Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Release date: Aug. 26, 2019
Platforms: PC and Mac
Price: $15 per month subscription
Shortly after World of Warcraft, or WoW, was first released in 2004, I was hooked. I spent several years of my life in Azeroth slaying monsters, gathering items, leveling up, dominating dungeons, dancing in Booty Bay and most importantly, making friends. I even led a couple of large raiding guilds and survived most of the end-game bosses, including Onyxia, Golemagg and Nefarian. It was epic.
As the game expanded and my life outside the game progressed, though, I lost interest in WoW. I got tired of the grind and the drama. I quit the day after I hit 70 — the new maximum level. I’ve dabbled in WoW since then, but just to peek at new content. There are different places to explore, new races and quests have been added and it’s always easy to find a party, but none of the expansions have held my interest for more than a few weeks. I thought I had outgrown Azeroth.
But when COVID-19 sent us all to hunker down in our homes, I decided to gather my friends and head back to World of Warcraft Classic, which replicates the original world I fell in love with when many of my current students were still in diapers. I’ve organized a little guild made up of longtime gamer friends, colleagues and former students. This weekend I’m even going to show an old friend from grad school and her two children (ages 12 and 15) how to play.
Unlike later expansions, WoW Classic is a social game at its heart. While you can start playing alone, you quickly run into quests that require you to team up with other players. To be able to complete any of the dungeons, which are arguably the most fun and challenging content in the game, you have to coordinate with other players who bring a range of abilities. Unlike later iterations of the game, you can’t just click on a button to connect with a random group of strangers you will never see again. You have to build a team of people. You have to make friends.
Don’t get me wrong, the game has its drawbacks. I had blocked out what a pain it is to have to get eight separate quest items with low drop rates for each party member. I had amnesia for having to run across the world to find the entrance to a dungeon. I forgot how long it takes to level up and to scrape together enough gold for the first mount, which, by the way, isn’t available until level 40. I forgot how inconvenient it is not to be able to fly.
But in these difficult days when none of us know when our current situation will end and if anything will ever get back to normal, it’s nice to have a fantasy world to escape to — together.