There is a phenomenon on the internet. Communities of thousands, millions, and more people… many of which never see one another in person. A community of none yet all. We see these things on Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LiveJournal… thousands of ‘social networking’ sites. Places where we reach out into the internet and try to connect. Now I could get super philosophical about the whole thing… but this is a World of Warcraft Blog so we’ll keep things in the scope of well… Wow.

So I pose the question: What does Azeroth Mean to Me? Not only do I ask myself… but I ask you all 58someod people who have stopped by so far. I appreciate every single one of you by the way so thank you.

I have heard a lot, now in the twilight of Wrath and the beginning of the Summer Doldrums, how people are bored yet won’t stop playing. One reason many stick around is because of the people… yet they complain about the people the most. We are a community, designed by Faction, by Race, by Class, and a dozen other factors. We are Guilds, Battlegroups, Pugs, Parties, Raid Teams, Alliances… we are individuals, soloers, questers, the last men and women standing in battle grounds. We are gender ambiguous, yet many mock gender choices. We imagine ourselves to be more than we are, or simply reflect ourselves in the game as best we can. We become new people, conquerors and stars… or we remain humble and unnoticed. The community is a lot of things both good and bad.

To me Azeroth is a bunch of things. From an outside prospective it is a fun place to go. It is a game, made for fun and entertainment. It is a way for me to vent off steam after a bad day, or escape somewhere different. It is a visual wonderland of exotic places, creatures, and peoples. The sounds, the music, the ambiance created by pixels and midi files and voice actors draws me in some days or I forget it’s there on others. It is a place to spend time, to talk to people, to interact with them on a level either close and intimate or brief and distant.

Azeroth is also a place of creation. I played on an RP server longer than I have on a normal one and in that time I let my imagination – which has always been a powerful friend of this only child – have a world with structure yet the flexibility to create. I asked myself, as I looked at that creation screen, who did I want to be? What would I look like? Where did I come from? As I played I wondered what I would do to make money, or things I could use. I found I had preferences in things I battled or places I went and asked – does my character share these preferences… what is she like? The first time I asked myself that was when Aliha was born in my mind.

Through the lens of my hunter I saw a world of possibilities but also a reflection of my own. I needed a job, money, transportation, maps, food, clothing, shelter… when I tamed my first pet Ferren I had someone to talk to. As I explored I learned the mechanics of the class and the world… but I also learned what it was like to stalk prey, to watch creatures, to be patient, to track and choose targets and sometimes what it was like to run rather than be a hero.

It took me two months to get out of Darkshore… and I only died once.

As I moved through the game I became aware of the different environments, creatures, and of course people. I learned of ones I liked, and ones I most certainly did not, and of course people I didn’t mind. Oh and then there were the players. I did most times see NPCs as people; if Ali were real they would be real too. I learned of Guilds and Drama and Raiding and all sorts of other things. I also learned the wonders of finding just the right people to play with to make the game absolutely a blast.  When I moved to an RP realm I learned of Players and Characters and the differences (or lack sometimes) of them. I began to make stories, plan futures, make decisions based on who my toons were not just on what was best for my class or roll.  I learned about relationships of all kinds and slowly, as I rolled Alts… created a family of my own toons intermixed with others.

Azeroth offered me a creative outlet like none other had as of yet. It inspired me to try different things but with the safety net of a world with rules and boundaries and pre-existing history. It let me express parts of my persona through different people – Matronly yet bad ass Aliha, excitable and potentially explosive Jadira, and of course our lovable psychopath Dawnqui – yet at the same time being free to be me. My characters and who I was as a player became separate, yet still tied and inseparable. Stories grew out of these people, voices and accents, preferences and goals, loves and loses as well as triumphs and tragedies.

What a wonderful place to escape.

A lot of me still wanders Azeroth even when not at the computer or even with the game running at all.  I have bits of fan fiction scattered about the net as well as RP on the side and my day dreams to make the drive to work interesting. Then there is my theory crafting, my enjoyment of the lore and the world Blizzard created for us. It is a place I can feel that I make a difference and have accomplishments and do things I may be limited to doing in real life.

Then of course… there is the community.

I have met a lot of awesome people in the last 5 years. Some I still am in contact with, others not so much, and a few I can’t even remember. I don’t know many of their real names, or what they even look like, but they all changed me in some ways. The group I am with now is a lot of fun as well as friendly and ambitious. Many are serious about the gaming business and inspirations while others just make me smile all the time. I feel like I can be a bit more of myself than in real life around them and they either accept me or don’t. The people I am in less contact with for shorter periods of time – like pugs – well they’re a grab bag of good, evil, and just… oi. Some give me hope for the future and others question the intelligence of breeding. Some make me angry at the blatant disregard for other people’s feelings, and others just flip on the Mama Bear switch, even if I only know them for an hour or two or even less. Some days I want the community, can’t play without the people… and others I wish they would all leave me alone. Being on a normal server again I lack that additional creative contact I had being In Character yet feel free to just do what I want rather than wonder ‘would Ali really do that?’

Azeroth to me is a big experiment, is a world unto itself, a creative outlet, cathartic, exciting, social, lonely, bizarre, ever changing yet always the same. I can choose to be the player… or the huntress. I can choose to just read the objective and just get the quest done or become involved, nae invested, in the story of the NPC I’m helping. I can be an entrepreneur or an explorer, a lazy bum or a pub crawler. Yet I never have to leave home… just push boundaries in this safe little sand box.

Maybe I have spent too much time here, am another one of those internet addicted poor mal socialized souls, or simply just lack the will for a true social life.

Or maybe this is more of the way the world is turning, and this other world for me, Azeroth, is the first step into a greater and bigger world. I mean… here I am writing to theoretical readers and people. I don’t even know if you’re out there or even care… but I’m writing anyway. Azeroth, in short, to me is an extension of the world I live in now, with different rules and expectations. It is an exciting place to be when I am there. Just as the life away from the screen has its jerks, frustrations, grief and accomplishments so too does Azeroth… I just feel a bit braver there than I do in the flesh. It inspires me to try to be a bit braver, to try new things and be fearless in the faces of the unknown or unexplored. Even if it is just a bit at a time. The skills I use there blend in to reality and maybe, one day, will land me a career where Azeroth is part of my life as more than just fun and games.

I’m not sure all of this makes sense… but you’re welcome to ask me about it.