Of the many different ways World of Warcraft Classic has folded the spacetime between the past and present, my favorite is the generational divide between original veterans and first-time newbies. As one of the former, it's both heartwarming and disorienting when I party up with people who've never experienced WoW in its original, pure state. I feel like a sherpa: Finally, a chance to show, and not tell, the wonders of vintage Azeroth. But there is one seething argument that is tearing the relationship between veterans and newbies at the seams. It's the ceaseless battle over the preferred way to abbreviate the notorious early-game dungeon, The Deadmines.
For the uninitiated, The Deadmines is most Alliance players' first experience in a group dungeon. In the bowels of a forgotten Westfall quarry, you'll find the inner sanctum of the Defias Brotherhood, lead by the swashbuckling Edwin VanCleef on his titanic pirate ship. It was, and still is, one of the most iconic adventures in the history of the game.
When I started playing in 2005, I always referred to the dungeon as the acronym VC—for VanCleef. So, in a raiding jargon, you might see something like "Looking for a healer for VC," or "LFG VC," posted constantly in General Chat as players tried to rally five friends to challenge the dungeon.
This is kinda weird. No other dungeon in the game is referred to by the initials of its final boss. But the reason we didn't use the more obvious DM is actually grounded in some elegant logic. Shortly after World of Warcraft was released, Blizzard unveiled Dire Maul, a sprawling, max-level labyrinth set in elven ruins. Through a combination of cultural osmosis, natural selection, and the fact that there wasn't an elegant way to shorten Dire Maul into something else, that dungeon became the de facto DM.
To recap: "LFG VC" means you're looking for a Deadmines group, and "LFG DM" means you're looking for a Dire Maul group.
But now, as World of Warcraft Classic has welcomed a new flood of players unaware of the stupid diction nuances we established in 2004, there's a simmering language war happening in the Alliance capital cities of Ironforge and Stormwind every night as DM abbreviators and VC abbreviators go at it in each zone's General Chat. During my journeys through Classic, I have witnessed firsthand these General Chat flame wars over correct abbreviation habits, and the battle constantly spills out into forum threads which leave things permanently unresolved.
Searching "Deadmines" on the Classic forums (or "DM" on r/Classicwow) returns hundreds of threads of players debating over the topic—and responses can often get quite heated. "VC is stupid as fuck and if you think DM is somehow going to be miss understood(sic) as [Dire Maul] you are as dense as a brick, but who the hell cares it's just 2 letters to refer to a fucking dungeon call it MD for all I care," writes one player.
"Deadmines was VC," writes another player, linking to a picture of their original WoW guide. "Here’s my actual, fact-based evidence. The original guide from 2004. VC is listed for Deadmines. DM isn’t."
The whole thing has become an internalized, contentious meme among World of Warcraft Classic denizens. In-game, there is at least one instance of a player quitting a guild after they were informed by his entirely well-meaning guildmates that they were a DM organization, not a VC organization. The term, "Actually, we called it VC," has been co-opted as a parody of old-school players eager to mansplain dungeoneering lingo to younger players, in a very "you need a high IQ to understand Rick & Morty" kind of way. It's even received the haughty Steven Crowder "Change My Mind" treatment. The controversy that's gone all the way to the top. Kevin Jordan, an ex-Blizzard game designer who worked extensively on the original World of Warcraft, fielded the query during one of his Classic Twitch streams. "DM is Deadmines, all the way," he proclaimed.
I have not been completely immune to this madness. I may or may not have lost my mind at someone in Elwynn Forest general chat after they were pushing this idea that people only started calling Deadmines VC on private servers.
Dude, no. I was there.
However, I have read some interesting theories about why all this confusion started up. For one, I played Alliance in vanilla, and some people on Reddit have ascertained that DM was a more common Deadmines shortening on the Horde side, as Westfall was a long ways from Orgrimmar, and some of that Human-bred patois never baked in. 15 years later, some of those former Horde players roll Alliance for Classic, and here's our big, wonderful mess. I've also heard people asserting that a capitalized "DM" refers to Dire Maul, while a lower-cased "dm" is Deadmines, a sort of galaxy-brained solution I can't help but respect.
But the thing I find more interesting, and emblematic of how shockingly unique each realm was back in Vanilla, is the theory that maybe, DM or VC was specific to each individual server. I played on Bleeding Hollow and Dunemaul, and I only ever saw VC. Other players share my exact experience, but as you saw in the forum posts I quoted above, there are those that belonged to a DM server.
So in that sense, World of Warcraft: Classic is kinda like the Tower of Babel. Someone shook up the snowglobe, and now we're all speaking different dialects and about to kill each other. For what it's worth, though, a strawpoll conducted on Reddit reported a 72 to 28 percent split between DM users and VC users.
What's even more stupid is that Dire Maul hasn't actually released on WoW Classic servers yet. That's a part of the incoming Phase 2, meaning that regardless of VC usage or DM usage, nobody is getting misdirected, because the One True DM's doors remained sealed. We'll have to wait at least a few more months until things get truly bloody.
I reached out to Blizzard, with hopes of getting some final authoritative closure on this enmity, but the studio politely declined. I suppose that means the VC or DM flap will resolve the way it did back in 2004—a slow war of attrition, until one language is permanently replaced. But goddamnit, it's VC! I know it's dumb! But calling a wrestling square a "ring" is also dumb. We do it anyway because that's how we've always done it. And while it's amazing that Classic is giving us a chance to relive MMO history, it'll be a cold day in hell before I let some fresh-faced newbies rewrite it.