World of Warcraft
World of Warcraft, commonly known as WoW, is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) produced by Blizzard Entertainment. The game is developed by Blizzard Entertainment, Inc., an Irvine, California based video game developer and publisher. It is the fourth game set in the Warcraft Universe that was originally conceived in 1994 with Blizzard’s release of Warcraft: Orcs & Humans. The game takes place in a virtual fantasy world called Azeroth and an extradimensional realm called Outland. The game’s storyline is set four years after the conclusion of Blizzard’s previous Warcraft series release, Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. World of Warcraft was announced on September 2, 2001 and was released on November 23, 2004.
There are six expansion sets that have been released for the game. The first expansion set, The Burning Crusade, was released on January 16, 2007. Wrath of the Lich King, the second expansion set, was released on November 13, 2010. The third expansion, Cataclysm, was released on December 7, 2010. The fourth expansion set, Mists of Pandaria, was released on September 25, 2012. The fifth expansion set, Warlords of Draenor, was released on November 13, 2014. The sixth expansion set, Legion, was released on August 30, 2016. The next expansion to be released is Battle for Azeroth, set to launch September 2018.
World of Warcraft is the most popular MMORPG to date, with approximately 11 million paying subscribers as of June, 2011. Ethical considerations for WoW include concerns over game addiction and anonymity online.
- 1 Gameplay
- 2 Notable Events
- 3 Ethical Issues
- 4 See Also
- 5 References
|Base Game||November 23, 2004|
|The Burning Crusade||January 16, 2007|
|Wrath of the Lich King||November 13, 2008|
|Cataclysm||December 7, 2010|
|Mists of Pandaria||September 25, 2012|
|Warlords of Draenor||November 13, 2014|
|Legion||August 30, 2016|
|Battle For Azeroth||September, 2018|
Choosing a Realm
Before a character avatar is created, the player must first select a realm to play on. Players can create multiple characters, but are restricted to just 10 characters per realm with a maximum of 50 characters overall. Available realm types are player versus player (PvP), player versus environment (PvE), player versus environment with roleplaying (PvE-RP), or player versus player with roleplaying (PvP-RP). Player versus player realms are geared towards players who enjoy engaging other players of the opposite faction in combat throughout the entire world, whereas player versus environment realms emphasizes more game content and less on fighting other enemy players (PvP combat is still allowed in special zones such as battlegrounds, arenas, and designated PvP zones). See World PvP for more details.
Creating a Character
In World of Warcraft, players create and control a character avatar within the virtual world Azeroth. The virtual world offers the player many gameplay options, most of which involve exploring the virtual landscape, fighting monstrous creatures, following quest lines, and interacting with other players and non-player characters (NPCs).
Similar to many other MMORPG games, World of Warcraft requires a subscription to play, which can be paid using pre-paid game time cards or setting up a recurring subscription through a credit/debit card. The current subscription rate starts at $13.00 per month. 
Players must choose between two opposing factions upon creating a character, Alliance or Horde. Characters from opposing factions are not allowed to communicate with each through normal chat channels. Only members of the same faction can speak, send mail, and adventure together within the game. A more recent patch introduced the Blizzard's "Real ID" system, which is an externally independent chat application that ties into all of Blizzards' newer games. In doing so, it allows for players to communicate with each other regardless of the game they're playing.
After selecting a faction, the player must then choose a race and class. The player’s faction choices dictate access to different race types. Different races have different racial abilities, which can be beneficial in different situations. Similarly, different classes have different abilities and are restricted to certain gear types. The Alliance faction has more traditional race types like Humans and Night Elves, while the Horde faction has more sinister race types like Orcs and Undead. All class types are accessible to both factions, but some class types are only accessible to specific race types. The upcoming Mists of Pandaria expansion will introduce the Pandarian race, which will be the first race option that can be either Alliance or Horde .
|Alliance Races||Horde Races|
|Classes||Armor Type||Possible Role(s)|
|Death Knight*||Plate||DPS (melee), Tank|
|Druid||Leather||DPS (melee or ranged), Healer, Tank|
|Paladin||Plate||DPS (melee), Healer, Tank|
|Priest||Cloth||DPS (ranged), Healer|
|Shaman||DPS (melee or ranged), Healer|
|Warrior||Plate||DPS (melee), Tank|
**Only available with the Wrath of the Lich King expansion ***Only available with the Mists of Pandaria expansion
Basic In-Game PlayAs characters increase in level, they gain various new abilities and talent points that expand upon the gameplay for each class type. Each character class has 3 specializations that correlate to three different playstyles, as well as 6 talent points which players can spend to improve their base abilities. Each talent point is spent by choosing one of three possible talents that appear on a six-tiered table.
Much of the gameplay in World of Warcraft is based around completing quests offered by NPCs that advance the main storyline and the numerous subplots. Quests are structured around killing monsters, gathering resources, finding hidden objects, interacting with NPCs, discovering new locations and delivering items. Players are given rewards for completing quests that include new items, in-game money, and experience.
After characters progress beyond their basic starting zones, they are offered options to group with four other players and enter dungeons. Grouping with other players brings a new dynamic to the gameplay. Players must use their specific class abilities to aid other members in the group in defeating more resilient monsters and bosses.
The three main class types that form a group are healers, tanks and damage dealers (more commonly referred to as "DPS"). Healers heal the group members, tanks protect the group by directing a monster’s attention on themselves, and damage dealers use their abilities to damage and kill the monsters. Damage dealers can either be ranged (such as mages, warlocks, and hunters), or melee (such as warriors, death knights, and rogues)
Characters can choose to learn two main professions  which allow players to gather or create items. Each main profession has it's own benefits to the player in the form of buffs or gear modifications allowed only to characters with that profession. Characters can also learn fishing, cooking, archaeology and first aid as secondary professions. Players can abandon and learn new professions freely at any time.
Types of Gameplay
Gameplay in which the player is working towards an objective of defeating an in-game NPC, such as a dungeon boss, is considered player versus environment (PvE) gameplay. The other form of gameplay found in World of Warcraft is categorized as player versus player (PvP) gameplay, where a player works towards an objective of defeating another player, or team of players. Examples of this type of gameplay are arenas and battlegrounds.
Player Versus Environment Gameplay
As characters reach the maximum level 90, they gain access to “end game” content, which usually consists of heroic 5-player dungeons and raids that progress the main storyline in World of Warcraft. Raids are similar to grouping for dungeons during lower levels.
There are two group sizes in the current raid environment, 10-player groups, and 25-player groups. Raids are considerably more difficult than five-player dungeons, and the difficulty can vary between 10-player content and 25-player content. After players have killed the final boss of a raid, they may choose to change the raid difficulty to heroic, making the boss encounters of that raid even more difficult (either by increased damage dealt by the boss or an enhanced mechanic). Players may choose to do only certain boss encounters of a raid dungeon on heroic difficulty while completing the other boss encounters on regular difficulty.
Raids from the original World of Warcraft release allowed either a 20-player or 40-player raid group to participate in the encounter. With the Burning Crusade expansion, raids changed to just either 10-player or 25-player encounters. The Wrath of the Lich King expansion introduced raids that had both a 10-player setting and a 25-player setting, but the raid bosses dropped different equipment depending on which setting players were in. The Cataclysm and Mists of Pandaria expansion raids have both a 10-player and 25-player setting, but the equipment dropped in each set is now the same.
Player Versus Player Gameplay
World of Warcraft offers several forms of player versus player gameplay such as dueling, battlegrounds, arenas, and world PvP. A statistic is tracked for each player called "Honorable Kills," which is incremented every time a player kills a player in PvP combat close to his own level. Players are further rewarded with "Honor Points" which can be used as a form of currency for armor upgrades.
Dueling is an unstructured fight between two players; these players can be of the same faction or of different factions. Additionally, the players need not to be of the same level; a level 1 character can request a duel with a character that is level 85. A player can click on another player's character and "request duel," upon which the other player will be prompted to accept or decline. A duel is won when one of the players' hit points reach 1 or one of the players leaves the "duel area", which is defined as a specific region around where the duel was requested. Winning a duel does not grant an Honorable Kill. Dueling is often used to settle disputes initiated from trash-talking, although Blizzard has implemented a complicated system that allows a balance between all classes on a large scale; thus, there are some classes that will always have a large advantage over other classes when constricted to a 1v1 setting.
Many of the starting zones for each race (such as Goldshire for humans) typically emerge as regions where dueling takes place frequently. Characters of the maximum level (currently 85) congregate in these areas to show off their characters for new players.
Battlegrounds are, in essence, "PVP instances" where players have some goal to achieve while killing members of the opposite faction. Battlegrounds can involve resource gathering through capturing and defending bases, capture the flag, "king of the hill", and killing the opposite faction's commander. Battlegrounds groups can range from ten to forty combatants per faction, and map sizes are made to reflect the number of combatants. Players can earn experience in battlegrounds if they are not maximum level, and honor points that can be spent on PVP gear.
Arenas are ranked, competitive, and structured matches between teams of two, three, or five players. They are incentive-driven in the form of items and rankings, along with titles that a player can display to other players. A team at any given time is represented by a team-chosen name, a logo, a roster, and a ranking. Arena "seasons" are typically about six months long. Only teams composed of players of the maximum level (85 currently) are able to achieve rankings and earn Arena Points.
An arena team is created by first purchasing a charter and obtaining enough signatures to constitute a team of a specified size bracket. Once the charter is turned in, players can then queue for a match, at which point they will be sent to a random arena map where the battle will take place. Each team is then given a short time to prepare. Afterward, the gates to the map are finally opened, and the match continues until all of the players of a team are dead, or the time limit of 45 minutes has been reached.
Contrary to the limits of world PvP, arena matches can be between teams of the same faction. Each realm is located in a Battlegroup, and each Battlegroup is composed of several realms. Arena matches can only be played between teams located in the same Battlegroup.
At the end of each season, titles are awarded to the highest-rated teams in each bracket (2v2, 3v3, and 5v5). 
Arenas are occasionally the source of ethical issues, such as griefing and harassment.
World PvP describes player versus player cross-faction combat which is unstructured by the game, as opposed to the structured battlegrounds or arenas; however, world PvP is often organized into large groups by guilds or even simply groups of players who wish to work towards a common goal. World PvP leads to some ethical issues as well, such as player killing.
In PvE realms, a player becomes flagged by either typing the command "/pvp" or by attacking an NPC or flagged player of the opposing faction. A flagged player is attackable by all players of the opposing faction, whether they are flagged or not. The duration of being flagged for PvP combat is five minutes if initiated by an attack, or indefinitely if it was manually activated with "/pvp." In PvP realms, all players are considered "flagged" as soon as they enter the opposing faction's territory or contested territory; they may not unflag themselves while in these areas. 
Common targets of world PvP include each race's leader, such as Lady Sylvanas Windrunner, the leader of the Undead. World of Warcraft offers an achievement and mount as a reward for slaying all the leaders of the opposing faction; thus, attempts are made frequently. These targets are housed in the hearts of their respective cities, so even before killing the high-level leader, penetration of the city must first be achieved. This generally involves fighting through large amounts of constantly-respawning guards as well as defeating any players of the opposing faction that wish to defend their race's leader. Therefore, attempts to earn this achievement are usually done in large groups of high-level players.
Additionally, the low-level starting areas for each race are often targets for players of the opposing faction to attack the low-level quest giving NPCs, thus preventing the new, low-level players from completing the quests initiated by those NPCs.
See also Choosing a realm.
Implemented in Mists of Pandaria, Pet Battling is a new style of play that involves collecting small companions and leveling them via battling other small animals that one can find in the wild. This feature also allows players to have pet battles with each other.
The basis of Pet Battles is that a player can organize a team of up to three small pets. Each pet has various strengths and weaknesses that give them advantages or disadvantages against other certain types of pets. For example, the Bat companion has the pet type of Flying, which makes it an effective opponent to Aquatic-type pets, but an ineffective choice against Dragonkin-type pets.
Through battling wild, players also have the option to capture new pets, adding them to their collection either to level up for battling or to use as an aesthetic companion to passively follow their characters. 
See Funeral for Serenity.
Corrupted Blood Incident
On September 13, 2005, a bug introduced with a new dungeon release caused the debuff spell "Corrupted Blood" to spread across the virtual world. The debuff would do damage over time to a character and pass onto nearby characters. While intended only to be limited to the new dungeon, players soon discovered the debuff could be taken outside of the dungeon via teleportation spells. Though the bug was eventually fixed and game servers reset the pandemic situation that occurred drastically altered player behavior and gameplay and was studied by epidemiologists and counter-terrorist experts as a way to judge how human populations would behave in the event of such an epidemic occurring in real life .
- See also: Ethics in Computer & Video Games
Numerous ethical issues arise in World of Warcraft because of its massively multiplayer environment. In-game examples consist of player killing, division of loot items, twinking, power leveling, hacking, etc. The debate in World of Warcraft’s virtual world is the moral status of such activities, and their implications on people’s real world lives. Other ethical issues include time spent playing the game, abandonment of one’s real life obligations, loss of real-world social relationships, trading real money for in-game items, attachment to player avatars, etc. The chat sessions in World of Warcraft have also been the subject of privacy concerns as similar to any other messaging device, may hold sensitive information in regards to court cases.
Griefing and Camping
Griefing in the form of player killing is a major issue in many games which involve player versus player combat. In many of the low-level starting areas, high-level players of the opposing faction often congregate and kill NPCs that provide quests and experience for the low-level players. Oftentimes, these low-level, inexperienced players will click on the opposing faction's player, inadvertently attacking them, and thus flagging themselves for player versus player combat. Then, the high-level player of the opposing faction will "camp" their corpse, killing them over and over again, as the low-level new player has virtually no chance of defending themselves. Additionally, even if the low-level player does not unintentionally flag themselves, their gameplay experience will still be harmed, as they cannot complete the quests that they want, since the NPCs that they need to interact with are being slain over and over again, until the opposing faction players either leave or are driven away by high-level players of the region's faction.
Since each character has a unique name on its realm, it is extremely easy to track down a player as long as one knows the name of their character. Because of this, griefing in the form of verbal harassment often takes place, even cross-realm. Since arenas and battlegrounds are grouped by Battlegroup and not realm, an angry player on a different realm can create a character on the realm of the player that they want to harass and message them, simply by knowing the name of the character. In the competitive atmosphere of arenas, players often become frustrated and will harass the players of the opposing team out of anger; this phenomenon detracts from the quality of the gameplay of the harassed. Although this activity may satisfy the harassing player, griefing and harassment are immoral since they are making the experience less enjoyable for the players being harassed.
World of Warcraft is a socially driven game, with players interacting with other players and thus, humans interacting with other humans. Unlike a game like chess, where players generally don’t brood over a loss for weeks after detaching from the game, World of Warcraft is a game which is played every day for long periods by most players.
Users who play World of Warcraft can become seriously influenced by in-game actions in real life, and often establish a strong connection between themselves and their in-game avatars. In this context, World of Warcraft’s effects on peoples' real lives and MMORPG social environments are the subject of much ethical study. Another ethical concern that may arise in World of Warcraft is the practice of ethical research within the virtual environment, particularly in relation to the Corrupted Blood incident.
Privacy and Online Confessions
Due to the distinguishing feature of World of Warcraft from other games - the massive amount of players and their frequent daily communications, privacy has become an important issue of this game. In 2010 in British Columbia, Kim Proctor was killed by her two friends, Kruse Wellwood and Cameron Moffat. Following the murder, Kruse Wellwood was nervous about evidence being shared online, but he decided to share his story with his friend over World of Warcraft chat, thinking that the World of Warcraft chats wouldn't be saved.  Wellwood confessed to the crime via World of Warcraft chat and was later found guilty of murder along with Moffat. Similar situations happened in China as well. In April 2006 when the game reached its peak of popularity in the country, a player posted an article about his wife cheating on him in a game forum and led to an earthquake in the field. Although all the game characters used screen names, the real identity of the main role of the event was still dug out by other players and all the details of this family’s life were overwhelmingly discussed. As a result, the issue of privacy of the game once became a crucial issue in the world of game.
The widespread popularity of the franchise gave rise initially to a real-world cottage industry of in-game services provided by unofficial organizations (i.e. other players). For many players, the virtual material wealth of a character represents a measure of success in the game because it is relatively time- and effort-intensive to acquire large amounts of scarce in-game resources -- a process known colloquially in game as "farming".  Thus, since the launch of the game, some players have been willing to pay offline currency to other players in return for in-game material wealth in a variety of mediums.  This phenomenon of an offline market for online, virtual goods is not unique to the World of Warcraft franchise, as it is prevalent across many MMORPG-genre games. Most online games, including World of Warcraft, explicitly prohibit both parties in such marketplaces from engaging in monetary transactions.
Excerpt from Blizzard Entertainment World of Warcraft End User License Agreement (EULA): 
8. Ownership/Selling of the Account or Virtual Items.
Blizzard does not recognize the transfer of World of Warcraft Accounts or BNET Accounts (each an “Account”). You may not purchase, sell, gift or trade any Account, or offer to purchase, sell, gift or trade any Account, and any such attempt shall be null and void. Blizzard owns, has licensed, or otherwise has rights to all of the content that appears in the Game. You agree that you have no right or title in or to any such content, including without limitation the virtual goods or currency appearing or originating in the Game or any other attributes associated with an Account. Blizzard does not recognize any purported transfers of virtual property executed outside of the Game, or the purported sale, gift or trade in the “real world” of anything that appears or originates in the Game. Accordingly, you may not sell in-game items or currency for “real” money, or exchange those items or currency for value outside of the Game.
The World of Warcraft administration and developers, however, allow violators to remain largely unpunished. The offline market for World of Warcraft goods is set apart from that of other games by the sheer scale of the real-world marketplace which has developed around the game over time, as the game's subscription base has grown. Without the fear of reprisals such as account banning or in-game restrictions, players have caused the black market to balloon to many thousands of in-game service providers. While it is difficult to approximate or size the game's "black market" (magnitude of real-world currency exchanged in transactions which do not conform to the rules of the game), a vast number of websites advertise in-game services. Indeed, there are so many sellers that a multitude of review and aggregator sites have been created to help advertise and match service-seekers with trustworthy providers.
Effects on Physical Relationships
Heavy participation in online video games, including World of Warcraft, has been named as a cause for some relationships to fail. In a study conducted of 200 divorced women that filed "unreasonable behavior patterns" petitions, 15 percent believed that their partners prioritized video games higher than them. One woman specifically named World of Warcraft as the primary cause for her marriage’s failure, reporting that her partner played over eight hours per day.
In another case, a married man engaged in an adulterous relationship via World of Warcraft. This relationship escalated until he ended his marriage and moved to Sweden to physically meet his new partner found on the online game.
Cheating in World of Warcraft
Cheating in World of Warcraft is unfortunately common and is for many players is due to the "grindy" nature of the game especially when this is not their first character that they have done the content on and wish to qucikly get to the end game content. This is a common reason for gamers to turn to using cheats others being a way to assert agency, due to being stuck at a certain point, due to enjoyment of having absoulate control which goes beyond the powers intended for use by the developers, and to affect the enjoyment of others in a negative way. 
Chief among these services are 'gold farming' purchases. Gold is the primary in-game currency and is exchanged for all manner of goods with both NPCs and other players. Many users are willing to pay real-world currency to providers who, in return, transfer in-game gold to an account of the user's choosing through an in-game mail system. While gold farming started with recreational players who had excess in-game resources, it quickly developed into an industrial enterprise. Today, companies in third-world countries employ game-players to 'farm' (i.e. gather) in-game currency through a variety of means. This currency is, in turn, sold to buyers for real-world currency.
The primary ethical issue which stems from this practice is the living and working conditions and wage paid to the gamer-employees.  Additionally, the market for in-game gold has driven the practice of botting and encouraged account theft for the sake of driving additional production. . Furthermore, actions such as Gold Mining have resulted to a lack of gameplay quality to users themselves, hampering the longevity and integrity of the game overall. Rather than play the game to earn and achieve various things, players are seen to be opting for the easier route, buying gold, and cruising through the game not as intended.
The need for purchasing gold from third party sources has decreased due to Blizzard themselves offering a way to buy gold to players in the form of game-time tokens which players can buy with real world currency and sell it in the in-game auction house for digital currency by other players. However due to the price of the gametime tokens being affected the supply and demand of the tokens themselves, this can lead to situations where it is not worth paying for tokens and rather turning to third party sources to acquire gold to buy certain items or to acquire the item itself.
Another salient ethical issue which falls into the same category of in-game services like farming is the prospect of "power leveling" services. Progression toward the maximum level of experience in the game is widely recognized as a tedious chore and "end-game" or maximum level game content is recognized as the most entertaining and engaging.  A wide array of online services offer to enable players to skip the "grind" of leveling up their character for a fee. This service, like gold purchases, also violates the World of Warcraft User Agreement but the game's administrators do not punish offenders.
This service is typically provided either through the seller logging in with the buyer's credentials and manually playing the game to level up a character or the seller using automated bots and scripts to achieve the same result. Players can also use these services to pay others to level their character's professions or to earn honor points on their character through PvP. Even without bots and scripts, there still exist such services online to level up and strengthen one's character in exchange for real world payments. Similar to gold farming, these service providers are mostly full-time game players who have enough experience to level up the characters in a more efficient way than normal players. In that way, the game no longer has fair competitive environments where all users have an equal chance for the game resources but a competition of real world financial capability. This market also produces the same pressures on living and working conditions for service providers in less developed nations where the revenue produced by buyers justifies the cost of operating such an enterprise.