I sometimes stop and wonder who else has tread on the ground I now occupy. 5 years ago, 50 years ago, 300 years ago? Was there a battle here from a war? Did a Native American once set up their wigwam where I now reside? Who else has been here? What did they do? How did they live? What did they think? What people have walked this path and how did it look to them? Did they stop and look around and wonder too?
It is an amazing thought and can put your life into perspective. The same way seeing a night sky spread out into infinity can make you feel so small and yet a part of everything.
WoW does this for me somehow. I find myself stopping and looking around in the world. Examining it. Feeling like a part of it.
I've never had a "feeling" about a game before this one. I've never felt emotionally attached to a game as much as I am to WoW, the characters in it, and the people I play with.
I can speculate. It could be the zones, the terrain, or the scenes you run across. While the pixels are not perfect, and the trees may seem rather symmetrical, the arrangements can be provoking. A lamp along a path. A conversation between NPC's you might happen upon in a small town. A fire in a hearth. Sometimes moving from one zone to another. One of my favorite transitions is from Dun Morogh into Loch Modan and into the Wetlands. Coming down out of the mountains.
It could be the music. Blizzard has put a lot into making their lands sound right. I work in a theme park and I relate it to what we call "site sound". Locational soundtracks. As you move around the park where I work you will hear music to evoke that time period or a feeling that you may have associated with a motion picture. It conjures memories and attaches you to the location. In most cases without you even noticing. Blizzard utilizes the same mechanic. The music solidifies the area and the feeling for you. And they are very good it.
It could be the lore and the stories. This world has a history. A long and rich history that involves all sorts of humanoids and their families and offspring. Their wars and their loves. Their hopes and heartbreaks. Why else would we be so occupied with why Jaine Proudmore looks like she's had a really bad day in MoP, and speculate to the nth degree of what that means to us and how we feel about it.
Blizzard has done a fan-tabulous job of creating characters we can relate to. They are not heroes yet they are heroic. They have been imbued with all the characteristics that we can relate to and associate to those trying to act as best they can. Vulnerable yet strong personalities. What we would believe ourselves or our true life heroes to be. Not perfect but with good intent; at least as far as their personalities will allow (and ours).
There are several psychological terms that go along with the concept of attaching feelings to the game. Anthropomorphism, the idea of giving inanimate objects feelings and/or human characteristics, and animism, which is generally the same term but attributes consciousness or spirituality to an object. Animism is used more in terms of natural objects, such as a tree, than inanimate objects like a computer. The theory I have seen a bit more recently is that is it part of our human makeup and falls into the essentialist category. Meaning that is it essential or part of our nature. In other words, we are predisposed to name inanimate objects like our car or our first blankie, and attribute feelings to them. I am including a bunch of links at the bottom for where some of this information can be found on the web and where I looked up the specific definitions.
I saw this idea most recently in an episode of Through the Wormhole on The Science Channel and was immediately struck by how often I do this. Personally I am very apt to attribute human characteristics to an object and I think that's why I tend to be a pack rat. I not only want to keep that piece of string because I may be able to use it later, but I hate the idea of that piece of string sitting in the garbage can all by itself. Don't get me wrong, I still throw it out. I just have to not think about how the string will feel about it. It may sound silly but since reading a little more on this it is a trait that many humans share.
Feelings. I think that is the key. Somehow, through good storytelling and persistent imagery, Blizzard has managed to engage our feelings. We are very easy creatures indeed.
I find it really interesting that I call Azeroth a home and my guild part of my family. I don't find it surprising, and I embrace it. I believe it is part of how and why I enjoy the world and the game so much, and why the social aspect is so compelling to so many people.
http://science.discovery.com/tv/through-the-wormhole/ Season 3 Did We Invent God?