Some games come and go without much fanfare and other games imprint themselves into the cultural narrative for decades.
World of Warcraft falls into the latter category. WoW has had an immense impact on many people, and has shaped the culture of the 2000s, 2010s, and now, the 2020s.
Let’s take a look at the cultural impact of WoW over the years.
The South Park Episode
As a general rule, if something is culturally relevant, it’ll appear in an episode of the adult cartoon show South Park. This is precisely what happened with World of Warcraft. In 2006, when WoW was rapidly growing, the episode ‘Make Love, Not Warcraft’ aired. This episode made a significant impression, being praised by critics and even winning a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program.
Although the episode wasn’t strictly accurate to the game mechanics – It depicted impossible class and ability combinations, and the plotline revolved around a higher level player killing lower level players of the same faction – the episode does successfully satirize what it meant to be a WoW player. It shows the South Park cast playing the game for 21 hours a day, spending most of their time killing low-level boars. It’s grinding on an epic scale. They’re doing this to gain more experience points than the WoW-obsessed griefer who keeps killing their friends and other low-level players. Their efforts come to a head in a 17 hour battle against the griefer, where the boys ultimately win, becoming WoW heroes. With the griefer finally neutralized, one character asks what they should do now. The response is, “what do you mean? Now we can finally play the game.”. That line speaks volumes about being a WoW player – you grind your way through seemingly endless, often repetitive content to reach max level when you can “finally play the game.”
Despite being less popular today than at its peak in 2010, WoW is still present in the online cultural universe, regularly appearing in memes. Just recently, with the GameStop controversy, a meme went viral, which said, “Wall Street clearly underestimated a generation raised on highly coordinated Friday night World of Warcraft raids.” It’s funny, of course, but it went viral precisely because it speaks to an entire generation of gamers. If you were coming of age in the mid to late 2000s, you either played WoW yourself or knew people who did.
The Sale of WoW In-Game Items
The scale of World of Warcraft is vast, with many thousands of items in the game database. Some of these items are highly coveted, and players will go to extreme lengths to get them. For example, in 2007, a Rogue character with some of the best gear in the game was sold for 7000 Euro, around $9,700 at the time.
Today, the market of in-game WoW goods is still thriving, with marketplaces like Eldorado.gg doing better than ever. Players can buy anything from items like the Llothien prowler mount to WoW Gold currency, and even boosting services like Raid boosting, power leveling, and Heroic and Mythic dungeon boosting. For players who don’t have the time to grind, or simply don’t want to, WoW boosting offerings are an excellent alternative to sheer manpower and determination.
The Games That Came After WoW
World of Warcraft wasn’t the first MMORPG by any stretch of the imagination. MMORPGs had existed for well over a decade before WoW hit the shelves and some of the games that launched in the years before WoW clearly influenced its development. Everquest is one such game. When WoW launched, many people thought of it as an easier and more reliable Everquest. WoW was just more optimized and ran smoothly on even less than ideal gaming rigs. By contrast, when Everquest 2 launched in 2004, players complained that the game would lag and crash even with high-end gaming computers. WoW quickly outpaced Everquest and Everquest 2 in subscription numbers and became the household name MMORPG.
World of Warcraft became so popular so rapidly that the MMOs that came after it were frequently called “WoW clones.” Similar games, even if they improved on some of WoWs mechanics, struggled to gain momentum when compared with the MMO giant. Even today, over 15 years since its launch, new MMORPGs are regularly compared to WoW.
It’s become a universal point of reference in the same way people use chicken to describe the taste of exotic meat – every meat eater knows chicken, and every MMORPG gamer knows WoW.