GBL WoW Free
We have recently become aware that the way in which Blizzard (the developers of World of Warcraft (WoW)) offer a trial access to the game has changed. The previous arrangement was that you could play free for a week, and if you wanted to continue to play after that you had to set up a paid account. Now the arrangement is that you can play up through the early levels of the game (to Level 20) without paying, but a paying account has to be established if you want to continue beyond that Level.
This is probably an astute move on the part of Blizzard for a number of reasons. A time-limited trial doesn’t give one much opportunity to get “into” the game when you are an adult, with other pressures on your time. Depending where you look, the average age of the WoW player is from 28 – 34; so they are not aiming simply to attract the attention of teenage males. But more particularly, when someone has played up though the Levels to get to 20, there will already have been a significant investment of time, achievements will have been made – some involving the development and customisation of the character – and the player who decided that the game is really for them will, by that stage, be strongly committed, and therefore likely to upgrade to a paying account.
But this change provides opportunities for us to try out the game, and to discuss its characteristics, in the context of the course. For our purposes, there is no expectation that a course participant would be likely to choose to play a game of this genre, and that their playing would be motivated by the intrinsic appeal of the game itself. They would be regarding the experience more in the way that an anthropologist might conduct an ethnographic study of a workplace, or a society, their motivation coming from the act of the research itself. Of course, just such ethnographic studies of WoW have been carried out (Bainbridge, 2010; Corneliussen, 2008; Nardi, 2010) as well as explorations in and around the culture of online gaming (Taylor, 2006).
In the past, we have engaged with those course members who were interested, to identify a period of time in which we could all arrange to enter the world together, and those experienced in the game could lead and guide those new to the environment. This presented problems of synchronization of time within the constrained period of the week, and made it more difficult for people to enter, either before or after the “class” event, to explore on their own the environment and the skills. The current arrangement removes some of the logistic problems for the group as a whole. One or more synchronized events can be arranged towards the end of the course, so that people can experience the advantages of playing in a group. But there is no reason to discourage course members from starting early.
Further, the earlier stages of the game would seem to be much more fully “scaffolded ” allowing a lone player to progress at their own pace, yet develop a good grasp of the game’s features. Ultimately, the conclusion of this experience, from the perspective of the course, would be to continue and expand our conversations about the definitions and characteristics of games, and particularly to map the experiences from WoW onto the 36 Learning Principles offered by Gee (2007).
Entering the Trial Game
The first thing to emphasise is that, although the access to the game world in on a limited and trial basis, the copy of the game software that is held on the player’s computer is a well nigh complete version of the game, and will take perhaps a number of hours to download except on the fastest of networks. So choose a time to initiate this exercise when you can begin the download, and leave the machine by itself for a while. With some ant-virus software you may not be able to complete all aspects of the download, so you may need to disable it temporarily.
The first step is to visit the Blizzard website at: https://eu.battle.net/account/creation/wow/signup/
Note the “eu.battle.net”. If we are to meet up in world as a group, then we will have to be connected to the same game server and this is the European sign-up page.
From this page, by providing a name and an email address to which you have access, you can set up the free trial account for World of Warcraft and other Battle.net games if you wish.
Starting World of Warcraft and your First Character
To ensure that we are able to meet up in the game world, the first decision is about the "Realm" (server) upon which your game account will be located. Use the “Change Realm” button and we ask you to choose:
Nothing special about that server; simply that we all choose to use it. Scroll down the list of "realms" to find it.
Just as there are a number of different realms/servers, all running the same game (with some variations which we might discuss later), there are different regions within the game world, and we must all arrange to join up at the same place. The place in the world of WoW (called Azeroth, by the way) that you come first as you are "born" into the world (fully grown) will depend on the race of creature that you choose to be. This is not a once and for all decision, as the trial account that you set up can have a number of characters associated with it. But in the first instance we will suggest that you choose your race to be "Human". A new human entering the world will arrive at the door of Northshire Abbey.
You must select your race, your gender, and the class of character that you want to play. You are then allowed to customize various aspects of your character’s appearance, and to name your character.
You are then invited to enter the world.
That’s it really. After that you could be said to be on your own. Although you are not, as the "multi-player" part of the term massively multi-player online role-play game (MMORPG) suggests. But at first you will be left free to play alone, chances are, and find your way around. The characters in the game that you will want to pay most attention to initially will be those that are run by the game system itself, and are referred to as non-player characters (NPCs). When you are born into the world as a human, you will find yourself facing the NPC Marshall McBride. Right-click (or the Macintosh equivalent – command-click) to talk to him. Take it from there.
Bainbridge, W. S. (2010). The Warcraft civilization : social science in a virtual world. Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press.
Corneliussen, H. and J. W. Rettberg (2008). Digital culture, play, and identity : a World of Warcraft reader. Cambridge, MA, MIT Press.
Gee, J. P. (2007). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy; 2nd Edition. New York, Palgrave Macmillan.
Nardi, B. A. (2010). My life as a night elf priest : an anthropological account of World of warcraft. Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press : University of Michigan Library.
Rogoff, B. (1990). Apprenticeship in thinking : cognitive development in social context. New York ; Oxford, Oxford University Press.
Taylor, T. L. (2006). Play between worlds : exploring online game culture. Cambridge, Mass. ; London, MIT.