There were so many things I was looking forward to about this trip, from Blizzcon to Disneyland to seeing Hogwarts in person. But one of the things that was right at the top of that list was getting to visit Blizzard HQ.
Thanks to an amazingly kind friend, we were given the opportunity to visit the mothership – to see where all the magic happens. To say I was excited about this was a massive understatement. I mean, this face of mine below of me losing my shit was an understatement for how I was feeling inside!
So, we go there by Uber, and I was jittery the whole way. And then we saw the gate and oh boy…
We got dropped off at the gate then walked in, and there’s the Orc in all his wonderful glory, RIGHT THERE. It took all of my effort not to sqeal. Well, ok I squealed, but hopefully not too loudly.
Once inside we met up with our beautiful friend, Marie, who was to be our guide for the afternoon. After handing over the piles of gifts we had, we headed off to lunch at the campus cafeteria. I don’t know if it’s like other workplace cafeterias…? I’ve only worked in small organisations really. But to me, any place that makes pizza in front of you is a winner by default.
With our meals in hand we sat down and caught up on all the happenings. I kept getting distracted by the moment. I mean, here I was, surrounded by all of these amazing, talented people who work on the games that I love so much. And you know what I noticed most of all? They were just like me. Everyone was dressed in Blizzard gear or clothing that was “them” rather than “corporate”. And everyone seemed… happy? Ok sure it was lunch time and there’s food, but like, everyone seemed happy to be there. Like they had a purpose. Don’t get me wrong, some people looked like they had a lot on their (work)plate, but noone looked like they were just done with everything and was ready to walk out the door. You could feel the energy in the air, it was remarkable.
With lunch done, we started on our tour. For those who are unaware of what happens on these tours, there is a museum that has exhibitions that change every now and then, there’s amazing statues all over the place, and other places around the campus to visit. But before you go anywhere, you sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (of course!), and they let you know where you can and can’t take pictures. All of which is fair enough. ESPECIALLY 2 days before Blizzcon! The secrets in that building, oh my gosh.
Because of where you can and can’t take pics, there’s quite a lot here that we experienced that can’t be shared, but there’s still plenty to show…
The Blizzard museum had just been updated to celebrate Hearthstone! Even though I don’t play the game very much at all, I do love all the artwork. And it was amazing to see how it all started out. Definitely a fantastic experience to check out.
After the museum we headed in to area where we can’t take pictures. So let me paint some pictures with my magical words 😉 Our first stop was a peek in what looked like one of those scenes of NASA with rows of people at computers all facing a whole bunch of screens. This was, of course, where the servers were all monitored. They also had a great interactive display talking about how it all works and what happens when something goes wrong. I kinda wanted to throw Tim Tams to everyone in there because those folks work bloody hard to keep us in game. It was fascinating to see it all in person.
One of the main things you notice when walking around the corridors is that there is Blizzard artwork EVERYWHERE. There is not a bare wall, and it’s beautiful. The halls were filled with creativity – you could feel it oozing out of every corner. If I had all the time in the world I would have just slowly wandered from wall to wall, gazing at it all… probably would have been there for a few days if I’m honest. It was very inspiring stuff.
One of my favourite places to visit during the tour was the library. Oh my gosh guys it was everything you’d want a nerd library to be! There were all the games you could think of, there were cozy corners – there were even doggos in there, because there were a few employees at one of the tables playing a game together! How awesome is that? Everything was decorated for Halloween, too, so it had the spooky old library vibe going on. And even better – we got a treat! I spoke to the librarian (who was an absolute sweetheart) telling her I wanted her job and pls can has? And obviously not, but she was lovely hehe. And then she offered us Bizz bookmarks! eep! We got one each…
Then we were off again. We went around and checked out all the statues… you can’t see in the pic, but the Tyrael statue wings GLOW omg. It was my favourite of them all. Although Gorehowl was pretty awesome to see in person – that thing is flippin’ HUGE!
We were also really lucky and got to visit some of the WoW dev work areas. There was so much here that just blew me away. Firstly, again, all the art of the walls. Ahh!! Secondly, everyone had really personal work spaces. Some were really decorated with their favourite things – others looked like a nerd had exploded in there. It was AMAZING. But my favourite thing here – every person we met in the halls stopped and said hi and was just so darn friendly to us strangers. It wasn’t the usual “polite nod, half smile walk on” kind of situation; people would smile and say hi, some asking about our trips over here, what we were looking forward to at Blizzcon… I just wanted to hug everyone for being so nice! (I reckon it’s also because Marie is such a darling to everyone, too!).
The other thing about this area is that there were a few walls that we noticed were covered in black cloth. SECRETS! Having seen the reveals now, it was all obviously Shadowlands stuff, but seeing those covered up walls got me so hyped at the time. Eee!!!!
Eventually we had to go and let Marie get on with her day. We were SO grateful to meet Marie for the first time, too, after talking and playing together all these years! What an absolute treat our time there was.
On a personal note, the whole experience at Blizzard HQ was really inspiring for me. For those of you who follow me on twitter you’ll know that I’ve really been struggling with my job a lot lately, and I’ve just fallen in to a bit of a rut. I’m not working in a job that I enjoy, and I have so much creative energy just going to waste. I’ve felt like I’m stuck, and that this was really as good as it was going to get. But after that tour and seeing how a workplace can be… it was truly inspiring. The people there seemed to really enjoy being there. They seemed to care about what they were doing and wanted to share it with people. And it made the whole campus buzz with an energy I’ve never felt before. It was the kick in the butt that I’ve needed to get me out of this rut. I want to work at a place that inspires me like that; that encourages me to be creative, and makes me care about what I’m doing. And while Blizzard would (obviously) be where I would want to do that, it doesn’t have to be there – but it certainly isn’t where I am now, and I need to change that.
Anyway, back to our holiday! After our HQ adventures we headed back to the hotel. Unfortunately the cleaners arrived shortly after we did and they kicked us out, so we checked out the pool… it was way too cold to go in, though (it was quite a windy day). Thor decided to go for a walk to get some things we missed from the day before while I just lazily stayed at the hotel watching Netflix lol. I shouldn’t have left him unattended, though, because he came back with unicorn magic Snack Packs! They were actually pretty amazing… the blue tasted… well, blue.
Eventually night came, and on twitter I could see people were starting to head to the Hilton lobby. This was the thing I was most nervous about, because I don’t drink, and I’m awkward as heck. But I also knew it was where a lot of people would be hanging out, and I’d heard many stories about people having some amazing non-Blizzcon times at the lobby. So we forced ourselves to head over.
I was as awkward as expected. Everyone seemed to be in their groups and so we felt a bit out of place really. We grabbed a drink from the bar and kinda stood around for awhile. Eventually, though, I recognised a face – Terran Gregory! And then all at once I was terrified. We had brought Tim Tams with us to give out to people, but I was too scared and shy. But Thor forced me to take some over to Terran because he knew I would be kicking myself later if I didn’t. So I swallowed my terror and went over to Terran and said hi and gave him Tim Tams and he was SO lovely even though I was such a dork and he took a picture with us that cracked me up and I did it! I thanked him for being amazing, and then set him free to be bombarded by less weird nerds than me. But it was great. 🙂
We also saw the amazing folks who made the Eyes of N’zoth. Darn it I can’t remember their names, but they looked incredible. They also had dressed up Pepes that were amazing! We gave them some Tim Tams too, but then we headed off because that was our quota of being brave. (Well, mine anyway). And by this point I was pretty emotionally exhausted after the HQ tour. That, and we needed an early night, because the next day was Halloween at Disneyland!!!! stay tuned…
PS – I totally forgot to mention that we saw Ion Hazzikostas TWICE while we were at Blizz HQ! Once in the halls of the WoW dev area, and then secondly as we were leaving. Except I was stupidly trying to look something up on my phone at the time and missed him! Bah! So we didn’t get to say hi and/or thanks, but we did see him, and he was glorious 😀