It’s five years today since World of Warcraft first opened its doors to the public, something I’ve been writing about on our website as it’s an anniversary that lies close to the heart of my gaming life (and millions of others’). I also wanted to take the chance, though, to mark a slightly less-celebrated but equally significant anniversary—the fact that it’s now 15 years today since the very first Warcraft game burst onto the global scene.
In 1994, videogames still looked faintly embarrassing to the uninitiated: cheerful, blocky collections of pixels that represented a variety of mythical creatures, but which resembled nothing so much as an artfully arranged set of technical lego. They were impressive—but they were also, really, a toy for boys. My friends and I played Warcraft, Warcraft II, Warcraft III, and their space-age companion, Starcraft, huddled in our bedrooms. All four were examples of the genre known as “real time strategy,” and involved directing tiny armies of troops and harvesting resources in a frantic effort to destroy an opponent’s base. The games got prettier and more complex over time, of course. But they were still the kind of games we had grown up with: playing at war with pixels, with four players at most involved—and some seriously fiendish mouse and keyboard work to learn if you wanted any chance of victory. That was what videogames were all about.