If you don't play World of Warcraft, you have friends that do. And while we can't begin to explain all the ins and outs of this 11 million-member community, we can bring out a few fascinating aspects of the WoW lifestyle ... some of which you might wish you could go back to not knowing.
Did you know...
In World of Warcraft, like real life, you need money. WoW uses in-game gold as currency and to do the fun stuff ("raiding" and killing huge monsters) you'll need a lot of gold. And getting it isn't a whole lot more fun than working at Burger King.
You earn gold by "farming," which is the slang term for the monotonous quests players slog through each day, that generally involve killing X monsters, or collecting X items and getting gold in return. Over and over and over again. For hours.
Active players will need to do this tedious farming about two days a week, to fund the actual fun part of their game. So basically not only do you have to work a day job to pay for the game, but your character also has to have a day job to pay for his raiding.
Even stranger, enterprising gamers can make gold in a sort of commodities market that has formed in the WoW world. There is an in-game auction house where items are bought and sold between players. So you can sit there among the elves and monsters and act like you're on the floor of the stock exchange. Buy low, sell high, get rich.
There are even complex software plugins people use to track price histories and trends. There is speculation, price fluctuations, and selling panics. If you're asking why this is superior to, say, getting a similar job in real life, we suspect the answer is that in WoW you get to dress like this the whole time:
You know how during your first month in prison you want to find a gang to join, so somebody's got your back in case you get shanked in the yard? Well in World of Warcraft those gangs are called guilds.
Either fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, guilds have plenty of people lining up ready to sacrifice their social lives to the group. Aspiring members are so eager that they are willing to go through a ridiculously involved guild application process. So you...
1. Register on the guild forum and fill out an application like this one.
2. Guild officers then go over your application, check out your equipment and contact you if you meet their standards.
3. If you measure up, you'll be allowed to go on some raids (missions) with them as an "app", where you're allowed only limited participation. This could go on for weeks.
"And you say if I do this, you'll let me in your guild?"
4. You will go on some more raids with them as a "trial", now with limited access to forums and guild chat. Again this could last for weeks or months.
5. Finally you will be made a full "member", assuming you've not been rejected at any of the previous steps.
You might have noticed that most political offices don't have that kind of vetting process. There are even websites featuring guild application tips and applicants often spend insane amounts of time putting together biographies or even animated presentations touting their skills.
And when applicants get turned down, it gets ugly.
At this point, guild shopping might sound suspiciously like job hunting to you, but it isn't. When you apply for a job, employers not only don't mind you applying for other jobs at the same time, they expect it. In WoW, you are expected to only apply with one guild at a time. So if the months-long trail period ends in failure, you start over.
And you do it all for the privilege of wearing the guild's proud name over your head everywhere you go.
Like in any social environment, WoW has stereotypes. Of course the players can't see your actual race, but that's okay. You choose a race and class when you start the game, and you'll be stereotyped based on that instead.
For instance, you can choose to play as a Hunter. People will promptly refer to you as a "huntard" and start speaking to you loudly and slowly. Are hunters dumber on average than any other class? It's impossible to prove that kind of thing with hard facts or statistics, but yes.
It turns out a lot of new players and/or kiddies choose hunters when they first start playing (it's an easy class for the novice) so the "Hunter=Dumbass" stereotype was born and deeply entrenched in the culture.
Another class, Rogues, have a reputation for being assholes. Again, there's a reason for this. When playing against other humans, their most effective means of attack is to sneak up on people before they're ready, kill them very quickly, and use their abilities to run away before their victim's friends can get revenge.
Thus, players have figured out that many people select Rogues specifically because they enjoy this kind of hit-and-run behavior. Again we're not saying that all rogue players are bad people, but they are.
You would think that with raiding and guild duties and farming WoW players would be happy to have a free hour to sleep or possibly shower. Some manage to scrape the time together, but others take that free time as a challenge.
So, you wind up with activities like group dancing. In WoW, every player can dance, via the /dance command, and every race has a unique dance (male blood elves do the Napoleon Dynamite dance for example).
Druids can shapeshift, and their shapeshifted animal forms all have their own dances. Get a few dancing bears together, and everybody joins in, often leading to spontaneous dancing bear parades through the streets of a city, or massive dancing bear circles. Seriously.
Others spend time--a lot of time--coordinating group pictures, such as this masterpiece:
If you're not sure what you're looking at there, 25 or so players gathered around this shaft of light, summoned "mounts" (flying creatures) to fly to various heights, then all jumped off simultaneously so they could take this snapshot of them suspended in the beam, a split second before they all plummeted into a broken pile on the ground.
If that's not your thing, you can get a pet. Sure, WoW has companion creatures that will help you in combat and such, but others... they're just there.
"Stay. Good. This is a fun video game."
Some are bought, others can only be won by buying packs of the accompanying WoW trading card game until you get an extra rare card that gives you an in-game code for the pet. Some can only be obtained from attending the yearly WoW convention in Southern California.
And they're worth a lot of money. Not WoW gold, either. Real money.
These pets don't even have the interactivity of Nintendogs or Tamagotchis. They follow you around. They occasionally make noises. That's it. You can't pet them or feed them or tell them to do anything. But god damn will your guildmates be jealous when you show them what you did with your $750.
How many bits of jargon can a single game create in just a few years of existence? Well this site lists over a thousand bits of terminology and slang specific to WoW. Some interesting (and telling) examples:
Bio break: Apparently it is rude to say "pee", and "restroom" is too long to type, because when WoW players need to take 30 seconds to dash to the toilet and empty their bladders, they say "Bio", or if they hope to sneak one in while other people are talking or getting ready, "Ninja bio". As in, "biology has interrupted my game, and I must tend to it."
Ninja Bio Receptacle.
RL: "Real life". It seems kind of depressing that you need a qualifying term to point out when you're talking about real life. Especially when that the term is most used as a negative competing priority. "I'm sorry I couldn't make the raid tonight, RL got in the way."
Wife/Girlfriend Aggro: "Aggro" is itself a game term, used on boss fights (when you're getting "aggro" from the bad guy it means he's focused on attacking you).
Hard as it may be to believe, sometimes a WoW player may have a significant other who does not play WoW. Sometimes this person (usually female in these cases) tends to be a crazy, unreasonable harpy who wants their husband/boyfriend to spend time with them sometimes instead of going on WoW raids all night.
"Sorry, guys, my girlfriend's being unreasonable again."
When these demands become extreme, sometimes the raider will joke to his fellow raiders that he has "pulled wife aggro" and has to go appease that crazy broad.
Like any online community, WoW has its share of perverts. One particularly odd manifestation of this is people approaching Night Elf female characters--that's these things:
...and offering WoW gold to take off their clothes and dance. Why they can't make their own Night Elf female character, take off its clothes, and dance, is going to have to remain between them and God because we don't really want to know.
Incredibly, WoW's programmers didn't seem to anticipate any of this and so the game doesn't give players a lot of ability to perform any sexual actions. But horny people with lots of spare time can get pretty creative.
Apparently male night elves have two penises.
Then there's the Deeprun Tram, an automated tram running between two major WoW cities, which has gained a reputation as a place for perverts to secretly have cyber sex (and sometimes they get caught, as relayed in this infamous tale).
Probably the most famous WoW pervert went by the character name "Bronze Mustache". Whether this is some kind of porn reference or not, we don't know, as we don't really know much about the intricacies of the Chinese language.
Googling "Bronze Mustache" is much safer than "World of Warcraft Sex Pervert."
This WoW soap opera carried out among some Chinese players is pretty long and convoluted, but the basics are that "Bronze Mustache" stole another guy's wife, "Quiet Moon", and the Chinese WoW community became so upset over it that there were mass server-crashing protests eventually culminating in a mass in-game suicide:
Their sordid tale is recounted here, including original posts from the aggrieved husband and international newspaper accounts. Sample chat log:
Finally there's this thoughtful blog post and discussion about in-game sex that offers some insights possibly better left unexplored. From the comments:
"On my server in particular we had a swingers guild, where the players would meet with each other IRL, slam it, and then return to their regularly scheduled lives. There were women characters, played by women , that were known to be cyberers. I had more than one girl actually want to call me up and have phone sex. More than one naked photo sent to me.
So what am I trying to say? Through it all, MMO's are sometimes a very clear mirror of Real life."