On May 11th, 2004, a video was uploaded to the website Warcraft Movies that would have a major impact on World of Warcraft, and the culture surrounding the game. In the video, a team of players crafts an intricate plan, but one shouts "LEEROY JENKINS!" before charging into battle, unprepared, getting the entire party killed as they attempt to save him. The video went viral, and became one of the biggest memes in the history of World of Warcraft, and the internet in general. Since then, Leeroy Jenkins has been referenced on Jeopardy!, The Daily Show, and even on Family Guy. For many World of Warcraft fans, it holds a special place in their hearts.
For years, World of Warcraft fans debated whether or not the video showed a real planning session that went awry, or a staged event. The video's creators, Ben Schultz and Ben "Anfrony" Vinson, intentionally answered ambiguously about it for years. In 2017, Vinson released a video showing an initial, failed attempt, proving that the Leeroy Jenkins video actually was staged.
While the video itself was staged, no one involved could have predicted what a major impact it would have on World of Warcraft. Over the last 15 years, Leeroy Jenkins has been referenced by Blizzard Entertainment multiple times. Most notably, there is an achievement based on the meme, a Hearthstone card, and even an NPC in World of Warcraft named after Leeroy Jenkins.
Leeroy Jenkins is 15 years old today. I got to draw the character for Blizzard’s WoW TCG and eventually that art ended up in Hearthstone. Very proud of my little part in such a historic gaming moment! pic.twitter.com/iWBD0BkIIc— Gabe (@cwgabriel) May 11, 2020
Fandom can often have a strange impact on popular culture, and that has never been truer than it is in the internet era. The Leeroy Jenkins video is not the only time that a company has leaned into an internet meme, but it's certainly one of the earliest examples. When Schultz, Vinson, and the rest of their friends created the video, they had no idea it would catch on in the way that it did. Others have tried to replicate the success of Leeroy Jones, but the video certainly stands as a unique moment in popular culture.
Are you familiar with the Leeroy Jenkins video? Have you enjoyed Blizzard's references to the meme in the game? Let us know in the comments or share your thoughts directly on Twitter at @Marcdachamp to talk all things gaming!