World of Warcraft steals the show at BlizzCon 2010

World of Warcraft. A topic as derisive as any election or poetry summit. Is it the epic story, the player versus player (PVP) battles, or the in-game events that sometimes shake players to their molten cores? If you’re thinking none of the above, and instead yawning or shaking with rage, who can blame you? World of Warcraft is a love-it-or-hate-it experience, with many players trying it out for a month or so before quitting, or staying forever to rule the lands in waiting for the next expansion, Cataclysm, which is just around the corner.

Players of WoW who have fallen to the wayside might feel a strange burning sensation that is a symptom of want.

Treated to bits and pieces of what is to come with the new expansion, wowheads and laymen alike watched in anticipation as the world itself was ripped asunder by a new epic enemy known as Deathwing, a dragon the size of Los Angeles and twice as fragrant.

New quests add depth to a game that had grown a bit stale ever since the death of the Lich King, who had been the subject of the previous expansion. Veteran players who may have found it dull to live in a world without the King have already begun to flock back in anticipation of Cataclysm’s launch, which is promising to be epic in scale. Familiar zones such as the Barrens will be split by a large chasm filled with enough lava to make Tommy Lee Jones cringe, and large cities such as Stormwind may not be recognizable come December.

More important, character changes and updates that make the game more user-friendly for newer players will soon take effect, meaning there won’t be a three-month wait for a taste of the new expansion, as was the case with Wrath of the Lich King. Though new classes have been available for beginners, higher-end gratification has been regulated to the elite, leaving newbies behind to wallow in the pits of old world material while watching level 80s fly overhead, taunting and dancing, always dancing.

BlizzCon was a show of strength for Blizzard, selling out tickets in less than a day and gaining worldwide attention with only three major games on display. The international tournament of champions was held on the main stage, pitting the world’s top WoW combatants against each other in front of an audience of 1,000 or more for a purse of $75,000.

For professional gamers, WoW is a way of life, while for others it’s a means by which to make long-lasting relationships and to simply have fun.

What WoW manages to do is to bring together a community of otherwise lone wolves and give them something common to strive for, whether it be to raid, loot or troll newbie spawning grounds.

“The reason I’ve played the game so long are the people I meet when I play it,” said Mike, aka Tenaciousp of the guild zZq, as he walked the halls of the Anaheim Convention Center. “The game is fun in itself, but it wouldn’t be, without the community.”

As for what Cataclsym will bring to the community, the expansion promises a new and different experience for players of all kinds.

Tenaciousp’s friend Casey, aka Stimpy, believes that he’ll be seeing old friends returning for the launch of the new expansion. “The people who have dropped away, I still talk to,” he said. “It’ll probably help to get them back into the game.” Cataclysm will be released Dec. 7, and yes, you must subscribe in order to play, at $14.99 per month.    Chris O’Neal is a writer living in and around the vicinity of a couch in Ventura, thumbing through pre-owned games daily at the local Gamestop until asked to leave.