In The Sims, you controlled a person and told him when to leave for work, when to eat, and when to wash the dishes. And during all this, the real life dishes piled up in the sink. When it's a contest of "I could get to bed now in real life so I do well at work or I could stay up five minutes longer and get my guy a promotion," the person usually stays up five minutes longer.
Somehow, there's a small fraction of satisfaction that a person can get from running a fake life (or beating a computer in chess or whatever your game of choice is). When you take a lot of small bits of satisfaction and add them together, that's when you get people playing games non stop.
And here's the thing about World of Warcraft. It's a persistent world that anyone can visit. If you play The Sims, you're building a house on your own personal hard drive. When you play World of Warcraft, you're--in a sense--using your computer to visit another world. I know that sounds weird, but everyone you meet is another person out on his or her computer; it's like an actual world in the sense that you're just one small person in a much much larger system.
WoW is so huge that it's hard to navigate. I figured I had covered quite a bit of ground in my time and when I checked the world map, it looks as if I've covered about one four-hundreth of the world. It's cool having a world that you need someone to escort you around to really appreciate. And of course, people put real value on something they feel is real accomplishment
My final observation about the game for today is that the quest structure is set up to keep its players playing. I'll finish once quest and then get a new quest from someone nearby to go to a place across town. Upon walking 10 minutes across town (or waiting for and taking the tram if it's further), I show up in a brand new town that has two quests waiting for me. Finish one of those and there's two new quests. And then there's always the option of exploring a new town and seeing if there are any quests there.
That's it for day four. I'm sure I'll be back for day five. After all, I've got to learn how to become a blacksmith.
edit: link to even more virtual things for sale.