One of the most frustrating problems that comes with being a noob in Warcraft is the carpel-tunnel-inducing effort that comes with trying to level up. Before you’re allowed to raid dungeons, it can take roughly an hour to reach the next level. Without familiarity with the game, quests simply take too long. As a result, the quickest way to obtain consistent XP, as well as the best way to obtain items for sale, is to spend hours at a time slaughtering animals.
The ability to venture to the middle of Elwynn Forest and spend a few hours casually massacring creatures is monumentally useful if your only goal is to level up. There is an infinite supply of victims, and generally it only takes a couple of blows to take them down. Also, there is little threat of dying, so you’re unlikely to waste time searching for your corpse. The procedural aspect of slaughtering animals contains meaning on two fronts. First, this tedious, goal driven action demonstrates the “work” aspect of the game by emphasizing the necessary time commitment and its relationship to the ability to actually engage in the narrative. Second, it adds layers to the initial narrative of the game, and allows the player to consider the role of the hero within the game.
If you play as a human character as soon as you enter the game for the first time you’ll immediately see dozens of players repetitively slaughtering boars on the outskirts of Elwynn Forest. Principally, these players are collecting the pelts to sell to a merchant in order to purchase armor or a better weapon. While this necessity is useful in figuring out the mechanics of the game, it quickly becomes a chore. In “Corporate Ideology in World of Warcraft” Scott Rhettberg demonstrates the idea of “work” within the game. “Players are willing to spend hundreds of hours in World of Warcraft not in spite of the fact that it often seems like tedious work, but because of it” (32). Rhettberg tells us that one reason Warcraft is so addicting and appealing is that it feeds our desire for an expected, linear reward system. We engage in the tedium because there is guaranteed to be a reward from it. One issue that Rhettberg does not delve into in this regard is contrasting the kind of work within the game. Although it’s a quicker method of leveling up, killing boars for hours is horrifically tedious and desperately boring. Because of this, the game emphasizes the need for a time commitment if a player wants to really enjoy the narrative.
Although it can take much longer, quests are vastly more enjoyable. This idea of habitually killing boars in order to level up demonstrates the idea that trying to take shortcuts comes at a cost. A player can either give the time commitment necessary to enjoy the game as well as level up, or simply disregard the narrative and monotonously slaughter animals for the XP. Real reward cannot be obtained without a time commitment. Warcraft forces the player to either participate in the story through a serious time commitment, or actively engage in the most boring elements of the game in order to quickly gain experience. Within the game, there is the need to balance the rewards that pop up on the screen, and the intrinsic reward of actually enjoying yourself. The options to spend your time killing animals or engage in a long narrative demonstrates how Warcraft’s emphasizes elements of work, and forces the player to choose between shorter lived tedium, or an overly drawn out, yet exciting effort.
In addition to serving as the most boring shortcut in the game, habitually killing animals forces the player to question the narrative presented in the game. If you choose to be on the side of the Alliance you accept the role of fighting for a noble cause, conquering evil, and a number of other gallant clichés. The ability to simply disregard the narrative and go rogue, doing nothing but killing animals for a spell is directly in conflict with the hero narrative. There is nothing heroic about mulling around Elwynn Forest killing creatures without a guided purpose. (Note: this is in no way an advocacy for any PETA type ideology). You can pretend that these creatures are terrorizing citizens, but there is no objective here other than to kill things for resources or XP. In this way, the game allows players to determine what kind of hero they would like to be. Simply trying to level up is entirely self-serving, and does not benefit the realm.
Essentially, actively trying to level up in order to be the best hero in the game isn’t very heroic. Simply trying to reach the highest level possible may make you a great player, but not a great hero. In order to heroically serve the realm a player must actively engage in the narrative. Of course, many players play the game through an entirely goal driven lens. If the goal is simply to level up, a player must sacrifice what are arguably the most engaging parts of the narrative. If a player actively plays the game, however, he or she is capable of engrossing him or herself in a true hero narrative. By providing the option of slaying animals for XP for hours on end, Warcraft allows players to decide what kind of hero they would like to be. They can play simply to level up, or they can actively engage in the narrative and be the hero the Azeroth needs.
The option to habitually slaughter animals as a method of gaining XP and leveling up serves two purposes. It demonstrates Warcraft’s emphasis on work, and allows a player to decide for him or herself whether to move up quickly or enjoyably, and also allows the player to engage in the hero narrative as wholly or as little as they would like. The ability to level up in this manner demonstrates how player driven the Warcraft experience is, and allows for a many layered view of the game as a whole.