A personal comparison of Second Life and World of Warcraft

I’ve been a Second Life resident for well over a year now. In November I finally took the plunge and signed up for World of Warcraft and have been grinding through the early levels. I’ve reached Level 15 as both a Dwarf Warrior and Human Mage and have reached a little below that as a Night Elf. I feel I’ve spent enough time to grasp the basics of the game and to at least partially understand its appeal. I thought it might be worth doing a short critique of both platforms as they sit in a wider virtual world context.

A disclaimer – this is probably only going to interest someone who hasn’t used both platforms. Veteran users of both will find most of the points below fairly obvious. For brevity I’ll use WoW for World or Warcraft and SL for Second Life.

Onto the critique:

1. Second Life is by far the most ‘free’. WoW by its very nature requires rigidity as far as areas you can explore at particular stages of the game. If you’re a Level 1 human mage in WoW then you won’t be exploring the Westfall area as it’s inhabitated by critters of well over Level 10. You can go there but you’ll spend your time being killed time after time or constantly running to avoid each critter. This isn’t a criticism of WoW, just a gameplay reality. Second Life in comparison only has limitations set by users – if someone owns land in Second Life and doesn’t want you to be able to access it, then you won’t. Because there are no overarching game objectives in Second Life, you’re free to explore at will.

wowgraveyard.jpg
You’ll get used to being dead in the early stages of WoW – unless you have more experienced friends willing to help while you level up

2. Both are extremely social experiences. It’s a very obvious statement but when I signed up for WoW I was actually expecting that the gameplay would interfere with the great social interaction achieved in SL. What I didn’t realise was the social fun to be had in the main cities like Stormwind and Iron Forge. Plus, groups of avatars tend to congregate pretty much anywhere for a chat, some dueling or even some dancing.

slsocial.jpg
Aussies socialising in SL

3. Graphically, it’s no contest. WoW has stupendous graphics that make SL look pretty poor in comparison, even with Windlight on its way. Of course, it’s very easy for WoW to provide great graphics when the main grunt work is being done by your own computer. SL’s centralised server model makes that much more difficult – it remains one of SL’s biggest challenges but it’s also one of it’s strengths – see point 1.

wowwestfall.jpg
Even the barren areas are damn pretty

4. ‘Safety’ is an issue for both. The media attention on Second Life in regard to ageplay, gambling and addiction. WoW has similar challanges but they’re less overt than SL. Addiction is an issue that spans across all virtual worlds and it’s one that isn’t well understood, though that is changing. SL does have its Teen Grid but it’s under-utilised and arguably under-supported by Linden Lab.

5. Fun is provided differently. I’m going to make some broad statements here. Both WoW and SL are immense fun but in very different ways. For pure gaming / questing fun, WoW wins hands down. For more whimsical, sophisticated and free-ranging amusement, SL has the upper hand. No, that doesn’t mean WoW users are unsophisticated, nor that SL users are not interested in games / quests – the fact is they are very disparate beasts. There’s also no doubt there’s a significant cohort of people who participate in both worlds and my hunch is they do so because of the different experiences they offer.

healthinfoisland2008.jpg
It’s all about education in Second Life

So which is ‘best’? The answer of course is neither. I need to spend more time in WoW to fully grasp its possibiities but my gut feel at this stage is I prefer the less constrained environment of SL – it’s educational opportunities alone keep me coming back day after day. But if I want some fast paced gaming, then WoW is the place to be.

I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts. Have I got it totally wrong or does your experiences match those I’ve outlined above?

Comments

  1. I pretty much agree with your comments and it will be interesting to see what you think when you have gotten much higher in WoW. As you get more money and get into professions, there’s a lot of flexibility in how you play the game. You can choose to mostly group or mostly solo or some of each. You can do a lot of dungeons or none at all. I’ve found that there are many paths through WoW, and I’m still discovering more.

  2. I pretty much agree with your comments and it will be interesting to see what you think when you have gotten much higher in WoW. As you get more money and get into professions, there’s a lot of flexibility in how you play the game. You can choose to mostly group or mostly solo or some of each. You can do a lot of dungeons or none at all. I’ve found that there are many paths through WoW, and I’m still discovering more.

  3. Victor Yee says:

    One aspect of WoW socially that you haven’t experienced is the “End-Game” raid aka at level 70, grouping with 5, or 10, or even 25 players working together to achieve a goal.

    I would recommend leveling up to 70 and experiencing some of that social aspect of teamwork.

    While there is great social fun in Stormwind, Ironforge, and the main cities, the majority of “social fun” happens in the guilds.

  4. Victor Yee says:

    One aspect of WoW socially that you haven’t experienced is the “End-Game” raid aka at level 70, grouping with 5, or 10, or even 25 players working together to achieve a goal.

    I would recommend leveling up to 70 and experiencing some of that social aspect of teamwork.

    While there is great social fun in Stormwind, Ironforge, and the main cities, the majority of “social fun” happens in the guilds.

  5. Both gamers are cool but I'd still prefer to play wow. Oh yes, it's addictive. Addiction can't just blame it to games, there are several media that can be addictive, there's TV, music and real drugs (which the society hasn't eliminated successfully). There are several factors why some prefer living in the virtual world, they don't feel secure nor enjoy the reality around them. It maybe the household, friends or even the society. Sad thing the game is played the other way around. I play WoW and grind wow gold
    and raid for endless hours but time to time, I make sure reality should strike my head that I have a real life to live. It was supposed to entertain you during your free time but it turned out it's becoming a problem for some. Keep enjoying the game, but live a real life

Trackbacks

  1. […] As mentioned before, I partake of WoW here and there and I certainly don’t get angry when playing. I’ve progressed to being a Level 49 Mage so I’ve spent a few hours playing and for me it’s certainly a fun pastime. How about you? […]

  2. […] this year I wrote about my initial experiences with World of Warcraft. Since then I’ve been grinding away and […]

Your comments

Previous Posts