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15 Minutes of Fame: I didn't know he plays WoW!

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.

Readers constantly bombard us with tips and requests for features on famous people who play WoW. So here's the deal ... Frankly, guys? Sometimes the hottest celebrities, the ones who seem the most exciting, the really bigger than life types -- they're really not all that exciting to talk to about WoW. They turn out to be pretty much like the rest of us -- they go to work (albeit, more glamorous work than ours), they come home, and they flop down in front of the computer to grind and pug and raid just like the rest of us. They equip their WoW pants the same as anyone else.

And then sometimes, famous people just don't want the spotlight shone on their gaming habit. Even today, when everyone plays some sort of game on Facebook or their phones or a console or somewhere, some people consider gaming their dirty little secret. Others are afraid that their privacy will be compromised. Despite not needing to divulge a single identifying detail about their characters, they still don't want to risk anyone being able to figure out the identities of the Azerothian alter egos.

Yet over the years, 15 Minutes of Fame has talked with some pretty enthusiastic WoW players who also happen to be somewhat (or very) famous. You'll find some of them in last week's roundup of WoW-playing authors. And we've talked to plenty more -- and so to stoke your curiosity, we've rounded up a list of some of the more high-profile WoW players we've featured.

Didn't realize Mr. or Ms. Famous So-and-So plays your game? Click past the break and get the inside scoop.


Performers: In the spotlight


Game of Thrones' Kristian Nairn
If you've been watching the spellbinding HBO series Game of Thrones, you'll instantly recognize the character portrayed by the bearded beast of burden above -- yes, that's Kristian Nairn as Hodor, on the set with young passenger Isaac Hempstead-Wright (as Bran Stark). While you may not recognize Nairn yet by sight (his scenes have been limited thus far in the story), the show itself has been hard to ignore, debuting amidst a deluge of publicity and earning a renewal for a second season after only a single episode. Luckily for us, Nairn's enthusiasm for the World of Warcraft proves to be as capacious as both the series' success and his own 6'10" frame.
Cataclysm sountrack composer and musician David Arkenstone
There's absolutely nothing like the sweeping vistas of an orchestral soundtrack to help you slip the surly bonds of earth and touch the face of Azeroth in all its epic glory. David Arkenstone is one of a team of Cataclysm composers headed by Blizzard's Audio Director Russell Brower that tackled a whopping eight hours of new music for the expansion -- about the same amount of music as was added with Wrath of the Lich King expansion, bringing World of Warcraft's musical tally to something like 36 hours of in-game music. "I think it's exciting for a player to get all this new content at one time," Arkenstone says enthusiastically. "When you have all this music spread out across the word, composers, meshing ... It's hours and hours of music."
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's Aron Eisenberg
WoW feels more like "Battlegrounds Galactica" when Aron Eisenberg, who played the youthful Ferengi Nog on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, logs in. The battlegrounds aficionado is a huge WoW player and Blizzard games fan, with five level 80 characters, two WoW-playing sons and an easy familiarity with WoW Insider's features and content that could possibly rival that of some of our own staff members. The admiration is mutual; we've been known to bring the Ferengi perspective to our articles. Speaking of perspectives, Aron has plenty of his own to share in this two-part 15 Minutes of Fame, as well as an appearance on the WoW Insider Show.
Actress Michele Boyd
You probably know Michele Boyd as "Riley" of The Guild, the so-called "stupid tall hot girl" who's into FPS and is a ranked Halo player. Now, get to know Michele as a WoW player and gamer in her own right. Does she game with her cast-mates from The Guild? What's she playing right now? What about work? After all that, does she ever feel "gamed" out? 15 Minutes of Fame gives you an inside view with this exclusive interview with Michele, chatting about how she blends The Guild (the show) with her guild (in game).
Actress (and future Sylvanas?) Michele Morrow
Actress Michele Morrow makes no secret of the fact that she's a WoW player. In fact, she's let it be known that she's more than a little interested in appearing in Sam Raimi's upcoming WoW movie. You may recognize the raiding guild leader's face from horror and dramas such as Basement Jack (2009), The Seer (2007) and Slaughterhouse of the Rising Sun (2005), as well as small-screen turns on CBS' The Young and the Restless and ABC's Alias. Life and WoW have become inextricably entwined for the 32-year-old actress. "I told my guild that they aren't allowed excuses in raiding after reading your interview with Quad," Morrow told 15 Minutes of Fame. "I myself suffered a neck injury a few years back, falling on my head in a stunt accident in a movie ("Basement Jack") after being vaulted in the air 15 feet. I'm lucky I wasn't paralyzed. Really lucky. But being in a neck brace for a year is what got me into WoW. It gave my boyfriend and I something to do together."
Singer/songwriters Lights
WoW players are blubbery, pasty losers gorging on Cheetos in Mom's basement? Yeah, right -- that's about as far as it gets from diminutive Canadian songbird Lights. Yet make no mistake, this 22-year-old, Juno Award-winning singer is crazy about the WoW fighter's life -- so crazy, in fact, that she has a Twinblade of the Phoenix tattooed on her arm. She's peppered her web site and blog with declarations of geekdom, interspersed with observations on the synth-rich brand of "intergalactic electropop" she's building a career on. We visited with Lights (thanks for the tip, Chris!) about her WoW-playing ways during the crazy crunch leading up to the U.S. release of her new album, The Listening.
Dancers: The Kasprzak brothers
Forget the Brothers Karamazov. If you're looking for artistic expression, passion and the bonds of brotherhood -- plus a healthy dash of World of Warcraft -- it's all about the Brothers Kasprzak. Evan Kasprzak, a Top 6 finalist in the reality show So You Think You Can Dance, has gamed his entire life with brothers Ryan (also a top finisher in this year's SYTYCD show) and Ian. There's no denying how tight this trio is. One viewing of Evan and Ryan's journey through the beginning of this season's SYTYCD competition as a team (see video, above) or a glance at photos of the threesome with their matching wrist tattoos ("brother" in Greek) show the obvious depth of their bond. And so while Evan is socked in right now beneath the insane pace of the competition's home stretch, we snuck in a visit with Ian to find out how the family finds a foothold to fit all the pieces together.
Oscar-winning special effects: Steve Preeg
In 2009, WI reported about Oscar-winning WoW player Steve Preeg, aka Ramases the Undead Rogue and usual GM of on Stormscale (US). Steve's got some pretty lofty geek cred: a 2009 Oscar for Visual Effects (along with Eric Barba, Burt Dalton and Craig Barron) on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; work on films such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Pirates of the Caribbean 3, King Kong and I, Robot -- oh, and a nice, fresh kill on Sartharion-3 Drakes. With cell phones bleeping and his publicist chuckling in the background over the sheer nerd factor of our conversation, 15 Minutes of Fame visited by phone with Steve in L.A. about his WoW/life balance, what he admires about Blizzard's work, and what keeps him coming back for more.



Athletes: The real competitors

KC Royals pitcher Kyle Davies
Opening the 2009 season as the No. 3 starter, Davies is well known for his work ethic. Despite a contract guaranteeing him some $1.3 million this year, he chooses to spend the off-season toiling away on his dad's construction crew. And despite a hectic road schedule that limits raiding opportunities to PUGs, Davies has managed to clear ICC with both his mains and is chipping his way through hard modes. We caught him in between game dates for a quick run-down of how he and his teammates let off steam in the World of Warcraft.
Olympic silver medal swimmer Megan Jendrick
There are only so many training hours you can spend in a swimming pool; that's why Olympic medalist Megan Jendrick fills her dry-dock time in World of Warcraft. Surprised to find an Olympian such as Megan in WoW? The very private Jendrick likes it that way. WoW is her private time to de-stress, let her hair down and turn the laser focus of a champion to something entirely entertaining. "My first main character was a moonkin druid, which I actually started because I thought it was funny that they had aquatic form," she laughs. "Then I started playing a rogue when I got more into PVP, because I didn't want to heal for arena. I had to go with DPS, because I think I'm just a little too competitive to have to rely on someone else to win matches."
MMA fighter Jens Pulver
If the tank in your last pickup group seemed more than a little evil to you, perhaps you're closer to home than you realize. Perhaps that death knight was actually World Extreme Cagefighting featherweight and dedicated WoW fan Jens "Little Evil" Pulver. The former UFC lightweight champion blows off steam after a hard day of training with a well developed roster of WoW characters, some well known to his fans and others known only to close friends and guildmates. The former The Ultimate Fighter 5 reality show coach has always been a gamer. His passion for gaming was recognized recently when he was immortalized as an NPC in Vogster Entertainment's CrimeCraft. He's been a devoted WoW player from the very start. His rogue, Lilevil, earned Grand Marshal status back in the days when grinding the ultimate PVP title was a grind of almost unimaginably enormous proportions.



More than a mere 15 minutes of fame

Game designer Jane McGonigal
Games designer Jane McGonigal wants games to change the world -- and she has good reason to think it's not only possible but in fact quite probable. McGonigal's games harness the power of productivity -- yeah, that same stuff you're pouring all over your push for endgame gear, the energy that's spilling over the sides of your personal quest to score more than 100 companion pets -- to bring gamers together to foster global social change. Whoa, lofty words ... But listen to McGonigal's 20-minute TED Talk, above, and you'll find yourself nodding along. Harnessing the immensely motivated and collaborative population of gamers makes a lot of sense. McGonigal has a new book, Reality Is Broken: Why Games Makes Us Better and How They Can Change the World, that colors in the entire picture (highly recommended reading -- thought-provoking without being heavy in the least).
Game designer James Wallis
Some players bound into a 15 Minutes of Fame interview like a death knight capering into Hellfire Peninsula. Questions get Death Gripped, ideas pop up like an Army of the Dead ... There's no stopping the flow. Take, for example, game designer and gaming professor and guild GM James Wallis. You could read his Wikipedia entry to give you a proper idea of what he's all about -- or you give in and consider his own, more exuberant version of a biographical note: "Origins Award-winning game designer. Have had a game published by MIT -- that was unexpected. Have written 14 books, including two Sonic the Hedgehog novels from the early '90s that I prefer not to be reminded of. Have journalisted for everyone from the Sunday Times to Fortean Times. Launched Bizarre magazine in 1996. Back in 1986, I and some friends set the Guinness World Record for playing Advanced Dungeons & Dragons non-stop (84 hours). Currently running Spaaace, the games consultancy, and Magnum Opus Press, which publishes old-school tabletop RPGs; and lecturing in game design at the University of Westminster."
Alice (Taylor) in Wonderland
Who's on your list of the proverbial 10 People to Invite to My Dream Dinner Party? Leave a spot for Alice Taylor. When it comes to gaming and geekery, there's nowhere you won't find traces of Alice and her self-mocking, good-natured humor. She's the face behind the popular social media and gaming blog Wonderland Blog. She commissions cross-platform education content for teens for Channel 4. As a gaming writer, she's been seen at BBC News, Kotaku, The Guardian and Paste. She was a semi-pro Quake player on the UK's first Quake team. She's an indie crafts maven. You may have heard of her husband, Cory Doctorow. Oh -- and of course, she's a WoW player.
MIT Media Lab Director Joichi Ito
Let's get Joichi Ito's professional credentials out of the way first. The 44-year-old Japanese venture capitalist is the incoming director of the avant-garde MIT Media Laboratory. A self-professed "informal learner" (he dropped out of college twice and never finished a degree) now shines as one of the stars of the digital age, serving on the board of directors for Creative Commons, Technorati, ICANN, and Mozilla, and catching the wave as an early-bird investor in Last.fm, Flickr, and Twitter ... ... and a guild leader in World of Warcraft.
FARK.com's Drew Curtis
You might think that Fark.com founder Drew Curtis is probably too busy a guy to spend much time playing video games, especially a notorious time-gobbler like WoW. You'd be wrong. Curtis thinks WoW is pretty neat and indeed has made World of Warcraft a family affair. But as the creator of addictively snarky news aggregator site Fark.com, Curtis recognizes the value of when it's important to tune in and when it's cool to tune out. "I'm sorta casual in that I play a couple hours every other day or so when I have time," he explains, "but when I don't, I log the hell off until whatever needs doing gets done. I don't know anyone else who has no trouble just turning it off when they need to, which is kinda weird, I think." He also finds unusually productive times to turn it on -- including "useless conference calls that could have been done with a single email instead." (Potential meeting organizers, beware!)







"I never thought of playing WoW like that!" -- and neither did we, until we talked with these players, from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's Aron "Nog" Eisenberg to an Olympic medalist and a quadriplegic raider. Know someone else we should feature? Email lisa@wowinsider.com.

Filed under: Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

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