The Games That Define Us features carefully chosen music and remixes from the franchise of the game represented. Music is a key component of sharing the emotions one feels about a game, so we hope you will press the play button if you’re in a position to do so.
Just a brief summary if this is your first time here: This collaboration is a 34-day long adventure through video games. Each piece is its own unique audiovisual experience, complete with artwork, designs, music, and (most importantly) amazing works of prose by brilliant bloggers around the world. This adventure will take you through nostalgia, joy, ambition, self-discovery, regret, anxiety, frustration, mourning, and every human experience in between. Video games exist as fragments on the timeline of our lives, and each one of us have chosen the adventure we feel most defines us.
The days of November are dwindling, and we find ourselves with just a few more pieces in what has been a definitively epic collaboration. So much talent has been on display from all corners of the blogosphere, and today we’re joined by another such individual. That’s right, it’s the crafty Kathy from Krysanthe! Try saying that three times fast! Kathy is all about making geeky crafts, and she does so in style. If that wasn’t enough, she writes about the creative process behind these works of art. Here are some recent favorites:
It’d also be a great idea to follow her on Instagram!
But today she’s not writing about crafts. She’s writing about one of the most unique games in this collab: the kid friendly MMO Wizard 101! We hope you’re spellbound by the next chapter of The Games That Define Us!
– Matthew, Normal Happenings
For the child inside…
Game: Wizard 101
Release Date: September 2, 2008
Here’s the magical thing for me about Wizard101: I made amazing friends, many whom I’m still connected with today. I learned that you can trust people you’ve met on the internet. In fact, you can learn and grow with them. Without my Wizard101 friends, I never would have had the courage to begin my online writing adventure, and I never would have started my blog.
The year was 2009. I was a stay-at-home mom with a two and a seven year old. Although I played video games on the PC and Wii, the idea of playing with other people around the world wasn’t even on my radar.
One day my seven-year-old daughter came home from school begging me to set up an account for her on Wizard101. I’ll be honest folks, I had not even heard of Wizard101.
After asking all kinds of questions, I figured out that Wizard101 was an online video game. A game filled with magical spells that she could play with her friends.
I wasn’t amused.
My mind screamed…STRANGER DANGER!!! The idea of my seven-year-old princess playing an online game with potential predators just really wasn’t something I thought was appropriate.
As a mom from a conservative Midwestern U.S. town, I lived in a bubble. All I could think of was what could go wrong if I let my baby play… scammers, predators, fake friends or even kidnappers. Oh the horrors!!!
Although I was silently freaking out at all the possibilities, I told her the only rational thing that I could: “I’ll think about it.”
I wasn’t going to think about it. I was hoping it would just go away like so many things do when you are seven years old.
Guess what? It didn’t go away.
Those fools at Wizard101 had the nerve to advertise their game on Nickelodeon. So, every time we sat down and watched ICarly or SpongeBob, we were bombarded with Wizard101 commercials.
Advertising works folks.
She kept asking to play, and I watched the ads. The ads really made it sound like a kid-friendly game. So after watching the ad for what seemed like the millionth time, I broke down and decided to do some research.
I was quite impressed by what I found by trolling the Wizard101 website and forums. The game creators, KingsIsle Entertainment, were doing everything possible to make this a family-friendly game.
Anyway, my research found that the parental controls were rock solid. The chat features were made for kids, to both keep them safe and from being inappropriate. The game was heavily moderated. As far as MMO gaming goes, Wizard101 seemed like the perfect game for a kid to play.
This resolute mom was breaking down. Before I gave her permission to play though, I decided that I needed to see for myself if it really was a safe place for my kid.
So I downloaded the game to my PC, hit play and started off on my own wizarding adventure.
It took me about 30 minutes of game play to realize that this game was going to be safe for my daughter to play. Then something magical happened, I wanted to keep playing.
I was completely mesmerized by the story. I wanted nothing more than to help Headmaster Ambrose save the Spiral from the evil Malistaire.
As a huge fan of Harry Potter, I relished the fact that I was an apprentice wizard who cast magical spells on trolls, ghouls and other mythical beings.
I thoroughly enjoyed the cartoon scenery, the simple controls, and the turn-based game play.
So, even though I had deemed the game worthy of my daughter, and there was no other reason for me to play. I kept being drawn in by this magical adventure.
At first, I just would play for a few minutes during my son’s nap time. I’ll be honest, I felt ridiculous. I couldn’t get over the fact that here I was, a grown adult, enjoying this silly cartoony kids game. Sometimes I’d jump in game with my daughter and all her friends would ooo and ahhh at the fact her mom was playing “their” game.
Eventually, I hit the end of the free to play area. I was torn. A huge part of me wanted to pay actual money for this game, but the rational part of me couldn’t make sense out of paying $10 a month to play a kids’ video game.
Not gonna lie folks, I was old school. I wanted to hand the game creators a sum of money and then be able to play that game forever. Monthly fee? Just insane in my mind.
I’m sure you guessed it already, but I broke down and signed up for the membership.
As I continued to play, I still had no interest in playing with others except my daughter. In fact, I was more annoyed with other players than anything. Jumping into my rounds, casting worthless spells, using the chat to say stupid things, in general messing everything up. In their defense, I knew they were mostly kids, but it still somewhat annoyed me.
Then one magical day a wizard jumped into the ring with me. We killed the baddies and then moved on to the next set of enemies. This went on for a while, and we chatted a bit as we played. Then, before he had to poof out of the game he whispered to me, “I think you should join the Wise Wizards. They are on Wizard101 Central.”
Those words meant nothing to me. ZILCH!
I was curious enough though to find out what he meant. So after some searching I found a forum called Wizard101 central and on that forum was a group called the Wizened Wizards.
The Wizened Wizards were a group of Wizard101 players who were over the age of 21. I was in awe to find out that I wasn’t alone, and that there were other crazy adults enjoying this kids’ game.
I also was beginning to figure out that as a single player playing an MMO, I was missing out on one of the largest parts of the game, the social aspect.
I was still fearful about the scary place that was the internet, but I knew that there were places in the game that I could not explore without a group. I also figured out something my seven year old daughter knew from the very beginning; that an MMO is meant to be played with friends.
So, I decided to join the group on a whim, and was pleased a punch when I was finally approved. The group itself was bound to the rules of Wizard101 Central, so it was really strict. Just to give you an idea of some of the rules:
- Only forum and character names were allowed (no real names)
- No phone numbers
- No locations
- No outside voice chats (like discord)
Those rules, which seem crazy to me today, made me feel safe enough to get involved in the Wizened Wizard group.
I’ll be honest, I had some of the same fears for myself that I had for my daughter. Somehow I believed that the internet was a scary place filled with the dregs of humanity. So I had zero intention of letting this game get personal, but I still wanted to find people to play with from time to time.
One of the first activities I decided to participate in with the Wizened Wizards was a Meet and Greet. Since Wizard101 didn’t allow for guilds, this really was the only way for members of the group to connect in the game. The group would meet at a specific location in game and send friend requests to everyone there.
I went to my first meet and greet not knowing what to expect, and left it with a ton of new in game “friends”.
Even after joining the Wizened Wizards I still played mostly alone. I went to meet and greets for the group and from time to time I’d go help someone out that needed it.
Then something shifted.
I don’t know if it was the small talk at all the meet and greets. Or if it was the fun of doing things in Wizard101 in a group, but there was a shift. I found myself with a group of friends that I consistently played with.
And folks, it opened up my world.
No, we didn’t share personal information, but I knew a lot about them. Some of them were mom’s like me, there were gaming dad’s, there were even couple’s that played together.
We did the most challenging and ridiculous things together in game, and we had a blast doing them. It was a small group of friends, but we never excluded new members to the Wizened Wizards. We encouraged them to play with us.
In fact, a few of us volunteered to be the ones who did all the screening of new members to the group.
They were good times. We played, we laughed, we had fun.
Slowly, I began to realize that not all of the internet was out to get me, and that the internet was filled with people like me. It was just a matter of finding them.
Eventually, I started opening up to my inner circle of Wizard101 friends. I told them *gasp* that my real name was Kathy and I was a stay at home mom with two kids. Looking back on it now, it seems like nothing, but at that time, to me, it was a big deal.
As time went on, I realized that we really had a lot in common and that I treasured each and every one of their friendships.
Eventually, we outgrew the Wizened Wizard group. Their rules were too confining. We started using Skype for communicating, and eventually I started a Facebook group called the Wise Wizards for people who wanted to be able to chat more freely and connect on a more personal level.
As all good things do, it came to an end.
Not abruptly, but slowly. Real life got busier, I had less time to play. Then SWTOR came out which I desperately wanted to play. So I just stopped playing Wizard101. I still administered the Facebook group until it became a more of a group filled with people I didn’t know as opposed to ones that I did know.
Here’s the magical thing for me about Wizard101: I made amazing friends, many whom I’m still connected with today. I learned that you can trust people you’ve met on the internet. In fact, you can learn and grow with them. Without my Wizard101 friends, I never would have had the courage to begin my online writing adventure, and I never would have started my blog. So yes, Wizard101 is game that defined me.
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This collaboration took an overwhelming amount of time and dedication from 34 exceptionally creative, incredible makers! Help us with the resources to make more, even better, collaborations in the future! We also have aspirations of developing a podcast called Normal Talks about optimistically appreciating everyday life! Please consider becoming a patron of Normal Happenings and help us try to make the world a better, more positive place!