We all play games for a variety of reasons. Some of us may be inclined to play to explore virtual world environments, discover lost treasures from some ancient civilization, socialize with friends from around the world, compete in a tournament, or blow off some steam after a hard days work at the office. Whatever the reason, games allow us to fulfill many of our fantasies that the real world prohibits us from realizing. In rare cases they may also challenge us intellectually, if the developers are savvy enough to add these elements into the gameplay.
A few days ago I was watching one of my friends play World of Warcraft. I also play WoW, but I'm a more casual player due to my interests tied to other MMORPGs at the moment (namely Warhammer Online). While watching him run around the world, I began to notice a difference in the surroundings than from what I remembered while playing. First, he was walking much faster than he should have been. There were also no other players around besides him and his buddy, what-so-ever. MMOPRGs, even during off-peak hours, will produce a crowd in the most congested areas, such as banks and auction houses.
I asked my friend what he was doing, and why there were no others around. He was playing on a private server, of course! I should have seen the signs earlier, but I never thought my long-time friend would play on such a server. You see, these private servers are entire MMORPG game worlds wrapped up into one package you and your friends can play on, completely isolated from the public masses that generally inhabit the servers you normally would play on. My friends seem to enjoy it, so I set out in joining one of these private servers to see what the rage was all about.
After playing for several days, I have come to the careful and fully thought out conclusion, that private servers are an 70 percent waste of time. I do not go all the way to 100 percent because there is a nostalgic quality about them, and I can see for WoW specifically the wish to get away from the underage crowd that needs some serious lessons in online gameplay etiquette. If the real servers were to be shut down, it is great to have these private server capabilities to help one remember the "good old times". They are also free.
The entire point of playing online games is the very fact that they are online, which naturally means that others will also be playing these games. They aren't single player, nor are they 8-player multiplayer games either. I've seen my friend with a bunch of buddies on one of these servers. While you can get in some good, unhindered practice sessions on private servers, it just doesn't offer the "I'm showing my character off to the world and making a difference on some level" kind of feeling that public servers offer.
When it comes down to private servers, I personally will never likely join one unless I am dead set on killing a mob and wish to practice first in peace and quiet, or for the nostalgic value after the public servers are shutdown (which is inevitable at some future date). And unlike my friends, I most certainly will not join private servers just to cheat my way through an online game, enabling faster run speeds and instant gold options. I'll save those for my single player games, thank you.