So you want to play world of Warcraft but you don't really know what it's all about. World of Warcraft is a MMORPG (massive multiplayer online role-playing game) based off of Blizzard's Warcraft series. If you played any of the Warcraft games, many of the scenes, names, and stories should feel very familiar to you. If you haven't played Warcraft, don't worry, you can still enjoy the game.
When first starting the game, you have to choose a realm. A realm will be occupied by a certain number of people that will all end up playing together. You can transfer off of a server to a new one for a fee, but you shouldn't need to do that when you're just starting.
Once you choose a realm, you will have to create a character. There are two factions, or sides, in WoW. On each realm, you can only belong to one faction, the Horde or the Alliance. The Horde has (as of April 2009) Tauren, Undead, Trolls, Orcs, and Blood Elves. The Alliance has Humans, Dwarves, Gnomes, Draenei, and Night Elves. You pick a race and then you have to pick a class. The classes are mage, warrior, hunter, paladin, priest, shaman, rogue, warlock, and (after the Wrath of the Litch King expansion) death knights. After finally deciding your race and class, you get to customize your character.
The area you start off in depends on your race. When you start, it will be a little confusing. There should be a tips box at the bottom of your screen that gives you hints every time you do something new. It may be best to leave that there until you get used to the game. You may also want to press "esc" and look at your key bindings so that you can not only see what your controls are, but you can also change them to better suite you.
As you travel, you will see people standing around (or some times walking) that have exclamation points over their heads. If the exclamation point is gold, then you can talk to the person and they will give you a quest; if it is gray, then you are too low level and you can go back later and pick it up. If people have gold question marks above their heads, that mean you have a quest to turn in to them; if it's grey, then you have not completed the quest.
You'll have questions and you'll want to ask them. If you do, don't be disheartened when some one calls you a newb (or worse) or tells you to learn how to play. People will do that, even if they just learned to play themselves. If you're afraid to ask, you can probably find the answers to most of your questions online. My favorite site is thottbot. It helps me a lot with my questing.
So do you want to play World of Warcraft? I played World of Warcraft back in the day, before the two expansions came out. World of Warcraft is a really fun game once you get going, I'm just a little burned out on it after 3+ years of playing. If you want to try WoW, they have a free ten day trial on their site. The trial isn't as good as the real thing, but you may want to try this first to make sure it runs on your computer. World of Warcraft works on both Mac and PC in case you wanted to know.
If you want to try World of Warcraft, I say go for it. If you are just comparing MMORPGs at the moment, then take a look at this other article I have. It's comparing WoW and a game called Warhammer: Age of Reckoning. I say it's worth checking out.
World of Warcraft.