Anyone who knows me knows that I am the worst at secrets. If I have a secret present for someone, I’ll probably give it to them early. This, by the way, applies only to my own secrets. If someone else tells me something in confidence, that’s their thing and I cannot spill the beans. So over the summer I have been simply buzzing with keeping this secret to myself. Thanks to the time I spent writing at WoW Insider, I was asked to contribute to the official Warlords of Draenor strategy guide! The mage section is my work, and many of the class section writers are people you may know from Twitter or having written in other places.
But of course, since doing this involved access to secret information (or at least a general knowledge of the game’s release date before it was announced) we also had to sign an NDA as part of the process. So I kept it to myself even though I was really excited. It’s the first time I’ve ever written something for publication. I still can’t show you any images of the book itself or its contents (shh, secrets) but you can pick up a copy for yourself on November 13th if you’d like one. To tell you exactly how I feel about this whole process, first I have to tell you a story. Really, it’s the story of me and World of Warcraft.
I’ve told this story a few times, so bear with me if you’ve heard it before, but back in 2008 when Voss and I started playing WoW…it had been a really long time since either of us had played any kind of MMO. We’d met playing Ultima Online back in the ’90s but we both stopped playing that and had never picked up anything like it again. Neither of us had played the RTS Warcraft games so we didn’t have much of a tie to those, either. We were both peripherally aware of WoW, of course (who wasn’t?) but had never consider playing it because we knew how much you could get lost in a game like that. But a confluence of factors led us to change our minds. Voss’ dad had just been diagnosed with cancer. Things in my work life weren’t really going well. Actually, they weren’t going anywhere. I’d quit my clerk job working at a registry to focus on my art and try to have a career with that. But I didn’t really know where to start and honestly, I was floundering.
I don’t remember who suggested it. But we decided to try playing World of Warcraft. I think we were both looking for an escape. Because I believe in studying for anything important, we went to the store and bought the World of Warcraft guide. It had overviews of class information, dungeon maps and guides to quests. We pretty much read it cover to cover. It didn’t stop us from being complete noobs about some things, but I remember poring over that book (especially the maps) in preparation for our first dungeon run. We knew group content was serious business and we didn’t want to be terrible. I rolled a priest because of that guide. It said that if you enjoyed being helpful to your group, a priest was a good choice! Of course, as you know, I didn’t stay a priest. But I was one at first.
I look back on the version of myself from 2008 who bought that guide and I have to smile. If you’d told me then, that six years later I’d be writing a mage section of the most current guide, I wouldn’t have believed you. Those intervening years contain thousands of words written in blog posts (some of which I was paid for), hundreds of hours spent drawing and painting commissions for people I met through the World of Warcraft community and later working on From Draenor With Love with my friend Rades. I’ve made some of my closest friends thanks to WoW, re-imagined what my career could look like, and saw it develop in unexpected ways. I honestly owe so much to WoW. Now, another thing to add to that list is that a few weeks ago I got a cheque in the mail that marks the first time I’ve been paid for published writing. It hit me unexpectedly, but I held it and tears sprang to my eyes.
I haven’t yet received my copies of the actual physical thing. And I don’t mean to make too much of a big deal out of this, I mean, I didn’t write and publish a novel. But I wrote and it was published and they paid me, and it’s meaningful to me. If you asked me when I was a kid what did I want to be “when I grew up,” I would’ve told you I wanted to write and illustrate books. I meant children’s books (the only books I knew, at the time). I wouldn’t have expected this. But I’m learning that some of the best things are the ones you didn’t anticipate at all.
I’m just really grateful to have had the opportunity, and I’m grateful for everything this community has brought to me. That’s really what I want to say. Just a big thank you to everyone in this community who ever encouraged me or struck up a friendship with me, or helped me with their own work. Thank you to Anne Stickney who asked me to write for the guide. Thank you to Perculia, whose data wrangling helped me actually write it. I guarantee you that my section of this guide couldn’t have been written without Perculia and the other great folks at Wowhead. Now that I’ve met her in real life, I can’t check something on Wowhead without thinking of how hard Perculia works and appreciating that. It’s the passion of all the people involved in the WoW community that keeps me playing, writing, drawing, and putting so much of myself into this game even six years later.
I’m sad that I won’t have the chance to meet or visit with anyone at Blizzcon this year, but still really glad I was able to go at all. This Saturday we’ll have some local friends and guildies over – friends we never would’ve met if it hadn’t been for this blog. I can’t say anything more than that, really. Things happen in mysterious ways and I can’t be anything but ridiculously thankful for my good fortune. If you get your hands on a copy of this guide, flip through and appreciate all the work that went into it from many talented writers! I’m glad to count myself among them and I really appreciated the experience.