Choose My Adventure: What Wizard101 taught me about ‘kiddie’ MMOs

    
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My brief time in Wizard101 has pointed out to me a rather deep-seated assumption I had held about the game. Granted, I had said before that the game obviously was doing something right considering it has what looks to be an active and dedicated playerbase, but seeing something advertised and talked about as something “for kids” watered down what this game actually is as well as the folks who play it.

First off, while my time with the community in this game has been pretty bare-bones, it still has plenty of folks who seem to follow the molds of other MMO fans I’ve run in to in other games. For instance, the powergamers – those folks who have powered themselves up to impressive heights and one-shot the bosses I would have otherwise had problems with.

My time in the main hub of the game also was full of the ambient multiplayer that I love to experience. A whole lot of chatter, several people darting about, and even more people just kind of walking around in circles in one spot, presumably to avoid some auto logout feature. It’s a pretty well-populated game, as near as I can tell, with folks who seem more than eager to join up for boss fights to tear foes apart.

And that sort of links in to the depth of systems at play in Wizard101. Sure, there are likely a number of adult players that are involved in this game, but the combat system in this game really does toe this line of accessibility and depth incredibly well, which is very likely extremely engaging to younger players. And I’m certainly no stranger to being schooled by the young’uns; my time in every battle royale game is proof positive of that.

I guess I just sort of linked something being “for kids” with Sesame Street or some other developing minds-style children’s programming, ignoring the fact that younger players can be extremely intelligent and can thrive when faced with mental challenges, too. The way building a deck, pairing the spells from different schools, and getting the right equipment plays out is like any other “mature” MMORPG out there, but smoothed out enough to be more friendly to children. Once again, it’s a tightrope walk that Wizard101 walks brilliantly.

Sure, it has some of its problems in my experience. The game’s story is probably not really interesting even by younger folks’ standards, and I’m still a bit raw about how this game absolutely went for my wallet, but Wizard101 is, overall, not a game that should just be shrugged off. Just because it has bright colors and friendly environments and whimsical presentation doesn’t mean it’s somehow less of a game. And just because kids play it doesn’t make it a terrible game. Frankly, I’m pretty sure the kids playing this game are leagues smarter than me for as low of a bar that might be to clear, and even if you’re an adult, there’s plenty of things to get involved with.

And ultimately, Wizard101 is just fun. It’s hard not to smile at monster summons like ninja pigs or leprechauns or bedighted unicorns. Everything about this game just has a sort of charm and sense of playfulness to it. That’s something that should be enjoyed no matter how old you are.

That all said, I’m not sure I’m going to hop into this one again, or even keep it on my hard drive. The icon is still there for now if I feel like dipping in once in a while, but I’m also not sure there’s been enough to really hook me in past the need to do so for a column. But I never really know for sure, and if nothing else, spending time in the Spiral has absolutely helped me shake off a stigma about something being “for kids.” Excluding people from MMORPG and multiplayer gaming is garbage, and children should be allowed to enjoy our genre, too.

With that all said, it’s time for us to move forward to the possibly doomed RIFT. I’m not entirely surprised this one made it to the top of last week’s polls since it’s on a lot of people’s minds. Admittedly, it’s been some time since I’ve hopped in myself – since the game first launched, to be exact – so it will be interesting to find out what’s different, what’s familiar, and to very possibly say goodbye to this game.

Of course, there are questions that need to be answered before we kick off our farewell tour, and that’s about character creation. Let’s start off with faction:

Which faction should I choose in RIFT?

  • The Guardians. Not for their valor, but for their might! (17%, 10 Votes)
  • The Defiant. Fight against the dark future! (83%, 48 Votes)

Total Voters: 58

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Next, of course, is the Calling to select. I’ll play around with the Soul options in each Calling initially (and will likely open a poll to select further choices as play rolls forward), as well as make use of the Soul Calculator that’s out there in order to plot course, but that doesn’t happen without starting here.

Which Calling should I follow?

  • Primalist. Do the wild magic stuff! (28%, 17 Votes)
  • Warrior. The tried and true. (10%, 6 Votes)
  • Mage. Full DPS mode. (18%, 11 Votes)
  • Cleric. Bonk 'em with maces! (28%, 17 Votes)
  • Rogue. Walk on the dual wield side. (15%, 9 Votes)

Total Voters: 60

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As ever, polls wrap up at 1:00 p.m. EDT on Friday, March 26th. Until then, let this week’s post be a reminder that we can’t judge books by their covers, and that MMO gamers of all ages deserve to be in our genre.

Welcome to Choose My Adventure, the column in which you join Chris each week as he journeys through mystical lands on fantastic adventures – and you get to decide his fate. Which is good because he can often be a pretty indecisive person unless he’s ordering a burger.
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Neurotic

I voted Cleric, because RIFT’s clerics are absolutely gnarly. In my opinion, they’re the best implementation of the OG AD&D/Warhammer Fantasy idea of clerics as no-nonsense combatants who deal out the bonks as much as the heals.

EmberStar
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EmberStar

Things get a lot more complex once you get to Celestia. The game starts adding Cheating Bosses (their literal name) which are bosses that are designed to do things players simply cannot. They can play cards outside their turn, including some that heal them or remove player pips. I believe one can only be attacked by a single player at a time – everyone else has a debuff that triggers an immediate retaliation strike against *all* players.

The Cheating Bosses are the point where I kind of stopped playing. I prefer to do things solo. Even if I didn’t, at the time Celestia was well behind the “leading edge” of new content and it was very difficult to find anyone willing to try any specific boss – and even harder to find someone who had any idea how to deal with the unique rules of that specific boss. Especially since, as mentioned, many of them were designed to punish “just flail away and throw spells at them” very severely.

And to be honest I was also a bit upset and annoyed that by that time the devs had also clearly abandoned any further development on Pirate101, which I much preferred. So, I did the only thing I could and unsubscribed to both. (And yes, made sure to mention why in the comment field.)

It’s an interesting game, and definitely not just “Baby Shark” simple. I’d even still recommend it to someone, if anyone asked.

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styopa

In my decade long span of writing strategy-game reviews, there was no more bitter, acrimonious, venomous response than one I got early on when I wrote a review for Ants. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_Ants)

My review was quite favorable, but apparently I crossed some line when I dared to suggest something like “…the approach and play could be very entertaining and somewhat educational for children.”

Holy nuclear flames, Batman. I wasn’t saying it was a children’s game, but that the mechanisms were straightforward enough that kids could play it and have a good time.

I received several emails from various individuals deeply insulted – like I’d attacked their mother – that I would malign their game and them as players by saying it was for kids.
My editor even mentioned that one of them had asked for my ADDRESS.

Never saw that one coming.

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mike foster

i’ve dipped into the 101 games and have always been impressed with them; i think maybe they get short shrift for being “kid games” but they’re clearly lovingly made and honestly p fun (i like pirate101 the most)

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Adam Russell

I keep hearing about this game but Im put off by a game that is “for kids” because I dont want the risk that something I say to someone’s child might be taken the wrong way.

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mike foster

if i remember right thse games use pre-made chat bubbles or a very restrictive dictionary for 90% of comms so should be pretty avoidable

EmberStar
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EmberStar

Subscribers can use text chat, but there’s a huge list of blocked words. If I remember correctly, Free players can choose from preset sentences, and MIGHT be able to text chat with True Friends. Which is a system that grants extra in-game permissions to a friend you can contact outside the game. You can request a “True Friends” code, but have to share it via email. The game *specifically* blocks any attempt to share email addresses, and since Free Players can’t use text there’s no way to work around it to give an address to a stranger.

The main issue I had is that I did get some stuff from the cash shop. Most of the things you can buy are designed to stand out, and it’s a thing that happens that sometimes people will beg for gifts. I’ve also been *reported* several times, I assume because I had a recognizable cash shop item equipped.

I didn’t worry much about those – None of them happened when I’d said anything in chat, and the message if you do report someone states that “All reports will be checked by a moderator. False reporting is a serious offense, and will result in action being taken against your account.” No idea how seriously they enforce that, but I was never concerned I’d get banned because someone was jealous of my Bone Dragon mount. :/