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MMOGology: World of why bother

Marc Nottke

A friend of mine and I recently discussed ways to obtain gear at level 70 in World of Warcraft. We talked about potential quest gear, gear from rep grinding, PvP gear, and gear from running various instances like Karazhan. The conversation then shifted to discussions about the Burning Crusade expansion and its impact on gear. Since I never raided prior to Burning Crusade I can only imagine the frustration experienced by a pre-Burning Crusade raider once the expansion went live. The time investment required to attain great raid gear suddenly seems pointless when the gear becomes obsolete shortly after beginning quests in the Outlands. For that reason alone I can understand why some people decided to quit WoW once BC arrived. I could somewhat relate as I watched my hard earned PvP gear from Alterac Valley quickly become useless in the Outlands.

Of course, the same thing will inevitably happen once the next WoW expansion pack, Wrath of the Lich King, arrives in 2008. I'm sure that within a level or two, most of the epic gear we are all currently working hard to obtain will become obsolete. But, after years of playing MMOGs, I've learned that the only thing constant in an MMOG is change.

Change is a unique feature of MMOGs that set them apart from other games. In a single player game you can always rely on the rules remaining constant and, as a result, you get a feeling of progression, accomplishment, and eventually closure. But in an MMOG, just as in life, things constantly change; sometimes at a fundamental level. And of course, you rarely have any control over those changes. Class abilities get nerfed or buffed, as do the monsters we fight against. NPC characters permanently disappear from the world and new ones appear. Even chunks of the world itself open up or close down. Similarly, the social aspects of the game often change. Guilds come together and break apart, and friends come and go. Even the game itself has a limited lifespan; and unlike a single player game, there's no revisiting that game world once the developer or publisher finally pulls the plug.

All of these uncertain elements of change can often be a real downer. Why work so hard and invest so much time when your efforts ultimately prove futile? Fortunately, change can be as exciting and hopeful as it can be scary and painful. As MMOGs expand and grow there is always new content to explore, new challenges to arise to and defeat, and new friends to meet and share our time with. It also reminds us of fundamental truths of life in general. Truths that we've all heard before and occasionally forget; like that life is about the journey and not the destination. That it's the little moments that make up our lives, rather than some grand finale of realized purpose. It's about the friends we make and the fun we have along the way. So perhaps rather than getting gloomy about the futility of acquiring soon-to-be-obsolete phat loot, we should just enjoy the moment and remember that our virtual lives in virtual worlds should be fun diversions that we share with our friends.

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