It’s hardly news that games such as World of Warcraft are addictive time-killers by nature. There’s an endless series of stuff you can do to “achieve” things. You can get better gear that makes your character more powerful in the game, or a new kind of dragon to ride and look cool, and a lot of other things and new versions of these same things over and over again. And for all this, you keep doing often rather repetitive stuff for hours and hours. At some point, they also added daily stuff to this which can’t be done all at once but where you can return every day to work a limited amount towards the same goal. And people actually play so much that eventually they’ll run out of stuff to do and then complain that there isn’t more for them to do when they’re already used to wasting hours of time in the game. I personally have quit playing the whole game for long periods more than once after having made a cost–benefit analysis against the time (and money) spent on it. Right now, I’m trying to just do the essentials — since it is a good game within limits — and then stop playing until the next big update.
Well, with the new expansion Warlords of Draenor, they’ve figured out a new way to keep people hooked, so that I’ve kept returning to check in on the game even at times when I have known I can’t spend a lot of time there. This new addition to addictiveness is based around the new feature of garrisons. I’ve been playing this feature for only a while so I can’t speak with much expertise, but basically each player coming to the expansion’s new area soon gets a garrison to run, a small area with different non-player characters and buildings that allow various activities. And, naturally, the garrison and bits of it can be upgraded through gathering stuff repetitively. And the garrison itself can be used to gather stuff repetitively, so, for example, I’m now using the forge there to slowly make metal ingots to make a very powerful weapon for my character. There are also “followers”, non-player characters that can be sent on missions that take a while and have a chance of success depending on different factors. Before I realised I was wasting the resources that can be used to upgrade the garrison by sending them out on missions all the time, I was basically returning to the game constantly when I knew some of the characters would be back from a mission, and then sending them on new ones. Even now that I’m more careful about it, it’s something I can always go back to.
The garrisons also manage to enhance another aspect that’s already been heavily present in the game. Someone writing in a Finnish computer gaming magazine years ago said that he didn’t like massively multiplayer role-playing games because they were really just a place where you could pretend to be really tough and important. It’s typical for computer RPG’s to make your character look really important, the guy who saves the world and whom everyone admires. It’s wish-fulfillment. But if it’s in a single-player game, no-one else gets to see it. In an MMORPG, other actual people see how supposedly cool your character is. Meanwhile, in WoW at least, the non-player characters and the plot in general keeps emphasizing this too. The garrison takes this even further because, being made its commander, you are as I understood it the overall military commander of your side’s forces in the whole world in which the expansion takes place. (Edit: Or maybe not, since I met a non-player character with his own garrison.) Further, walking around the garrison (with other characters saluting you) and giving orders for all kinds of operations and generally being apparently in charge only makes it feel more like you’re important and achieving something. Of course, you’re not really. I wish achieving things in the real world were as easy or at least as easily addictive.