A new WORLD domination

Adam Griffiths

‘World of Warcraft’ game gains global popularity

Bill Poulson, sophomore history education major, plays World of Warcraft while his fellow gamer, Barry Fleming, senior communication major, observes. DAVID RANUCCI | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: John Proppe

As of this month almost 7 million people worldwide are part of what may be the largest interactive virtual society ever created: The online realm of World of Warcraft.

World of Warcraft has become the first truly global video game hit since Pac-Man in the early 1980s,” according to a New York Times report earlier this month.

But becoming a global phenomenon doesn’t happen overnight. What began in November 2004 with an unprecedented 240,000 copies of the fourth title in the Warcraft series released on the first day. By the end of 2005, the game had five million players worldwide.

It wasn’t a smooth launch. Bill Poulson, sophomore history education major, remembered his first experience with World of Warcraft as less than impressive.

“I actually hated World of Warcraft the first time I played it, because I was a heavy EverQuest player,” he said. “A couple of my friends came over to World of Warcraft, so I tried to play it and I completely disliked it, so I quit for about two months.”

Others like senior conservation major Kris Jackson were excited at the game’s release.

“Oh my god, it’s so complicated. There’s so much stuff to do,” she said. “Why do I have to kill six pigs? Why do I have to kill this pig? Why don’t you kill this pig? You’re level 55 and I’m level two. You kill the pig. That’s pretty much why I like it.”

What began as simply playing a computer game for both Jackson and Poulson has become a way of life. Jackson got her friend Genna Mintz, senior marketing major, into playing the game about a year ago. For Poulson, it was a way to connect to others when he first moved to Kent.

“We had a paper we put outside our door with information that you were supposed to write on it, and one of them was hobbies” Poulson said. “I was like, ‘I don’t want people to think I’m a nerd, so I’m not going to put World of Warcraft, I’ll just put WoW and if somebody knows, they’ll know,’ and (senior communications major Barry Fleming) and our friend Tony knocked on my door and asked me if I wanted to go get lunch.”

Each player creates a character with a unique appearance. Characters join guilds, which are communities within World of Warcraft that work together to achieve common goals, boosting the level rating of each character and propelling the game forward.

Still, there is a sense of community and interaction that is one of the most attractive features of the game.

“All I do is sit around and play video games all day,” Jackson said. “I play with my boyfriend and we get to spend time together because he lives in Pittsburgh, so I don’t get to see him very much.”

Fleming said that Blizzard Entertainment, the company that released World of Warcraft, is “really good about making people feel at home” with server forums to chat on and complain about aspects of the game that are bothering players.

Poulson said that there is no way to not contact someone in the game.

“Blizzard has managed to maximize the social interaction,”he added. “In World of Warcraft, you can talk to anybody in the game, anywhere, anytime.”

And it’s gotten personal, Mintz said. Some players get outraged when another makes a mistake that causes the group to suffer a setback.

“People get offended really very easily,” she said. “You’re relying on each other, so somebody isn’t doing their job right, they’re not healing or they’re not fighting, and these people start screaming and yelling.”

The players, too, aren’t all stereotypical “gamer nerds,” as Poulson put it. Diversity in characters, both in personality and location, is something that enriches the gaming experience.

“You have jocks and geeks – every person in every social status playing this game all across the country,” Mintz said. “It was even quoted on ‘Family Guy.'”

Poulson agreed.

“In our guild there’s people from Canada, Australia, Oregon, pretty much every spot in the United States,” he said, “so none of us are near each other, except the couple of us from Kent.”

So what’s the point?

“There’s no ending like there is in most games,” Jackson said. “There’s no main boss. It’s constantly going. There’s constantly something to do. That’s why they release new updates every month, so even if you are at the top level, there’s still something for you to do.”

Poulson added that “it’s not an addiction,” but there is some overriding quality that draws people into the game and keeps them trapped.

World of Warcraft‘s got a good thing going,” he said. “They’ve got a ball rolling that EverQuest never had. Just the force is amazing. There are so many people who say they quit and then two weeks later they’re back. Nobody ever really quits.”

And despite what may seem like social ostracism – Poulson, Fleming and Jackson all said they spend 20 to 30 hours a week playing .

“Our friends that don’t play usually can’t stand it when me, Bill and a couple of our other friends are together and we talk about World of Warcraft in front of them,” Fleming added. “

Hanging out is one thing. Going to parties and stuff gets old, but playing World of Warcraft, there’s something about it that’s always enjoyable.”

People have stumbled into something that, according to Poulson, is only right for the times.

“There’s a different culture going on right now where it’s more open for anyone to be on the computer just talking to people on AIM, going to Facebook, going through MySpace,” Poulson said. “It’s really common.”

World of Warcraft capitalizes on our ever-growing interest in forming communities and our decreasing need to have tangible interactions with those in our communities, he said. Pac-Man, on the other hand, is a staple of gaming history.

“I don’t think it will ever get bigger than Pac-Man because the way I see it is that everybody that’s played World of Warcraft has to have played Pac-Man at some point,” he said.

Contact features reporter Adam Griffiths at [email protected].