The Legend of Leeroy Jenkins

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"Like all things," he says. But the legend isn't fading so much as morphing. "There are people who don't believe I exist, despite the fact that someone had to make the video. Now, these are of course kids, but that is the majority of those who pay attention to the video."

"So in other words, you're like Santa Claus," I venture. "All the kids love you, older folks are sick of the hype and some just think you're made up."

Leeroy considers this as he prepares the spell that will whisk him out of Stormwind. Before he disappears in an explosion of green electricity, he leaves me with these parting words: "Santa brings presents and happiness, while I bring death and mild irritation."

Ben stares intently at his computer screen, his hands poised over his keyboard and mouse. His beard is downright bushy; he's really starting to look like Leeroy. One of these days he'll get around to shaving; it's just been a busy month. First the dash to get to Level 70, then his guild raided a few big dungeons, and now Blizzard has launched a three-month battle tournament to determine the best players in the world. The contest began today, and already Ben and his teammates are jockeying for a top slot. "They are pretty crafty in the ways they make you keep playing," he says. "They just keep adding stuff to the game."

He's been so busy that he hasn't really pursued any voiceover work.

"I don't really know what's stopping him," says his brother Josh, who's in PALS FOR LIFE. "Maybe it's because he's always been very careful and calculating. He always wants to do what he thinks is right. He's not the type of person to jump headlong into something."

He's not the type of person to pull a Leeroy.

"Maybe he doesn't think he's good enough," says Carlos. "It took him almost a year to find a job. His job isn't really in his chosen field. I guess Ben feels kind of like he's behind or something, and that if he goes out there and does something, then something bad will happen." It's not as easy to catch up in real life as it is in World of Warcraft; there's no clear-cut route to Level 70.

Yes, Ben says, "I do second-guess whether I could have done things different about the Leeroy." And yes, he reluctantly admits, "There were times that I have probably played way more video games than I should have." But he's still young and enjoys playing World of Warcraft, so big deal. He could rush headfirst and alone into a voiceover career, but he'd have to leave all his online pals -- and Leeroy -- behind. "Pursuing voiceover acting would definitely take full-time commitment," Ben explains. "I could probably stop playing video games whatsoever and do it. But then I would essentially have to release Leeroy as I know him and stop hanging out with my friends every night. That's kind of a depressing thought."

And it's one he has no intention of pursuing right now: Ben needs Leeroy for the arena tournament. But before the next online clash can begin, there's a whisper in his chat window.

"How's life treating you?" asks Infernaldark.

"Same shit different day," responds Ben, polite as ever.

"The rumor is you sold your account," says Infernaldark. "Are you really Leeroy or did he sell his account to you?"

"I'm the one," types Ben. "There are lots of rumors about me."

"Only one really though," says Infernaldark. He's referring to the rumor that "A Rough Go" was staged, and he's hoping that Ben will clear up the confusion. Infernaldark may have read through Wikipedia's "Leeroy Jenkins" page, which lists the many obvious ways the video is fake. Or he may have come across the 2005 PC Gamer UK article in which some PALS FOR LIFE members seemed to suggest that they made up the scenario. But he can't be certain whether Leeroy is real or not until the man behind the legend gives him an answer.

Everything that's happened because of Leeroy -- the fame, the love and hate from the masses, the possibility (or lack thereof) of a financial windfall -- has been thrust upon Ben and remains frustratingly out of his control. The only part of his peculiar journey through stardom that he can influence, the only part that is completely his, is the mystery behind Leeroy Jenkins. And he's not about to let that go.

Ben's eyes glimmer mischievously, and a wide grin spreads across his bearded face as he repeats his patented response: "I like people to decide for themselves. It is more fun that way."

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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