Mists of Pandaria logo

In case you hadn’t heard, yesterday marked the release of the newest World of Warcraft expansion. Mists of Pandaria is quite different from the previous WoW content, but I’m enjoying it nonetheless. In celebration, I’m counting down some of my favorite places to find World of Warcraft in the real world. From literature to fashion, Blizzard Entertainment’s flagship franchise is leaving its mark everywhere these days.  Even if you’re not a Warcraft fan, it’s hard not to appreciate how much creativity and passion the game has inspired amongst its fans.

1) In Art

It’s no surprise that World of Warcraft players have produced some pretty fantastic artwork, and Blizzard has set up a page on their official website dedicated to art submissions from fans. At semi-regular intervals, new pieces are added to the database, which can then be downloaded by users. It’s a great way to explore different interpretations of the game’s characters and environment.

2) In Cooking

There are many blogs out there dedicated to gaming-inspired cooking, including a handful of quality websites on World of Warcraft “food.” If you’re craving some of the game’s most delectable treats, such as Spice Bread and Bear Basted Boar Ribs, check out this list of recipes with detailed instructions and high-quality images. Over at the Tauren Chef, there’s a whole cookbook containing WoW-inspired recipes for sale. For those of you with a sweet tooth, The Domestic Scientist featured this amazing Deathwing cake a while back that looks almost too perfect to eat.

Server blade

3) In Philanthropy

In October 2011, Blizzard announced that they would be auctioning off retired server blades to benefit St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. The blades contained a commemorative plaque and were billed as unique collector items. When the campaign came to an end earlier this year, it had raised over $330,000 US dollars for the hospital. The server blade auction is just one of many charity campaigns undertaken by Blizzard in recent years. In 2011, Blizzard also raised over $1,900,000 in support of the American Red Cross’s Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami relief efforts.

4) In Politics

World of Warcraft is certainly no stranger to politics. Regular players will know that WoW’s Trade Chat feature is often used as a platform for voicing political views. Back in 2008, Machinima even conducted in-game interviews with World of Warcraft players to gauge who would win the presidential election. Just this past summer, WoW became embroiled in world politics once again when it made headlines over US trade restrictions.

5) In Books

It’s no secret that Blizzard is behind a series of best-selling novels and comics, but did you know there’s also a book on the sociology of WoW and its impact on modern culture? Sociologist William Sims Bainbridge tackles these issues in his 2010 monograph, The Warcraft Civilization: Social Science in the Digital World. A similar book entitled Digital Culture, Play, and Identity: A World of Warcraft® Reader was released in 2008 by Hilde G. Corneliussen and Jill Walker Rettberg from the University of Bergen in Norway.

WoW in Schools

6) In Schools

The next time you have fifteen minutes to spare, check out WoWinSchool, a collaborative wiki project that focuses on World of Warcraft. The site contains tons of resources for teachers looking to integrate World of Warcraft into their curriculum. There are free lesson plans in math, writing, and literacy on creative WoW-related topics, such as designing quest chains and calculating probability in cloth farming. The site is one of the most integrative, creative approaches to World of Warcraft out there, so be sure to spend some time browsing its content.

7) In Interior Design

This Horde-inspired bathroom, featuring wall-mounted weapons and a ceiling designed to look like stretched leather hides, is just one of the many interior decorating projects being tackled by WoW fans around the world. A few years back, some folks at MIT built a unique Warcraft “gaming pod” based on orc architecture. According to the description, the hut was designed to maximize play-time for the player and includes food, water, and (unbelievably) even a toilet so that you can enjoy World of Warcraft without having to leave you seat. For design options that are a little more conventional, check out PrintWarcraft for customized posters and more.

8) In Music

World of Warcraft’s award-winning score has been the inspiration for countless compositions by musicians. It’s also the focus of this stellar musical parody, which won the “World of Warcraft Movie Contest: Rise to Power” competition in 2010. You can usually find choral and orchestral arrangements of the WoW score in any well-stocked music store, but for a more comprehensive collection, check out the official World of Warcraft Sheet Music Anthology. And for a live rendition of the game’s soundtrack that is sure to give you goosebumps, sit back and enjoy the performance below by the Video Game Music Choir.