Maybe it says something that at thirty-five thousand feet off the ground in a commercial jet, with a vista shot of hundreds of miles of farmland just underneath I think "this is almost as good as Westfall". This is the honest truth: WoW has been my travel partner for the last seven years, in spirit anyway. Now when I look out a window or at tourist landmarks it's on my shoulder making these comparisons for me. Vancouver, France, Mexico, New York, London, Montreal, Stormwind, Duskwood, Ironforge, and so on.
I travel a lot. I flew from Canada to England for the singular reason that I was bored, and now I can say I've spent twenty two years on one continent thousands of miles across the ocean and two years between Leeds, Southampton, Leeds again, then a suburban block in Guildford. I can't even blame wanderlust for that; I'm restless not because I want to see the world, just because I already see most of the world through a spectacular mist of boredom.
Maybe that's why I prefer fiction. Because growing up in Coquitlam, a tiny geriatric suburb lodged on the side of the Canada's West Coast and roughly an hour away from Vancouver or any locale more exotic than a video store, developed in me an urge usually reserved for animals stuck in snare traps. At least I always had a virtual hobby.
WoW was the sensible way to burrow underneath a tedious small town, and go down into the gastro-intestinal centre of something slightly more interesting. This is what I was doing in high school for four years. While teachers argued like children over my fate, I just stood around yawning, wondering when I could graduate and leave already. But WoW wasn't boring, it was travelling. Stormwind, Duskwood, Ironforge, and so on. This is how I could yawn while on the verge of failing Maths.
Now my homes are spread across two countries separated by some water and thousand-pound plane tickets (a side-effect of the travelling), but between the continents the one constant factor is the home I accidentally made on a Blizzard server, which is something that's constantly in reach.
This is the nostalgia-lathered relationship I have to WoW, with all the same navel-gazing sentimentalism I have to any memories I've associated with growing up. The feelings I have about the first time I listened to OK Computer when I was 15, pictures of my old dogs, or Die Hard at Christmas are as strong as my first character, my first alt, or the first time I hit level 60 in Vanilla. My memories of holding up a walkman in my dad's car so the CD didn't skip as we went over speed bumps on my way to school every day are as relevant as the first time I referenced Mankrik's Wife in a public conversation, receiving a knowing nod in response like we were both part of a secret cabal of basement dwellers, sharing a common language. And it feels as legitimate as being reminded of this time I spent in a game when I see those panorama views out of a window every time I travel.
So thanks World of Warcraft, and happy birthday. You've been a reliable home away from home.