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Why Game of Throne's Hodor has come back to the World of Warcraft

Backstage at Game of Thrones: Hodor and Bran
When Game of Throne's Hodor, actor Kristian Nairn, showed up to talk Star Wars: The Old Republic and RIFT on the podcast of our sister site Massively back in February, we knew it marked a temporary state of affairs. As enthusiastic about lightsabers as the Belfast resident was at the time, we suspected he'd eventually make his way back to Azeroth, the gaming world that's captured his heart and imagination.

... Which is how I found myself logged into World of Warcraft late last night, merrily ignoring my deadline for transcribing the final pieces of this interview, as Nairn and I struggled to find a Game of Thrones-themed guild name that hadn't already been devoured whole by hungry fans of the critically acclaimed HBO series. (Meanwhile, the Riders of Brohan were keeping my Decline button busy with repeated invitations to their own spin on a fantasy-named guild. Folks, if you're an aspiring Bro, this is your big chance -- this guild's obviously riding hard in search of a full roster.) After a crazed evening spent losing signatures to the Bros and new character deletions as quickly as we could recruit them, success was had. A guild was created, my final interview with Nairn was completed, and I logged out to finish cobbling together a handful of meandering conversations with Nairn conducted since February of this year.

Does the man have more than a monosyllabic "Hodor" to say about why his heart lies with Azeroth? Why, yes -- yes, he most certainly does.

Kristian Nairn
WoW Insider: You're back! Congratulations on the start of season 2 of Game of Thrones. It looks like it's going to be just as hot as the first season.

Kristian Nairn: It's been a fantastic run of things. ... I was very pleased. I've seen the first couple of episodes. My favorite scene of the entire show [opening of season 2] was the altercation between Jaime Lannister and Rob Stark and the wolf. I had goosebumps everywhere. The wolf looked incredible.

It absolutely did! Now, since our interviews with you last year, you've been living the life of a Jedi in Star Wars: The Old Republic. I only just got wind of your recent tweets about coming back to World of Warcraft. What's the scoop?

I am not sold on Star Wars. I love it ... I absolutely love it, and I think BioWare have done a splendid, splendid job. It's the closest thing to Warcraft out. In some ways, there are things that I like more than Warcraft. I love the storylines. I love the fact that you can influence your character's sort of allegiance while staying in the same faction. I think that's amazing. You can be a dark Jedi or that sort of thing.

But I [was] pining. I [was] pining for Warcraft.

HunterHow so?

In Warcraft, you have more escapism. Everyone wants magic. Everyone wants dragons and wizards. And I don't want to train my skills to fix a transistor radio. In Star Wars, it seems more sort of techie ...

This is what really makes me happy. The whole story of Warcraft and the lore behind it. I know I yap on about this all the time, but it really gives me goosebumps, and I don't get that in Star Wars, to be honest.

I was silly enough to buy the year-long and get a free sparkly horse pack. I bought that, so I'm subscribed for a year -- against my will (dramatic pause) -- and I haven't played since Star Wars came out or a little before. And yesterday, I actually spent it must have been 45 minutes going through all the f@#$ing Warcraft cinematics misty-eyed (laughs) and saying "I really miss it!" So [I waited] until we [got] to level 50 in Star Wars [to] then go drop the bombshell on [friend and guildmate] Jake [Stormoen]: "We're going back to Warcraft!" (laughs)

It's actually my main character I miss so much. I play a shaman healer, and a mage, and I play a consular in Star Wars, and ... (heavy sigh) And I don't feel my connection with the Force is as strong as my connection with the elements. Know what I mean? I don't want to hit it with the Force; I want to hit it with water and earth ...

And still, I don't think [Star Wars is] as slick as Warcraft. It looks far better; it looks 10 times better than Warcraft, but Warcraft plays 10 times better. It's more immediate. When you press an action button, you do that action immediately. You know what I mean? There's no lag. I find that with RIFT and stuff, and with Star Wars, I do get a little bit of ability lag. I'm playing on a US server; actually, the EU servers are more laggy for me, which is a bit odd, but ... I just find Warcraft more intuitive.

Kristian NairnSo back to WoW.

So we're playing WoW again. We were playing Star Wars, and I do, I love it. I love it dearly -- I think it's a great game. (sighs) But it's back to the age-old smoothness issue. Again, the players put a lot of effort and talent into playing MMOs, and they need to be 100% responsive and not feel like you're playing with oven mitts on. It's RIFT syndrome, for me -- beautiful game, incredible potential, but there's just a lot of something lacking in the gameplay. Warcraft has always had that, and that's what's going to keep people playing Warcraft.

Because you play PvP, and it just feels like you're there in Warcraft. Even though you're playing slightly more automated characters, little cartoons, it just feels like you're there.

And where actually is "there" now?

I've relocated now to Kil'jaeden. It's probably the best server I've ever played on. It's incredibly balanced, and there are people everywhere -- and when I say there are people everywhere, I mean there's loads of people to gank. (laughs) So at the moment, Jake and I leveled a shadow priest and a hunter -- I'm playing a hunter, he's playing a shadow priest, so it's insane. Two very nasty classes. I've still been playing on my shaman and my mage and my paladin and ... (laughs)

I've played in the Guild Wars beta as well, but only for a weekend. I loved it. But yet again, I think unlike Star Wars, I think it's different enough for both games to survive. It's completely different. There's nothing like Warcraft about it. It's a completely different game, a completely different animal, and they've been very, very clever to do that. See what I mean?

I can't wait to get in there and play an elementalist.

That's what I played. Really good, really good, but I think my favorite was the mesmer. What was it, that spell -- butterflies?! (incredulous) Butterflies! ... That's the best thing ever -- apart from the elementalist's phoenix. You fire a phoenix at people -- like, what the hell? Who does not want to fire a phoenix at someone?

Nairn's shaman
I'll sign up for that, sure. But I also like the versatility, being able to be a true support class with plenty of tricks up my sleeve.

You see, that's what I always loved about being a shaman. With a shaman, you can do quite a lot of that. It's very much a support class. Some people say that as in a bad thing, and it's nice to know your totems made a difference.

And that's what I'm a little fearful of, in the new expansion. Utility totems are still there; it's just the spellpower and s@#$ that are gone. I'm a little alarmed.

Are you playing your shaman again?

I never liked shaman until I played one. They're such good fun. One of the things I like so much about the shaman is you can really change everything. You have so many different types of spells and . All you have to do is plop down a different totem and you'll have someone bind to the ground, you'll slow them down, you'll divert one of their spells ... You can do so much; you just have to be handy with it. There's nothing as good as when you see an arcane mage casting their big f@#$ing Arcane Blast and you sort of put the spell reflect totem up. It's like ... (laughs)

So you're still a PvP guy.

I love PvP servers. Makes it more real. You can't just blindly quest.

I hate the PUGs. I just never do PUGs, ever. I don't take part in groups that have pugs in them. I just don't like it. I think that was one of the worst things Warcraft ever did, the Dungeon Finder. I think people lost their manners because yet again, they're not accountable. They're on different servers.

Ah, well.

New hunter
But you have a pretty wide open-door policy as far as your guild, isn't that right? Didn't you tweet invitations to join your guild in SWTOR?

Yes! Obviously, I've put it out on Twitter what guild I'm in and so forth, and I've been careful who I've invited, but we did have a stalker. ... [One of our cast members] had a potentially nasty stalker ... And he actually turned up in my Star Wars guild.

No! How did you know it was him?

I'm quite investigative. Believe it or not, my mum and dad were in the police, and I sort of like to read into things and stuff. And some of the things he said, I was like "Yeahhh," and I looked at his new Twitter profile -- a brand new one he'd created just to follow us -- and I sort of looked at who was following, who was tweeting who, and I went, "That's totally him -- totally him, totally him!" [Editor's note: The situation is now being handled by the appropriate authorities.]

But you haven't had any problems with overzealous fans, have you?

No, no, I'm not worried about that, to be honest. If they want to come and ... say hello ... I'm 7 feet tall -- they can do what they want. (chuckles) That's not a challenge, by the way ... (laughs heartily)

The shaman days
So I hear you've been playing the Mists of Pandaria beta ...

Deliberately, I haven't played the beta too much, because obviously I can't wait. I don't want to play too far into it because I don't want to ruin it for myself. Pandas -- I really wasn't really interested in the pandas, to be honest. They look great. The area is stunning. It's a big step up yet again -- the colors, the rendering, it's just beautiful. It's still cartoony, but that's Warcraft.

It's just so bright and pretty. Like, who doesn't want that? Who wants to run around in a sack and throw rocks at people, when you could be riding pretty dragons? I don't know ... That's definitely more me.

In Star Wars, the best part of that was leveling, because of all those amazing quests and your character quest lines -- that was incredible. And then, after that, it's kind of like "Oh. It's just like Warcraft, only not as good." I would actually like to see -- obviously, I don't know if it's a good idea that Blizzard follow anybody -- but that sort of interactive quest line, where you make decisions and stuff, I would love to see that. But that's a huge rewrite into the game's code, I would say. That's a big thing.

You're a big story geek, aren't you?

I actually met the girl who plays Setele Shan, leader of the Jedis; I met the voice actress and the person she's modelled on at WonderCon. She's super cool, and I totally geeked out, of course. I was trying to reserve my cool. (laughs) She was saying, "But they won't bring it out for the Mac," and I was totally agreeing, and I turned around and said, "Well, you're Setele Shan -- use the Force!" (laughs sheepishly) I suddenly realized as I said it, she was looking at me like a complete nerd ... so ... I shrunk off into the background after that.

I'm very glad to be back, although I didn't really ever stop wanting to play [WoW]. It's just because all my shipmates abandoned ship and went to Star Wars.

Kristian Nairn
And now you're dragging them back?

Slowly but surely. I feel a little bit bad because we have a nice group of people in Star Wars. Some of them came with us, but I haven't really told everyone yet. (laughs) You know how it works -- you sorta just ...

I'd say 90% of the time, I'm still in regular [WoW, not the beta], because Jake's not on the beta and I don't really know anyone else in the beta.

Well, there aren't that many people in yet.

I was in before everyone, because that's the only thing I use my dubious celebrity for. I don't [ask for] anything except for game invites; that's the only thing I use it for.

So are you going to be looking for more in your guild on Kil'jaeden (US-PvP-A)? I know you put out an open call on Twitter for your SWTOR guild ...

Yes! Yeah, we're actually going to start the guild. Guild is called The Winds of Winter; so many GoT-related names were gone. Sign of the times, I guess -- and that's good. PvP, hopefully branching into PvE. RBGs, Arena, ganking sessions. Fun, not serious.

And it's cool with you if fans would like to join?

Yeah. I don't mind at all, as long as they don't annoy me. (laughs) But I've never had a problem, I've never had any problems with anybody, so I'm happy to say yes, I would like that. It's Kil'jaeden -- so feel free, feel free.

More from Kristian Nairn on gaming:

15 Minutes of Fame: Westeros to Azeroth with Game of Thrones' Kristian Nairn
15 Minutes of Fame: Hodor!
Massively Speaking Episode 187: Hodor! Hodor!

"I never thought of playing WoW like that!" -- and neither did we, until we talked with Game of Thrones' Hodor (Kristian Nairn) ... a blind ex-serviceman and the guildmates who keep him raiding as a regular ... and a 70-year-old grandma who tops her raid's DPS charts as its legendary-wielding GM. Send your nominations to lisa@wowinsider.com.

Filed under: Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

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