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World of Warcraft: What New Players and Parents Should Know

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WoW Requirements

Here's a short list of the requirements for playing World of Warcraft. If these can't be met, there's not much sense in reading the whole article. The section What You Will Need and How to Get Started has more detail.
  • A fairly up-to-date desktop computer. Follow the link to the official system requirements. If the computer plays current games well, it will probably play WoW. Try the Can You Run It web site. Start typing "world of warcraft: mists of pandaria" and choose it from the list when you have typed enough to have filtered to it.
  • A high-speed internet connection such as cable Internet, DSL or FiOS. Satellite Internet doesn't work well for WoW. Wireless Internet may or may not work. Dial-up is not an option.

One of your children has been after you for months to let them buy and play World of Warcraft (or "WoW" as it's generally called). "All their friends are doing it." They're relentless. You managed to put it off for months, but hope against hope, the issue didn't just go away. Maybe you've even said "No!" but the question surfaces again, so you know they're serious. All you've heard are bad things about this game or online games like this one. I wrote this article to both allay some fears and simultaneously confirm others (along with giving some hints on how to control or diminish many of them). Does that sound odd? That's OK. This is a unique game in an interesting industry.

On the other hand, maybe it's you that's been hearing the buzz from friends and/or family and you're considering joining yourself. Perhaps it's both you and your children. WoW is one of the games that can be played - and played well - by several members of the same family, even those in different age groups. This article has been written for parents with children asking to play WoW, but most of the information here would be useful to any new player. If that's you, read on, but substitute "you" for "your child(ren)."

If you're the parent of such a child and you came here hoping to find the article you could point to and say, "See! This is why I won't let you play!" then you're about to be disappointed. If, on the other hand, you are the child whose parents have refused to let you play World of Warcraft, and you were hoping to point to this article and say, "Look! It's all good!" then you're going to be disappointed, too. The point of this article is to tell parents who don't play the game (and their children who aren't playing yet) what they and their children should expect and be aware of. There are both good and bad aspects to the game - much as there are in any worthwhile endeavor.

Disclaimer: Off and on, I have been an avid WoW player. I played for almost five years, but I'm not currently playing for reasons that I will get into during this article. Some of my information is undoubtedly going out of date, but the gist of my points should still be true. I did not play WoW with either of my two children nor did I watch them play WoW. They did play Everquest, Everquest 2 and Star Wars Galaxies before I started playing WoW. During my WoW playing years, they were both in college and simply didn't have the time to play. They knew it and I knew it. That's an important thing to be able to recognize. I played WoW alongside children and adults; their ages ranged from 12-13 years old to those in their late 60s.

Copyright Notice: While I took most of these screenshots myself, Blizzard would maintain that they are still the property of Blizzard. Who am I to disagree? Assume all shots of the game are copyrighted by Blizzard. World of Warcraft™ and Blizzard Entertainment™ are trademarks or registered trademarks of Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. in the U.S. and/or other countries. For screenshots taken from other sources, assume they are copyrighted by their respected sources.

World of Warcraft Is Much More Than a Game

If, as a parent, you can't understand why the World of Warcraft mantra seems to be repeated louder and longer than expected, let's start this way. WoW is not just another computer game. WoW is an industry. The number of subscribers peaked in excess of 12 million and as reported in this Gamasutra article, may have been in excess of 13 million. The numbers home come down from the peak and estimates are now in the 7 million range (Nov 2014). Compare this to the number of people that play fantasy football, which is estimated to be 33 million in 2014. If someone you know work mentions that they play fantasy football, it barely raises an eyebrow. If the same person mentions they play WoW, that admission is generally met with some surprise. It shouldn't be. Depending on what numbers you use for the math, at the height of WoW's popularity, any given person was about a third as likely to be playing WoW as they are to be playing fantasy football. When your child said all their friends are "playing it," quite likely many of them actually are.

My hope is that parents will read this article and make an informed decision about the conditions under which they will let their children play WoW (if any). My fear is that parents looking for an excuse to bar their children from the game will skip right to the bad and ugly parts and ignore the good. Shame on you if you are such a parent. You are doing your children a disservice by doing so.

I have the opposite fear as well. That is that parents will allow their children to start playing WoW without having any idea what that entails. After all, it's just another computer game, right? WoW has both good and bad aspects. My belief is that the good outweighs the bad, but that's no reason to make believe that the bad doesn't exist. The rest of this article will go into several aspects - both good and bad - of the game.