It occurs to me that much of what makes WoW Classic “fun” is not something that is generally associated with the fun of video games. Most of the game play is fairly repetitive — basically minor variations on a few tasks that are fairly simple to execute. One then proceeds from place to place, continually doing these basic tasks over and over with minor variations. This seems very similar to what one did in the ancestral environment to remain alive on a day-to-day level. Wander about to gather wood. Fetch water. Forage for edible plants for hours upon hours.
The key to these tasks is that one doesn’t do them alone. In WoW, as in the ancestral environment, one should always do this with a group of known people. During this time you bullshit. Tell jokes, talk about your day, learn stuff about each other. Gossip. Whatevs. That’s the primary immediate enjoyment I get from WoW as well. I’m in Discord 95%+ of the time, and I spend a lot of time typing in guild-chat or party-chat.
WoW Classic enforces this sort of thing in three ways. First by forcing/encouraging players to group constantly. Much of the game is impossible (or very difficult) if you aren’t working together with other people. This is one of the large ways it differs from the current iteration of Retail World of Warcraft. In Retail, anyone can do basically anything solo, aside from a few arenas set aside for group-sports-only. In Warcraft, this is very hard, and intentionally so. Grouping is a matter of game-survival. In addition, much of the game rewards you for grouping with others even when you don’t need to. Many quests are “kill X monster” types. Five people working close by but separately to kill 5 monsters each would have to kill 25 total, but five people in a group need only kill 5 monsters total as each kill counts for everyone’s quest individually. These two aspects result in a lot of grouping all the time.
Secondly, WoW Classic has a fair bit of sporadic “forced idleness.” There is a lot of “go from point A to point B” quests where all you’re doing is holding down the walk key (or engaging the auto-run). Some times these walks can go on for quite a while. Other times you’re literally waiting for a boat to show up. Or for monsters to respawn when an area has been hunted to barrenness. Or to regenerate health and mana by “eating” after several monster fights in succession. Or or or. What’s a person to do, while doing nothing? You chat with people. It’s a great way to pass a 10-40 second delay in the middle of a task.
Thirdly, the fact that combat isn’t too taxing facilitates chat as well. Many monsters have only a basic attack. Some with have one simple mechanic that’s not hard to deal with. If you type fast, you can even chat in quick snippets in the middle of many combats. If you’re in a Discord voice channel, you don’t have to stop doing anything, just keep killing away while you chat.
Retail WoW has stripped out all these things. In the interest of ever more streamlined gameplay, there are almost no pauses or delays in gaming. You don’t need any help for most content. And fights are superficially “complex” in that you need to be pushing a variety of buttons in reaction to things happening on the screen that gets in the way of chatting.
This sorta thing doesn’t really sound that fun in the abstract. Games are supposed to be very involving, right? It’s weird that it’s fun, but then, it’s not that weird after all. Foraging with your homies was what humanity had to do for many thousands of years to survive. It makes sense that we evolved to enjoy doing it.