The View from BlizzCon

Blizzcon 2010
Say what you will about World of Warcraft.

Go on. It’s an incredibly derisive, love it or hate it ordeal. On one side you have those who are the dedicated, forging names for themselves online and off, spending countless hours building up characters which represent an alt-reality personality that some come to love and cherish much like one would coddle a small dog or ferret. On the other side, there are those who could care less and maybe have dabbled in it like one would witchcraft.

But what of the actual players? Over this past weekend at BlizzCon, I was lucky enough to meet people for whom World of Warcraft and Starcraft aren’t merely games, but a way in which to keep tabs on friends and live vicariously in two worlds.

I interviewed some folks who had traveled to be at the Anaheim Convention Center to meet friends and to spend the weekend together. Love it or hate it, WoW has at least given rise to a new form of socializing more fitting for us gaming hermits.

With the upcoming expansion, Cataclysm, coming in December, users both new and old have begun preparing for the content. Players for whom the game had grown stale are finding it easier to reconnect with the content and guilds given the promise of a new, terrible enemy, Deathwing, soon to be unleashed.

Blizzard, for its part, is making it easier for new players to jump right in as well. With Wraith of the Lich King, some low-end players may have felt left behind by Blizzard’s focus on providing high-end content. Cataclysm promises a wide sweep, with new playable races like the Worgen for Alliance and the Goblins for Hoarde, and familiar zones such as The Barrens transforming into an entirely new world, while major cities become less familiar due to the carnage wreaked by Deathwing.

Expect to see guild numbers increasing, while players who aren’t so prone to joining massive rosters will be able to handle instances with just a few friends.

What these Blizzard titles have managed to really do is craft a superior social network; better than a Facebook and not bound by 140 characters, WoW enables friends to achieve goals and feel both success and defeat together, and in the end, isn’t that a wonderful thing?

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