I can still remember my first introduction to your games. It was Christmas, back in the early years of high school. My best friend got a new computer and with it, the Warcraft Battle Chest. Neither of us had heard of the game, but we were anxious to try out the new computer, so we installed WarCraft 2. I think it’s safe to say the first impression was an astounding one.

I stayed over at his house for the next three days because both of us refused to move from in front of that computer. We would take turns at the helm, with the other of us playing backseat driver with micro-management suggestions and battle strategies. We shared in the triumph of completing each mission, as the maps got progressively harder, and we laughed together at the comic relief, and the trademark character voices, growing more and more agitated as we click on them repeatedly.

And we shared in the tragedy as, after a good two hours spent conquering a map, the computer locked, and we were left staring at a moment frozen in time, as our massive army descended upon a lone peon, the only unit left to the opposing faction. We left the computer like that for over six hours, praying that it would ufreeze itself, because we both knew that we hadn’t saved. A lesson learned the hard way.

Eventually I had to go home, and my best friend would have sooner parted with his right arm than with WarCraft 2. But I was hooked. I needed my fix. He let me take home WarCraft 1 from the Battle Chest, and although it was graphically inferior, the core elements were there, and I was satisfied.

When StarCraft was released, I jumped all over it. Another RTS game, by the same people who made WarCraft, but this time with three playable races? I swore I was dreaming. StarCraft provided me with countless hours of entertainment, first with the single player campaign, and then when I gave myself over to the online community that is Battle.net. Games would eventually come and tear my attention away for a short while, but I always came back to StarCraft, because I could rely on it for an awesome gameplay experience.

I even dabbled in Diablo 2, while trying to wean myself from a startling Everquest addiction. I was eventually turned off of the game by the rampant cheating though. It destroys the feeling of accomplishment when you work hard for an item and find that the guy next to you has fifty of them because of hacking.

Then Warcraft 3 came out, and it was in 3D, and I was once again transported to a world I loved, but this time in a much more detailed, and vibrantly colorful and creative way. WarCraft 3 brought back familiar units, as well introducing all new ones, and a whole two new playable races. WarCraft 3 reminded me why I loved the franchise and also renewed my love for real-time strategy games.

The new races and the introduction of Hero units brought a whole new level to the gameplay. The multiplayer was so addictive, I never even finished the single-player campaigns.

When you first announced World of Warcraft, I was skeptical, I will admit. I wasn’t sure how you would pull it off, and I was worried that being that immersed in a world I had grown to know over the years could be a recipe for some severe disillusionment if the game wasn’t done right. Even the early screenshots had me concerned.

I was a fool to worry.

I ignored the hype surrounding WoW for a long time, afraid that it could turn into one of those situations we’ve grown familiar with concerning super-hero movies, where due to the franchise you have high expectations, but the product fails to deliver. But when I got into the beta test for WoW I got to see first hand that you had made what I will happily call the finest MMORPG to date (despite its current technical issues).

With WoW you created a game that was able to do what no other MMORPG was able to do since the first time I logged into Everquest on launch day, and that’s completely capture my imagination. After EQ, no MMORPG (and I played them all) could return that feeling of adventure and wonder to me, until World of Warcraft.

So this is my thank you, to all of the wonderful employees of Blizzard, who have worked so hard over the years to provide me with so many hours of entertainment, and who have produced some of the finest examples of gaming in the industry. You’ve done an incredible job.

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