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Filed under: World Wide WoW

World Wide Wow: Welcome to "Messy Cow"

A recent addition to Blizzard's fan art page shows a dramatic cast of characters for a new online comic entitled Messy Cow, by a talented illustrator named Weng Chen. I always love to see new webcomics, especially WoW-related ones, so naturally I headed over to messycow.com to check it out, and was pleasantly surprised with what I saw.

Weng Chen (who also goes by the internet nickname "Wonn") has been drawing manga (an Asian style of comics) since she was 14, and recently been introduced to MMO gaming through WoW. She taps into a huge fanbase with a comic about WoW, too, and has gotten a good start on translating the comics from Chinese to English with the help of some native speakers. Messy Cow has 8 pages of comics in English at the time of this posting, with many many more in Chinese, and she seems to be translating them very quickly. So far, the English comics give a good sense of what it's like to be a new WoW player, finding lots of cute humor in the situations a new player faces, as well as highlighting some of the most important things a new player has to learn as he or she gets into the game, from how she chose her character, to how she learned about loot rules, to how she first got into PvP . If you have a friend who is new to the game or wondering what playing is like, this comic could be a great way to get her interested and comfortable with it.

In addition, Messy Cow shows just how much of the WoW experience is the same, whether you are in the East or the West. Both sides of the world love this game, and deal with a lot of the same issues when entering into it for the first time. When people talk about WoW, anywhere in the world, it is a set of common experiences we share, a common culture that overlaps whatever differences there are between us.

It may seem too idealistic to some, but in an era when there are wars and rumors of wars on the lips of people all over the world, mounted on top of so much fear and misunderstanding between cultures who really ought to have nothing to fight about, it's encouraging to see more evidence of the World of Warcraft bridging the gap -- one of many forms of media and culture that build common ground all around the world. In Azeroth, we relish the war, but on earth WoW fosters peace and shared identity.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, World Wide WoW

World Wide WoW: East vs West, which WoW sites are better?

Westerners and Easterners, for whatever reason, often have very different sorts of websites, and the World of Warcraft websites for different regions of the world reflect this. The game itself may be the same anywhere in the world, but the people who play it are different, and it's interesting to note some of these differences to see what we can learn from them about the people.

Westerners (Americans and Europeans, to be exact) get a blog-like format, featuring columns and an expansive vertical menu going down the left side. Western WoW pages of various countries tend to be more or less the same, just in different languages.

Easterners (namely Chinese, Taiwanese and Koreans), get quite a different experience. One of the first things you notice on the front page is that lots of information on the WoW sites is presented interactively, with images taking up the main space, and words and news items being pushed into the background. Words are kept to a minimum, and are presented in square-like sections, rather than columns, with a friendly flash menu stretching across the top of the page. Their pages all seem tailor-designed for each of the three Asian regions, and no two are exactly alike.

Are westerners getting shafted with lower-quality websites for their World of Warcraft needs? Or are the Easterners' glitzy sites making up for something Westerners may take for granted? Continue reading for a closer look, with a gallery of illustrative screenshots.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Galleries, World Wide WoW

World Wide WoW Moviewatch: Thrall's Christmas Tree

I haven't seen all that many foreign machinimas but in my opinion this still deserves a Machinimoscar Award (if there were such a thing) for Best Foreign Machinima. It's another good one by the Taiwanese "AFK Pl@yers," who did "Azeroth Top 3," which we featured for you last week. It's in Chinese, naturally, but it also has English subtitles for the enjoyment of westerners everywhere!

This is what you would read on the back cover of the DVD: "A young tauren has accepted a difficult quest from Warchief Thrall. Will he be able to complete the mission?" Also featuring special appearances from the famous Murkilla and her baby boy, as well as other cameos from Azeroth Top 3!

Filed under: Machinima, WoW Moviewatch, World Wide WoW

WoW Moviewatch & World Wide WoW: Azeroth Movie Top 3


You already know that World of Warcraft is a global phenomenon, but did you know that machinima is international too? This show is by AFK Pl@ayers, a group of Taiwanese machinima makers who have done some quality work and earned an exalted reputation in Taiwan. It pokes fun at those "best movie of the week" countdowns that you sometimes see on entertainment shows with a hip young host getting excited and showing you the latest trailers. Most of it is in Chinese with English subtitles, but you'll be happy to see that one of the movies they show a trailer for is actually in English!

Personally, I think this is classic, but I hope you all don't mind subtitles too much. English-speakers are truly lucky to have so much great media produced in our own language, whereas other countries are used to watching dubbed or subtitled Hollywood films all the time. You may not be able to understand Chinese, but I think you may get a sense of their emotions from the tones of voice they use when they talk -- their Chinese voice acting is excellent, and their little bit of English acting is quite good too, considering it's their second language!

Previously on WoW Moviewatch...

Filed under: Machinima, WoW Moviewatch, World Wide WoW

World Wide WoW: The New York Times, gold farming, and righteous anger

The New York Times has an interesting article about gold farming, which does a lot to help us understand what gold farming is really like. The author is very insightful, both in his grasp of how WoW works (though he seems confused on details, like "night-elf wizards"), and he is able to communicate well with the Chinese who work as gold farmers. The article goes into greater depth than I've seen so far in any report on the issue, and even includes a video, apparently part of the gold-farming documentary we reported on a while back, to give you a first hand look at what the farmers' lives are like.

There are many interesting things in the article, but I'd like to highlight one particular insight here, regarding our relationship to these seemingly strange people in a far away country. "On the surface," the Times reporter observes, "there is little to distinguish gold farming from toy production or textile manufacture or any of the other industries that have mushroomed across China to feed the desires of the Western consumer. The wages, the margins, the worker housing, the long shifts and endless workweeks - all of these are standard practice." Many of the Chinese who moved to the cities from the poor villages scattered all about are facing the same problem. The system provides little to no opportunity to arise out of poverty fueling the demand for cheap products to be sold in the West. Understood in this context, gold farming looks just one of many industries arising out of the relationship China has with the US, providing everything they can as cheaply as possible -- a relationship neither country is quick to change. (Some of my own friends from the countryside work under similarly grueling conditions running their own small restaurant near where I live in China. They seem happy enough but it may be that they just put a good face on things for me every time I see them. Their lives are not easy.)

This is different from the usual textile sweatshop job, however: these people work in the same virtual space that we play in, and we the players are not happy about it: "In the eyes of many gamers, in fact, real-money trading is essentially a scam - a form of cheating only slightly more refined than, say, offering 20 actual dollars for another player's Boardwalk and Park Place in Monopoly." So true.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, World Wide WoW

World Wide WoW: The "Blood Bar"

Can you imagine if every time someone talked about healing, they called it "adding blood" instead? In China, the word people use for "health" is "xue," which means "blood" (and is pronounced a bit like "shweh"). Traditionally in Chinese role-playing games, the health bar (or "blood bar") is red, instead of green.

Now when you think about it, having a "blood bar" does make a certain sort of sense. After all, when you get hit by monsters, you lose blood, and any healing you take from others would have to somehow restore your blood to your body as well as sealing up all the holes in your flesh. Of course without healing, all those holes in the flesh would also prevent a warrior from swinging his sword around so freely, or at least make him limp a bit. But realism isn't really the issue here -- the idea of "blood" or "health" as a measurable quantity is just something we need as a symbol to represent the video game mechanics in an emotionally meaningful way.

A game like WoW can't possibly be as complicated as real life; it would hardly be as fun as it is if it were. Instead, it needs to use real life metaphors as an access point to get you involved in the game, while in the end it's still all about numbers. Stripped of metaphorical words like "health" (or "blood"), playing World of Warcraft might look a bit like this:
Player 4837 says, "I'll reduce your unit's primary points with my unit's special 'large-scale point reduction ability!' Pwned you!! haha!" only to be countered with Player 7490's response: "Oho! but my unit can use my secondary points to exchange for primary points, and make up for this loss! Noob!"
Talk about boring! But underneath all the "fireballs" and "greater heals," this shifting of numbers around is exactly what we're doing when we play, no matter where we are or what language we speak.

In China, of course, the points and numbers are exactly the same, but it makes sense that the underlying metaphor would be somewhat different. For them, "adding blood" to a wounded teammate feels just as natural as when we say we are "healing" them -- but when you translate their "blood" metaphor into our language, it gets pretty weird!

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Humor, World Wide WoW

World Wide WoW: Pirates' treasures: gold and spam

You're probably noticing that World Wide WoW focuses mainly on China so far, and this is because that's where I live! The Chinese have a very different culture when it comes to many things that Americans take for granted, and so many of the ways we play WoW are just the opposite on the other side of the planet.

Take gold selling for example. In the US, as you probably know, Blizzard has strict rules against gold selling. If you are caught selling gold, your account may be suspended or cancelled outright. Not in China, though!

Chinese players sitting around in Ironforge (not Shattrath; they haven't got the expansion yet) have to keep their ignore blacklist handy if they don't want to be bothered by companies or individuals offering to sell gold for Chinese yuan (or Ren Min Bi - the "People's Money"). There's nothing that the Chinese operators of World of Warcraft will do about it, apparently. But why?

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, World Wide WoW

World Wide WoW: Upcoming "Gold Farmers" documentary

World Wide WoW is a new feature here at WoW Insider, in which David Bowers brings you everything related to World of Warcraft as an international phenomenon.

A new documentary currently under development by Ge Jin explores all the different points of view people have towards gold farming, from those who farm to those who buy, and those who actively oppose it all.

Snippets from the synopsis at the "Gold Farmers" documentary website make you think about gold farming from various perspectives. This is perhaps the most striking of these:

"Changmao was a member of a gang in a small town called Lishui. Some residents in Lishui say that the town feels a lot safer even since the emergence of gold farms and there are less unemployed youngsters wondering around and looking for fights. He started working in a gold farm one year ago. Now he is persuading other gang members to join him to fight virtual enemies..."

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, World Wide WoW

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