My Mom, the Pandaren Mage
I remember the day that Mists of Pandaria was announced at Blizzcon. I wasn’t happy, I was extremely worried about what it would mean for my guild, and I wasn’t sure it was an expansion that would have something for me.
That evening, I happened to be driving through the city where my mom works so I stopped by to say hello. My mom understands a bit about World of Warcraft, probably more than most adult players’ parents do. I’m lucky that she’s always been supportive of my interest in the game and shows genuine interest in learning more about it. During Wrath when I was primarily raiding as my Death Knight, she used to send me text messages that said “tank good!” if she knew I’d be raiding that night.
So when I dropped by her office on that October day last year, we eventually came around to the topic of the new expansion announcement. My mom was mildly interested – she’s a big Asian culture and history buff, so the themes of Pandaria appealed to her. Then, I showed her the trailer.
When I watched the trailer, I was disappointed.
When my mom watched the trailer, she gasped out loud.
She loved the music. She loved the scenery. She couldn’t care less about panda-people, but she loved everything they were wearing. And as I watched her get excited about this thing – this thing that wasn’t even really a part of her life, and especially not to the degree that it’s a part of mine – I couldn’t help it. I got excited, too.
A few weeks ago, Mists of Pandaria came up again. On the day after the cinematic was released, I drove up to my mom’s house to visit. While I was there, I showed her the Mists cinematic, expecting her not to care for it – she’s never particularly enjoyed the warfare aspect of World of Warcraft, so I figured she wouldn’t like the showcase of some burly orc and human tossing each other around. I was wrong.
When the trailer was over, she said the thing that so many of us want to hear our friends or family members say: “I think I’d like to try WoW.”
To give the briefest possible summary of my mom’s gaming history – she likes flash games and those Nancy Drew mystery things, most of anything my sister and I played on our various Nintendo systems gave her motion sickness, and the closest she’s ever been to an MMO was watching over my sister’s shoulder as she threw pies at Cogs in Toontown. Fortunately, my gaming history wasn’t really all that different (aside from the motion sickness) before I tried WoW, so I had a feeling I might just be able to help her get started.
While we were waiting for her game client to download, I let her get used to moving around with a combination of keystrokes and mouse movement by playing a padaren mage I’d created on the beta server. She had some difficulty getting the hang of it (and I stupidly started her out near water, so we had to go through the process of learning how to move the camera while swimming before she even got comfortable moving the camera while walking), but she was really enjoying getting to move around the Wandering Isle starting area amidst all the gorgeous scenery.
Now that she has the game installed on her own computer, she’s spent the last week or so leveling a night elf mage – I suggested night elves would probably be the race whose starting area she would enjoy most until she can create the pandaren she really wants. Honestly, I worried a lot about her trying a mage first since I attempted one relatively early on in my WoW experience and had difficulty with it, but she’s been enjoying herself so far.
The availability of cross realm grouping could not have arrived at a more perfect time for us. I’ve created a lowbie hunter to help her when she needs it, but this wouldn’t have been possible prior to the recent patch. I’m out of character slots on my home server, so being able to create an alt elsewhere but still invite my mom to a party to quest is an awesome option to have.
There have been some road bumps along the way. My mom liked the idea of having a pet (she was jealous at how quickly my hunter was killing things), so she opted to spec Frost. Unfortunately, since she’s still not very proficient at moving the camera or zooming out, her Water Elemental often “gets in her way” to the extent that she can’t see anything but the elemental on her screen. This is usually only an issue in close quarters like caves and the barrow dens on Teldrassil. She also still gets lost pretty easily, but I think that’s to be expected this early on. (I love the new Darkshore, but having severely broken terrain like that in a zone that’s likely to see a lot of new players probably wasn’t the best plan.)
Her questing experience has been a constant reminder of how far we’ve come in the time I’ve been playing. When she calls me because she can’t figure out where she needs to go for a quest, I remind her to open up her map and we talk through it together. Remember the days when we had to download the add-on QuestHelper to do that for us? When she hit level 15 and had to choose her first talent, I was thrilled that I didn’t need a PhD in Mageing to help her pick one that sounded helpful. I could not be happier that, when she needs to use an item for a quest, it either shows up on her quest log on the right side of her screen, or it has a bright yellow border around it when she looks for it in her bags. Is it still confusing for her a lot of the time? Of course. But I’m watching her catch on to things that took me much longer, because the information she needs is actually a part of the game itself and does not require her to go searching the internet for an outside source.
Her experience is giving me a new appreciation of the quality of life improvements that have been made over the last 5 years, but it’s doing something else as well.
When I think about Warcraft, there’s a lot of baggage that comes with it. I think about how I can become a better raider, and how I can help my guild progress. I think about all the amazing people I’ve met through this game, and many more who have left to do other things. I think about the way things used to be, about spells and places I miss, and others that I was happy to say goodbye to. I think about numbers and spreadsheets and alts and professions and add-ons and blog posts.
When my mom thinks about Warcraft, this is what she thinks:
As someone who doesn’t have 5 years worth of baggage to carry around, as someone who is still filled with a sense of wonder by everything she sees and does, and as someone who experiences every moment as something new and exciting, my mom is giving me the opportunity to look at WoW in a new way. Well, not exactly a new way – I’ve been here before.
Do you remember when everything was new, huge, beautiful, and wonderful in WoW? Can you still see the game that way, despite everything that has changed about you and it along the way? I know that I’m trying my hardest to do so, especially when we’re on the verge of an expansion that promises to really bring the beauty back to the game with environments like we’ve never seen before.
I joined WoW during the Burning Crusade, but didn’t get my footing soon enough to really be able to participate with other level 70s. My wonder in BC was at first experiencing a game as big as WoW and slowly learning about lore, how to play, and what there was to do.
In Wrath, my wonder was at finally being able to play the endgame – at seeing the beautiful instances and the terrifying raid bosses. I tried PvP, alting, and professions for the first time. I learned the intricacies of the game and was amazed by how much there was to learn, and how much of it I was learning.
I think of Cataclysm as being the expansion that didn’t inspire a lot of wonder for me, though I truly expected it would. The entire world was reinvented, and we were given some incredible new zones and raids. I don’t care what anyone else says about them – I will always remember the awe I felt the first time I saw Vashj’ir and Throne of the Four Winds. Always.
Mists of Pandaria has all the potential in the world to be inspiring and amazing. It has a breathtaking setting with a mysterious plotline, and Blizzard’s designers have made it easier for us to see through all the unnecessary clutter that used to add busy work without adding substance.
Get excited! We have less than 3 weeks until release. Now’s the time to remember what made you fall in love with WoW in the first place … and to see what new discoveries await us in Pandaria. But while you’re rushing through your way to 90, or worrying about how quickly you can gear up for heroics, just remember to take a moment to look around at your surroundings and be amazed by how far we’ve come.