I know I said I was going to write my next post about games that use “pushing” and “sacrifice” a big part of getting what you want, but not yet. Today I’m going to talk real quickly about Wizard101.
This game has been on my radar pretty much since it came out in 2008, and I’ve poked at it a very little bit before, but my experience with it can pretty much be boiled down to “I know some people who play it” and “I put it on my nephew’s laptop, and he really likes it.”
That was, until yesterday.
Yesterday morning, Kaylee and I were thumping around the house, looking out at the rainy day, and I figured “eh, why not?” So I downloaded the Wizard101 install and set it in motion.
(I guess I should stop here and explain that Wizard101 is a charming, free-to-play, multiplayer online game in which you play a young apprentice wizard in a magical school in Wizard City. Combat is turn-based, and you cast spells based on the cards in your deck, most of which summon magical critters to fight for you (there’s some generic wand-shooting cards too). On the whole, it’s sort of combination of early Harry Potter, Pokemon, Cardcaptor Sakura, and the old, much-loved PS2 game, Legend of Legaia.)
Kaylee’s been riding along with me while I play MMOs since… oh, I dunno. Infancy, let’s say. She listened to the sound of City of Heroes in the womb. She’s been providing input on the games for the last couple years, and on several occasions I’ve logged a higher-level guy into Lord of the Rings and let her ride my horse around the Shire where she can’t get into any real difficulty.
Anyway, we got set up and made up her girl. (An ingenious process where you answer some personal questions and the game suggests a good match for you from the various schools — it’s not wholly unlike those online quizzes where you can find out if you’re be Slytherin or Ravenclaw.) We ran around a bit, with her doing about half of the steering and most of the combat and stuff like that. We got up to level 2. There was some celebrating.
Then Kaylee and Kate took off for a couple hours and I was left looking at this shiny, colorful game. Sooo shiny.
So I made up an account for myself and, because I’m a big fucking pushover for my daughter, poked around in the “real money” online store and bought both of us a very small cushion of in-game currency to buy cool stuff.
By the time the girls got home, “Dylan Bearheart” was level 5 and had a pet magma spider named Mister Dexter, and Kaylee’s “Melissa Tale” was waiting for her with a collie-sized baby unicorn pet named Sassy… and a pony to ride around on.
Yeah, I bought my daughter a pony. Sue me.
After lunch and a nap, Kaylee pretty much hit the ground at full-speed “I want to play my girl again pleeeeease?” mode. I had anticipated this, and had installed the game on her clunky old laptop. She sat down with a grin and got going.
I watched for a bit. I gave her a few pointers. I reminded her to just go where the Big Yellow Quest Arrow was telling her to go. And then, because I couldn’t take it anymore, I logged in my guy, got us into the same ‘world instance’ of the game (Wu, in case anyone’s curious), made “friends” and teamed up with her to help her with her quests.
We fought ghosts and skeletons and dark fairies turned evil through the power of necromancy. We did some victory dances. I kept the bigger critters busy while she healed us both.
We teamed up on an MMO.
Those of you who don’t know me super well will probably be like “huh, that’s cool”. Those of you who know me a little better will guess how cool this was for me.
Those of you who’ve known me since I played on The Forest’s Edge MUD back in college… you know. Yeah.
We didn’t play for too long before “follow where the arrow tells you” got to be too much to deal with and we packed the laptop up for the day, but it was a good time. A really good time.
Before I’m accused of painting my daughter as some kind of genius, I want to make it clear that there’s a LOT of stuff she doesn’t get about the game. The storyline is, at best, sort of a rough sketch in her head. Obviously, she’s not reading the chat windows or the quest dialogue — she’s only reading the short words at this point, and all out of order. But the combat system she TOTALLY GETS. And she can steer around and follow the quest arrows.
And (I say with a big dopey grin) she loves playing alongside her daddy. It was a pretty good day.
 – It was released during the 2008 MMO deluge and remains one of few successes – and bright spots – in what turned out to be a year typified by releases that were disappointments or utter disasters.
 – Ingenious little direction-to-your-goal indicator that doesn’t just point as-the-crow-flies, but steers through through doors and around buildings and the like. Genius. All MMO quest guiders should work that well.)
 – Not just for that reason — there was a podcast interview and playtime down at the Y with Kate, and a trip to “Old McDonalds” and a photo shoot with Kate — but I’m being honest: the highlight of the day was my daughter shouting “Let’s get that dark fairy queen, Daddy! We can DO it!”