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Coming home to Azeroth

Azeroth
For a number of months, I knew my computer was dying, but it was the release of patch 5.4 that finally did it in. With a seven-year-old motherboard, processor, and a paltry two gigabytes of RAM, even just opening an internet browser was eating up a significant portion of its memory. Running WoW was definitely out of the question. So I began the process of upgrading my machine--new motherboard, new CPU, new RAM, new operating system--and along the way my monitor died too, so I got a new one of those as well. There were some wrenches thrown into the machinery, but at last I found myself once more logging into the familiar World of Warcraft.

I've played WoW for six of its nine years in existence, and I sometimes struggle to explain what keeps me going. Though changes and tweaks have been made through the years, at its core the game remains the same. It's the same night elf druid that greets me on the login screen each time I load the client, the same familiar landmarks that guide my travels across Azeroth. After a two-month forced absence, however, I think I understand better what the game represents to me: it's home.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion

World of Warcraft as evolutionary model

This must be the time of year for zany social theories about videogames. First, we heard that World of Warcraft might quality as being a religion. Then we heard that it might make for better citizens. And now, in an essay over at Gamasutra on the event of Charles Darwin's birthday, Noah Falstein suggests that games like World of Warcraft are actually models for evolution -- as we level up with experience points, our characters get stronger and more evolved, and we feel comfortable with that because that's exactly what we see happening in the world around us.

Technically, of course, you can't model Darwin's theory of evolution with a single character -- evolution isn't about one individual getting better, it's about a process of natural selection in a species over a period of time. To really model evolution, you'd have to play hundreds of alts, and quit them each time you ran into a problem, leaving you with just a few characters that worked really well. Wait -- maybe some of you are already doing that.

But Falstein makes good points in saying that certain elements of what Darwin described as evolution have shown up in game design as well -- the idea of specialization for certain character classes, tribal and national allegiances, and even the idea of memes (which are certainly widespread in WoW -- anyone ever heard of Chuck Norris or Leroy Jenkins?) are all drawn from Darwin's thinking and definitely embodied in the game we play.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, Odds and ends, Blizzard

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