There's a country of 6 million people that's not on any map. It's called World of Warcraft, and it's a virtual country, a computer-generated fantasy environment that you can access, for a monthly subscription fee, via the Internet. It's also one of the most immersive and successful video games ever created, and it could be the future of electronic entertainment. Rob Pardo, 35, vice president of game design for Blizzard Entertainment (although minor deity would also be an applicable title), led the team that designed World of Warcraft, which involved generating from scratch history, geography, anthropology and ecology of a fully realized fantasy world spread over two continents. The game's 6 million fee-paying players can slay monsters, go on quests and even perform everyday tasks like fishing, cooking and tailoring. If World of Warcraft aficionados call it just WoW EM] gets any more popular, it may be up for a seat in the U.N.
Pardo didn't invent this kind of game (which enthusiasts refer to as "massively multiplayer"); he merely perfected it. It takes an obsessive mind to make sure there's something interesting going on everywhere in an entire world, all the time, for both newbies and veteran players. If anything, he's almost too good: some players have a tendency to confuse their virtual lives with their real ones. WoW is so addictive that among gamers, it's known by the nickname Warcrack.