Often when playing large games it feels as if nothing you do has any consequence outside of a 5 meter bubble around your character. Enemies you kill respawn, chests get their loot back. NPCs who saved from cutthroats and burglars will be attacked as soon as you leave, or if you hang around for long enough.
This is especially the case in MMOs where enemies need to respawn for others to progress. Imagine if you couldn’t do a quest because someone else beat you to it? The game wouldn’t work, at all. If you could only do a dungeon once, because the boss was dead and that was that, things would be pretty awkward. Though if they could be looted like they are in a Bethesda game most might not mind as they take all the gear from the boss and make it their own.
Then you have absolutely amazing moments in MMOs, but they are transient. The pre-launch demonic invasion in World of Warcraft is one such example. Players have gathered to fend off attacks from the Burning Legion as portals open all over Azeroth. Large bosses appear and instead of the NPCs holding back the enemy, it is the players, the current heroes of the Horde and Alliance that have to repel the invaders and protect the realm. Yes, we do it for loot. For trinkets and transmogs and some better gear for our toons that didn’t get as much dungeon and raiding time as we thought they would. But deep down, we do it because we need to defend our world, because it matters. Not in the sense that if nobody killed the invading force the region would become a permanent outpost for the demons. No, WoW hasn’t reached that point of permanency and consequence. Instead it matters, beyond the roleplaying ambit of saving Azeroth, because it is an event that will end and not be repeated.
The items you obtain while repelling the invasions will forever be a mark that you took part in something that won’t happen again. Relics that won’t be seen again, specially coloured versions of armours that will make you stand out. Signs that you were there, maybe in a few years time that other people will see and wonder where you got them from. It helps that the invasions are pretty fun too and suddenly Orgrimmar is full of people again, instead of them hiding in their garrisons.
It feels good (even though it is overshadowed by the sad events of the first Broken Isle scenario, which I am still cut up about). It feels like WoW again, with everyone gathered in a capital city. Let’s hope that part isn’t transient too.