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A Kid’s Game? Not Quite...

Suzie Ford Posted:
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Last week, MMORPG.com announced its annual Players’ Choice Awards. Note the bold-faced words. The winners in each of the categories were not chosen by the MMORPG.com staff but by you, the players. We simply hosted the poll.

Now, before anyone gets their knickers in a knot wondering if I’m going to harangue on the sore losers (and you must admit there were some) in the announcement thread for whining about Pirate101 winning the Game of the Year, rest easy. I’m not going to do that. There has been plenty said on the subject in that particular thread and in Victor’s excellent take on the reaction. So, realistically and proverbially, “Nuff said.”

What I do want to talk about is a more general attitude of many gamers to dismiss games like those made by KingsIsle as “simplistic” and as “just kids’ games” and other such generalized statements. You see, it’s not just Pirate101 that is accused of being such but so is its stable mate, Wizard101. In fact, being the older of the siblings, W101 has had these charges leveled at it for four years now.

Many players seem eager and unwilling to even look at a game if it is tagged as family- or child-friendly. In fact, I will go one step further and say that any game sporting either of those tags is summarily dismissed by a lot of folks as even being worthy of inclusion on a site like ours.

Say what?

There’s a part of me that gets it. Until my daughter came of an age where MMOs were of interest to her, I admit that I did not know much about kid-friendly games and had overlooked most of them. After looking around and asking other game industry parents what would be a good starter title, we found Wizard101. Once we started our journey in the Spiral together, I quickly learned that Wizard101, while indeed aimed at a ‘tween’ demographic, was not just a kids’ game. There are subtle and important gameplay elements that mature, adult gamers can appreciate.

A lot of people have thought to try W101 or P101 and found that it’s easy to look at the graphics style and then move on. There’s no question that both are cartoonish and that the player characters are teenaged kids. Not appreciating the look of the game or the age of the player characters is a legitimate excuse to give a game a pass. No argument from me on that score.

What I don’t understand are those who bash a game simply because it’s geared to a younger audience and/or to families. Where’s it say in the rulebook that all MMOs have to have blood and guts spewing everywhere to be a fun and fulfilling experience? W101 contains all of the components of any MMO on our list:

  • PvP
  • Housing
  • Crafting
  • Questing
  • Dungeons
  • Mounts
  • Etc., etc., etc.

See the point? There’s nothing missing from Wizard101 that is found in any other game except the level of gore. Have we become so desensitized to blood and guts that the only games that register on our mental radar are those with gratuitous violence? I certainly hope not. Adults aren’t the only gamers out there.

I understand not liking a game because of its art style or for not liking the way that combat rolls out or any other reasons related to features and systems in the game. What I do not understand is somehow insinuating that a game is crap just because of its target demographic.

Wizard101 is a terrific and deeply satisfying game that happens to come with the ability to play it with kids or younger adults without having to be embarrassed or having to get out the blindfold for those more graphic moments. I, for one, find that quite refreshing.  What about you?

2012 in Review

The latest producer’s letter was recently published on the Wizard101 site. These often are overlooked as they tend to be buried in the content rather than prominently displayed on the front page. I wish that wasn’t so since the information that Leah "Professor Falmea" Ruben disseminates is worthy of notice.

This last letter was a real eye-opener for me. Ruben lists out all of the additions to Wizard101 over the past year and it’s an impressive list indeed. In case you missed it, here it is (sung to the tune of “The 12 Days of Christmas” by the way!):

To Review 2012…

On the first 2012 update of Wizard, the team released to thee:

  • The Tag housing game
  • And a whole lot of tidying up

On the second 2012 update of Wizard, the team released to thee:

  • Avalon a-questing
  • New utility spells for casting
  • Quests for new class pets
  • Wizards can now reach 80!
  • Quicksell inventory management
  • Second chance chests for lootin’
  • Wands on your walls
  • Gardening levels up
  • Scavenger Hunt Housing game
  •  And a whole lot of tidying up

On the third 2012 update of Wizard, the team released to thee:

  • Quest helper changes
  • Hey – look there’s amber!
  • And a whole lot of tidying up

On the fourth 2012 update of Wizard, the team released to thee:

  • Mega pets a-plenty
  • Two new pet games for playin’
  • New potions and elixirs
  • Finding friends with Friendfinder
  • And a whole lot of tidying up

On the fifth 2012 update of Wizard, the team released to thee:

  • Expanded decorating elixir
  • And a whole lot of tidying up

On the sixth 2012 update of Wizard, the team released to thee:

  • Walk the dinosaur in Azteca
  • Wizards can now reach 90!
  • Epic and astral spells for castin’
  • New levels for the crafters
  • A new combat tutorial
  • And a whole lot of tidying up.

Anyone who is not duly impressed by that laundry list of content additions, bug squashing and code fixing is simply a Scrooge in my book. I wish we could give out an award for the hardest working team in MMOs today. My vote would definitely go to KingsIsle!

That wraps up the latest Wizard101 column. Let us know what you think in the comments. Want to troll our staff? Check out @TheBillMurphy on Twitter. *grins and waves at Bill*


Suzie Ford

Suzie is the former Associate Editor and News Manager at MMORPG.com. Follow her on Twitter @MMORPGMom