By Alex Ely
I was sitting in a mechanic’s office hoping my car would pass the yearly state inspection and reading a back issue of ESPN The Magazine when it hit me; A grandiose idea that had been percolating in my mind for the last few weeks and reading that tattered magazine provided the catalyst to realize it. The expansion of ESPN has barraged sports fans with information allowing them to take their obsession for details and debate to an entirely new level. World of Warcraft, with its wealth of minutiae has the potential to follow in its footsteps. I do not mean to imply that other MMOs could not replicate the success as well, but WoW is the only MMO I have played due to my owning a Mac. Though I don’t think too many other MMOs have appeared on Jeopardy.
The idea that I have been pondering over relates to World of Warcraft becoming the source for the next generation’s water cooler discussions or barstool prophecies. I see the game permeating a much larger section of society than it has previously. I think the revelation occurred when I realized the similarities between WoW and people’s obsessions with sports.
The key notion that WoW shares with sports is details. Sport aficionados love agonizing over the details. They know the players on their team, the players on other teams, the teams in their conference, the teams in other conferences, statistics about the players and teams, and all sorts of further knowledge that does little to ensure the survival of the human species. But said knowledge makes for a heck of an argument.
With the football season approaching and fantasy leagues everywhere gearing up, the debate for who is the best is in full swing. Who is the best player at each position? Which positions yield the most points for my team? WoW’s system of nine different classes readily mirrors the idea from an athletic standpoint. In sports, the goal is to win the game. Most team sports can vary their lineups to an almost unending degree to achieve this goal. In basketball, you might run with a small, fast lineup if the opposing team is shutting down your big man. In football, you might swarm the other team with wide receivers if their pass defense is atrocious.
WoW has a similar standard of achievement as well. Your goal could be taking down a boss in a raid or group instance or winning a battlegrounds match. The different classes are like the positions on a sports team. In group player verse environment (PvE) situations, there are three primary roles: Tanking (Absorbing damage), damage dealers, and healers. However, Blizzard has made few requirements with regards to the class makeup when grouping up for PvE encounters. You could weight your group towards tanks and hope you outlast the enemies. You could form a group that is heavy on damage dealing and hope you kill the enemy before they have the time to react. Furthermore, Blizzard designed the different classes so that one is not the absolute best at any of the three primary roles. If you check out the various class forums on the WoW website, you will find many arguments surrounding the numerous ways to accomplish the three primary roles in PvE. Can paladins or druids tank as well as warriors? Which is the best damage dealing class: rogues, mages, or hunters? Can shamans or druids out heal priests?
In player vs player (PvP) battlegrounds, the goals and methods differ still, and the use of various classes in those situations allows for even more combinations. As in sports, because different players perform better than others, this debate will continue indefinitely.
The other major similarity that WoW shares with sports is statistics. Right now, people are arguing across the nation over touchdowns, pass yardage, rush yardage, interceptions, fumbles, field goals, and more. Others might be discussing hits, strikeouts, home runs, stolen bases, and errors. People love quantifying performance because they believe it helps to give a clear indication of the superiority of their argument.
“Of course Peyton Manning is better than Tom Brady. He has more touchdowns.”
“Oh yeah, well Brady gets touchdowns when they count. How many Super Bowl rings does Peyton have?”
And the debate continues.
WoW has an ever increasing pool of gear as well as customizable talents and abilities to fuel its stat debate. I play as the rogue class primarily, and there are numerous facets to the rogue gear debate; how much Agility am I willing to sacrifice for more Attack Power? Does more plus-critical gear outweigh potential loss in base damage? Do I want a weapon with good stats or a good special ability? Should I use a dagger, sword, mace, or fist? These are just some of the questions for rogues. Warriors have to deal with tanking and damaging gear. Magic users have to decide whether to concentrate on intellect and spirit or magic effects. Hybrid classes have to decide which aspect of their class they want to focus on. As Blizzard continues to develop more content, they continue to add new gear and expand on the class abilities, leading to further discussions.
And finally, there is the notion of teams. Most people who follow the various sports cast their allegiances with particular teams. And though they probably do not have a direct connection to their team, people express deep emotional concerns for the welfare of their team. They will celebrate their team’s successes as if they had made a key contribution. They will bemoan their team’s failures as if their criticisms will lead to improvement. With the increasing coverage of sports on outlets such as EPSN networks, the magazine, the mobile service, and the radio network, people are able to increasingly involve themselves in the lives of their team. And people are always ready to debate the relative superiority of their team.
WoW has similar organizations that people could cast allegiances to like a sports team. Guilds provide opportunities for large numbers of people to come together and tackle impressive tasks. The PvP encounters in the battlegrounds pit two teams against each other on the field of conflict. With the advent of cross-realm battlegrounds the number of potential teams one could come across has increased exponentially. People involved in a particular guild or the PvP teams in their realm could develop similar emotional connections as they do with their sports teams.
As The Burning Crusade expansion approaches, we may not be too far from a time when the happenings of WoW are not only expounded upon on forums or Teamspeak channels. In the span of a generation, video games have risen to new and impressive heights of permeation in our society. Who knows if WoW will be around for another generation, but the very notion of an MMO is an ever-evolving world. As long as enough people keep paying to play, WoW will continue. If the game’s popularity keeps expanding, eventually there will be some high profile players, like celebrities or athletes themselves. As our culture is already very celebrity obsessed, the realization of celebrity gamers could act as a catalyst to speed up the spread of WoW outside its core market. And perhaps in another generation, workers could gather around the water cooler and discuss swords and sorcery as opposed to Super Bowls. There could one day be television networks devoted to covering the worlds of Azeroth. I can see the newscasters now…
“Last night in MC, GM Nacho, a human priest, led the Brethren of Brew to a stunning defeat of Rag. It was a complete run of the instance without a single wipe. A Perdition’s Blade dropped to the cheers of the rogue team led by former Grand Marshal Azijn. For the eighth straight weekend, there was not a single hunter item.”
“In PvP news, the Gilneas Horde team went on a tear in XBGs. They 5-0’d seventeen out of their thirty opponents for the evening in AB. In fact, the only close match involved an Alliance team from their own realm. But they pulled out the victory 2000-1780. Epocs, the current leader of the Horde team, could not be reached for comment. But he did /wave and /salute.”
It could happen.
Faaye 60 NE Rogue Gilneas