless rant about a game long past it's pride. awesome.. just.. awesome..... Don't forget your pocket protector1
  • nokeisoka - September 20, 2012 8:32 p.m.

    He has a point about caring about one faction more than another though. If they did anything like that with starcraft heads would roll.
  • Headsdown97 - September 20, 2012 10:58 a.m.

    HA! I played WoW since beta(Horde then Alli a year after launch and stayed alli), and I'll tell you this, when it first came out it was great. But after Burning Crusade it went down hill, Wrath... down hill again... and Cata I quit. The game blows now, its nothing but the devs play thing for them to do what ever they want, even slap haft their community in face and tell them to shut up and give them their money(Alliance). Blizzard has lost their way and WoW suffers because of it, they care nothing of the people who play it, but only their income and THEIR basis story arcs and lack of care about finishing stories and their haft baked ideas to make up for it, shall I mention Worgen, Gilneas, and the damn tree they get in Darnassass. WoW was great, but not anymore, its laying in a gutter bleeding out, dying.
  • TheCakeIsaPie - September 20, 2012 2:04 p.m.

    Haft? Like the haft of an arrow?
  • TheCakeIsaPie - September 20, 2012 8:55 a.m.

    Saying WoW is a good game is like saying heroin is a good drug. Effective at what it does? Yes. Addictive? Very. That doesn't make it good. WoW was a very well constructed, expertly executed Skinner box whose only purpose was to rake in $15.00 per month from 10Million subscribers. Just make Warcraft 4, already!
  • nokeisoka - September 20, 2012 8:38 p.m.

    I haven't played in a long time but I've always thought that their plan towards the end should be to release a couple of inner tension building expansions for the factions then end it with each race going back to solo factions where anyone can fight anyone except their own race and then bam warcraft 4 with 10? 12? playable races. So that it'd be different from starcraft
  • Shnubby - September 20, 2012 8:22 a.m.

    It's a great game no doubt but seriously it needs an addiction warning on the packet because even when I stop playing I often get an urge in the back of my head to hand over some more money to Blizzard so that I can get back to playing! I wish I could quit it completely as easily as some other people have!
  • Scoob - September 20, 2012 10:06 a.m.

    There's a difference between addiction and behaviour modification (operant conditioning). TheCakeIsaPie above you linked an article explaining the basics quite nicely in layman's terms. While the end result is very similar, the difference is that addictions are a disorder, while operant conditioning is about affecting your compulsions. If you end up going to university and have to take a lab class for any reason, take an intro to psychology class. It'll change the way you see video games today in a good way. You'll start playing them for fun rather than shooting for the meaningless rewards (points, trophies, etc).
  • laurenhiya21 - September 19, 2012 9:46 p.m.

    I'm not quite sure what's so enjoyable about WoW, to be honest ><; I tried to play it a few times... I just couldn't get into it though It's not that I don't like MMOs (I really like Mabinogi, and there was another one which I played for a bit...), but I guess I might just be picky with them >-<;;
  • Viron - September 19, 2012 7:38 p.m.

    I wouldn't have such a problem with WoW if it didn't choke up the market and essentially run a monopoly.
  • Redeater - September 19, 2012 3:50 p.m.

    You misspelled Warcraft 2. Seriously though, I'll never understand how people still aren't bored with this game. My friend has played it religiously since its debut while I hit level 40 after a few months and never had the desire to return.
  • KnowYourPokemon - September 19, 2012 5:21 p.m.

    Different people like different games, the individuality of opinions is extremely outstanding.
  • ObliqueZombie - September 19, 2012 7:35 p.m.

    Some people just aren't into MMOs. They play them, sure, but getting to max level is hard for some--like my friend Jared (Flyin Machine on the GR site). For me, the lore drives me. How it makes me feel when playing it, not just the gameplay alone, though I love that just as much.
  • CapnClassy - September 19, 2012 3:29 p.m.

    Never have I ever played a game with such an immense amount of lore in any game. Sometimes when I got bored of grinding I would often just explore around the different regions zones of Azeroth or Outland just to find something new :)
  • PhantomDave - September 19, 2012 3:18 p.m.

    I can't argue with this, the same way I can't argue that Justin Bieber is popular. But to say that it STILL is, is beyond ridiculous and is for no other reason than attempting to generate hype for an expansion coming out. Because this game is far, FAR from what made it great in the first place anymore.... I used to love this game. I played for years of my life when it came out. But it turned into a joke to the point of actually pissing me off and quitting. The only reason such a majority keep playing it is because they like having their hands held to a level cap, or they've been playing so long they then have to start asking themselves why they've been wasting their time after the repeated care bearing it's progressively been going through. It's time to put this mess of a game to rest and begin with WoW2 already, and bring it back to it's competitive roots. No more of this "Everyone Gets A Trophy" mentality....

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