Commenters like this guy and several others in the thread following Yglesias' post make valid points, and have a lot of interesting stuff to say about the allure of the game. (WoW quiz: how long did it take you to recognize what that commenter was referring to? I think I had got it by the sentence "I found his son, and told him his father was still alive!") Even so, a lot of the game is, say, repetitive, but I'd say there are three main draws to games like WoW. (For me. Other players get other things out of it.) There's the storyline, like the previous example. There's also the challenge of getting a character "finished," with the best gear available for that type of character. The game is nowhere near so linear or directed as the word "finished" implies, but there's still a certain hierarchy, and being one of the first or most advanced still has something to it. Trophies, so to speak. "See that 12-pointer there? I bagged him on my first hunting trip with my nephew. He was so excited to be hunting with the guys. The buck almost got away, too. My first shot missed, but the second one got him just before he ran out of sight..." Same basic idea, but with a complete set of virtual armor or a sword that only drops from a really tough boss or something.
And the other draw to it is something that we don't expect gold farmers to have a chance at, but apparently, a few did:
There was a lot of shouting involved, at least in the beginning. Besides the orders called out by the supervisors, there were loud attempts at coordination among the team members themselves. “But then we developed a sense of cooperation, and the shouting grew rarer,” Min said. “By the end, nothing needed to be said.” They moved through the dungeons in silent harmony, 40 intricately interdependent players, each the master of his part. For every fight in every dungeon, the hunters knew without asking exactly when to shoot and at what range; the priests had their healing spells down to a rhythm; wizards knew just how much damage to put in their combat spells.
And Min’s role? The translator struggled for a moment to find the word in English, and when I hazarded a guess, Min turned directly to me and repeated it, the only English I ever heard him speak. “Tank,” he said, breaking into a rare, slow smile, and why wouldn’t he? The tank — the heavily armored warrior character who holds the attention of the most powerful enemy in the fight, taking all its blows — is the linchpin of any raid. If the tank dies, everybody else will soon die too, as a rule.
“Working together, playing together, it felt nice,” Min said. “Very . . . shuang.” The word means “open, clear, exhilarating.”
Three more thoughts: first, I never regret my decision to abandon my characters on a pvp server (player versus player, where other players can attack you or be attacked almost anywhere, as opposed to "pve", player versus environment, where such combat happens only in limited circumstances). I tried it out of curiosity, but quickly got frustrated, and I can't imagine how much worse it would be if I were playing to make my living, and many if not most players got vindictive about people like me.
Second, I got a very wry amusement as I read the article from seeing all the jargon of the game — gold farmer, grind, raid, wipe, and making it clear that the attacks were "computer-animated" — spelled out carefully for a general audience.
Third, though, I was half-wondering about the economics of it. It seems to me that making money is much easier since Patch 2.1 came out and they introduced daily quests, most of which have pretty good rewards. Before the patch I know my main character made money only very slowly, but now it's much easier. Is this causing inflation in the game? (None of my high-level characters have very marketable skills, so I can't tell too well.) Is it making it harder for gold farmers to do their thing? But on the other hand, most of those daily quests require already having saved and spent a lot of money for epic mount training, so maybe it doesn't affect nearly as many people as it seems just based on my own guild.