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For Gnomeregan!

Having heard that World of Warcraft is now free to play up to level 20, I took it for a spin last night, a trip down memory lane.

It was very much like a return to one’s childhood home: not quite everything the same as I remembered it. Specifically, the gnomes now have their own starting location, which I noticed immediately since I played a gnome. I really identify with WoW gnomes on several levels, and it’s long chipped my beef that they get the shortest end of the WoW stick: fewer class choices, no healers, far fewer opportunities to earn factional approval, mounts that can’t quite clear small streams and so must be unpacked when you try, yet make enough noise to alert enemies of your approach, no home starting area. Well, upgrades since I dropped out of WoW have fixed at least two of these things: gnomes now include priests, and they have a home of their own.

It made me glad, but… stepping outside my own, exceptional and partisan frame of reference, I had to wonder whether it was worth it, in terms of man-hours from the Blizzard staff. Sure, I was glad to see a gnome village, as should always have been the case. But gnomes are an unpopular choice, so it won’t make a difference to many players; players who choose gnomes tend to be drama-free (if they took themselves more seriously, they’d play a nobler-looking race…), so the payoff is more of a momentary “that’s nice” than excitement at new gameplay; everybody interested in WoW has long ago reached level umpteen and inhabits the Cataclysm expansion, so Gnomeregan may as well not exist; and gnomes are still rapidly stuffed into the dwarfish quest lines anyway. Blizzard’s time would probably be better spent on new content, however Sisyphean the task of trying to supply content to match the players’ consumption thereof.

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