The Battle for Azeroth is a collection of essays united under two opposing flags to paint a well-balanced portrait of World of Warcraft (WoW). Each chapter is from a different point of view covering a variety of topics. Although there is a lot of overlapping in topics, each is expressed so differently that it is never dull. Some essays share one writer’s excitement and enthusiasm, while some clearly despise the game and others still are self-proclaimed addicts dripping with sardonic humor.
The first thing that draws curious attention is that the opening chapter has a very nice picture of a Vah Shir-esque character. Which, ahem, are not in the WoW world, but are in the EQ world. The essay writers and the illustrators must not have communicated very well. Makes for an amused chuckle.
In the society of Massively Multiplayer Online Role Play Games (MMORPGs), a common theme in gaming is role playing. In “RP”, a player can further detach from their own reality. In the psyche of their character, a player can explore everything from drunken arena battles to marriage. The essay that focuses on in-game relationships, from gaming friendships to much more, lays out the phenomenon with what feels like slight sarcasm and amusement. Nancy Berman’s insights, particularly her final thoughts on the matter, are definitely worth a giggle or two.
Any modern gamer will appreciate the reconstruction of the clichéd image of the obsessive, nerdy online addict. In actuality today, the world of gaming seems to now be populated by men with careers and healthy, happy families. Often, their wives play with them, too. Another of the essays delves deeply into the evolution of MMORPGs, beginning with pen and paper games like Dungeons & Dragons. The terribly serious condition known as Altitus - in which the victim is known, sadly, as an Altaholic - is explored in depth with much tongue-in-cheek sincerity in yet another humorous essay. Having no such illness with my own ninety-seven main characters, I, of course, can comment no further other than to say their essay is quite complete. The conversations between the “alts” says it all.
Some pieces are more entertaining and informative than others, but when taking the collection as a whole, the reader is left with mingled feelings of amusement and distress. Players come away feeling a smug knowledge and that familiar itch to log in. Non-players will put the book down in utter disgust and congratulate themselves for not falling into that trap. Whichever you are, this book offers a huge base of knowledge for happy obsessions of Horde vs Alliance, or fodder to fuel your arguments against Warcraft playing. The single most fascinating and controversial facet of game playing is addressed in chapter nine: “Can you imagine killing yourself or another person because of a computer game?” The question has been given much press time, in the wake of MMORPG-related incidents in the real world. The chapter written about extremes within the realm of online gaming answers sensitive questions informatively, even offering outside resources for game addicts.
The longest of the essays is a multi-chapter breakdown of the possible real-world historical roots of each race and class available to be played in game. With each class, the writer makes a truly exhaustive delve into historical references and dates from around the world. He cites everything from Native American cultures to shamans in the ice age to the more recent renowned influences of J.R.R. Tolkien and Terry Pratchett. The unexpected source for a wealth of guidance is the Bible. Chris McCubbin goes so far as to suggest that playing WoW gets us back in touch with our earliest roots. Well, if it is for history…
Covering everything from virtually real societies that spring up within realms to girl gamer populations - is that a myth, or are there really girls playing games now? - to thriving but fickle economies, the essays truly cover every aspect of Azeroth. It is very informative and potentially emotional for players and staunch non-players alike. Light is shed on the mysteries of virtual deaths, the costs of armor and its upgrades and upkeep, and the confusions of the strange codes “spoken” in on-line games. As a whole, it is very well-written, and entertaining with so many points of views. Edited by Bill Fawcett, The Battle for Azeroth: Adventure, Alliance, and Addiction in the World of Warcraft offers exhaustive insights and endless curiosities.