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Boss Fight Books #12

World of Warcraft

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At more than 100 million user accounts created and over $10 billion made, it is not only the most-subscribed MMORPG in the world, but the highest-grossing video game of all time. Ten years after its launch, Blizzard Entertainment's World of Warcraft is less a game and more a world unto itself, and it's a world Daniel Lisi knows well. More time in his high school years was spent in Azeroth than in his hometown of Irvine, CA—a home he happened to share with Blizzard itself.

Now that Lisi has founded his own game development studio, WoW remains his most powerful example of just how immersive and consuming a game can be. Based on research, interviews, and the author's own experience in a hardcore raiding guild, Lisi's book examines WoW's origins, the addictive power of its gameplay loop, the romances WoW has both facilitated and shaken, the enabling power of anonymity, and the thrill of conquering BlizzCon with guildmates you've known for years and just met for the first time.

128 pages, Paperback

First published June 20, 2016

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Daniel Lisi

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Displaying 1 - 15 of 15 reviews
Profile Image for Helen.
11 reviews
July 18, 2016
This was a very good, quick read. Not knowing enough about what it means to really become immersed in a massive multiplayer game like World of Warcraft didn't stop me from feeling what the author was going through. There's a sense of escapism in reading about the author's flight into a world full of friends he might never meet. Lisi, now with hindsight, also goes back and expounds upon how, had he gone down a different path, things could have gone much worse. But the outcome of whether it was all worth it or not I think hinges upon what the reader may feel as truly coming of age.
Profile Image for Caleb Ross.
Author 39 books184 followers
August 4, 2019
(click the image below to watch the video review)

World of Warcraft Boss Fight Books book review

I’m reviewing all of the Boss Fight Books releases, so subscribe to my YouTube channel to be sure you don’t miss future reviews.

I wasn't sure what to expect when starting this book. I've never played World of Warcraft, and honestly I'm not at all interested in it. The game loop of fight, gather loot, spend loot, repeat just doesn't interest me. I've read other boss fight Books about games I haven't played, and those books do tend to be among my least liked, which begs the question: Is not having played the subject game a disservice to the book? Am I being unfair by judging a book given my lack of context?

Maybe. But Lisi does something great with this book to address readers like me. He spends just 15 pages applying broad strokes to the origins and impacts of the game. A true biography of Blizzard and WoW would be 3x the size of this book, but this book isn't interested in being the definitive history. Readers familiar with WoW only have to endure 15 pages of scene-setting. Those unfamiliar with the game are given just enough context to make the rest of the book really work.

And the rest of the book is really good. Lisi has a strong history with this game. He was introduced to it by his stepfather, and the two bonded by playing together. Lisi then became quite obsessed with the game, addicted even. He weaves this personal history into the larger social impacts of WoW, including its impacts on marriage rates, divorce rates, and friendships. At times this book feels like a sort of micro-memoir, documenting Lisi’s teenage years but just enough to ensure a narrative thread to keep readers turning pages. EarthBound, Galaga, and to a different but no lesser extent Metal Gear Solid all accomplish this difficult task similarly.

A standout chapter is “Love in the time of BlizzCon” (all the chapters are derivatives of famous book names, which is fun. This one being Love in the Time of Cholera). This chapter tells the story of Lisi’s first love interest, a girl named Margot whom he met while playing WoW, and would later meet in person, and eventually would part ways without any pomp or circumstance the way fleeting love often does. It’s a sad but very human story which serves well as the anchor to the overall message of cultural impact that Lisi’s book is primarily interested in conveying.

Of personal interest to me is when Lisi explores how game companies have invested in learning more about player behavior in order to curb some of the negative impacts of online gaming, specifically harassment. Riot, the company behind the incredibly popular League of Legends, created a Player Behavior Team that went on to implement a variety of measures to make online gaming less harmful. Anyone interested in a deep dive into video game player psychology should definitely read Jamie Madigan’s Getting Gamers: The Psychology of Video Games and Their Impact on the People Who Play Them.

World of Warcraft by Daniel Lisi is highly recommended for anyone interested in a personal story of the impacts of game addiction but also anyone interested in the social impacts of World of Warcraft specifically.
Profile Image for Nick Cummings.
45 reviews2 followers
August 16, 2022
How do you even write a book about a game like World of Warcraft? I don't know. I've never tried. Games are an interactive medium, and a lot of what makes them notable is in what the players put into/get out of them. MMORPGs like WoW are especially dynamic and impermanent things, prone to massive changes at the drop of a hat in player activity, overarching design, and public sentiment. It's a whole lot to think about.

So I think that, honestly, there's probably a lot more value in lots of hundred-page books like this one than multiple exhaustive, thousand-page histories of a virtual world. And I'm glad I took an hour or two out of my day to give this book a read at long last.

Daniel Lisi's World of Warcraft story is unique, but it's also quite recognizable in my own and those of my friends. I liked the way his personal narrative weaved in and out of the main topics (how the game works, who made it, how it's changed over time, the ways its players interact in positive and negative ways, its legacy, etc.) — his stories added a touch of genuine humor and relatability that enhanced and reinforced the somewhat more-objective parts of the book.

Of course, there's so much that isn't talked about here. We get into the issues of griefing, pervasive sexism and harassment (along with a much-appreciated look at how Blizzard was failing to adequately pull its weight in cleaning up players' behavior), unhealthy social pressure in keeping up with an increasingly unsustainable stream of new content releases, and in each of them we're given a succinct introduction with a bit of flavored commentary. But those looking for any substantive depth, like interviews with researchers or Blizzard employees or citations from peer-reviewed studies, aren't going to find much to work with here. That's not really a fault of the book — it fits the bill for Boss Fight's general book structure — but it's worth noting that this book may leave you hungry for a deeper look at one of the most influential and popular virtual spaces yet constructed.

Like Lisi, I dove deep into World of Warcraft at a moment of social isolation and constitutional weakness. Unlike Lisi, I was old enough to really know better, having turned 18 before the game came out. I ducked out before I hit level 40, sensing that I was in for some real diminishing returns with the vanilla game's remaining content. But then the recession hit right around the time the game's Wrath of the Lich King expansion was released, which also coincided with my graduation from college, my return back to my hometown, and the start of a several-year grind through countless job applications and inconsistent employment. I was the perfect mark for a game like WoW: freshly plucked from my first four years of adulthood, thrust back to where I'd started from away from all my new friends, and left with no idea how to build a life up again. So I fell for WoW's tricks again, and I feel deep: straight from level 1 to the new cap of 80 in the span of just a few months. I wasted countless evenings grinding away in the hopes of some new impressive vista or exciting piece of gear that would spike my dopamine receptors just enough to keep me going. And at the end, I felt the same emptiness Lisi describes when logging in to an abandoned city and a threadbare guild roster: this place isn't my home anymore, either. So I quit then and there, and within a few months, I found a new way forward.

I guess that doesn't have anything to do with this book itself. I just found myself thinking back on this chapter of my life, this shameful series of months, with a different perspective after reading about Lisi's time with his guild. I felt some real kindness, some deep understanding, for the person I was back when World of Warcraft was the best refuge I could find. (And it doesn't hurt that we both mained rogues, of course.)

It's been six years since this book was published. Since then, it looks like the author has stopped making games (a notion that also took me many more years to stumble onto) and focused on writing and publishing. I wonder how this new world feels to him compared to the old ones?
Profile Image for Jesse L.
450 reviews17 followers
April 16, 2019
This was my first Boss Fight Books book and I get from reviews that they're all kinda like this. This book was just okay. It's an elongated blog post by someone who I guess is a fan. There's nothing special about the writing, it's all okay, there's some cursory references to sociological discussions about games, game addiction, game design, etc. which are all interesting but not in depth. None of this is to say the book is bad, it's just okay. I'll keep reading the books because they're really just kinda....academic autobiographical fanfic? I wish it was more and better but it's okay for what it is. WoW fans will appreciate it but likely get nothing interesting from it. People who don't play WoW may find it briefly interesting but boring.
Profile Image for Agustín Fest.
Author 35 books65 followers
December 9, 2019
Un exadicto narra su juventud atrapada por World of Warcraft, reflexiona someramente sobre los videojuegos MMO y, digamos, su aspecto negativo para convertir a los jugadores en bestias competitivas, clientes perpetuos. Como otros libros de esta editorial, cambia constantemente entre narrar cuestiones personales y dar datos duros sobre el tema. Creo que le faltó trabajo, pero no está mal como un libro para introducirnos en WoW y su cultura de raiding, por qué para algunos es importante clavarse en estos juegos y cómo funcionan sobre la ansiedad, el cerebro, etcétera.
Author 10 books5 followers
June 24, 2018
I like this series and the way the writers balance description of game play, information on the making of the game and some personal aspect to the game. Here the formula is off kilter. There is too much about the author in an unengaging fashion. It mentions he was probably addicted to the game as a teen but doesn't really address it well. It was a short book so it moved quickly, just not too satisfying
Profile Image for Tim.
Author 5 books30 followers
June 15, 2018
Why are all these boss battles books more memoires than insightfull "making ofs"? This is the second one I read that has more stories about the author and how he played/lived through the books topic. Perhaps I expected something else and are Boss Battle books realy this: personal memoires and some shallow game lore
Profile Image for Joe Stevens.
Author 3 books1 follower
May 27, 2022
This isn't the book I wanted, but it is an interesting enough journey into the life and thoughts of a hardcore guild raider on WoW. It came as part of a large and cheap package of books on Humble Bundle, so cost very little. At full retail I would probably feel a bit cheated at the book's 60 or so pages. A clever reviewer said that it felt like an expanded blog entry or thee and he is correct.
Profile Image for Mercedez.
130 reviews22 followers
November 25, 2019

An interesting look into WoW that helped me understand why people come and came to love it so much.
Profile Image for Johny Wuijts.
27 reviews
December 5, 2022
Good book about how games can influence people's lifes in major ways. Every aspiring game developer should read this and think about the influence they might have on other people with their games.
Profile Image for Peter Derk.
Author 24 books331 followers
August 3, 2016
Here's something I just found out: There are a bunch of books you can pick up in World of Warcraft.

Here's something I just decided: Why don't we look at some of them?

A Steamy Romance Novel: Forbidden Love

That's the title(?) How about an excerpt?

Bony fingers worked effortlessly beneath his armor, unlatching his breastplate and exposing him to the cold air. "Don't worry my sweet Marcus, that's not a finishing move tonight... I'm just getting started." He wrapped his arms around what remained of her waist, forcing an excited giggle as he nibbled at her neck vertebrae.

Ohhh, la la.

Now, you can only read a short portion of the book because the rest is "worn out from repeated readings." Buddy, if you think a book gets worn out because someone read it too much, then you need a lesson in how books work and also how to use a book as a self-love aid.

Brazie's Guide to Getting Good with Gnomish Girls

I guess this is The Game but for Gnomish girls. Is a Gnomish girl a gnome, or just a girl who believes in gnomism?

Brazie's Handbook to Handling Human Hunnies

Ah, NOW we get to The Game. Within a game. The Game's The Game.

Brazie's Notes on Naughty Night Elves

Brazie is keeping himself very busy. I would really like if one of these books was like, "Eh, don't bother. Naughty Night Elves seem cool and sexy, but they actually just want to eat your spinal fluid."

Nat Pagle's Guide to Extreme Anglin'

Now this one sounds like it could easily be a book in real life. I don't know what the extreme part would be, but a Nat Pagle sounds like someone who knows something about fishing.

Priestly Preening: Be Like Your Betters

Priests actually do dress well. Do you know how hard it is to wear black pants and a black shirt and to have those two things be the same shade of black after washing them even once? It's impossible. Also, I like how that collar gets them out of wearing a tie. That's sneaky.

Crude Map

Oh. It's just a poorly drawn map. Not like...never mind.

The Frostwolf Artichoke

This is where Azeroth's fuckin' Pablo Neruda gets all poetic about eating a wolf's heart.

Diary of Weavil

This is not only hilariously named, but the entries are kinda great:

Dear Diary,

Today, my arch-enemy, Narain Soothfancy, attempted to deceive me by sending cronies to fill his spot at the execution. HIS execution. Can you believe it?

I had gone through all the trouble of devising this diabolical plan to lure him out of that damnable hut and he pulls this? Whatever... Too angry to keep writing. I'll be back later.

Dear Diary,

I left my hide-out in a rage after my last entry. Boy was I angry. I decided to redesign my minions' uniforms to better reflect my angst. I feel a little better but something is missing. I'll be right back...

Dear Diary,

Ok, I'm good now. I beat one of my minions until he wept like a little girl.

Hrm... I feel sort of bad now. Wait a minute! Damnit, I'm an EVIL genius! Evil, you know? I'm so disappointed in myself. Be right back.

Dear Diary,

I gave him a hug and told him to keep up the good work. I feel better now. Keep that between you and me, diary.

Where was I? Oh yes, NARAIN! ARGH!!! I hate that guy. It was Narain, after all, that destroyed the curve on every exam back when we were students at the Gnomeregan Institute of Tinkering.

Fail me out of school, will they? As far as I'm concerned, Gnomeregan got what it deserved!

That's all for today. Sleep tight, diary!
1 review1 follower
October 2, 2016
Like the other Boss Fight Books, it tells the story of a game through the lens of the author's personal experience. For Daniel Lisi's World of Wacraft, that means it's both a coming-of-age story and an addiction narrative. Yes, he finds social validation and a girlfriend, but he also isolates himself and lies to his parents. Ultimately, he neither glorifies nor condemns the game, but reveals what it was and what it meant to him.

One of my favorite details was how, as he became more and more invested in the game, he installed mods that stripped the graphics from it, reducing his display as much as possible to numbers and mechanics. This allowed him to slightly increase the damage he could do per minute. In these moments, he's an addict, searching for a better high. But there are also beautiful bittersweet scenes of adolescent rebellion and love.

This is not an analytical overview of a cultural phenomenon, but a personal story of how it affected one person. Of course, for a game that once had twelve-million monthly subscribers, there were many Daniel Lisis out there. So whether you were one of them, or whether you want to know what it was like, read this book to take a tour through the possibilities and pitfalls of the World of Warcraft.

My only real complaint with the book is that it could have been longer. But the Boss Fight Books format is short, and there are several more worth reading when you finish this one. (Next, I recommend Bible Adventures by Gabe Durham!)
Profile Image for Graham Oliver.
721 reviews7 followers
July 5, 2016
Like several books in this series, audience problems. Well written, but if you're familiar with WoW at all then a solid 75% of the book will be old information for you. I would've rather read a longer account of the author's interpersonal relationships than the portrait of WoW writ large.
Profile Image for Paul J.
52 reviews
April 14, 2017
As a player MMOs have never appealed to me, but the phenomenon of WoW is fascinating. This was a great Boss Fight Book detailing the author's experiences being hooked on the game, the consequences of that, but also the community and spirit that does exist around these styles of games.
Displaying 1 - 15 of 15 reviews

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