The Griff

A timeless game: World of Warcraft

Culture

A timeless game: World of Warcraft

A phenomenon in digital media, explored

Battle for Azeroth, the seventh expansion since the game’s release in 2004. Since its debut, World of Warcraft has become a phenomenon in both video games and popular media as a whole — there are even some World of Warcraft-inspired street names in the Ottawa suburb of Orleans, such as Stormwind Ave.


GLOSSARY
EXPANSION: NEW, PURCHASABLE DOWNLOADABLE CONTENT.
GUILD: CLAN; AN ASSOCIATION OF PLAYERS IN A GROUP, LIMITED TO 1,000 MEMBERS.
MMORPG: MASSIVELY MULTIPLAYER ONLINE ROLE-PLAYING GAME.
MOLTEN CORE: ONE OF THE ORIGINAL RAIDS IN VANILLA WORLD OF WARCRAFT.
RAID: A LONG AND DIFFICULT PIECE OF CONTENT INTENDED FOR SERIOUS PLAYERS. AMOUNT OF PLAYERS PARTICIPATING MAY BE BETWEEN 10 AND 30. A RAID CAN TAKE UP TO FIVE OR MORE HOURS TO FULLY COMPLETE.
STORMWIND: THE CAPITAL CITY OF HUMANS IN WORLD OF WARCRAFT.
VANILLA: WORLD OF WARCRAFT BEFORE ANY ADDITIONAL CONTENT WAS ADDED; THE ORIGINAL GAME/EXPERIENCE.
WOW: WORLD OF WARCRAFT.

Chances are, you have heard of World of Warcraft but may not know what it exactly is: it is an MMORPG, which stands for massively multiplayer online role-playing game.

This means that thousands of players can be playing concurrently with one another to complete goals. This is done in order to level up or collect new gear for their characters.

When creating a character in World of Warcraft, players can choose one of two factions. One of the factions is the Alliance, which is a political group comprised of classic fantasy races, such as humans, elves, and dwarves.

The other is the Horde, which is a much rougher group of fantasy races, which includes orcs, undead, and trolls. After choosing a faction and race, players then choose from a variety of character classes which range from warriors, to rogues or mages.

Currently, there are 12 character classes players can choose from that determine how the game will be played.

This year marks World of Warcraft’s 14th anniversary, yet Blizzard, the developer, still charges a monthly fee of about $20 to play the game; that’s after you purchase the game and its current content expansion.

The most recent expansion costs $63 for the standard edition and $88 for the deluxe edition, which includes some in-game bonuses.

World of Warcraft is one of the last remaining MMORPGs that requires players to pay a subscription fee. Many newer MMORPGs, such as BioWare’s Star Wars: The Old Republic, have tried to maintain subscription fees, but low player numbers have forced them to make their games free with paid incentives within the game.

World of Warcraft has had a few dips in subscription rates from time to time, but the game has never had fewer than approximately six million subscribers since 2006.

Due to its wild popularity and massive subscription numbers, Blizzard continues to earn extraordinary amounts of revenue through World of Warcraft. It’s estimated that as of 2017, World of Warcraft has earned over $9 billion since its release in 2004, and that’s without counting merchandise sales.

Though World of Warcraft is not the only contributor to the company’s total earnings, Activision Blizzard — the overarching entity of companies Blizzard, Activision, King, and Major League Gaming — is bolstered by the subscription service revenue of World of Warcraft. Activision Blizzard is now number 406 on the Fortune 500 company list.

However, that doesn’t mean much to fans of the game. World of Warcraft may have debuted in 2004, but the series started in 1994 with the MS-DOS and Mac OS game Warcraft: Orcs & Humans.



The sequel, Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness was released a year later. The series hit its stride with the third instalment, Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, released in 2002. Warcraft III broke the record for being the fastest-selling PC game in its time.

Though the first two titles were successful, the third game was a major step forward for the storytelling and visual style of the series that set the stage for World of Warcraft to become the runaway hit that it was at release and still is today.

It would be reductive to say that World of Warcraft simply means a lot to its players. To some, World of Warcraft is an important part of their personal identity and history. Many players have met their spouse, new friends, and even bonded with family members through the game.

Matthew Rossi and his wife have been playing World of Warcraft since its original release, known as vanilla to the community. Rossi had been living in Seattle at the time before he and his wife, who is originally from Newfoundland, eventually moved to Edmonton in 2006.

As an American immigrant, Rossi could not work in Canada, so he turned to freelancing for American publications as a writer.

“I applied for a job at what was then Wowinsider (a website that was dedicated to World of Warcraft news), which was owned by the Joystiq network. They liked my article that I submitted so they hired me,” Rossi says.

He currently works for the site Blizzardwatch and has earned a place in World of Warcraft itself: Rossi’s Rosin-Soaked Shoulderplates, an item named after him as a tribute to his work in the community.



Rossi is lucky enough to say that World of Warcraft is both his hobby and his job.

“I proposed to my wife while we were running Molten Core. We’ve been playing together since vanilla. It’s been a part of my life for years,” Rossi says.

Sean McClune is a videographer with CTV Edmonton who runs the World of Warcraft: Edmonton Facebook page alongside moderator Pei Wang. The page is a place where enthusiasts and fans from the Edmonton area can discuss the game with other players without being judged or trolled.

McClune started playing World of Warcraft in mid-2006 with friends from his college dorm. After about a year, his friends moved on to the Xbox 360 game Halo 3, and McClune decided to start a new character, one he still plays to this day.

“I was still playing and that’s when I met my wife. Her family all played: her uncle, her parents, her sister, her nephew . . . it was a big family guild,” McClune says.

Known by his username BulliWyf for over 10 years, McClune feels the name has become an integral part of who he is.

“When my wife and I were just dating at the time, my nephew called me uncle Bulliwyf . . .

When I’m at work, when I’m interacting with people on a regular basis, yeah, I’m Sean. But when I talk to somebody online I go by (Bulliwyf) and that’s almost, at this point, after so long, that name is almost more synonymous with me,” McClune says. “If I was walking through West Ed mall and somebody yelled out Bulliwyf my head would snap around.”


“I proposed to my wife while we were running Molten Core. We’ve been playing together since vanilla. Its been a part of my life for years.”

— Matthew Rossi


Caitlin Follett also met her husband through World of Warcraft after she started playing to de-stress from her job.

“I ended up marrying my raid leader and moving to Edmonton in 2013. We are expecting our second child in December and still play together, although we are no longer progression raiders,” Follett says.

“I am still good friends with guild-mates from all over the world, including Denmark and the Philippines. I know many people play WoW solo these days, but I keep my subscription to stay connected with friends.”

When World of Warcraft came out 14 years ago, George W. Bush was president of the United States, Facebook launched, and the TV show Friends came to a close.

Looking back to 2004 can be nostalgic, but somehow this video game has nurtured a community that has enjoyed, enjoys, and will continue to enjoy the game for years to come. The question is, can there ever be a “next” World of Warcraft?



Graphic by Thai Sirikoone. Screenshots supplied.