Happy 10th Anniversary World of Warcraft!

Today is the 10th Anniversary of World of Warcraft! Click below to for an hour and a half of cut scenes and lore from the past 10 years.

10 years is a long time in MMO years. To celebrate, Blizzard has re-calibrated the original raid – Molten Core – for what is now level 100 style raiding. This dungeon was featured in a pretty fantastic ethnography called Leet Noobs: The Life and Death of an Expert Player Group in World of Warcraft by Pepperdine Gameful Design Lab director – Mark Chen.

The toils and struggles this group went through 10 years ago is not repeatable today unless you played on private World of Warcraft servers. Even then, the experiences are vastly different. Game histories, especially mmo histories, are unique in that they could become untrue or flat out wrong overnight. Patches, game versions, and content all move at an incredible pace. To study MMOs is to study at the speed of technological development itself.

I wanted to share a few more examples of the rich data that an anthropologist could find in the depths of archived conversation history. World of Warcraft was and is an important game because it represented something interesting. It still does. It represents what we consider a social interaction to be online. Also, it focuses our attention when we consider what a strong content provider can and will do to serve and protect a playerbase.

I remember when I first heard of World of Warcraft. I was playing Final Fantasy XI and my guild was getting tired of the content that Square-Enix was throwing at players. Gold farmers had taken over the economy completely and had inflated currency to the point where players could no longer keep trophy items (very expensive, very rare items) in their personal bazaar for maximum value because those items were now worth more than any single person could carry. This was the theme across most MMOs at the time. Everyone was ready for a new game that had a strong central power that slanted toward legitimacy of the system rather than being unable to combat illegitimate player action.

To that end, World of Warcraft is maintained by a very strong creator – Blizzard Entertainment. Take this solo of a portion of the raid Naxxramas

This person exploited their way through the dungeon by themselves using what they felt was a legitimate innovation of how the game system worked. Sadly, they discovered that Blizzard did not feel the same way and stripped the player of their loot and banned them for 24 hours. However, they didn’t become this way without significant history behind them.

One user of the Elitist Jerks MMO player forum once blogged about “The Most Important Event in Raiding History.” Sadly, elitist jerks updated their site’s look and feel and the original entry was taken down. It can still be viewed on my Scribd account.

In this entry, user JamesVZ talks about endgame content in Everquest and the debate that ensued around guilds tackling unfinished dungeons and large-scale game content. The conversation essentially became the role of the content provider in policing legitimate versus illegitimate actions taken by players in games.

World of Warcraft holds so much more history within it than these few stories. As you reminisce about your time in the game or wonder why people spend so much time in synthetic worlds, one thing is for certain – WoW doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

Below are some of the papers, books, dissertations and theses that use WoW as a method of inquiry.


My Life as a Night Elf Priest: An Anthropological Account of World of WarcraftBonnie Nardi

Leet Noobs: The Life and Death of an Expert Player Group in World of Warcraft – Mark Chen


Human-technology relationality and Self-network organization: Players and avatars in World of WarcraftJaime Banks

Multimodality as a Sociolinguistic ResourceLauren Brittany Collister

Journal Articles

All in a day’s work: a study of World of Warcraft’s NPCs comparing gender to professions – Kelly Bergstrom, Victoria McArthur, Jennifer Jenson, Tamara Peyton

From tree house to barracks the social life of guilds in World of WarcraftDmitri Williams, Nicolas Ducheneaut, Li Xiong, Yuanyuan Zhang, Nick Yee, Eric Nickell

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