World of Warcraft Classic: The Power of Nostalgia and Camaraderie

After exchanging a few greetings and hellos, a trio of players, myself included, head into the western road of Elwynn Forest before we go off-track, nervous to find our target to kill. As the familiar sounds of the river that separates Duskwood and Elwynn Forest draws near, we come to a halt; there he stood, the elite mob that has claimed the lives of so many low-level players in WoW. We engage him, trading blows and unloading all our skills into him as we watched his HP dwindle. Aggro was being held by the warrior in our party who was the one who invited us to complete this quest. I had only met him 5 minutes before. As the target enemy traded blows with the warrior for what seemed like a good 30-45 seconds, the enemy died at our feet. We had triumphed. We were victorious, despite the warrior losing almost half his health points. A sense of relief enveloped me as I could rest my fingers that were frantically smashing my keyboard. We had defeated Hogger, a level 11 elite mob in Elwynn Forest.

It had just been 2 hours since I logged on to WoW: Classic for the first time. The initial version of the game that had spawned more than a decade of players loyal to the world of Azeroth, now named World of Warcraft: Classic was available for all of us to play. Strip away all the expansions that have come after; the quality-of-life changes, the newly minted systems to offer convenience to players; the narrative levelling system that the latest expansion Battle for Azeroth offered, and you get World of Warcraft in it’s purest. This was the game that in 2004, revolutionised MMORPGs into what they are today. 

I started World of Warcraft while I was studying in my polytechnic after graduating from secondary school. I was 17 at the time and had heard of this game that had piqued my interest due to what people described as an out-of-this-world experience. At the time, the game’s first expansion, The Burning Crusade had been released. From an outsider’s point-of-view who had no prior impression of an MMORPG, WoW seemed really cool, yet daunting at the same time. Stories of how raids were attempted with 40 players, cities were crowded with real-life players doing different things; it all seemed very grand and epic to me.  Logging in as a night-elf rogue for the first time, I took 6 months to level to 70, as my friends and I explored the game and its expansive world together. This was a game that truly mimicked real-life. There were no tutorials and guides in the game to tell you where to go or what to do. Quests had to be read in detail and if we were lazy, we had only external websites and forums to turn to where the game’s community consisting of the more hardworking and helpful players. These kind people came together to write guides, post comments on how to complete your objectives. There was a true sense of community as players had to come together and CHAT with each other, asking if they needed help or if they could party together. Friendships were forged this way. Memories that were both joke and praiseworthy were also engraved in many of the players’ minds as they entered their first dungeons and raids, or even explored new areas together. The game was brutal in its teachings, in the sense there were almost none. This was exploration at its finest. 

Was the game then perfect? Of course not. Comparing Classic and Battle for Azeroth, the game’s latest expansion released in 2018, the game could be passed off as two entirely different games. Players today have access to systems that make matchmaking for raids faster. Dungeons can be entered via a Dungeon Finder system, as compared to Classic where players spent 30 minutes shouting in the cities where the infamous ‘Trade Chat Channel’ was flooded with people asking for everything from enchants to members to raid with.

“Isn’t Classic a stupid game then? Everything is so draggy, so difficult and so slow!”

The article is titled The Power of Nostalgia and Camaraderie. WoW Classic has pulled off a feat, proving to the world that the quality of the game may not always be key to a game’s adoption rate. At the time of writing, WoW Classic is one of the top 5 streamed games on Twitch. Why? Why do people want to go back to a game that is so punishing and relentless? The memories and nostalgia felt by millions of players around the globe who once played World of Warcraft in its early days are what drive WoW Classic. Kids who once played WoW are now working adults. Some of my friends whose kids have grown up, are introducing WoW Classic to their kids, proudly telling their children ‘this was the game I played when I was younger, not the easy, simplified version of WoW your friends are telling you to play now’. Many of my friends who have left the game years ago have come back just to relive these memories when they were still studying in school. It’s a unique experience that is hard for the teenager of today to understand. If you’ve never played World of Warcraft back then when the gaming scene was different, it’s hard to appreciate the charm of WoW Classic, simply because the gamers of today are different.

Player satisfaction is presented faster nowadays in games. The world is moving so fast. In the realm of humour, we have evolved from long 5-min jokes to memes and puns. Entertainment aims to catch the attention of the viewer or gamer as fast as possible because we are quick to condemn a game as ‘boring’ or ‘slow’. The attention span of the average human is a lot shorter now, so developers ensure that gratification in a game has to be realised fast when a player tries out a game. When we look at statistics from how long guilds take to defeat bosses, the bosses of recent expansions are defeated within a matter of two or three weeks. When Ragnaros was introduced back in 2004, he stood undefeated for almost 6 months. Are players of today prepared to face the same fire-breathing elemental for half a year? Not really. But for those who have gone through all that, logging in week and week out with the same 40 people in voice chat, it’s a different experience. Mind you, we didn’t have applications as refined as Discord or tools like a dungeon journal. Guilds threw themselves at bosses, clueless as to what bosses were going to do. While that may seem to destroy a player’s morale, it does build camaraderie.

I played in a progression guild during the Wrath of The Lich King expansion. That was the time my then-girlfriend, now my wife picked up the game as well. I choose to use the term ‘progression ‘ because in World of Warcraft there isn’t a formal competition per se like in games such as Dota 2 or Counter-strike. Guilds raced to defeat bosses released in the game before the rest of the world did. External websites would feature articles of such achievements, and the community celebrated with everyone else. The friends I’ve made from all those years ago, some of them I still keep in contact till today. When we meet up, we find ourselves laughing and reliving over the same few memories as we drank our coffees or beers. Some of my friends who didn’t play WoW and were at the same table gave me confused looks as they made statements like ‘Huh, what’s so memorable about such things?’. Yet these people would go on and on when talking about their memories about National Service and the 2 years spent inside camps and jungles during operations and training. The same type of camaraderie built in the army is similar to the bonds built when progressing through a game like WoW. A group of players, logging in online to defeat a boss, encouraging each other on and helping one another, for that sense of satisfaction from seeing the boss HP drop to 0. Victory then was truly sweet, and the game didn’t require any achievement system or title to validate that.  

Many players know that quality and graphics-wise, Battle for Azeroth has improved the game tremendously. The game hasn’t gotten easier. In fact, mechanics for boss fights have gotten more complicated and challenging, but this is also offset by the availability of guides that due to technological advances, can be in the form of videos on YouTube or via websites as well. However, the game feels colder. Because everything in Battle for Azeroth is so fast-paced and ‘automated’, players complete entire dungeons without saying a word. There isn’t much of a need for players to do anyway. The game feels more polished, yet many will argue that WoW has lost a little bit of its soul. And to that, I agree. The community spirit of not just within a guild but in the World, in general, has been lost amidst the systems and advancements designed to allow players to complete their objectives faster. Whether it’s PvP, PvE or just levelling, this is felt across the World. Am I complaining? We can’t have everything in this world. As a working adult, I truly appreciate the value of Battle for Azeroth, solely because I no longer have time to commit to the game as much as I would like to. After I come back from work and a day of meetings, I can focus on raiding and spending time with my friends. In WoW Classic, I could probably eat an entire dinner whilst waiting for a raid to form. Hence, considering the stage of life I’m in now, Battle for Azeroth is the game that’s suitable for me. What about WoW Classic? I have nothing but admiration for the game’s release. Though it has divided the WoW population, I respect the game because, despite all its flaws and backwards systems and game design, players go back to it to relive these memories with their past teammates whom I’m sure they’ve convinced to play together probably for one last hurrah. With the release of Classic, players can enjoy the true community spirit of an MMORPG. With the game’s lack of help and difficulty as a solo player, players have to communicate, make new friends and forge new friendships if they want to go far in the game. How far will Blizzard Entertainment expand WoW: Classic? Will it include other expansions? I don’t know. It’s a delicate balance. We can only find out how the player base will evolve with these two universes running in parallel when Blizzard Entertainment makes further announcements regarding the games’ direction. Till next time, Classic or Retail (the term coined by the community to describe the ‘modern’ version of the game with all the expansions), see you in Azeroth. 

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