This Newsweek article -- yet another mainstream look at this strange concept called World of Warcraft -- unexpectedly asks a very interesting question. Is WoW a game? Sadly, the article devotes most of its time to explaining the concept of WoW to an outside audience, rather than getting stuck into a discussion of virtual worlds, their categorisation, and their future.
It's often been said that WoW can be more like a job than a hobby; the regular hours, the repetitive tasks, the camaraderie, the rewards. The question asked by the Newsweek piece, however, has a different angle from the old "work vs play" debate. Instead, it asks -- is this the future? Are WoW's immersiveness, its ability to sneak into lives, its vast popularity all indicators of what virtual worlds in the future will hold? I think so.
'Serious' virtual worlds could easily take lessons from WoW on how to be fun, but while WoW may be exemplary with regards to current MMO design, it's still very much rooted in the 'entertainment' sphere -- future developments away from gaming and towards everyday pervasive virtual worlds have to cater for the seven million WoW-heads, and will be more easily received as a result.
The most important question of all, though, is: when we live and work in the Matrix, will there still be night elves called Légolass?