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My Mom, the Pandaren Mage

September 7, 2012
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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.

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20 Comments leave one →
  1. September 7, 2012 4:35 am

    This is a really refreshing look at how Mists come across to not only a person new to WoW, but someone new to “gaming” in general! That’s really cool that she was so intrigued and interested, I hope she enjoys the game and that you two can continue to play together! It sounds like all the new improvements, simpler talent trees, cross-realm grouping…it’s all perfect for this exact situation, which is pretty great.

    You’ll have to keep us updated on her progress – parent play stories are always the best. 😀

    • September 7, 2012 5:01 am

      I hope she sticks with it, too. She’s gotten frustrated a few times to the point where she really needs to just finish a quest and log off (mostly thanks to her elemental, which I’ve offered to help her get rid of by respecing but she says she wants to keep him for some reason). I know she will at least play until Mists releases, because she is really excited to get to go through the Wandering Isle.

  2. September 7, 2012 4:41 am

    Even though I’ve been playing the beta I’m still going to take my time levelling and enjoying everything when it all goes live. There’s so many things to see and do it’s hard not to be excited for it. Even though I have a road map in my head of where a lot of things are, the storylines will all be new so it will be great.

    Hope your mum likes the game 🙂

    • September 7, 2012 5:02 am

      Thanks! She seems to so far, and she’s finally gotten the hang of “killing things,” which she originally said she really didn’t want to have to do. Now if I log on and wait too long to head off to a quest area (usually because I’m trying to let *her* lead the way), she says “hurry up, let’s go kill things.”

  3. September 7, 2012 4:45 am

    I have to say this, because… well, its true. Even with seven years of baggage, that trailer has reduced me to tears on more than one occasion. Not the warring races, but the reveal of the Jade Forest and that moment of *GASP* this place is so beautiful…

    After seven years I still love this game, the people who play it but, more than anything else, the knowledge that in a few weeks I have a whole new world to explore. Just like Outland, and Northrend, I will go there and look at things and then I will play in this place that I love so much.

    It is a reminder not simply of why we fight, but why we play 😀

    • September 7, 2012 5:06 am

      The reveal moment in the cinematic is really powerful. 🙂 It gave me goosebumps when I first saw the mists lift to reveal Pandaria.

  4. September 7, 2012 4:49 am

    I love your mom -“tank good” ;p

    • September 7, 2012 4:57 am

      Yeah. I got “heal good” for a while once I switched mains, but I think she found “tank good” funnier overall, so I don’t see as many texts on this subject now.

  5. September 7, 2012 8:35 am

    Really really great post! You’re quite lucky to have a mom that understands what you’re doing and not brushing it off as simple silliness.
    I’ve often wondered what new players think, experience and go through when they start playing the game so far in it’s existence, and that insight from her is very useful. (I haven’t met or convinced anyone to play the game.) Getting that kind of feedback is very interesting.
    Think I might show the Mists trailers to a few people now and see what they think.

    • September 7, 2012 4:17 pm

      Good luck! I hope you’re able to find a few friends to recruit as well. 🙂

  6. September 7, 2012 10:22 am

    I find that the wonder can still be there, we just have to get out into the world. I’ve played since Dec 2004, but I remember on the first night of Wrath, riding the boat into the Howling Fjord and just being in awe of the zone. I think that the decision to ground us all until level 90 while frustrating after three years of being airborne is the perfect decision. How much more immersive would the Twilight Highlands or Deepholm have been if we hadn’t been able to safely hover over danger?

    • September 7, 2012 4:18 pm

      I totally agree. While being able to fly in all the new Cata zones was super convenient for leveling, I still kind of feel like I never really got to know them because of that – certainly not the same way I know the BC or Wrath zones.

  7. September 7, 2012 1:31 pm

    Good story. I’m probably around the same age as your mom. What hooked me in (late wrath baby) was hearing about this on line game where you could play as an ‘herbalist’. I was intrigued, tried it and am still playing. Still love exploring which is why I’m such a slow leveler

    I have most of the in-game cat companions. They don’t fight but don’t get in the way of my priest or mage. Maybe your mother should try companion pets.

    • September 7, 2012 4:23 pm

      My mom was really excited about getting to be an alchemist, and she wanted to make herbalism her second profession even before I explained to her how those two functioned together. So that worked out really well. 🙂

      Yes, she loves companion pets! I gave her a few cats to get started and she got a core hound pup when her authenticator came in (but she doesn’t really like that one). I showed her my Alliance balloon and she thought that was pretty neat, so I’ll have to take her to Stormwind sometime soon so she can get her own.

  8. September 8, 2012 1:11 pm

    Aww Tzufit! You’re mom is awesome 🙂 I’ve tried explaining Warcraft and my blog to mine sometimes – and she’s adorable but she doesn’t get most of it lol. She visits my blog from time to time and always says she loves it but has no clue what I’m talking about. I’m going to try showing her the MoP trailer though and see if she’ll be interested.

    With the exception of Vash’jir, Catacysm’s zones didn’t really blow me away. My first memory of wonder with WoW was actually when I reached Darnassus on my druid….and I was so blown away its beauty and breadth that I thought I must’ve reached the end of the game! 🙂

  9. September 9, 2012 8:59 am

    Great post! I’ve been playing since Dec ’06 and still find my jaw dropping sometimes over the beauty and detail of things I come across. The game itself still blows me away…some of the players, however, I’d like to blow away. I’ve met many wonderful people in game, but the sheer number of griefers, naggers, ninjas & tools have left a nasty taste in my mouth. I long for the TBC community to return.

    I’ve tried to get my dad to play a few times over the years. He used to love to play Legend of Zelda and I felt he would enjoy WoW as well. No luck yet. Not sure if I could ever get my mom to play. She really isn’t into games. But, she’s finally retired (again…third time…lol) for good. Maybe I need to go stay with her on my days off and show her the game.

    Oh, and about your mom’s elemental getting in the way, see if you can’t get her used to having the elemental attack first. That way it can get a few steps ahead of her and out of her LoS. Find a handy keybind, for “pet attack”, for her to press before she gets in range of target (I use “y” for all my pets).

  10. September 9, 2012 4:13 pm

    Awwwww! I read this post a day or two ago and now I came back to reread it, because it’s so sweet!!

    I do sort of envy people that ‘new game’ experience. One of my favorite memories was taking the boat from TBC to Wrath, and actually becoming wholly immersed in the storylines in Northrend…

  11. Eva Marie permalink
    September 10, 2012 4:58 pm

    That is awesome! I still tend to look at WoW that way, nearly two years later. I think I must annoy people sometimes by running around instances taking screenshots and admiring the scenery, even though I will have been there multiple times. It’s a nice way to play, though 🙂

  12. September 17, 2012 3:24 pm

    Ahh, thank you for writing this! To be reminded of how those first moments in WoW felt–to feel it again for a moment without the baggage, as you say–it’s beautiful. I needed that!

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