Longform

The Legend of Leeroy Jenkins

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Then GGL, an online game publication, tapped Ben to produce content -- but that didn't last. "I guess I'm not that good at pumping things out creatively," he shrugs. The magazine did fly him to BlizzCon, a Blizzard convention, where he met the people behind World of Warcraft. He thought they might give him some work, but nothing came of the connection. "The feeling I got from them was like, hey, thanks for the free publicity," he says. Finally, this past summer, Legendary Pictures, a film studio working on a World of Warcraft movie, flew Ben out to Hollywood to meet the staff. Ben is still hoping for a walk-on cameo, but lately Legendary hasn't been returning his e-mails.

"One of the things I thought was hardest for Ben was PALS FOR LIFE weren't ready for the phenomenon they created," says Marcus Graham, head broadcaster for GGL. "As a result, a lot of other people took advantage of the Leeroy Jenkins name before they could."

"Leeroy Jenkins definitely has helped the community grow in World of Warcraft and undoubtedly has helped us get more subscriptions," says Shane Dabiri, the game's lead producer. Some World of Warcraft machinima filmmakers have even landed jobs at the company. Could Ben become one of them? "Who knows?" Dabiri responds. "Yeah, there's always a possibility."

Just in case opportunity knocks, Ben has created a business -- Leeroy Jenkins Entertainment -- and copyrighted sound clips and the script of "A Rough Go." But so far, no one is knocking. "His is almost a joke fame, where everyone is laughing at him," says Carlos Villar, Ben's friend and PALS FOR LIFE teammate. "If Homer Simpson was real, people would think he's funny because he messes everything up, but no one would offer him a job. It's all the annoyance of being famous without the benefits."

"That's the thing about Leeroy. The myth is a lot more fun than the actuality of it," says Ben. He can't make "A Rough Go II," he explains, because "There's no way I can top this -- anything I do will be totally ripped on."

But that's no big deal, he insists. "I never really wanted to be famous," Ben says. "I don't think I'm going to wake up when I'm forty and say, 'God, why didn't I do something?'"




It's customary to start a celebrity interview by profusely thanking your subject for deigning to speak with you, as if his time is inherently more valuable than yours. I can't help but do this when Leeroy Jenkins agrees to meet me in the game.

"NP," says Leeroy, facing me in Stormwind's central square. No problem.



The white-bearded, dark-skinned paladin casually shifts the weight of his hefty armor from one foot to the next. There's no slobbering, no leg-humping of passersby. Unlike some World of Warcraft dorks, Ben doesn't roleplay as Leeroy the screwball buffoon when he's playing; he acts like himself. "Leeroy doesn't exist," he says. "I am who I am."

Leeroy gives me some directions: "Right click on my character picture and select 'Follow.'" I do and he takes off, jogging down Stormwind's back alleys and across canal bridges -- my character automatically tagging along like an obedient dog. He takes me into Stormwind's cathedral, where solemn music echoes through the soaring nave.

"Are we getting married?" I ask nervously. Maybe Leeroy was lying when he said he doesn't like to roleplay.

"No," he laughs. "We were starting to draw a crowd in the square." In fact, I had noticed the folks gathering around us, pointing in awe -- or possibly anger -- at the superstar.



Leeroy doesn't know why so many people hate him. "People can be mean over the Internet with no repercussions," he says with a digital shrug. "I wouldn't trade the good stuff for these minor annoyances. The trips, the people I have met, that cancels out the bad stuff. The only bad thing is that random people talk to me. And most of the people who talk to me aren't the ones who are angry."

I fire off a question. "Do you think the legend of Leeroy Jenkins is starting to fade away?"

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Joel Warner is a former staff writer for Westword and International Business Times. He's also written for WIRED, Men's Journal, Men's Health, Bloomberg Businessweek, Popular Science, Slate, Grantland and many other publications. He's co-author of the 2014 book The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny, published by Simon & Schuster.
Contact: Joel Warner