*Blinks softly while reading the responses*
Uhm.. about the place not being important in a social way?
You may wish to read this study, for example, which states that WoW is emerging as the new 'third place'. With about 12 million people playing World of Warcraft alone, MMOGs have become a new "third place" like "Cheers," where everyone knows your name and all that, Steinkuehler said.
Players "hang out and engage with one another in informal social ways," she said. "Most people go for the game and stay for the people."http://news.cnet.com/8301-13846_3-10161861-62.html
Which says the game has become very important for a lot of people -because- of the social aspects of it, and I would find myself in agreement.
Once more I must *stress* the difference between a Free to Play MMO and one that costs a few bucks per month, like WoW. I have played a -ton- of free MMOs, from Domo, to Silkroad, to bloodymare, to 2moon, to everything remotely looking nice and good, and it is a HUGE difference. The free to play games totally turned me off MMOs, WoW, with how consistent it is, with how well developed (and it's ongoing narrative, which is actually a selling point) is definitely different.
For example, as one of the Horde, you start out in a desertlike place, and later move into the 'barrens', which is a bit like the plains of africa, with lions, and such, and here, you learn about a strange danger in the south. During the next 40 levels or so, while you move from zone to zone, it unveils itself more, you learn what is going on there, what produces an abundance of huge insects (silithids) until, on the last zone, you encounter an ancient insect civilisation and its huge, forgotten city.
There are a ton of storylines running alongside you levelling, as well as more intimate ones, where you are sent out to find the lost wife of a farmer, only to learn she had been killed by some wild beasts, and the NPC cries as you bring something from her clothes back. Or you are sent out to retrieve a ring for a forsaken (The undead race), from his long dead wife. The NPC confides into you, as you return it, that he wishes that he could still feel, because then he would cry for his wife.
Interaction with others? I played Wow from March 2008 til December 2009. I've been in a few guilds, and while there can be drama, I also had a damn fine time there. Laughed, joked, had fun with other guildies, got together to go beating huge dragons in the old world, or fought alongside the great world events, to gear each other up with nice stuff. Once again, I never ever found an environment like that in one of the free MMOs, but in WoW? Abundance.
Btw, there are also several territories in the game where jumping and swimming comes useful, allows you to reach distant shores, and secretly hidden away islands, etc.
Although, that said, it is pretty much a personal thing. If one wants to pay for it monthly or not. If they consider it -worth- it, or not, and so on. To some it -is- worth it, and they do enjoy their time in the game(s), to others it is not. That is the neat thing with it being a totally optional thing. Different people have different priorities, and that is perfectly fine :)