As my main character’s level approaches my age, I am struck by how the leveling process is both a metaphor for youth and also an escapist fantasy. In life, as you age you get stronger, faster, smarter – up to a point, and then you plateau out, and then gradually decline in most of those attributes (though not all). In Warcraft, you just keep on going up and up. Thus the early levels, say up to about 30-40, its a direct analogue for the aging process, and then above that it’s the fountain of youth. Of course the chronological time it takes for you to level from 40 to 80 is a lot less than from 1 to 40, so in practice most people arent going to be growing measurably older during the lifetime of their game character. But still, its easy to see how the game might appeal to someone older than the target age grouup of mid-20s to mid-30s. Unlike Second Life, which is basically a recreation of modern life’s drudgery, at least Azeroth gives you a story and heroic role to play.
I’m 35, and as of this writing my main toon is lvl 32. I’ll hit equal age-level sometime next week, in all likelihood. Maybe I should throw a party.