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My Life as a Gnome Warlock in World of Warcraft

My Life as a Gnome Warlock in World of Warcraft

My Life as a Gnome Warlock in World of Warcraft

My in-game World of Warcraft avatar and my relationship to him.


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As readers may remember, I spent many years enjoying the game World of Warcraft. It was an incredible experience for me, being my first attempt at playing an online multiplayer game. For those of you not familiar with what kind of game WoW is, let me must tell you that its awkward-but-accurate genre moniker is “Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game,” or MMORPG. Yeah, that’s arguably the least elegant initial-based abbreviation since SPEBSQSUA1. The genre really started with Ultima Online, grew enormously with Everquest, and reached its zenith with World of Warcraft.

I’m not here to discuss my experience with the game as a whole, but just one aspect of it: my in-game avatar and my relationship to him.

This is Kosmo. He is a Gnome Warlock, and he was born on Tuesday, November 22nd, 2004.


Though “avatar” is really the correct word, in WoW parlance, Kosmo was my “toon.” In the game, you are allowed to create up to ten different characters. The character, or toon, that you spend the most time playing with is known as your “Main,” and the others as “Alts.” I hardly ever played Alts, so Kosmo was really, REALLY my Main. He was my buddy, my alter ego, my agent in this brave new world of Azeroth. It was Kosmo who would brave its dangers, soak in its beautiful and terrible sights, and make allies and even enemies.

Within a week or two of beginning the game on Thanksgiving week of 2004, Kosmo already had a growing list of friends, and within two weeks he was invited to join a Guild. A Guild is a tribe of players who work together to accomplish the game’s larger goals. Any MMORPG is a social game and is made to play with other people.

I loved Kosmo from the very first moment I created him. First of all, I’d spent months studying the advance information about the game to figure out what choices I wanted to make for my character.

My first choice was faction, of which there are two: the Alliance and the Horde. I always knew that I wanted to play Alliance. Everyone knows they are the good guys2.

Next, I had to choose my race, and for the Alliance my choices were Dwarf, Human, Night Elf, and Gnome.

Night Elves were easy for me to eliminate. That purple skin and donkey ears just didn’t do anything for me:


Next, Humans. Humans were kind of awesome with nice racial bonuses and fantastic physiques:


But still, I wasn’t feeling it.

I almost made my toon a dwarf. From the first month Blizzard announced the game years earlier, I had been charmed by the fantastic character model for the dwarf:


Dwarves had an amazing home city (Ironforge), great lore, great voices, and were just appealing in virtually every way. I mean, just look at this awesome hunter with his pet bear!

However, two factors made me finally decide on a Gnome:


One is that, in real life I have always felt oversized and ungainly, and so I’ve always admired compact people. For this reason I frequently choose to play a character with small stature when I have the choice. The gnomes in World of Warcraft are ridiculously cute. They have the best laugh, the best cry, and the best dance (the male gnomes, anyway) of any race in the game. The second reason was Class.

Ah, Class. That’s the next big decision you have to make for your toon. Every character has a Class, or specialty, that determines his or her role in the game. The original Classes available to me were:

Druid: Only playable by Night Elves, so this one pretty much eliminated itself.

Priest: Healers with some offensive magic. 

Warrior: At this point in the game’s history, warriors were the main tanks; essentially the “quarterbacks” of the team. I did not think I could handle that kind of pressure for my first multi-player game!

Rogue: Close-range melee damage dealers. Seemed fun, but I’m just not that fond of melee (close-quarters physical combat).

Hunter: This looked tempting. You got a pet who fought with you! And you got to use bows and guns! This was such an appealing class, it was the most popular choice among WoW players for the first year or so of the game.

Paladin: Sort of like a D and D cleric: A tanky healer. Sounded boring to me.

And finally…

Warlock. For whatever reason, everything about the warlock appealed to me. Warlocks were naughty, they consorted with demons (they even had demon companions!). Their spells featured many damage-over-time spells, which seemed suitably evil to me.

It’s a tribute to the skill of Blizzard’s designers that, no matter how many years I played with Kosmo, he never stopped filling me with delight. He never stopped being adorable or funny. Ditto the Warlock class: it stayed consistently challenging and interesting and fun to play.

Over the years Kosmo and I had countless adventures with our other World of Warcraft friends. Kosmo became a very accomplished character with many vanity mounts and pets and many achievements under his belt.

But MMORPGs are very demanding games to play. If you become a raider (the highest level group activity in the game), you’re essentially on a sports team that rarely has an off-season. To play the game seriously, World of Warcraft becomes like a second job. A second job you don’t get paid for. I also grew more and more bothered by the thoughts of all of the single-player games I wanted to play but couldn’t because I didn’t have time for them. Eventually, like most MMORPG veterans, my playing time dwindled down to virtually nothing. It came time for me to admit that I wasn’t really playing the game any more.

Unlike most other current MMORPGs, World of Warcraft is a subscription game. You have to pay some bucks every month for the privilege of playing.

So you would assume that the minute I realized I wasn’t playing, I cancelled my account, right?


Why not?

Because… because of little Kosmo. The idea of abandoning him just seemed impossible. Untenable. Unacceptable. The more I thought about it, the more it felt like abandoning a pet on the side of the road. It wasn’t Kosmo’s fault I stopped playing. Why should he suffer?

Months and months went by. Each month I imagined I could hear the “ch-ching” sound of the subscription money being taken out of my account. And still I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

Let me just get right out in front of this and admit that I know this is crazy and even delusional. Kosmo is a piece of code. He’s a puppet. He does not have feelings. I know this. I may be a gamer, and I may think milk chocolate is far superior to dark chocolate, but I am not delusional.

But still. The emotional connection to my little toon is real. If you’ve never played an MMORPG before, it may simply make no sense to you. But perhaps this will help: As of yesterday, I’ve spent a total of 262 days, 22 hours, 54 minutes and 48 seconds playing World of Warcraft with Kosmo. Again, that’s 262 DAYS. Think about how much time that is. Every time I thought seriously about cancelling my account, I pictured little Kosmo sitting forlornly on the side of the road, his bright orange hair gathering dust as cars full of people ignoring him sped past. I just couldn’t take it.

I’d pretty much resigned myself to paying for WoW forever.

Then, finally, my dear friend and long-time World of Warcraft compatriot Shannon Rose gave the most brilliant suggestion on how to deal with my problem. She suggested I was thinking too narrowly.

“Think about all of the different games you play that allow you to create your character,” she said. “Just decide they’re all Kosmo.”

What she said immediately made sense. I just needed to look at Kosmo a bit more broadly. I had to think of him as a shape-shifting, plane-tripping being whose adventures in game after game cast a web across the gaming multiverse.

They’re all Kosmo.

For the first time, I was able to feel a little better about Kosmo the Gnome Warlock, sitting around Azeroth waiting for me to pick him up again. I could pick him up again, in different games.

Since becoming unfettered from merely haunting the realms of World of Warcraft, Kosmo’s adventures have spread throughout the gaming world. He’s currently having a fabulous time in the dark and dangerous world of Pillars of Eternity. He even looks a bit like the original Kosmo:


And so Kosmo lives on. Alas, my friend Shannon does not. We lost her last year, far far too young. Kosmo and her character Nightgazer had innumerable adventures together. Kosmo misses her terribly. So do I.

Click here to see how adorable Kosmo is in action!

The Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America.
Don’t start with me, Horde scum.

Ray Ivey

Ray Ivey

A gaming freakazoid, Ray enjoys games on all platforms. Also loves board games, mind games, and all puzzles. Co-wrote the Entertainment Tonight trivia game and designed puzzles for two Law & Order PC games. Also a movie freak, bookworm, and travel bug. Thinks games of all kinds are a highly underappreciated force for social good, not to mention mental and psychological health.   Ray's favorite adventures include the "Broken Sword" and "Journeyman Project" franchises, "The Dark Eye," "The Feeble Files," "Sanitarium," "Limbo," "Machinarium," "Riven," "The Neverhood," and "Azrael's Tear." His favorite non-adventures include the "Thief," "Uncharted," and "Ratchet & Clank" franchises, all of the Bioware RPGs, Skyrim, and Final Fantasy XII.   Ray writes about the movies for the Bryan/College Station Daily Eagle, which is the old-fashioned thing called a "newspaper." He's been on eight game shows. He's taught in seven countries and has visited twenty-one. His favorite classic movie star is Barbara Stanwyck and his favorite novel is "The Hotel New Hampshire" by John Irving.

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