World of Warcraft

This is my new videogame!

I think that some things can truly be called Art, even though they come in the form of a graphical interactive game. World of Warcraft is not Art.

Other things are really Toys, meant to be picked up for a few minutes or half an hour and then put down again. I can play Slash'em for a few minutes while waiting for a phone call, and then just put it away again (although it's maybe a little too deep to really be called a toy...). W. o. W. is certainly not a Toy, in this way.

It also isn't a role-playing game, where you make a fully fleshed-out character and then try to act out the choices that the character might make in its fantasy world...

What it is, is a direct decendant of the old-sk00l MUDs that I spent so very much time on in High School. They were text-based, and it really seems like there was a lot more role-playing involved. (maybe that was just me, though). Aside from that, it's the same game.

So I think that there are really only three people in the world who

  1. read this blog
  2. care ever a little about World of Warcraft (and have the necessary background to understand what I'm saying about it) and
  3. Do not currently play WoW
I've already told Fuzzy and Katya about it, so I guess this is for Dante. WoW is very compelling, in that "hit-the-button-get-a-food-pellet" way--there is a guarenteed reward at regular intervals, with the intervals gradually increasing over time. It also taps into orginization, perfection and exploration areas of the brain, and those are pretty strong, but fairly low-level.

Those are enough to hook me, so bad that right now I'm wondering why I writing this instead of playing the damn thing. The only two high-level things that I really like about the game however, are the cinematic aspect, and the [word I can't think of] aspect.

Cinematically, the game is very impressive. It was great visuals, huge scale, and very well composed music, which all combine to create very memorable experiences. The closest analogue is a film, where the camera round the corner and, off in the distance, the Gates of Ironforge loom out of the mist. As the music swells, you see the huge, 100+ foot tall dwarven statue... it's all very Peter JacksonLord of the Rings. The difference, however, is that as you have been controlling this character for an hour or more, and as you still have control, the experience is personalized in a way that movies can never be. It isn't that you're watching someone enter the Gates of Ironforge, but rather that you are entering. This is where video games are fundamentally different than all other media. It isn't much of an advantage to cover their vast shortfalls compared to film and literature, but there you have it. Literature subsists on purely borrowed visuals but has the same immediacy, while film has original visuals but is at at least one remove.

the other thing that is really cool is hard to define, but there's a certain cosmopolitcan aspect to the game. Hundreds of different people milling around the Big City, in all skin colors and races, tall and short with big, long ears and spikey breastplates, fascinating costumes of all different colors... some people are riding tigers, others have giant turtles following them around. I turned one corner and met up with a large black panther who was, apparently, named "Darnot" and was probably played by an accountant in LA. In addition to all of this visual stimulation there is a lot of activity: people are chatting to each other, whistling, dancing, occaisionally fighting each other... the whole thing manages to be at once completely exotic and entirely mundane--it's just peak load on the west coast server, after all. This is another thing that movies can't do. Sure, there's an establishing shot with as many foam-rubber costumes or CGI as the director can afford, but then the camera always zooms in on the hero, and the foley fades out so that you can hear the dialogue. Playing WoW wasn't like that at all. The only experience I can compare it to is real life--walking through Times Square is just like that, and just as overwhelming to someone who isn't used to it. It was that exact feeling of walkig through a crowd of people who are Not Like Me that I love about the City.

Alright, enough of this. I need to get home and play some more.

Congratulations, sir. You have acheived your stated goal. I now want to play WoW. I'll still have to wait until May, though.
Careful, it's just as much of a time sink as they warned me about. I'm already trying to figure out how to quit...