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15 Minutes of Fame: Behind the scenes at WoW Insider

From Hollywood celebrities to the guy next door, millions of people have made World of Warcraft a part of their lives. How do you play WoW? We're giving each approach its own 15 Minutes of Fame.

Who are the people who write all this stuff, and how did they come to start writing about World of Warcraft every day? Being a WoW Insider writer is admittedly a pretty cool gig. Readers ask us what it's like on a regular basis. Giving a single, accurate answer, however, would be a mighty difficult proposition. Some of us are full-timers, while others pen a single column each week; some of us spend most of our time behind the scenes, and some remain constantly before readers' eyes. Despite being scattered all across the world, we come together every day (well, it's more like a waxing and waning, 24-hour cycle) in the WoW Insider chat room (war room? newsroom? Pandora's box of geekery and chaos?) when we're working. Being on the WoW Insider team is a little like being part of an incredibly tight guild, whose members manage to share not only World of Warcraft and many other interests in common but also their workdays, as well.

Although we do have an old, outdated series knocking around somewhere that looks at members of the blogging team, we thought it was about time to give you a fresh look behind the scenes at WoW Insider. Without further ado, let's meet a tiny sampling of the people who work at WoW Insider:
  • Zach Yonzon pens The Art of War(craft) every week and creates many of the graphic images you see on our home page, guides and posts.
  • Matthew Rossi, one of the most seasoned hands on the WoW.com crew, is our resident warrior expert who also writes about game lore and general news.
  • Michael Sacco, a senior editor, started writing at WoW.com after working at Blizzard itself.
  • Alex Ziebart started out as a weekend blogger and is now a senior editor.
  • Fox Van Allen joined WoW.com early this year and writes the shadow priest portion of our priest column.
  • Lisa Poisso (that's me) started out writing the professions column three years ago and now works behind the scenes as an editor and turning out several weekly columns.

15 Minutes of Fame: Who's your main?

Zach Yonzon: It might be obvious to most readers who have followed my work on WoW.com and elsewhere that I play a blood elf paladin on a PvP realm. At the moment, my playstyle is painfully, regrettably casual. Most of my close friends on my realm, including my wife, have stopped playing the game, rendering me somewhat directionless. Most of my logins nowadays consist of playing the occasional battleground and hanging around capital cities chatting with friends on other realms. You know those washed-up soldiers who spend most of their time getting drunk at inns and getting into barroom brawls? That's me now.

I've moved one character, an orc death knight, to another PvP realm where other old friends play, but I just never got back into the groove. My wife and I have resolved to play again once Cataclysm hits and possibly move all our characters to this new realm. We'll probably never get back to our hardcore raiding playstyle, considering we now have two kids -- a toddler and an infant -- but we'll make sure to enjoy as much of the game as we can. Sort of like the old days.

Matt Rossi: My main is a draenei warrior on Norgannon who raids as a tank. I also have a max-level night elf warrior on Cenarion Circle to hang out with folks I've met through work, and a max-level tauren warrior on Malfurion who raids occasionally but is mostly just to say high to RL friends I've made.

Mike Sacco: I play an elemental shaman named Most on Elune. My main alt is Corsetti, a combat rogue. I have four other level 80 characters.

Alex Ziebart: I play Arnesca, level 80 paladin on the Cenarion Circle server.

Fox Van Allen: For sentimental reasons, my main will always be my shadow priest. Originally Spiritfox, now named Miseryfox. I started the character as Alliance, transferred to Horde and then back to Alliance. The only time I play Miseryfox as of late is when I'm mucking around in the Cataclysm beta.

Overall, I just do whatever feels like fun at the time. A few months ago, that involved playing around with my elemental shammy, but that started getting stale once she became Icecrown-ready. More recently, I'm playing a druid and experimenting with tree healing before it disappears forever. Most of my characters are over on Proudmoore, where I play around with a social-oriented guild, <The Stonewall Family>.

Lisa Poisso: Tragically, I'm most like Zach -- marooned between characters after my husband stopped playing and my guild scattered in different directions. I'm anticipating starting from scratch again in Cataclysm.



When did you start playing WoW? What was your first character?

Zach: My wife and I started playing in April of 2005. It would have been sooner, but the game didn't have a Philippine distributor at the time, so we ended up sourcing it from friends in the United States. My very first character was an undead rogue. A really, really, really awful one who used white daggers up until level 22 and who wanted the fastest main hand weapon because "it hits faster."

Matt: I started playing about a month after WoW launched. My wife (who was not my wife at the time) introduced me to the game, and I rolled a paladin because I usually played paladins, fighters or rangers in D&D and I didn't like the WoW hunter, since there was no option for a melee version. I enjoyed the paladin (I thought at the time warriors were Horde-exclusive, for some reason), but when I ran The Deadmines the first time, I found I was expected to heal the group. I knew nothing about healing and did very poorly at it.

As soon as that horrible experience was over, I found out warriors weren't Horde-exclusive. So I rolled one, and (race change) he's still the one I play today.

Mike: I started playing in vanilla's open beta, where I was a human rogue. I was dismayed that I couldn't give her a surname.

Alex: I started playing WoW during its open beta phase. Some friends and I cycled through all of the races checking out the newbie zones. I think my first character was technically a night elf, but I don't even remember its class or gender. My first real character was Sirchonae, undead rogue and fanatic servant to the Dark Lady. I probably would still be playing that character to this day if most of my friends hadn't decided to switch to Alliance full time.

I then played a human priest named Fellina on Cenarion Circle for over four years. I was holy in vanilla WoW, shadow in The Burning Crusade, then I fell out of love with the class completely in Wrath of the Lich King and changed mains to my favorite alt, my paladin, at the beginning of tier 9 content.

Fox: I first started playing World of Warcraft right around when Wrath of the Lich King came out. My boyfriend started playing to kill time between college classes and to try and have something in common with my Warcraft-playing roommate DJ. Not too long after, I lost my job, and World of Warcraft became a great way to fill all that extra spare time I had on my hands all of a sudden.

My first toon was Foxen, a fury warrior. It was a good way to get into the game, but I was largely unsatisfied with the World of Warcraft experience until I rolled my priest.

Lisa: I started WoW with the rest of my guild in beta, and I've played a priest all the way through. We short-manned our way through raiding content, improvising our own tactics. I thrive on keeping the team alive long enough to beat encounters despite empty raid slots and without the "right" classes, abilities and equipment. Once the expansions began offering raiding content that was actually designed for smaller group sizes, though, and class design became more homogenized and interchangeable, the challenge held a little less luster for me. I've drifted away from raiding.

What about other games? What's your gaming background like?

Zach: World of Warcraft is actually my first MMORPG. I've been a Blizzard fan since StarCraft, so mostly my experience was in RTS. I'm not a huge video game fan, to be honest, but I love Blizzard games to death. While I don't play too many video games, I do enjoy CCGs and RPGs immensely, as well as various board games. In a perfect world, I'd be playing tabletop miniatures, too, such as the truly awesome Warmachine by Privateer Press. Alas, in the real world, my resources are better spent on diapers.

Matt: I've played a lot of tabletop pen and paper RPGs. I started playing D&D back when the basic set was all we could get our hands on, and have played it through AD&D, the expert set for D&D, the eventual 3rd edition, and I am currently mucking about with the Pathfinder revision of the 3rd edition rules and the 4th edition set. (I even got a few modules published for games like In Nomine and Aberrant). On the computer, I played Fallout/Fallout 2, Planescape: Torment, Baldur's Gate
II
, Icewind Dale, NWN, and then slid over to the Xbox for SW:Kotor and Kotor 2.

Mike: I don't have a huge background in MMOs, but I grew up playing NES, Genesis and PC games. As a kid, I spent my recesses and lunch breaks drawing new characters and designing new games. I've always wanted to get into the game industry, and I guess I've succeeded in roundabout ways.

Alex: I've been gaming since I was born. I can't remember a time when I didn't have a console in my house. I lived alone with my mom and we didn't have a lot of money, but video games was the one area where she really went out of her way to spoil me. My childhood was full of Sonic, Super Mario, Street Fighter, all of that sort of thing. I graduated to PC gaming when my grandparents bought me my first computer when I was 14. I think StarCraft was the very first PC game I ever bought with my own money.

I didn't get into MMOs until much later. My first MMO was Priston Tale, a small Korean title that I didn't even know was an MMO. I had no idea what an MMO was. I've played many, many more MMORPGs since then, but WoW is the only one that's held my attention for more than two months. Thanks to WoW, I probably try every major MMO release for at least a little while.

Fox: World of Warcraft is actually my first real MMORPG. I'm a hardcore 8-bit gamer. I got started with video games pretty early, and I never outgrew them. Honestly, though, I have an awful hard time getting into recent RPGs like Final Fantasy XII when there are so many amazing old-school games out there like Fantasy Zone 2, Mega Man 2, Phantasy Star and Chrono Trigger.

Lisa: Despite my abiding adoration for Mario, console games aren't much of a draw for me. I don't want to "finish" a game. MMOs are my love -- the entire game world, time-consuming content, rubbing elbows with other people. I've played MMOs since original, opening-era EverQuest.



When did you start with WoW.com, and in what capacity?

Zach: I started writing for WoW.com in November 2007. Wow, it's been such a long time, hasn't it? I found this out by looking through my old posts, and it turns out I've got 90 pages of them. I've actually slowed down considerably and don't write as much as I'd like to, with so many things going on right now. I started as the writer for The Art of War(craft), the PvP column. At some point, I also took on writing duties for The Light and How to Swing It, Blood Pact and even Blood Sport. Yeah, I know, that's kind of insane.

Matt: At the moment I type this response, I've been here for 1,150 days. I've pretty much always been "the warrior guy," with stints as lore columnist, shaman columnist and lore columnist again.

Mike: I started with WoW.com in December 2008 as a daily blogger.

Alex: I started with WoW.com back when it was still WoW Insider. I started in January of 2008. I still have my acceptance email, even. If I click the Oldest button on my Gmail account, it takes me straight to it. I was originally hired on to be a weekend blogger (along with Adam Holisky and Daniel Whitcomb), intended specifically to help cover the weekend hours so the full-timers could have a few days off each week. That only lasted a couple of months, until the editor staff at the time gave me the opportunity to take on some extra work.

Fox: I started working for WoW.com back in January of this year. The site was looking for someone to take over Spiritual Guidance, and I made an impassioned plea for them to hire someone with a convincing knowledge to the oft-overlooked shadow spec.

Lisa: I pitched the tent for Insider Trader well over three years ago, mostly as an interesting way to spice up my work week as a freelance writer.

What do you do with WoW.com now?

Zach: After the said dalliance with several other columns, I'm back to where it all started with The Art of War(craft). As soon as I put some finishing touches on some pieces I'm working on, however, I'm also going to be paying tribute to readers (along with other artistically inclined WoW.com staffers) with Character Sketch.

Matt: Warrior guy, lore columnist (alongside Anne [Stickney], who does an excellent job).

Mike: I'm a senior editor. This means a lot of things: I check posts, coach writers, plan contests and partnerships and make sure the site is brimming with quality content.

Alex: Now I'm senior editor, which is quite a few steps up from where I started. I do a lot less posting these days and a lot more ... well, everything else. Approving features, keeping the staff organized, clearing everybody's work for publication, keeping tabs on our social media outlets, sifting through applicants, slaving over traffic numbers and spreadsheets and organizing contests and everything else that improves our readers' experience and makes it easier for our staff to produce great content. I don't do all of that alone, of course. The entire editor staff contributes to that, but even with six of us doing the behind-the-scenes work full-time, we have our hands full.

Fox: Every Wednesday, I write Spiritual Guidance, WoW.com's regular priest column. I hear there's some other person who writes Spiritual Guidance on Sundays, but I'm not here to get involved in rumor and innuendo. Oh, and I also play and write about the exploits of the stunningly fabulous blood elf paladin Foxlight. Other than that, I pick up a few random assignments when they pop up and when my schedule permits. My plans involve slowly taking over the site and relaunching it as Fox Van Allen Insider.

Lisa: As an editor, I edit posts on a daily basis, work with writers on editorial style and usage, edit guest posts and help the other editors tag-team various and sundry editorial projects. As a writer, I turn out one to two columns every day.

Filed under: Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

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