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Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Learnin To Fly

Azeroth...from the windswept planes in the barrens of Kalimdor to the ghoulish horrors of the plaugelands of the Eastern Kingdoms, heroes of all types traverse and explore these lands. They battle for wealth, glory, and honor. Brilliant spells streak through the air, deadly steel flashes from dark shadows, and in the middle of it all is my mother -- one of the newest additions to the World Of Warcraft family.

[ If you don't know what World of Warcraft is you should skim through this to get some quick context. ]

My mom has never really played a video game beyond Pac-Man, so for someone to jump in to a complex, three-dimensional, virtual world like this is going to involve a very steep learning curve.

I think what initially drew my mom in, was the simple act of character creation. She had a lot of fun going through the small amount of options that allow a player to customize the look of her character. Initially my mom was disappointed to learn that if she wanted to play along side me, she would be unable to play some of the "prettier" alliance characters like Elves and Humans. Her initial reaction to the motley crue of Horde races (Trolls, Orcs, Undead, and the bull-like Taurens) was something just short of disgust. But as she got into it she was saying things like, "Ooo...I kinda like THESE tusks" or "I can't tell if should have green skin or blue skin".

Let's get one thing clear. My mom is a terrible WoW player at the moment. She needs to learn a lot of basic navigational-type skills that most people take for granted, even my contemporaries who don't consider themselves "gamers".

My mom really gets into it though. It's obvious because she reads EVERYTHING. Let me explain a lil. World of Warcraft is filled with computer controlled characters (also called NPC's) who stand around and give the players little tasks to fulfill. Completing the task will give the player various rewards and it's these tasks (or quests) that generally drive the game.

Many of the NPCs provide the player with multiple quests and quests that have multiple parts. This means that as a player you might interact with one particular quest-giver 4 or 5 times. Each time you talk to that quest giver (either to finish up a successful task or to embark on the next one) that NPC will greet you with the same lil blurb of text..something like: "The sun-baked earth and scorching sun of the Barrens is like a blazing forge from which great warriors are born" or something like that (but frequently much longer).

The NPC will say this every time you click on him...and my mom will read it (out loud) every single time. This is part of the reason why most people can accomplish 10 times as much as she can in the same amount of time.

There is an in game mail system and I received this letter from her yesterday (My charcter's name in this case is "Blackleaf", hers is "Greenstone"):

Greetings to Blackleaf!

I am Having some difficulty with those bastard
prarie wolves and the huamnoids dwarves
in he bramble------ravine.

I cannot win a fight with any of them and I am continually savaged.
if you could help me with armour or spells I would appreciate it since it appears I
cannout last much longer. Greenstone has advanced to level 4 on her own but
needs much training.

This could be my last communication. I am in bloodoof village at the inn.
thanks you for your help

There are a number of things that get my mom into trouble out there. First and foremost is that she has yet to really understand her place in the world. In otherwords: It's a world FULL of dangerous critters and my mom is a very myopic. She tends to focus in on one baddie that she needs to kill and run towards it without realizing that there are three or four more baddies to either side of her and often much closer.

So she ends up charging haphazardly into large groups of dangerous animals or villains, thinking that she's engaging one, when she's really going up against like 7 of them.

This goes along with just poor navigation skills in general. Most of our adventures together begin with me saying, "okay lets get going", and her shooting off into some totally random direction for about 3 seconds. At some point she realizes I'm no longer close by, and she executes a looooong slow circle tryin to find me.

(keep in mind that as a player you can simply and quickly rotate the camera view around to look for stuff...It's half the work and takes a fraction of the time than my moms method).

Now...It's important at this point for me to explain that I'm not at all complaining about this. I find it all very amusing and (in a way) endearing. I have big smile on my face during all these gaming sessions and frequently find myself laughing out loud at the perspective my mom has on all this stuff.

Another example of this came recently when I was trying to instruct my mom (who's character is NOT a cook...) on how to interact the computer controlled vendors:

ME: Okay mom, you need to apple-click on that vendor in front of me...no...no...stop moving...turn around. yea that guy. Apple-click on him and open your backpack.

(Long pause...probably while my mom is reading something)

MOM: Okay...

ME: Now apple-click on all the items you don't need to sell them.

(Even longer pause)

ME: Howsit goin over there? Did you sell some stuff?

(brief pause)

MOM: I Bought some spices!

For some reason this had me in stiches.

So I really do enjoy trying to help my mom struggle through this whole thing. Also, I don't often connect with my mom like used to, so it's really cool that she's taken up one of MY hobbies in an effort to find something we can enjoy together. That's really the best thing about it, and worth the frustration of tryin to teach her character how to swim underwater....she still hadn't figured it out actually. :)


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