CarbotAnimations is a Canadian studio best-known for its occasional collaborations with Blizzard, the most high-profile of which was probably this delightful cartoon makeover of Starcraft. But Carbot's made animations and videos about pretty much every Blizzard property (and they're all really good!) which is probably why, when it decided to make something a little more heartfelt, it slammed me right in the feels.
'This is World of Warcraft' is a short about the game's lifespan, and the relationships you build in it, and what happens over time. It's a story that will hit anyone who's ever invested in an MMO, because of course what makes these games special is the other people. These experiences are ultimately not about hitting max level, or scoring the best possible endgame gear: they're about the journey, and who you take it with.
The inspiration behind the animation is the recent-ish release of WoW Classic, which was a fascinating exercise in being careful what one wishes for. Like many lapsed WoW-ers, the prospect of playing 'pure' WoW again reignited my love and nostalgia for the game, and to my delight I found several old friends who felt exactly the same. It played out just as it does in CarbotAnimations' short: that initial thrilling hit, a feeling that the old days were back, before we all gradually and inevitably fell off.
Some might think this short is criticising WoW. I don't see it that way: this comes from a place of deep love for the game. It's more melancholy than mad. Friends coming in and out of your life is just, well, life, and not something unique to MMOGs: because they're communal experiences, these are the games where that can and does happen. You look back at your time in worlds like this with happiness, tinged with the knowledge that it can never be lived again. Even if, for a few glorious weeks in late 2019, it felt possible.