First of all, what IS an MMORPG? This is an acroynym for Massive Mulit-player Online Role Playing Game, and this dffers from a regular PC game in that there is constant interaction with other players. I have been playing this game for over five years now, and as such I can speak from personal experience about the ups and downs of such a game.
World of Warcraft is a virtual world, complete with an economy, social interactions, rivalries and career choices. It is VERY easy to lose oneself in this world, so its best to know a few things before one begins. One of the first issues that a lot of younger players experience is the economy of the world. EVERYTHING in the game, from armor, to food, to spells, potions, mounts, etc must be purchased with in-game currency or Honor Points. There are only two legal ways to obtain gold in the game: earn it or ask other players for it. I say legal, for there is a third way, which will get your account shut down by Blizzard, and that is to buy gold from one of the various companies that actually sell gold to players for real currency. This is a violation of Blizzard’s Terms of Service, and should always be avoided. The ways to earn currency in the game are to do so through a Profession, complete Quests, or sell items to a vendor or on the Auction House, which functions like eBay. This is an initial source of frustration for newer players, for there are no cheats that will allow a player to “magically” increase one’s in-game currency. Asking other players for gold is usually seen as begging, and of course is a sure way to develop bad feelings with other players.
Another aspect of the game, (and this is a caution to parents) due to there being players of all ages online, there are sometimes inappropriate comments made in-game, such as sexual references. Fortunately, the game features an Ignore option, by which a player who makes a habit of such can have his or her comments blocked from being seen by the individual player. Also, Blizzard does an excellent job of policing the game, by having Game Masters online 24/7. These Game Masters, or GMs, are there to spot inappropriate behavior, help out with difficult questions and can offer advice. The downside to this is because of the sheer number of players online in any given time, it may take days for a GM to respond. However they WILL respond, and if the complaint is serious enough the offending player can and will be banned for a few days, or have his or her account revoked. This means that such a player would have to start fresh with a new account and payment option, a very real threat which is quite effective. The game is designed to take quite a bit of time to reach certain levels and aquire certain items; if one’s account is revoked they lose all characters and in-game gold and items, so all that time and effort is wasted, never to return.
One of the main keys to this game is PATIENCE. Your child is NOT going to go from level 1 to level 80 (the current top level) in a day or a week. Dedicated players can do so inside of a few weeks, but this is a serious chunk of time spent, and is not a good idea, especially if the player is still in school. And it is not simply a matter of going from one level to the next; there are goals to be reached, depending upon one’s style of play. My personal favorite is Player versus Player, or PvP. This is basically attacking players from the other Faction, of which there are two: the Horde, and the Alliance. For this style of play, one needs certain armor, spells and talents that are suited to such, vice Player versus Environment, or PvE, and it takes awhile to get these items. Also, this differs from regular battle in that with PvE, you are mostly attacking Non Player Characters, or NPCs. These are governed by the game’s artificial intelligence, and are fairly easy depending upon the NPCs level compared to the player’s.
PvP can be much more challenging because you are squaring off with another player, who can and does react faster and in a more unexpected fashion than an NPC. Again, the key word here is patience; it takes some time to be effective in PvP play, for it is not only a matter of having the proper items it is also a matter of one’s individual skill.
As a parent and a dedicated player I recognize that this game does indeed teach lessons that can be applied to real life, as unbelievable as that sounds. Just like playing a real sport, one must learn to be effective as a team in order to be effective in battlegrounds, Instances and Raids. Battlegrounds are basically areas where the two Factions battle each other for control of the area, and can have 15 players for each side ( or 40 as in the case of the Wintergrasp battleground). Teamwork is VITAL in these areas, as is leadership. I have seen players quit the Battlegrounds after only a few minutes, because it did not look like an easy victory. This is a problem because those Battlegrounds yield Honor Points, which are used to purchase certain items that enhance the individual character. If one quits too soon and too often he or she robs themself of the opportunity, as well as causing their own and other players’ frustration. This is therefore not only a matter of patience, it is also one of maturity. One is NOT going to win every time, but the ones that do so consistently are the ones that learn from their mistakes and fight harder and SMARTER the next time.
I have briefly touched on some of the more important aspects, but it is also important to remember that this is a GAME, something to be played and enjoyed, not on a par with family or responsibilities. To this end Blizzard has Parental Controls, through which you can decide when and how long your child can play. So, if you are considering this game, by all means do so; just monitor their involvement as you would any other online activity.