I am the same age as Larisa, and the majority of the core of my guild is within +/- 10 years of that. I don’t really consider myself an older player. In fact, I feel like this game was written for my generation.
This game has its roots set firmly in the high fantasy genre. The presence of fantasy in literature goes far back in history. While there are examples found as long ago as Shakespeare, the sword-and-sorcery archetype traces most directly to works such as the Chronicles of Narnia (published in the 1950’s) and The Lord of the Rings (also published in the 1950’s). As these works gained in popularity, the generation that followed was the first to be regularly exposed to high fantasy authors.
Those who grew up in the 1960’s and 1970’s were the first generation that could easily find Fantasy sections in the bookstore and the local library.
Those folks would be in their 50’s now. We see a lot more players in WoW in their 40’s than we see players in their 50’s. I think that is due to a major development that connects the fantasy genre to gaming…
Dungeons and Dragons was released in the mid-70’s but really hit its stride in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Dungeons and Dragons combined the high fantasy genre with interactive elements and created a game, much like WoW, where the players used magic and might to fight dragons and other creatures.
To recap: anyone who was in their teens in the late 70’s and early 80’s had been raised among the growing presence of high fantasy literature, and then had Dungeons and Dragons dropped into their lap. That specific group of people would be in their 30’s -40’s right now.
But that’s not all. People in that age group have had the chance to live through the rise of the personal computer. The 1980’s saw the release of the Apple II and Commodore 64. Before long, games such as Wizardry and The Bard’s Tale became extremely popular. These games brought visuals to what had been a pen-and-paper activity before. They had no animation to speak of, but the still images used to illustrate the action added a new aspect to fantasy gaming.
To summarize so far:
If you were born in the late 60’s or early 70’s then you
- grew up with readily available fantasy literature
- were around for the creation and rise of Dungeons and Dragons
- lived through the introduction of the personal computer and the creation of fantasy computer games which followed
There’s yet one more factor that I’ll throw into the mix here. That same generation went away to college in the late 80’s or early 90’s. At this time the idea of computer networks was young but growing. There was no internet (as you now know it) at this point, but there were things like IRC chat and BBS forums. And from that framework came MUDs (Multi-User Dungeons). These were text-based games that could be played by hundreds of people at once from remote locations. This was the progenitor of the MMO. DikuMUD, in fact, can be directly traced as the basis for Everquest, which has obvious links to WoW.
Now I can connect this to myself. I lived the timeline detailed above. In my youth I ate up fantasy novels as fast as my allowance could buy them. When Dungeons and Dragons came out, my friends and I played a continuous campaign for all of my high school years.
I had a Commodore 64 as a teenager, I cut my teeth on programming with it, learned to love the fantasy games, starting with text-based games like Zork and moving up to still image games like A Bard’s Tale.
I played MUDs in college and was amazed at the added dimension of playing with hundred of other people simultaneously.
When Everquest came out in 1999 it was as if everything I had ever loved were wrapped up in one package and presented to me. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time or finances to play EQ, with a new job and new family at the time. However, when WoW came out, I was on it immediately.
World of Warcraft was written for ME.
My life experience is not unique, though, so I’d extend it to say that World of Warcraft was written for all the nerdy kids of my generation. All of us who imagined ourselves as Frodo with the One Ring or Shea Ohmsford wielding the Sword of Shannara or Garion trying to learn his powers from Polgara and Belgarath. Those of us who guided their fighter/thief through battles with bugbears in D&D, who sat in the tavern in the town of Skara Brae to get a new quest in Bard’s Tale, and who meticulously assembled their party in Pool of Radiance.
The younger kids who play WoW are certainly having fun, and I don’t begrudge them their enjoyment one bit. But they are Johnny-come-lately to the party. People in their 30’s-40’s are the ideal audience for this game.
P.S. – The stuff about older players having slower reaction time is nonsense when it comes to WoW. This isn’t a twitch reaction game or a FPS. A 40 year old can bang on the numbers 111111111222222222111111333333 on the keyboard just as well as a 13 year old. Server lag is a much bigger factor than reaction time in this game.