This is my guess at five signs that will indicate that World of Warcraft is truly accepted as part of the mainstream culture, at least here in the United States.
Frankly, I think WoW is closing in on this. An episode of South Park is still pretty much a left field effort, but getting mentioned on The Office was closer to the mark. If these five things come to pass, we will be there.
Tabloids – Being a headline item in every grocery store in America is a sure sign that you have arrived. When the crazy stories of parental neglect, addiction, and sordid cross-border/cross-generation love affairs begin to compete with Britney Spears and Paris Hilton for tabloid headline space, you’ll not only know that massively online gaming has arrived, but that it is here to stay… and that it is being controlled by UFOs. (Farewell Weekly World News!)
Gameshows – Another meso-American staple, when questions about Azeroth become fair game, you will know we are there. And, no, I’m not talking about “Teen Jeopardy” or what ever they call it, where they are pandering to the youth audience in an attempt to get the age demographic down into the 60s. It will be when “Wheel of Fortune” has “Stormwind” as a word or when Alex Trebek reads off the categories to three sober adult trivia nuts and one of those categories is something like “Azeroth,” “For The Horde,” or “The Defias.”
Halloween – Cheap, non-flammable, children’s Halloween costumes on the shelf at Walgreen’s and featuring characters and creatures from World of Warcraft will be a sure sign that the time has come. Nothing says “We own you” like having to buy one of those awful costumes for you kid. Still, I look forward to the day when I hear, “Trick or treat… for the Horde!” I will not, however, allow my house to be camped until kids get the drop they are looking for.
Monopoly – Like a rite of passage, you know you are part of the culture when you have your own Monopoly set. The Simpsons, Star Wars, Mickey Mouse, James Bond, Peanuts, The Powerpuff Girls, and just about any aspiring metropolitan population center has had an edition dedicated to it. You think I’m kidding? Look here. As long as those crazy Parker Brothers felt they could make a dime, they went with it. So a WoW version will certainly come about if the other four items on this list do. The real question is: Will there be just a single edition, or will there be separate Horde and Alliance versions?
A Cartoon – For me, this is the key item. Yes, there is talk of a World of Warcraft movie, but it would have to be a spectacular box office success, something on the order of… well… World of Warcraft in MMO gaming, to secure a cultural foothold. And that just isn’t going to happen even if they put Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet on the ship to Booty Bay and sink it half way there. Any WoW movie will suck unless it has the necessary groundwork laid before it.
And that groundwork can only be laid by a successful kids cartoon based in Azeroth.
I will go so far as to say that this is a prerequisite for all of the above. When millions of kids, with their trivia absorbing minds, watch your cartoon, you have gained the foothold to accomplish great things. WoW could achieve life beyond gaming. A successful cartoon series would allow them to shut the game off (not that they would) and continue to rake in the money. Furthermore, it is a revenue stream without end. Just when the shine begins to fade, the nostalgia bug for it will hit and the cash will roll in again. And since the game already looks like a cartoon, Blizzard could be on the cusp of becoming the biggest property in the Vivendi portfolio.
Those are the things that have been rolling around in my mind, the items that I think will herald universal mainstream cultural acceptance of World of Warcraft. What else would indicate the coming of WoW and massive gaming?