Two experiences in my life have taught me everything I know about Australia: a trip to the country after my sophomore year of high school, and a six-month stint in World of Warcraft.
The second part probably requires some explanation. When I started playing WoW, I joined up my brother on a server called Khaz’goroth. He picked the location from the list randomly, concerned more with peak population than anything else. Just getting acclimated to WoW culture was an undertaking – we didn’t understand a tenth of the inside jokes that people seemed to throw around in a region’s general chat channel while they were questing. Only after a couple weeks of playing did we realize that we had signed up for a fairly unique experience: We had joined an Oceanic server, composed mostly of Australians, Pacific Islanders and a handful of confused Americans.
There were certainly downsides to sharing a server with people from so many different cultures. Language barriers would sometimes arise, and with the server population spanning half the globe, the server always felt half empty – most Americans were asleep when the Australians were getting home from work ready to play. But playing on an Oceanic server had its advantages, too. As Americans with a decent connection, we experienced only a fraction of the lag that everyone else on the server did, giving us an instant upper hand in PvP. Beyond the competitive edge, it also gave us a great way to socialize with people from different cultures in a fairly natural setting.
As I mentioned earlier, I had spent a few weeks in Australia before. But, as thrilling as it was seeing the Sydney Opera House or strolling along the beaches of the Gold Coast, it was in Azeroth that I developed my most fulfilling and meaningful connections to Australia. Maybe MMOGs are more than just a grind after all.
From Durham, North Carolina to your living room,