As soon as I heard what the next expansion for World of Warcraft would be about, I got the feeling my days of playing the MMORPG were finally coming to an end. It was something of a relief, to be honest.
I started playing WoW back when there was only one expansion (The Burning Crusade), and a kind of addiction has kept me coming back for more, though I took at least two extended breaks. Battle for Azeroth will be the seventh expansion.
As an MMORPG, WoW is designed to give its players something to do in perpetuity. It cannot be finished; the best you can do is get to the point where you’re killing time within the game while waiting for the next expansion. There’s something perverse about this – it’s not even a great game, yet it’s fairly successfully designed to become a part of your life indefinitely.
As a game, WoW has a lot of things I like, but it’s also got clear flaws. Its addictive, repetitive gameplay counts as both something I like and a clear flaw. It is fairly clear to me that my wanting to go on playing such a game is an acquired preference (as the term goes, adaptive preference) in a mostly negative sense. I want to do it because I have already started doing it, but I would hardly want such a thing on more objective consideration. It wastes too much time, quite frankly.
I am hardly the only one to have noticed the weirdly addictive nature of this game and others like it.
So what about this next expansion? It’s not that the premise sounds truly terrible. (That would describe Mists of Pandaria, the fourth expansion.) Honestly, it’s more about the currently newest expansion, Legion.
I wrote a blog post when Legion was new about how the story should really end there. Very shortly put, Legion was about a fairly final confrontation between the mortal races and the Burning Legion, the major force of evil in the setting. I wrote that after that, there was no sense in continuing the story with something of less importance.
Yet, it doesn’t end there. Instead, what do we get in the next expansion? The different races start fighting each other, again.
I commend Blizzard for introducing a morally gray conflict in WoW, between the Horde and the Alliance, neither of which is really good or evil. It’s just two similar sides who keep coming into conflict due to a lack of mutual understanding and old prejudice. It’s much healthier, in a way, to show something so realistic rather than these endless stories about how your side is good and the other side is utterly evil.
But enough is enough. The story could have finished on a high note, but instead it drags on forever while we go from saving the world to tearing it apart. For me, this seems like the place to stop.
Of course, there’s still World of Warcraft Classic…