World of Warcraft has been a pop culture icon since 2005. Quickly it became more than simply a pass time for people and started impacting society. From advertising to sponsorship with major brands, the concept of MMO gaming became syynonymous with World of Warcraft.
During the launch back in 2004, there were other games doing generally the saame thing. EverQuest, Runescape, Might and Magic, and many others were trailblazing through the world of MMORPG gaming. Where some, like EverQuest, has been forgotten others reinvented themselves. Runescape built an empire of players via its easy browser access where Might and Magic turned to tabletop gaming for sanctuary.
Even with the changes made no other MMORPG has had the same level of mass societal impact that World of Warcraft brought to the world. The cultural development was two parts happening both inside and outside the digital environment. Back in the early days of World of Warcraft servers gaineed reputations and each had its own micro-culture developing within. These cultures quickly grew to influence the way World of Warcraft eventually became perceived in the public eye.
Micro-Cultures Within World Of Warcraft Culture
Each server was and is functionally the same. You will find the exact same NPCs, Questlines, Gear, and Enemies no matter which you play on. What changes is the collection of players you play with on each server. As an MMO, or Massively Multiplayer Online Game, you will encounter an entire world of players.
Each combination brings different cultural variety depending on the region of the world. Although Blizzard does sort the servers based on continent and timezone plays have the freedom to play on any server they feel comfortable. This meeans that even in an NA server you will find Europian and Asian players as well.
When you put all these cultures into a melting pot of corporative gameplay the experience you find in the game changes. Some servers are more independent while others try to keep close bonds and kindness at the forefront of the experience. Inside each server, culture deveelops even small communities within the Guilds as players find other likeminded players to enjoy the game with.
Inside each server players started rising above others gaining reputation and ranks. These reputations were spread and each server had its own dedicated heroes. Although the game did facilitate for a hero to rise above the others via progress, gear, and dedication the social currency tended to become more important. Healers, Tanks, DPS, and all other builds each had a hero of their own that was known acreoss the server.
As each server gained its own hero the players began to look to them for guidance and aid. This culture was slowly built around the heroes and the community themselves. On some servers, they were bloodthirsty PVP only style players whereas other servers dedicated their time to Raids. As time progressed and patches passed the importance of server culture slowley dwindled until it was turned into what has been called the World of Warcraft culture.
This core culture is what spawned the images “WoW Players” and spread the theory of overweight gamers being the main players of this game. The general World of Warcraft culture quickly became a standardized marketed value which devalued the importance of it. In the current Retail state of World of Warcraft, the memory of server culture was retained only in the Guilds. Each guild still maintains its own atmosphere but the game became so disconnected that any form of mass culturee has been bled out of the game.
Cultural Decisions Within Servers Change The Real World
These server cultures have had real-world impacts in the past. From the societal perception of the game to the way World of Warcraft players act in real life, theee impact is obvious. There are even some governmental changes that were caused because of World of Warcraft.
The most famous incident theat caused a systematic change is the Corrupted Blood incident. A glitch in the game caused by a new boss resulted in a debuff being able to carry outside of the instance. If a Hunter’s pet had the debuff active when it was despawned the debuff would remain.
Corrupted Blood could transfer to any other eligible target via an area of effect trigger which resulted in a massive loss of HP. When the pet was respawned in a city, for example, nearby NPCs would contract the debuff and die instantly in most situations. Only the strongest of players could survive and within minutes entiree cities would perish.
Forum post during the incident described streets filled with dead bodies. The entire incident disrupted gameplay and players were fleeing the major cities for the safety of the countryside. Inside the game, players began to act as if the disease was a real threat to their lives. Priests were found offering healing services to remove the debuff and player built checkpoints were set up to try and filter out the ailing pets.
Lower level players would direct people away from areas where the debuff was active and players would avoid all contact with infected players. Some players would even try and spread the disease intentionally. The reaction on all affected servers resulted in almost real-life style handling of the situation.
After this incident, the CDC started documenting the entire case. This player response turned into a perfect practice ground for how real-life sickness would not only spread but be handled by a community. Actual change to the CDC operatioen came into effect due to a glitch in the digital world.
On a less massive impact, the community’s natural split between Horde and Alliance has resulted in many convention implementations. The rivalry between the clans hit extream levels at some social gatherings but never escalated into anything past shouting and rallying. The difference in the type of players between Horde and Alliance shows some level of cultural change as well.
Alliance players tend to be quicker to band together where Horde tends to have more of an independent streak. The styele of play and the type of player gets literally split between the two opposing forces.
This level of cultural impact and oddity happened again upon the relaunch of World of Warcraft Classic. Some players missed out on the idea of a group-based game aand quickly tried to solo their way through the challenges. Simply put, this did not work for them. Hundreds if not more post-2013 players left Classic and returned back to Retail WoW where the rest seemed to stay in the old experience.
One of the strangest and greatest things to happen since the launch of Classic is how players started handling the boss spawns. There are documented cases of players standing in a line waiting for a mob or boss to spawn so a squad and kill them. This level of maass coordination is not found in other games on the same scale. Where it is common for a team of players to coordinate in the World of Warcraft experience we are looking at hundreds of players in equal cooperation.
The Main Difference Culturally Between Retail And Classic
In Retail, there is a culture of the single-player experience. The entire questline and in-game environment are crafted to let you complete the game without interacting with other players in a meaningful way. Dungeon finder replaeced LFG and Raid Finder replaced LFR. The simple fact of the matter is that in Retail WoW there is close to no reason, outside of Guild communities, to interact with other players.
This stresses a single-player relationship rather than facilitating communal interaction. This drive for a single-plaeyer experience has raised the number of users on WoW but decreased the multiplayer aspect making a one-player MMO which in itself is counter-intuitive.
Classic World of Warcraft reinforces the need for other players. Eevery mob is dangerous and without a proper party, you are in for a long grind. The entire experience is built around this group dynamic creating an instant community of players. In Classic what you do or say to other players matters. If you are a jerk or a troll then automatically your chances of being invited to a party have decreased.
This changees the dynamic of the core experience for players and adjusts everyone to a more community-driven state of mind. This is what builds the foundations of the server culture. It is way too early to see if any culture has formed due to many of the players still coming from Retail. The true test will be the players that stay in the community and build up the guilds that do the main raids of the game.
All MMORPGs should be founded upon a communal feeling. Without other players, there is no point in playing an MMO. You might as well playing alone in any other fantasy world than waste your time in an MMO.
The Possibilities That Classic Brings Back A Chance For World Of Warcraft Culture To Return
Classic shows a different era of MMORPGs resulting in a new perspective for many players. The early 2000s were a strange time for the video game world and the reminder of a different time shows the drastic difference between Classic and Retail. This difference will help many players see the devaluing that has happened in the Retail version of the game. A simplified system is going to automatically give less of an immersive experience than in the full game.
A chance to keep that culture in mind creates a unique world for gamers to join. This is the chance many have been waiting for to not only relive their glory days of WoW but birth a new culture and community into the game. The Classic experiencee will revitalize the MMO world and help push the industry in a better direction.1