Sometimes, the real world just sucks.
We retreat into a virtual world because, let’s face it: Virtual worlds don’t come with the myriad of downers you’ll find in the real world. From the minor quibbles to the permanent, irreversible catastrophes, the World of Warcraft is usually a much less stressful place for the frazzled player. Sometimes, it’s even a better alternative.
1. There’s no such thing as traffic. Here in Southern California, we lovingly call our most trafficked freeway “Carmageddon.” Impatient drivers weave in and out and inevitably cause more accidents than they avoid. Bumper to bumper traffic is the sign of a relatively good day.
In WoW, you’re never going to see a five kodo pileup in the Drag. In fact, most of the time you don’t even have to worry about walking or riding anywhere on your own. Talk to a flightmaster, board a transport, or coerce a mage. Even when you’re forced into a tight corridor, you can barrel right over your fellow players without fear of comeuppance.
Now if only we could find a way to keep people from mounting on top of mailboxes…
2. Death can be reversed by a quick resurrection. In real life, death is unforgiving and often unexpected. Most of all, it’s permanent. No amount of prayer or bartering will bring back a loved one. For those that believe in an afterlife, there is some hope for a life beyond death, but even that is uncertain and governed by abstract rules that only the dead can truly understand.
In WoW, death is but another casual fact of virtual life. Eventually you’ll get in over your head and you’ll die. But one quick corpse run and you’re right back at it, able to fix your mistakes. And if you’re a healer, you wield the ultimate power in correcting screwups: The ability to resurrect the dead.
Best of all, you know exactly why you died. You didn’t have the right gear. You were standing in the fire. You drew threat from the tank and got smacked in the face. One glance at the combat log tells you exactly why you died, giving you a surefire way to make up for it once you’re back on your feet.
3. Right now is all that matters. The first few months after I lost my daughter, it was a struggle to get through each day. Guilt tore at me from every angle. If I would have caught it sooner. If I would have watched more closely. If I would have researched more alternative medicines. If I would have given more time, more money, more everything. When I wasn’t dwelling on the past and its many ‘what ifs,’ I was desperately trying to sort out the future. How could I possibly pull it together for my son? What would I tell him when he was old enough to understand? How the hell was I going to survive her next birthday?
A huge draw for me in WoW was the ability to focus on the now. Nothing in the game reminded me of the past. As soon as I logged in, the past and the future disappeared. I am raiding with guildies now. I am browsing the Auction house now. I am leveling Jewelcrafting now. Specific, defined events with immediate rewards for completing them. And after you’re done with one thing, you simply move on to the next, with no agonizing over the past or being fearful of the future.
4. Money really is no object. The real world comes with real responsibilities and a heaping pile of bills to contend with as well, as if working hard and raising a family wasn’t stressful enough. Anyone who’s ever lived paycheck to paycheck knows what it’s like to be crushed under the weight of financial obligations. And just when you think you’ve gotten a bit ahead, the car breaks down or the baby gets sick and everything you’d been saving up gets put toward fixing an inevitable emergency.
Wealth in the real world usually involves a tradeoff of some sort. If you want more money, you have to work on it, and that means neglecting others things you’d rather be doing.
But in WoW, you can log in a few minutes before a raid, post a few items onto the Auction House, and then have them sell without any further action on your part. You don’t have to pay taxes on the gold you bring in; only a small Auction House fee for the convenience of it. And if you want to invest a little more time in making gold, you can use any number of surefire methods for a quick score, or you can take a gamble and hope it’ll pay off big. If you lose that gamble, your heater won’t be turned off; bill collectors won’t call you at all hours. You just start again.
5. Nobody cares what you look like. Genetics sure can be a bastard. The same genes that make someone tall and slender with the metabolism of a race horse can make someone else short, stout, and left to find a creative comeback for uninspiring teapot jokes.
In the real world, you can’t really choose what you look like. Sure, you can go to the gym, put on makeup, and add a bit of heft to your chest if you have the time and money, but that’s all on the surface. You weren’t born that way, no matter how hard you try to change your appearance.
World of Warcraft is sometimes criticized for its lack of character customization, but knowing your character is going to look almost exactly the same as every other character is a comfort to many people. Sure, WoW human males may have massive, meaty paws, but every male human in the game has the same colossal clobbermits.
It used to be that some of the elitist players based someone’s worth on the gear their character was wearing, but now even that isn’t much of an issue. With Transmogrification you can wear whatever you want and no one can tell how ‘leet’ you are unless they take the time to inspect you. Go ahead and wear those mismatched greens you’ve been keeping in your bank for no particular reason. No one will be the wiser.
6. The unemployment rate is 0%. Less than fifty years ago, the average, able-bodied US adult was expected to work only a few jobs their entire life, with the average lifespan of each job being about 15 years. Now, the average lifespan of even the best jobs is somewhere around 5 years, and new college graduates are expected to hold almost three times the jobs of their grandparents.
Job stability is a very rare thing these days, and many hard workers have experienced the devastating reality of having a reliable position taken out from under them, leaving them unemployed with absolutely no prospects.
You’ll never see this happen in WoW. No matter how shitty your server’s economy might be, there’s always work you can do; always gold you can earn. In fact, from day one you already have a full-time job: You’re a freaking adventurer! You slay dragons, you save innocents, you pick grapes from fields. Alright, maybe the last one isn’t very heroic, but you still get paid for it, and the average WoW player will make over 20,000g by questing from 1-85.
And in case being an adventurer isn’t challenging enough, you can have two different professions and up to four additional skills that all bring in extra gold. You’ll never get fired. Never get demoted. Never suffer a pay cut. And if you ever want to switch jobs, you can pick up a new skill and start making gold again within a few hours.
Whether it’s a petty annoyance or life-altering devastation, there are so many real world problems that don’t exist in the World of Warcraft. Why do you think WoW is better than real life? What gives you peace of mind after a long day in reality?