Why I Play: World of Tanks

Why I Play: World of Tanks
I am not good at video games. It's really no secret -- anyone who's ever tuned in for one of my livestreams can confirm that I spend much more time blown up and in the process of being blown up than triumphantly dominating the battlefield. That's just what happens when I'm responsible for my own survival.

So you'd think that a game like World of Tanks, in which victory is based heavily on your skill with a massive gun, would be a turn-off for me. After all, where's the fun in sitting in a smoldering heap while your team attempts to make up for your buffoonery? What exactly is enjoyable about getting repeatedly reduced to scrap metal?

Sit back a spell and I'll tell you. This is why I play World of Tanks. The machines

Most games, MMO or otherwise, revolve around a character. And with this character comes a backstory, goals and a whole bunch of other baggage. Sometimes you like a character, which makes exploring his or her story fun and exciting. Sometimes you don't, which turns the whole thing into a chore. Either way, you're running off an existing narrative.

World of Tanks
World of Tanks skips all this and leaves you to write the story yourself. There are no characters, save for a few crewmembers that don't do anything but change the efficiency of your vehicle. There's also no plot that I'm aware of. All there really is in World of Tanks is you and the tank. Some may find this lacking, and I get that -- I love story-driven content as much as the next guy. However, it's nice to be able to jump into a game, fight a few fights, and not have to worry so much about the overarching theme or whether or not I'm living up to my character's reputation. When I play World of Tanks, I'm free to do whatever I want, how I want to do it.

Being divorced from the concept of character helps me place myself more deeply into the game, and gives me the opportunity to project my own goals into the world. If I have a frustrating day, then all of those enemy tanks are the obstacles that caused it. Everyone on the battlefield is exactly what they need to be to each other at any given time, because there's no forced narrative. It's all up to the players.

The vehicles in World of Tanks have no inherent purpose. I have to find one for them.

The simplicity

I play EVE Online. I love World of Warcraft. But no one would argue that those games are simple. Both have deep systems that dictate everything from player behavior to the stability of the economy. In modern MMOs, you can dial your character's progression down so finely that your experience becomes a narrow hallway from start to finish, even with the promise of an open world to explore and player-driven events. Complexity is found in talent trees, spell books, gear enhancements and profession bonuses.

Death in World of Tanks
World of Tanks, for me, doesn't have these systems. To be clear: I'm not arguing that the game isn't complex or that min/maxing isn't possible, as I'm sure there are WoT fanatics who do the same sort of detail-oriented technical balancing with their tanks that I know is possible in other games. It's just that in my personal experience with the game, I've chosen to completely ignore all of the existing mechanisms and play purely for fun. My gameplay is designed for entertainment, not efficiency.

I'm not trying to build the best tank, have the highest win ratio or do the most damage per shot. I'm trying to wreck tanks, run over cars and knock down streetlamps for an hour or so before I have to walk my dog or finish work or clean my house or go to bed. I'm here for a good time -- if I had hours to spend working on something deep, I'd be playing a game I'm more serious about. In World of Tanks, I don't answer to a guild or corp, I don't have any grand designs on the direction of my gameplay, and I don't have any responsibility to log into the game. It's just there if I want it.

World of Tanks gives me explosions and fun, with no strings attached.

Driving in World of Tanks

The free thing

World of Tanks is free. Completely. Pretty much everything in the game can be unlocked through regular gameplay, and the things that you can actually buy with real money don't generally make an enormous difference. Wargaming.net has managed to walk that fine line between free-to-play and pay-to-win, and walk it well. I'm sure we'll see some dissenters in the comments, of course, but from my casual point of view, the microtransactions available to World of Tanks players don't seem to shake up matches in any noticeable way.

"There aren't people rolling around in gold-plated tanks firing atom bomb shells because they purchased them in the in-game store."


I don't feel as though my lack of time to invest in the game or my refusal to put real-life dollars on the table has a negative impact on my experience. There aren't people rolling around in gold-plated tanks firing atom bomb shells because they purchased them in the in-game store. Matches always feel balanced to me, even when I'm pushing a non-upgraded junker to the top of a besieged hill or tumbling off a cliff because of a bad decision. The lack of financial obligation on my part is a big, big selling point to me, because World of Tanks is a game I play quite a bit like a mobile or casual title -- only when the mood is right and I have a few minutes to burn.

Who doesn't need access to a tank division every now and then?

World of Tanks Grass
In Summary

I'm not good at World of Tanks and I don't find it particularly compelling. It's not my favorite game of all time, and I probably wouldn't even play it if it weren't free. That's the hard truth. But when I need a game that lets me write my own story, take a break from reality and avoid the time-consuming complications present in some of my other MMO faves, World of Tanks is usually the game I choose. It's the game, for me, that delivers the biggest dose of excitement with the shortest list of demands, and for that it's earned a slot in my weekly gaming rotation.

I play World of Tanks because it fits snugly into one pocket of my gaming life, treads and all.

There's an MMO born every day, and every game is someone's favorite. Why I Play is a column in which the Massively staff members kick back and reminisce about all their favorite MMOs. Whether it's the new hotness or an old fan favorite loaded with nostalgia, each title we cover here tugs at our heartstrings and keeps us coming back for more.

This article was originally published on Massively.