The final days before the World of Warcraft expansion have been a kind of weird time, as millions of players just kind of mill around, looking for something to pass the time while they wait for the new areas to open up (and for the servers to crash, probably). There’s plenty of last-minute raiding and Battlegrounds action for those who want to gird up for the new, tougher zones with some fresh armor, but it doesn’t feel like there’s much of a point to it, as most of that armor will soon be obsoleted by teh phat lewt that we’ll be gathering in the new world. So what’s a player at loose ends to do?

The kids these days all seem to be into those newfangled virtual worlds and networking sites, where you do nothing but chat and compare the length of your friends lists. I’m an old and crotchety gamer, though, and I need something to do when I enter my online spaces. This is probably the biggest reason for WoW’s success: They always provide you with something to do, some goal to reach for. Even if 90% of the activities in the game boil down to grinding on mobs and players, you always have some reason to keep doing it, whether it’s for a quest, PvP honor, or a reputation reward. That’s why it’s so weird to be in this waiting state.

I’m nothing if not resourceful, though, and if Blizzard won’t be giving me any more busy work until Tuesday, then I’m perfectly capable of coming up with some on my own. And so I decided to go for a little walk around the entirety of Azeroth, to fill out the missing spots on my world map. While I thought of it as a way to spend a cold weekend indoors, traveling around the world has been one of the most satisfying experiences I’ve had in WoW in a long time.

I got to visit the starting areas for all the races, even the Alliance zones where my Tauren is very much not allowed. I rescued a confused, but appreciative young Dwarf from a pack of bears. I searched out all the weird, random bits of architecture scattered across Azshara’s southern coast. I infiltrated a jungle prison off the coast of Dustwallow. I discovered places I hadn’t seen before, even after almost two years of playing.

People play games in general and MMOs in particular for a variety of reasons, but for me, the exploration of spaces — geographic, narrative, social — has always been a primary source of pleasure. It’s good to remind myself of that once in a while.

Bofima visits Aldrassil

Bofima at the flight platform in Azshara

Bofima in Shadowbreak Ravine