What are Massive Multiplayer Role-Playing Games (like World of Warcraft)?

MMORPG stands for “Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game”. RPG’s have been around since at least 1974 when the original tabletop game Dungeons & Dragons was released, then later the first published computer RPG was released in 1980 (?) with Akalabeth: World of Doom on the Apple II, and the first console game RPG was released for the Atari 2600 with Dragonstomper.

Here are some good definitions, all from Wikipedia:

  • massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) is a video game that combines aspects of a role-playing video game and a massively multiplayer online game.
  • role-playing game (sometimes spelled roleplaying game abbreviated RPG) is a game in which players assume the roles of characters in a fictional setting.
  • role-playing video game (commonly referred to as simply a role-playing game or RPG, as well as a computer role-playing game or CRPG) is a video game genre where the player controls the actions of a character (or several party members) immersed in some well-defined world, usually involving some form of character development by way of recording statistics

The links to the first two definitions are above in MMORPG and RPG. The link to “role-playing video game” is here.

MMORPGs mix the video game RPG’s people liked back in the day, but the game takes place online with a lot of other players. I know of none that allow offline play, so you want to keep that in mind. This is to prevent using bots and hacks.

I remember hearing once that World of Warcraft (WoW) servers could hold up to 20,000 players at one time, and there are hundreds of WoW servers in the Americas alone:

As of 22 June 2019 there are 226 active servers available to choose from the the Americas WoW client.

Timeline of the creation of US realms

Sometimes back in the day, there would be a queue just to get on a WoW server. I do not know if they hold more now (or maybe less even) because I haven’t had to wait in a queue for years. In addition to cross-server play with specific players on any server who are invited to your group, WoW does join specific sets of servers where players can see one another in their own realm. I assume one reason they did this was because of the diminishing number of players over the years. However, sometimes there will be an overabundance of players in one area, and to mitigate the lag caused by this, sharding is done, where players will only see other players who are in the same shard.

Cross-server play with players you don’t see by default is popular with boosting services*. I’ve always seen these kinds of services offered by people in China. The USD goes further there than over here, so selling boosts here could only really work as a side income for someone. So, two players on different servers that are even in different regions can co-op with one another, so long as one is invited to the other’s group (such as a player in the USA and a player in China).


I can tell you that MMORPGs are endless and addictive. I’ve played WoW off and on since 2005. People weren’t used to these types of games then. Here are three tragic stories that I remember:

  • One guy played WoW for nine days straight and died from a heart attack.
  • A couple played WoW at a gaming café** so much while neglecting their baby that the baby died.
  • A player went to the home of another player and stabbed him for selling an in-game item of his (or maybe just without his permission). If memory serves, this was in China and the game was Lineage.

These kinds of games are fun in moderation, but if you have issues with impulse control, then I’d recommend not getting into them. There are people who’ve spent years of gameplay on games like this. To be clear, a year of gameplay is 365×24 cumulative hours of time just in the game world itself. That’s rather insane, but I understand those who do it for a living, such as people who sell boosting services.


*Boosting services are normally against the Terms of Service (ToS) of these games when it’s done for real-world money rather than in-game currency (in WoW, that would be gold). They’ll ban your account if they catch you.

**Gaming cafés aren’t so popular anymore from what I’ve seen. They were internet cafés, but with an emphasis on LAN gaming. There are still internet cafes, some of which may have games.