Released November 23rd, 2004, the tenth anniversary of the Warcraft franchise, World of Warcraft (WoW) remains the most subscribed to and popular massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) ever. According to Blizzard, more than 100 million accounts have been created over the lifetime of the game. Like other MMORPGs, players in World of Warcraft control a character avatar within the game, exploring, fighting, competing, and interacting with other player characters and non-player characters.
Since its inception, World of Warcraft has been the most successful game of its kind worldwide, with millions of players interacting in the game world simultaneously. Given the huge number of active players, WoW has been the subject of researchers hoping to test social theories. Charles Blair, deputy director for the Center for Terrorism and Intelligence studies, even says that the game’s massive player base could serve as a model for understanding how terrorist cells form.
World of Warcraft In-game Terrorism
On several occasions it the past, virtual terrorists have launched attacks in game areas teeming with player characters (PCs). In the game, this centers around public forums such as banks or auction houses where people store their in-game currency and trade for better items perpetrated by nefarious PCs (virtual terrorists) bent on killing other PCs and causing damage to the game area.
In-game attacks affected player behavior, with many learning to avoid high-risk areas. One of the most famous in-game terror incidents was the Corrupted Blood incident. In short, when a new non-player character boss was introduced that cast a contagious debuff spell on the PCs attacking it, PCs learned that they could bring the contagious spell back with them to safe areas where unexpecting PCs would contract and spread the disease. The epidemic lasted for a week. When developers removed the ability to bring non-PC spells into safe areas, PCs found new ways to terrorize each other, much like real-life terrorists would.
Despite this, Yale University terrorism expert Stuart Gottlieb says, “This is very interesting and relevant to the times. Though I wouldn’t base a new counterterrorism strategy on the nuances of a videogame.”
Alliance vs. Horde: Who do you Fight for?
The events of Wow center around a clash between two sides of the game world: the human-dominated Alliance and the Horde, which is lead by the fantasy genre’s favorite hominid beast, the Orc. While the struggle might resemble the age-old complex of good vs evil, each side has a complicated back story and something sacred to protect.
As of June 2016, in U.S. and European mirrors or realms of the game world, the Alliance has a slight majority. Specifically, U.S. distribution is 52 percent Alliance to 48 percent Horde. European realms had 51.5 percent Alliance to 48.5 percent Horde.