The cynic's guide to World of Warcraft

Allison Robert
A. Robert|05.28.10

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The cynic's guide to World of Warcraft
We tend to be very careful while composing articles here at WoW Insider. We're always mindful that not everyone plays the game in the same way, or has the same experience on different servers or factions, but every so often a certain madness seizes us and we feel the urge to ... tell the truth. In that vein, I am pleased (sort of) to present The Cynic's Guide to World of Warcraft.

This article owes a heavy debt to Ambrose Bierce's The Devil's Dictionary. If you want to see a real master at work, read that.

Achievement A means of distilling the worth of a player down to an arbitrary number, although -- as with so many other features -- someone else found a better way to do the exact same thing. See GearScore.

Activision An empire of great evil whose sneaking tendrils will choke the life from all we hold dear. Players are vague on how this will be accomplished.

Addons Player-created programs granting additional functionality to the user interface. The possession of a UI with needlessly complicated addons is considered the mark of a good player, and more effort is expended trying to wrestle mods into sullen compliance than is spent playing the actual game. Because talent and aptitude for this job vary, the ultimate effect can range from le Corbusier minimalism to low-bid government contract work by Oog and Sons.

Animal I Have Become 2006 track released on the Three Days Grace album One-X. Soon to be the background music of every Worgen PvP video, ever.

Arena A sandbox PvP environment dedicated to combat between matched opponents, whose skill is evinced by having presciently rolled an arms warrior.

Bank alt An anonymous character that conducts all buying and selling for your main, who is thus able to maintain a veneer of respectability while robbing the server blind.

Battleground Like arenas, a specialized instance dedicated to PvP combat but oriented toward large groups. Successful battleground strategists are generally proponents of the Powell Doctrine, advocating the use of overwhelming force on enemy outposts as a means of exhausting and demoralizing resistance. That this has the effect of rendering most battlegrounds indistinguishable from lemming migrations is regrettable. (But you're winning, so who cares?)

Blizzard A game company renowned for its ability to bring millions of people of disparate ages, orientations, creeds, colors and occupations together in agreement that your class needs to be nerfed.

Blizzard Institute for the Study of Narcissistic Personality Disorder See Forums, Discussion.

Community Manager Staff hired to police the asylum known as the official forums. Their duty is to shepherd the flock of the perennially disgruntled and to translate vague developer utterances into gamer vernacular. Employed in previous lives as Delphic oracles to an indignant Greek populace ("Nerf Rome, buff Athens. Celts are fine.").

Death knight A hero class played by former rogues and warlocks -- people with a keen eye for the most hideously overpowered melee and caster classes of The Burning Crusade. The death knight combines the facerolling elegance of the BC warlock and the 1v1 win rate of the modern rogue with the ancillary benefit of being able to steal gear from warriors.

Developer A Californian demigod whose control over Azeroth is close to absolute. While the community has tried to sway the Blizzard pantheon with offerings of burnt ramen and forum pleas, their methods remain inscrutable and they are deaf to supplication. Loved by some, despised by others, and feared by all. Also, they hate you. Yes, you personally.

DPS Damage Per Second. An all-encompassing term for players who can't get out of the fire, spread out, collapse on the star, target the skull, target the X, control their aggro, stay out of the kite path, or master a two-button rotation. While they are widely assumed to have the intelligence and survivability of a gnat, DPS players are nonetheless of incalculable value to raids as convenient (and blessedly numerous) scapegoats.

Druid A class populated by dilettantes who, uncomfortable at being tied to one role, are happier being incompetent at four. Has the worst class columnist at WoW Insider.

Elitist Jerks The repository of WoW's ecclesiastical caste, where theorycrafters issue proclamations to the fervent. Players' faith in these amateur experts is equaled only by their suspicion of developer numbers.

Forums, Discussion The circle of hell from which Dante ran screaming.

GearScore Your sexual prowess, financial health and in-game competence condensed to a single number. Whatever yours is, it's never big high enough.

Ghostcrawler A former marine science professor and now lead systems designer. After arriving at Blizzard, he assigned himself to the forums, theorizing that his experience with the pale and hostile creatures of the lightless deep was adequate training for interaction with their gamer counterparts. Thus far, he has been proven correct. Because his posts are dissected and analyzed with the same obsession once reserved to Talmudic scholars, he is increasingly forced to compose them in language more appropriate to national security briefings.

Guild A group of players who have united under a single, typically ugly banner and a pretentious Latin name of uncertain declension.

Guildies The only people for whom you will have the grace to feel guilty when your bank alt sells them something at a 5,000% markup.

Healer Specialized classes and specs which restore lost health to players in PvE and PvP. Engaged in a perpetual battle with tanks over who has more right to assert that they do the worst and least-appreciated job in the game.

Honorable kill Anything but.

Hunter The class the most typically and loudly insistent that it is easy to play but difficult to play well, the hunter went the length of Burning Crusade able to perform top DPS with the aid of a single macro. Population plummeted in Wrath when two other buttons were required to achieve the same result.

Keyboard turner The herpes of WoW. Its existence is loudly decried as a social ill, but no one will admit to being among the afflicted.

Leak The Blizzard department responsible for conveying information to the community in a prompt and efficient fashion.

Macro Short commands that can be mapped to a mouse button or hotkey and issued to the client. Generally copied off the internet and then used as labor-saving devices by players who grouse that the game is getting too easy.

Mage Hates warlocks. In this, they are somewhat difficult to distinguish from the rest of the player base.

Main The character over which you will have the loudest and most embarrassing tantrum if it gets nerfed.

Marine biology Ghostcrawler's former profession. The study of things that taste good with tartar sauce.

MMO-Champion The unofficial fansite to which Blizzard has unwittingly outsourced most news publication and content previews.

Nerf The exercise of the Blizzard gods' wanton cruelty toward their creations, and a lesson on the impermanence of happiness. The end of the world; the dying of the light; the endless abyss of the soul. Unless it's someone else's class. The bastards had it coming.

Paladin The class of choice for every weasel who scribbled immortality cheats on the manual before installing a game. Currently the most popular class, the paladin combines the game's best defensive cooldowns with a frightening amount of burst damage or healing. Suggestions for possible fixes have ranged from those of the developers, who advocate folding some defensive skills back into the tanking tree, to paladins' battleground victims, who advocate nuking the class from orbit and salting the hard drives of the developers.

Pick-Up Group (PUG) Impromptu groups typically convened for the purpose of tackling the game's simpler content. While billed as the cornerstone of a game built on extensive social interaction, they are in fact the graveyard of one's faith in humanity.

Priest Once the game's primary healing class and still prompted to fits of incandescent rage at the constant challenges to its mastery of the game's least attractive job.

Raid An in-game activity wherein people who don't like each other team up to do bosses they hate for loot that doesn't drop.

Rogue A class played by people who insist on having the highest DPS in the game because they cannot do anything else, having rolled a rogue to avoid the possibility of being asked to do anything else.

Shaman Arguably the most powerful class of classic WoW, the shaman was once able to one-shot just about anything with a lucky Windfury crit. Predictably nerfed to oblivion in early BC, they were later the most desperately sought class for high-end raiding. Nerfed to oblivion again in early Wrath, they remain the most desperately sought class for high-end raiding because, goddammit, you need Bloodlust. Like its signature ability Reincarnation, the shaman's continued existence is a meditation on the phoenix-like cycle of classes as their fortunes rise and fall. Or, less charitably, the futility of stamping on cockroaches and hoping that this time they'll die.

Tank The party or raid member tasked with holding the enemy's attention and absorbing the resulting damage. Tanks come in two varieties: a.) salt of the earth, or: b.) raging asshole. The latter is the default condition for all tanks two months into the job.

Trade chat An ongoing chronicle of server zeitgeist, player gossip and the mortuary of dead and dying 4chan jokes. The appearance of actual trade in the channel will provoke an immediate grudge match on the part of its inhabitants.

Ventrilo The most expedient method for poor typists to start fights.

Warlock The weakest class of classic WoW and not likely to let anyone forget it soon.

Warrior The game's dominant PvE and PvP class, a mainstay of professional-caliber raids and arena, with boss attacks on high-profile encounters once specifically tailored to their abilities. Warrior players are united in their belief that Blizzard's five-year plot to destroy them will continue to be realized on an hourly basis.

World of Warcraft An MMORPG of unprecedented popularity attracting an audience of increasingly non-traditional gamers. WoW is a huge time sink, confusing to keep up with, annoyingly complicated at higher levels, of absolutely no redeeming social value whatsoever, and a complete blast to play.

WoW Insider WoW's largest blog and, like MMO-Champion, an unofficial fansite. Sometimes brilliant, hopelessly eccentric, loves Blizzard without reservation, oblivious to the developers who want it dead, on nobody's side but its own and not entirely sure about that last part. Possibly the only professional website for which the term badass ("One word or two?") appears on the style sheet.
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