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What is World of Warcraft?

On December 23, 2004, I rolled my first character in World of Warcraft. It seems almost impossible to imagine that this was a little over nine years ago, but I still remember the day clear as a bell. A friend told me where to make a character and what faction to use, and offered me a guild invite the moment I logged in -- an Alliance guild that, to my knowledge, no longer exists. That began a journey that was a long, impossible at times, climb to level 60. Along the way, I made a ton of friends both in the guild and out, and when I hit level 60 it seemed like an incredible accomplishment. But as I shook off the haze of congratulations and cheers, I realized I had little to no idea what came after you hit level 60 -- and frankly, neither did anyone else.

Ironforge was the place to be. If you were Alliance it was the only place with an Auction House. Players spent hours upon hours outside the front gates dueling each other. There was no PvP as we know it today -- Battlegrounds didn't exist, so PvP was relegated to long, drawn out battles between Tarren Mill and Southshore. The options seemed to be as follows: Run Stratholme, Scholomance, and UBRS to collect your blue dungeon set. Go raid either Molten Core or Onyxia's Lair. And ... that was it. Needless to say, my next option was to roll an alt and find a raid guild. What other choice did I have, at the time?

As the game has progressed over the last nine years, those choices have expanded into a flurry of content that dwarfs everything that has come before it. And that makes me wonder -- just what is World of Warcraft, now?

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Mists of Pandaria

WRUP: Yet another lazy glued-to-a-handrail kind of afternoon

Every week, just at the start of the weekend, we catch up with the WoW Insider staff and ask them, "What are you playing this week?" -- otherwise known as: WRUP. Join us to see what we're up to in and out of game, and catch us in the comments to let us know what you're playing, too!

Yawn -- oh, hi. Welcome to a lazy What aRe yoU Playing on a lazy late summer (super early fall?) afternoon. We're just hanging out here, looking all awesome. Also, someone glued us to a handrail, and it's kind of unpleasant.

Anyway, you all know the drill. Let us know what you're playing this weekend, and we'll return the favor. Got a great game you want us to all know about? Maybe you've got a hot new chicken recipe? Or you found a great new way home from work on Thursday? You can share all that too, we're not picky. After all, those who are glued to handrails can't really be beggars.

This week, we have a question for you guys (and for our columnists): This is our last weekend without Mists of Pandaria. How are you spending it?

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Filed under: WoW Insider Business

Real-life librarians hit the Ironforge stacks

Library professionals converge in Ironforge library to talk gaming
For so many World of Warcraft players, the game is all about connections. It was connections (a glowing recommendation from gaming industry insider, WoW player, and previous interviewee Liz Danforth) that led us to contact Australian librarian Ellen Forsyth for an interview (not coincidentally connecting even more dots, WoW-playing educators and innovators Peggy Sheehy and Lucas Gillispie, in the process). And it's connections that Forsyth draws for a living in her work as a professional librarian who both studies and advocates for gaming in the public libraries -- that's right, gaming for the people!

"Libraries, games, reading, content creation, stories and a few other things as well" -- that's how Forsyth's Twitter profile characterizes her interests, a fairly delectable concoction for the typical WoW Insider reader. We played the WoW card to tempt Forsyth into chatting with us about the regular academic symposia she moderates in Azeroth (the Ironforge library, to be exact), the growing influence of games as a public library resource, and the sweeping imaginative and technological vistas opening up as more and more readers discover the parallel worlds of gaming -- and of course, World of Warcraft.

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Filed under: Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

Hi, Doris from HR, I write about dragons on the internet

Garrosh Hellscream, HR director for the Horde.
A little over a week ago, Anne Stickney wrote a post about her experiences trying to explain her life in World of Warcraft to her father, a nearly 83-year-old veteran who has had more real-life adventures than we have had fake ones. Striking a balance between that life we live in the online World of Warcraft and our real lives in the non-virtual world is something that every WoW player has to do, but the degree of our involvement in the game often dictates how hard it is to find that balance.

In the gay community, we very commonly describe coming out as a process that you don't only do once. During my day-to-day life, I might meet a new person, have someone from work ask if I'm dating anyone, friend someone from high school on Facebook, or write an article about coming out as a gamer for WoW Insider. Regardless of which situation fits you best, all of these are fairly regular situations that result in needing to come out again.

Being gay and being a gamer -- not as different as you'd think

I think the experiences of coming out as a gamer and coming out as gay have a few very important similarities. In both cases, they're secrets we tend to guard that aren't outwardly visual. Despite stereotypes, you can't actually know whether someone is gay unless they tell you. Likewise, you can't tell that the woman you just bumped into on the side of the road is actually a three-time Gladiator warrior unless you get into a conversation about it.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion

I write about dragons on the internet, Dad

When I moved in with my father, part of it was a genuine interest in reconnecting with him, and part of it was a keen desire to help around the house and simply keep him company. My dad turns 83 this year, although you couldn't really tell that from looking at him or talking to him. He grew up on a farm in the middle of nowhere, worked for Dow Chemical for an extraordinary number of years, retired, and somewhere in between had two marriages and five children. (I'm one of the products of the second marriage.)

He has seen quite a lot in his life. He saw Snow White and the Seven Dwarves when it premiered in theaters in 1937. His first car was a Model-T that he dug out of a neighbor's manure pile and inexplicably got running again when he was 14. He served in the military as a paratrooper, worked with some of the first computers in existence, and can fix just about anything I bring to him, regardless of how technologically advanced the thing is. He hasn't grown old so much as he's watched the world get older around him and adapted to it as time goes on.

And yet I still have this terrible reticence about trying to explain to him exactly what it is I do on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday evenings, and what I do for a living.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion

Breakfast Topic: Have WoW and your tabletop gaming influenced each other?

Dice
This Breakfast Topic has been brought to you by Seed, the AOL guest writer program that brings your words to WoW Insider's pages.

A lot of us come from a pen-and-paper background when it comes to roleplaying games. Many of us have even tried our hands at running a game back in the day when gaming meant crowding around a table with books, dice, pencils and paper. We pretended to be someone else from another world, swinging swords and flinging fireballs using the world's most powerful graphics chip, the imagination.

Not everyone is a great storyteller, and many of us that took up that role may have ended up with less than spectacular results. Then, after having played computer roleplaying games like Final Fantasy, EverQuest, or even World of Warcraft, you may have been introduced to a style of storytelling that may or may not have been completely different from anything you've experienced in the past.

After partaking of this new experience, has your own personal storytelling in your pen-and-paper games changed much? Are there game mechanics that you've altered in your game because you think it works better the way World of Warcraft does it? What elements from World of Warcraft (or other games) have inspired your creative bug to tell your epic and not-so-epic stories? Do you find yourself more inspired by the storytelling in single-player or massively multiplayer types of roleplaying games?

Filed under: Breakfast Topics, Guest Posts

15 Minutes of Fame: Counseling people who happen to play games

Erinia
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.

Do your friends, family or coworkers still cling to old-fashioned notions of video games as the provenance of social misfits and those who can't stay focused on the demands and rewards of real life? Take heart -- there are professionals out there who understand the gaming perspective and are working to help normalize gaming as mainstream pastime it has actually become. One of the many leading the charge is WoW player and master's-level psychology student Erinia of Cenarion Circle, whose track toward becoming a licensed mental health counselor includes helping both players and other mental health professionals understand the pulls, demands, and concerns of players who enjoy games like WoW.

Erinia has discovered that magic sweet spot where work, play, and a passion for all of it come together. "Am I an exceptional player?" Erinia asks. "Probably not, but WoW has opened up a lot of doors for me in the real world." We would accuse the lady of understatement here; click past the break for more on counseling, World of Warcraft, and new perspectives on how to help troubled people -- who happen to enjoy playing games -- understand themselves.

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Filed under: Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

15 Minutes of Fame: The AFK Tavern, where everybody knows your name

Customers at the AFK Tavern
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.

So these two WoW players walk into a bar. Only it's not just a bar -- it's also a full restaurant serving hearty but healthy (fresh, locally sourced and frequently organic) fare such as the thick, juicy Iron Dragon Steak ("a full half-pound of flat iron steak grilled in dragon's fire and served with sautéed veggies and a GLaDOS baked potato"). And then they don't go home, because it's more than just a bar and restaurant -- it's also a gaming center hosting everything required to enjoy a night of tabletop, console and online gaming.

Yes, this is heaven. Welcome to the AFK Tavern in Everett, Wash., the brainchild of WoW player Kayla Graves. "It was kinda my life's dream," she explains. "I run the place as general manager and design most the menus and almost all the drinks (a few are made by our bartenders), so I take the title of creative director most the time. I also deal with all our social media ... And advertisements. AFK started as my project, but we're big on community input, so we've shaped it that way and let it become more than us. It's pretty cool owning a company like AFK Tavern with my two best friends in the whole world."

Sound like the place where everybody knows your name? We thought so, too. Come on in.

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Filed under: Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

Breakfast Topic: Guild achievements and you

This Breakfast Topic has been brought to you by Seed, the AOL guest writer program that brings your words to WoW Insider's pages.

We are now a good 6 months into guild achievements. As a guild leader, I think the concept, as executed, is great. Although we're casual and we run all content, trying to get certain achievements has provided us with incentives to level toons, level professions and to work together.

Every week, I post to the guild web site, a tally of what we're working on and how far along we are in finishing an achievement. Doing all the Burning Crusade heroic 5-mans made people run the regulars to get enough honor to get their keys. People went into instances they didn't know existed. Attendance at our retro raid nights spiked when we announced that we needed this run for the guild achievement. We're small so the 25-man achievements will probably elude us, but people take a look at what still needs to be done and they help make it happen.

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Filed under: Breakfast Topics, Guest Posts

Breakfast Topic: What brings people back to WoW?

This Breakfast Topic has been brought to you by Seed, the AOL guest writer program that brings your words to WoW Insider's pages.

My guild, like most, has seen players quit the game for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it is another game stealing their gamer hearts, and equally often it can be a real-world time constraint that is given priority. What interests me is how the majority of these players return eventually. Most of the time, this seems to happen when their real-world issues get resolved or when they discover that other MMO just doesn't love them as much as WoW did. Nearly all of our regular guildmates who have "given up WoW," including selling or deleting accounts, have returned.

I had even "quit" WoW for nearly a year and let my subscription go. Just before I came back, I had been playing Fallout 3 and beat it, completing pretty much everything. When it ended, I wanted a game that I could keep playing, a place where my character could keep growing and the world wouldn't end when I beat some random boss. I instantly remembered WoW, bought Wrath of the Lich King, and have been playing strong ever since.

If you or someone you know has ever made the decision to give up the game and move on -- more than just taking a break -- what has brought you or your friend or guildmate back into the world? Is it a realization that WoW just might be the best MMO on the market today? Is it a recreation of spare time for gaming? Or is it something else even more interesting?

Filed under: Breakfast Topics, Guest Posts

Breakfast Topic: Do you play other games besides WoW?

This Breakfast Topic has been brought to you by Seed, the AOL guest writer program that brings your words to WoW Insider's pages.

2011 looks to be a great year for gamers. The return of Duke Nukem. Portal 2. BioWare's trifecta of Dragon Age 2, Mass Effect 3 and The Old Republic. A new Final Fantasy. A new Legend of Zelda (and a remake of the greatest game ever made, Ocarina of Time -- flame on, but you know it's true). The return of Kid Icarus. The already-released Dead Space 2. There is no shortage of great stuff to play. And all the while, sitting smugly on my desktop and the desktop of 12 million others worldwide, is that little golden "W."

When the Steam holiday sales rolled around, I found myself drowning in a sea of backlogged games. The past five years that I've played WoW, I have seen very little of games outside of it. So when I should get sucked into Mass Effect, I realized there was a massive (no pun intended) collection of great games out there I had missed! I must play them all. The challenge then was playing these other games and still playing WoW -- a balancing act I have yet to master.

With the smorgasbord of excellence awaiting gamers in 2011, how will you find yourself sneaking time outside of Azeroth? Will you succumb to the deluge of games and break away from Azeroth entirely for a time, or will you find ways to incorporate WoW and other games into your gaming schedule?

Filed under: Breakfast Topics, Guest Posts

Breakfast Topic: How do you cope with muggles who don't "get" WoW?

This Breakfast Topic has been brought to you by Seed, the Aol guest writer program that brings your words to WoW Insider's pages.

We have a hunter in our guild whose mother does not understand World of Warcraft at all. She's the type who doesn't use computers, refused to have an internet connection in the house until this very year, and thinks that MMOs sound the death knell for her hopes of having grandchildren. My friend the hunter has painstakingly explained that raids are a group activity, that there are real people behind the colorful avatars, and that it's not polite to jump up and leave in the middle of fighting a raid boss -- to no avail. The mother still doesn't understand what could be so compelling on a computer screen that her child can't be at her beck and call.

We all know people who are not WoW players, and most of us have had the experience of trying to explain our favorite game to someone who just doesn't get it, whether that someone is a parent, a significant other, a coworker, or a friend. My own efforts have met with varying results. My family still can't quite wrap their heads around a gaming hobby, but after much persuading I was able to convince my last girlfriend to give WoW a try. She's a valued guildie to this day.

Have you ever had to explain your World of Warcraft hobby to the uninitiated? What was the hardest thing for them to understand? What kind of reaction did you get? Have you convinced any of them to try the game themselves?

Filed under: Breakfast Topics, Guest Posts

WRUP: Cannot has edition

Every week, just at the start of the weekend, we catch up with the WoW.com staff and ask them, "What are you playing this week?" (Otherwise known as: WRUP!) Join us to see what we're up to in and out of game -- and catch us in the comments to let us know what you're playing, too!

Since Liz is at E3 this week, Adam offered to organize this week's WRUP, asking everyone to submit their favorite lolcat from our lolcat wars in team chat. Unfortunately (or is it fortunately?), almost no one did. So you cannot has lolcats. What you can has is a rundown of what the team's up to this weekend. They're not entirely dissimilar; just replace "I" with "Alex" and "cheezburger" with "Borderlands," and the effect is pretty much the same.
  • Alex Ziebart (@alexziebart): I'm still enjoying Borderlands. I haven't been playing it a lot, just getting a level here and a level there, so it's been a good time waster. This weekend is also the festival from my old grade school up the block from where I live, so I'll probably spend a lot of time there with some old friends. If I can fit it in between those things, I'll probaBZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzZZZZzzzzBZZZZZZT
  • Allison Robert (@AllisonRobert): Sleep. House-painting. More house-painting. More sleep. It will be glorious.
  • Anne Stickney (@Shadesogrey): ICC25 - we downed Deathwhisper on HM, so now it's just Putricide, Sindragosa and LK. ... I am not looking forward to Sindragosa.
  • Amy Schley (@wowlawbringer): More bar prep, as always. I'll also be at the local Shakespeare in the Park festival. Nothing like Richard III's "Now is the winter of our discontent" while we're sweating in 85 degree heat.
  • Daniel Whitcomb (@danielwhitcomb): I'm actually plugging along much as normal. I should have Shadowmoon Valley's quest achievement done this weekend, then I'll move on to Netherstorm, so as long as Cataclysm doesn't drop tomorrow, I'm hopeful I'll just be able to take it slow and steady toward Loremaster. I also may run the Mass Effect 2 Overlord DLC on my Renegade Shepard to get the Data Hound achievement I missed on my Paragon Shepard and to look at some of the conversation trees I missed or skipped.

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Filed under: WoW Insider Business

WRUP: Hoopy frood edition


Towel Day may not have fallen on a Friday, but in this week's WRUP we're celebrating belatedly and ensuring that all of the writing staff are hoopy froods who know where their towels are.

For those of you with no idea what I'm talking about, you can get a start by listening to the infamous Douglas Adams speak at UCSB in the video above. It has nothing to remotely to do with WoW, but as geeks, I suspect most of us owe him a debt of gratitude.

For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about and don't want to know what I'm talking about, catch us after the break to see what the team is playing this weekend and some entirely unrelated talk about towels. As always, you're welcome to join in on the comments.

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Filed under: WoW Insider Business

WRUP: Waitaclysm edition

The worst part about Cataclysm is waiting for it, apparently. As part of our weekly ritual, we asked the WoW.com staff what they were up to this weekend, and as a special bonus, what they were doing to prepare for Cataclysm.

Depends on your focus, looks like. Some of us are building profession stockpiles, some of us are building cohesive raid groups, some of us are making sure we get old-world achievements due for a phase-out, and some of us are ... just not really playing until Cataclysm. What about you guys? What are your plans for the Waitaclysm?

Our plans, and other personal minutiae, after the break.

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Filed under: WoW Insider Business

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