One of the things about Warcraft that keeps the game so engaging is the sense of awe the virtual world is capable of inspiring. Maybe that sounds way too geeky, but really, it’s a part of what’s kept me (and so many other people) playing for these five years. Honestly, when I started, I never expected to play for this long.

This is where Night Elves live.

I may be a Horde loyalist now, but my first two characters were Alliance. First I rolled a Dwarf paladin, but I didn’t get very far before my son deleted the toon for some unknown reason. Next I rolled a Night Elf druid, and I was just enchanted by the beauty of the starting area. The greens and purples of the trees, the glow of the moonwells, the gigantic treants. I couldn’t believe how beautiful the game was. It was part of what really got me hooked.

Onoma, Dark Portal

It's all true: I once played a hunter.

The expansions, too, have brought me a sense of awe. The first time my main stood in front of the Dark Portal, preparing to enter a new world, it was a moment filled with portent. The portal was huge and mysterious; what would this new world hold? I paused to grab a screenshot and savor the moment of wondering. And stepping through the portal did nothing to diminish my awe. In fact, I may have jumped a little in my seat, sure the huge demons in front of me were about to eat me alive.

It's on, Holmes!

Then there was my first time in Naxxramas. I was an absolute newcomer to raiding when Wrath was released. The 25 of us stepped into the instance, which seemed impossibly huge. I was wide-eyed, taking it all in when I heard my very first raid direction: do NOT kill Mr. Bigglesworth! Fighting alongside 24 other people was an amazing experience. The amount of coordination required was impressive. Watching Sapphiron’s bones levitate and swirl together into the giant dragon for the first time was simply amazing. And taking him down? It was my first big boss fight, and the joy and relief of getting the fight right, of doing my part… well, it was something I knew I wanted more of.

Every time I think I might get bored of the game, every time I think I’ve played it out, something new comes along. There’s some new beauty to discover, some new thing to accomplish, some new wonder. Yes, I know it’s a virtual world. But this world that Blizzard has created is art — it engages, astonishes, and awes. That’s what keeps me going back for more.

Thanks to Elsin of The View Through the Branches for suggesting the World of Awecraft as this week’s Blog Azeroth topic.