It takes a special kind of game to make you feel you know its maps as well as — maybe better than — the places you’ve lived in real life. There can be no better example than Blizzard’s World of Warcraft, which this month celebrates its 18th anniversary and the launch of its ninth expansion, Dragonflight.
There are a lot of reasons for this. Its maps are vast, contiguous spaces, believably stitched together; you’ll only see a loading screen when moving from one continent (or plane of existence) to another. The regions have enormous variety and memorable character, described in Blizzard’s bold cartoon art. The gameplay populates these places with memories through a combination of epic storytelling and organic social moments. And of course — especially when you’re talking about the original game’s two continents, Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor — there is the tremendous longevity and (give or take a Cataclysm) permanence of these locations. These places have been in our lives for a long time — my life, at any rate.
All of this makes WoW the perfect subject for a virtual-world version of GeoGuessr, the web game that asks you to guess your location on planet Earth from a single 360-degree Google Street View snapshot. After practicing on the much smaller Fortnite map, Reddit user TheEdenChild made a GeoGuessr-style game covering every WoW landmass to date, with over 100,000 locations to guess. You can play it for free in your browser. (There’s also a similar game covering Genshin Impact.)
When it comes to the entirety of World of Warcraft, there’s a lot to test your knowledge on, and only the most ardent WoW player will get everything. (Personally, I had the Explorer achievement for uncovering every area on the map once — but that was many expansions ago.) On my first go, spanning every map to date, I got stumped by a couple of newer locations and got some of my spooky woods mixed up. (WoW has a lot of spooky woods.) On my second go, I limited the choices to my old stomping ground of Kalimdor — the first character I rolled was a Troll, so Durotar and the Barrens on this continent will always feel like home — and I absolutely killed it. There’s no mistaking the Spanish moss-draped trees of Dustwallow Marsh or the sunny dales and towering mesas of Mulgore if, in a funny way, it feels like you grew up there.
The whole thing left me feeling proud, wistful, and lucky. How amazing to have these fantastic worlds as playgrounds, and to get to know them so well. Only video games can do this.