2. World of Warcraft
Blizzard / PC, Mac
Rob Fahey: It's easy to get carried away on the waves of hype and media coverage about WOW, and forget that at heart, more than 11 million people pay to play this game because it's bloody brilliant. The level of polish, balance and attention to detail is only made even more impressive by the breadth of the world to which it's applied.
It's effectively several games wrapped into one - a relatively casual player like me can have literally years of fun levelling up different character classes and meddling in five-man dungeons, while hardcore bottle-pissing lunatics eke out similar amounts of fun from insane 25-man raids and uber-competitive teenagers smack each other in the face in PVP battlefields. I've had dalliances with other MMOs and I've tried to quit WOW time and time again, but each time it pulls me back. It'll destroy your life, but you'll have a hell of a time on the way.
Kristan Reed: It is with a certain amount of professional pride and shame that I have yet to go anywhere near WOW. I watch people play it, I listen to their stories of devotion, and realise why people like it. But when I hear of the stories of the lost years spent playing it, and the obsession it inspires in people, it gives me the fear. As someone with a slightly OCD nature when it comes to certain types of videogames, the knowledge that there's a game out there that I could happily lose years of my life to is enough to make me pretend it doesn't exist.
Besides, I've always felt it strange to experience only one game, when there are so many excellent titles vying for my attention as it is. Blizzard, I salute you, but for me your wonderful game exists as an entity all to itself, outside of the traditional videogame sphere.
John Bye: This game swallowed my life for about six months, before I finally managed to kick the habit. While it didn't do anything particularly new, it did take everything that had come before in the genre and polished it to within inches of its life, offering a vast world that constantly amazed and entertained. Well, until about level 40, anyway, at which point the game's original content started to get a bit thin on the ground and grinding set in.
Still, there are certain moments I'll never forget - flying into Undercity for the first time on a wild rollercoaster ride through the tunnels, getting chased around the Un'Goro crater by giant dinosaurs, or legging it across the Plaguelands and scrambling up a mountainside to escape the ravening hordes, only to find myself facing a vast, empty plateau and realising I'd managed to climb my way clear out of the game world.
Occasionally I miss my trusty Tauren Shaman and am tempted to go back and try out some of the new content. But then I look at my friends and co-workers talking about WOW tactics over lunch, or saying they can't go to the pub because it's raid night, and I remember why I quit in the first place.
Ellie Gibson: I got bitten badly by the WOW bug. Normally I couldn't give a toss about wizards and elves and the like, but there was just something about it that kept me playing for weeks on end. That's despite the fact I was pretty rubbish at it, and would get shouted at by people I partied with for not really having a clue what I was doing. Eventually I got fed up with that, and with being asked things like "Are you into Death Metal?" and "Do you like sex?" by 14 year-old Norwegians. I had fun, but I don't think I'll go back.
Tom Bramwell: While I would not describe myself as a misanthrope, that's probably because I'd rather be at home reading or playing videogames rather than hanging out with anyone to whom I might describe myself. Pesky humans. Oddly though, despite having several cracks at World of Warcraft, accumulating some 20 or 30 hours in Azeroth, I've been unable to channel my anti-social nature into what's supposed to be the ultimate life-destroying timesink. Am I doing it wrong? I have no idea, but I'll have another crack when Blizzard re-gens 0-60 in Cataclysm, because as hard as I've bounced off it each time I've tried, I've always known it will take me eventually. I'm like Nicola Six at the end of London Fields. It's always been you!
WOW's a black hole and the entire industry is in greater or lesser orbit. What Blizzard does to keep it going, or to replace it, may well be the biggest story of the next 10 years in gaming.
Oli Welsh: I just logged in to all my characters, typed /played and totted up the result. I have played World of Warcraft for 1,532 hours, 3 minutes and 25 seconds. That's not counting time logged on beta servers for the expansions, and a couple of low-level characters I deleted. I have played my main character for over 795 hours. I have spent - get this - 1.7 per cent of the last decade playing WOW.
And you know what? I'm not bored yet.