This is going to be a slightly different post for me, but I’d like to ask that you bear with me on this one for a few minutes, because the feelings behind it are very important to me.

I’d like to start, by asking you to try and remember back a few years to 2008, and the story of a young boy named Ezra Chatterton. 

Ezra Chatterton, for those that might not have played WoW back then, was a charming ten year old boy that suffered from a very serious brain tumor.

His story came to light in the WoW community when, through the works of the Make a Wish Foundation and Blizzard, his wish of meeting the designers and developers of his favorite game, World of Warcraft, and spending a day AS a developer was made real.

World of Warcraft was Ezra’s favorite game, because according to the story related by WoW.com, Ezra’s parents were divorced, and Ezra’s main method of spending time with his father was through playing together, and talking together while they were both online in WoW.

WoW was a bonding experience that helped bring father and son closer together, even though they lived quite far apart. 

The story of a father and son brought closer together through a shared love of video games did strike a very personal chord with me, and it was only too easy to imagine how I’d feel if it was my own son that suffered from a brain tumor, and an uncertain future. My little wabbit slayer. :)

During his visit with Blizzard, and his day as a guest designer, Ezra, whose in-game name for his Tauren Hunter was ePhoenix, took part in helping design many small features that are still to be found in the game.

He helped design and do voiceovers for a new NPC, Ahab Wheathoof, that can be found in the Tauren starting town of Bloodhoof Village near Mulgore, and also designed the quest Ahab gives you, which is to help find Ahab’s pet dog, Kyle, modeled after Ezra’s own dog Kyle.

Ezra also gave input on, and helped design the Season 2 PvP weapon, the Merciless Gladiator’s Crossbow of the Phoenix. A weapon that still looks really damn cool, and that my Hunter has in the bank. How can you get rid of the Phoenix bow?

Why so many references in Ezras’ story to the Phoenix? It’s because Phoenix was actually Ezra’s middle name, and he took the name his father Micah and his mother had chosen for him, and it’s mythological background, close to his heart.

The lengths the Make a Wish Foundation and Blizzard went to, to bring his dream of feeling what it was like to be a game developer for a day, really was an inspirational, sweet gesture full of heart. 

Towards the close of his  day with Blizzard, he was given one parting gift from the development team; the Ashes of Al’ar that drop from Kael’thas in The Eye, the 25 man raid instance in Burning Crusade. He was the very first person to have the Ashes of Al’ar in all of the game, the exceedingly rare drop that becomes the lovely Phoenix mount, and I think it was very appropriate and wonderful to have thought of.

Not too long after the story of Ezra and his day with Blizzard came to our attention, WoW.com shared the news that Ezra had passed away on October 20th, 2008, after complications resulting from a stroke.

So, why am I bringing this up now?

Well, here’s the thing.

One thing that is talked about a lot these days, here and elsewhere, is how things feel like they’ve changed recently in the game.

With the addition of random Battlegrounds, random Looking For Dungeon tools, weekly Raid quests that get advertised, filled, knocked off and then party abandoned, even pug ICC raids, it’s become increasingly easy in the game to log in, join a series of groups, play in group content for hours, and then log off without ever having shared an actual moment of personal interaction with anyone else.

For me, the story of Ezra is, at least in part, the story of how a video game that is designed to make it easy to bring people closer together CAN be a place where families and distant friends can get to spend some valuable time together that they might not have had otherwise.

Yes, it’s time spent in a virtual world, but it’s time with REAL people that you know, love, and miss, people that you can’t be near in real life at that moment.

The distance between people in game, the ease the random group systems make it to slip away into isolation from other people… these are things I think about often, and Ezra’s story stays there in the back of my head, as counterpoint to what the game can be.

I’d like to try and do something with you, the readers of the blog, as a joint effort to remember Ezra. A little event where we could each get together and remember him, and the joy he took in having the game help him be closer to his dad, by doing something with friends and family.

What I’d like to propose is this.

If you read this blog, and if you are willing to take part in this with me, then approach your guild leaders, raid leaders or officers, and ask them if they would kindly put up a raid sometime during the next week or so to go into The Eye, the 25 man Burning Crusade raid, and try for a Phoenix mount drop, in honor of the ePhoenix.

Make it a special occasion that holds the spirit of the game to heart; you and your fellow friends and guild members, and of course your family if they play, getting together to have fun, to bond, and to spend time doing something just to be together as friends in the game.

I know it must seem corny, but it would bring a smile to my face to think of people playing WoW all across the world, seperated by physical distance but together in the game, having fun and giggling and doing silly crap, all inspired by the memory of the young boy who loved the game and the closeness it brought his family so much.

Now, here is the part that will probably sound wierdest, but I’m really serious.

Please, don’t advertise it with my name on it. Please don’t link to me, or refer to me, or have it be attached to me in any way. It’s not a Bear thing. It’s an “all of us” thing.

If you do want to spread the word, please do not mention me in any way. Just take the idea on your own, and mention it as something you’d like to do.

Where the idea comes from isn’t important.

I want this, for the people who agree that it’d be a nice thing to do, to be all about the idea, and about Ezra, and about playing together with friends instead of alone in LFD.  

If the idea of taking a few hours out of the week to remember how precious it is that we can get together with friends and most especially family members from all over the world and have fun appeals to you, just bring the idea back to your guild, and try to make it happen.

Any of you that do this next week, whether you get a Phoenix mount or not, I’d just like to know how it went for you. Whether you had fun, what craziness you may have gotten into. Just drop me a line at my email, and let me know.

If by some chance you do have a Phoenix mount drop, send me a screenshot if you think about it. Cassie and I would love to see it. :)

I don’t know, maybe it sounds stupid on the outside. Maybe folks just have much more important things to do, or things to think about. But the older Alex gets, the more I think of Ezra and his father… and of how precious having these few moments to spend together really are.

33 Responses to “The Week of the Phoenix”
  1. Sarabian says:

    Ok, I cried. I play with my son and imagining trading places was too much. I’ll let you know how my raid goes.

  2. maebius says:

    *blinks rapidly* Darn.. dust… in this office….
    This. Is. what Wow is all about.
    thank you.
    /salute Bear. /salute

  3. Blywynne says:

    OMG..a co-worker and co-guildie just linked me this blog and I just shared it with our boss, who is not a wow player but loves to hear our antics. I can tell you, I am a wreck now. What an inspiring story, and tragic. You can best believe our guild will be raiding for that mount and those who get it will cherish it and what it represents.

    Thank you for sharing this and keepig the spirit of Ezra alive.

  4. Chawa says:

    Kudos Bear, for the plead of leaving your name and your website out of it. I definititely understand you wanting to keep the focus on the reason for the event and not the one behind the idea. And I respect you more for it.

    Being one who participated in the Raid for the Cure and was there to hear the /yells “For Julie”, “For my mom”, “For my sister and Aunt” from various players – I believe the real reason we gather for such events is never far from the players mind.

  5. Bricu says:

    I’ll be putting this up on the WFR boards.
    .-= Bricu´s last blog ..Wrathgate Wednesday: Disaster =-.

  6. Iceveiled says:

    I remember reading bout this back in 2008 but somehow missed news of his passing. Pretty damn sad. Thanks for making me cry in my beef stew. :(

  7. Minos says:

    Ironically, it’s mainly because my family and RL friends have faded from the game that I joined and now lead my current guild, where I’ve made a bunch of great new friends that I wouldn’t have otherwise.

    Since Lunar Festival 2009, the Elder in Thunder Bluff is Elder Ezra Wheathoof. I mostly took a pass on that holiday this year, but I made a point of visiting that one and paying my respects.

  8. bigbearbutt says:

    Chawa, I know that you’re right about the people who take part being there and doing things for their own personal reasons, and they’re good ones.

    What I remember, that drove me to add that, was that along with how wonderful the event itself was, when the Raid for the Cure was over and it was mentioned afterwards in magazines or on blogs, it became “The Raid for the Cure that Big Bear Butt organized.”

    There I was, mentioned with it, and I guess I had always thought that if it was mentioned, it’d be the Raid for the Cure for Julie.

    What it felt like, after the fact, was like some kind of terrible advertisement sending people to the blog. I know it never was meant to be, but if you start something on a blog, and it’s popular, people link to it, and from there it becomes tied to that blog. If I’d been smart back then, I would have tried to get simultaneous posts from multiple bloggers out that made it even more blatantly a group thing that kept any one person from being the poster child.

    So this time, I’m hoping that, if people pass it on, they copy/paste the words, cut me out entirely, remove me and any mention of my blog from it, and just roll with it themselves. Only people on this blog would know where they saw it from, and if you don’t tell, well, there you go.

    And if it’s referred to, just refer to it as “An idea that is going around the WoW community”.

    Doesn’t even have to be next week. Let it grow and have a life of it’s own. Have people hear about it a month from now, and think that it sounds like a nice idea, and just do it together. No worries about “Did we do ours the same time as other people”, or “Oh, it’s too late to do that, everyone did it last week, and we only heard about it now.”

  9. Akenea says:

    Thank you for reminding me of what got me hooked on this game….the original sense of community.

  10. Tesh says:

    The prime reason I bought Guild Wars was to play with my friend and family. It didn’t work out for various reasons, but I do firmly believe that these things can be great tools. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t be working in games in the first place.

    Great idea, BBB. It’s good to remember these important things. Long live the Phoenix.
    .-= Tesh´s last blog ..Political Pop Quiz: Dual Wielding =-.

  11. Katchafiya says:

    Thought you were leaving, BBB – you seem to have upped your game hugely instead. Great, great post to follow the outstanding, blog-best post about bear aggro.

    Proud to be playing the same game as you. /salute

  12. Sarabian says:

    I just went and did that quest after having skipped it on the one Tauren I have. It’s a simple quest to do, and I did it with Ezra in mind the whole time. Hearing his voice from the NPC was interesting. I had noticed in the past that that NPC would ask “Have you seen my dog?” and it was a very different voice, but I never before thought it was the real voice of a little boy. Knowing this time, I listened and was easily able to tell. Hearing the voice on a stricken cancer patient that has since moved on brought back memories of my sister, who is also gone due to brain cancer. I wish I had her voice recorded so I could hear it again.

  13. Dothraki says:

    I still have my Raid for Cure toon… everyone once in awhile I’ll log onto the toon to check out my pink mageweave shirt :)

    Anytime I roll a horde toon I head over to Mulgore and do the quest to find Ahab’s dog. Just seems like the right thing to do. On my alliance toons I have shown a few people Ahab and told the story behind him. Sometimes if I’m in a bad mood I’ll go and just chill by Ahab for a few minutes.

    I’m glad that Blizzard has allowed the “personal touch” into the game. It’s amazing what you find sometimes….. there was the toon on the Aldor Rise in Shatt that was fairly easy to find. But also there are reminders of people lost spread all around. Just the other day I was finish a quest in Hillsbrad ( in Dun Garok to be specific )on an undead rogue. My next quest was on the coast to kill some murlocs. I headed there and looked for a safe place to start killing. Before I jumped down to the shoreline I saw a NPC kneeling before a monument. I went up there and clicked on the monument and saw it was in dedication to someone who passed away. The name escapes me… however I thought the placement of the monument was cool- overlooking the water. Not many people will ever see the monument but i’m sure it means alot to the people who knew the person.

    I’ve already scheduled a TK run for next week…. really hope I can send a screenshot

  14. Eus says:

    Ruh told me about this when we both got home from work so I thougth I would check it out. Our officers got together and thought this was a wonderful and meaningful idea. We are starting to organize the run so either Ruh or myself will keep ya posted and let you know how we did!

  15. grenadon says:

    BBB,
    As the guild XO and raid leader, I’m going to make it happen..if not next week then soon. Ephoenix was on my server. I saw him several times in Nagrand on his phoenix mount and always paused. (maybe thats why he killed me in Haala?). We need more of this in WOW…to fight the increasing ruthless impersonal-ness lately.

    This IS why you blog…..and why we come back to read.

    Grenadon

  16. tcx says:

    My brother spent half a year in Barcelona, that’s 1200 km away from me. We played all the time.
    I still miss playing with him although now he’s living somehow close to me.
    Yesterday I was fooling around WoW and took a quick break, and found myself saying to my girlfriend, I miss playing with my brother, this is not half as fun without him.
    The bonding experience you talked about touched me very deeply.
    There is absolutely no other soul as important to me as him.
    That’s why I play, the numbers, quests, items, tiers, … are just … like tiny sidequests, if I may.

    This is just a game and we’re just plain people playing it, don’t forget that.
    I hope your wabbit slayer gets to do the same with you, in and out of the game.

  17. jealouspirate says:

    Thanks Bear for the great post.

    I had heard of Ezra before, but I didn’t know the real reason he loved WoW so much. I just thought he was like any kid, playing a cool game. Knowing that what he cherished was spending time with his Father, after being separated through a divorce… well, that changes everything. I admit I’m a little teary eyed. It makes me appreciate how lucky I am to have two parents who still love each other dearly after many many years of marriage, and how I benefited from having both of them around during my childhood.

    I’ll try to get a guild raid going.

  18. Vice says:

    Thank You BBB

    Remembering that Wow is about the people, not gear, not rankings and not raids is what is important.

  19. Tim says:

    Ironically enough, my guild started doing this just last week. We are mostly irl friends, which comes with a huge disparity of ability and gear. We’ve decided to run the old raids severely undermanned as a guild bonding activity. We tried to three man the eye, and ALMOST got it, but decided to grab some more guildies to round out the dps and are hopefully gonna be doing it again this week. Running the old stuff is a great casual guild activity: you don’t get the gear requirements that exclude some members, but you still get enough of a challenge to keep the better players from getting bored. Three manning the eye was one of the most intense fights I’ve had in a long time.

  20. Phaedra says:

    Ezra was on my server and, despite all the ugliness that would rear it’s head on the Norgannon forums, he was a bright shining beam of joy. Everyone would stop what they were doing to watch him flying around on his phoenix mount. The day his guild released the news of his moving on was both a terrible and uplifting day. Terrible in that we lost our bright spot of pure joy – uplifting in the outpouring of sympathy and memories from the server.

    To this day, I make it a point to run to Mulgore and /salue Ahab Wheathoof and visit Elder Ezra when he’s up, with tears in my eyes.

    I am going to repost this, with your permission, on the Norgannon forums. Thank you.

  21. I know you don’t want to be linked… but can I copy the body of the message? Because really it is the message that is important and I think I could convince my raiders to go if they could read the words that you posted here today. If I proposed the run it would sound like it was because I want to… if it came in the form of the post you just made… I think people would do it for Ezra and not for you or me.
    .-= Whats my main again?´s last blog ..Stress and Relaxation? =-.

  22. xmolder says:

    Unfortunately, my guild is… Not ready for TK. We have like, 6 members online on our best day, our tank’s computer can’t handle “big” raids. I doubt that I’ll be able to do this, but I think it’s a wonderful idea, and if I had the opportunity I would be organizing it right now.

  23. bigbearbutt says:

    I’m sorry for the lack of replies today, work is pretty incredibly bad right now. many critical issues.

    If you want to link to it, I’m not going to get mad, but what I’ll try to do is break free long enough today to take my post and make a cleaned up version that is more suitable to copy/pasting elsewhere. I hope that will help.

    And thank you everyone, really.

    I had one person whisper me yesterday, almost in a half accusatory way, to tell me the post made them tear up when they read it.

    I told them “Good! Because I teared up when I wrote it, so I’m glad I was able to actually share what I felt the right way.”

  24. jtrack says:

    You are not alone… the game is becoming too detached.
    .-= jtrack´s last blog ..It Hurts When They Leave =-.

  25. Bill says:

    Yikes…that knocked me back a bit. I also remember this story from back then however did not hear about his passing. It’s a sad story but also pretty neat that at least a part of this little boy lives on inside. Thanks for the post BBB…makes you think about a few things.
    .-= Bill´s last blog ..Second Skin =-.

  26. Indigohawk says:

    That story was one of the reasons I invited my 12 year old nephew to play with me. He lives several states away, and entirely because of WoW we get the chance to talk and play several times a week. We have become closer than we would have living next door to one another. I thoroughly enjoy the relationship I have with him, and I am proud to be his confidante and sounding board as he grows up. Hope Ezra realizes the impact he’s still having here!

  27. Caladthiel says:

    I started playing the game to relax, I had weird working hours and as no-one else was awake while I was, it was a great way to have a bit of a social life.
    I was a single mum of four teenagers. I introduced the game to them and three years later we all play together, we quest together and raid together. A couple of weeks after starting to play I met someone that I started spending a lot of time with. Up to five hours a day :P, We decided to meet after 6 months, that was two years ago, we got married last Sptember.

    We started our own guild, one that tried new content but didn’t let the game rule our lives. My guild raids, but we also love going back through the old content, just this week we decided a few of us will go and get our complete sets of all the tier armour from the old content. My husband wants the teir 1 for his pally, he thinks that will make a great bank toon.

    I love seeing names in the game that mean something to me in RL, things that bring back memories of a great tv show, book or anything that reminds me, that I’m not alone in my geekiness. Now if you excuse me, I’m off to roll a horde and find Klye :) Thanks so much for sharing such a lovely story.

  28. Spawnofmoose says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with you BBB,
    And I think this is part of the reason why WoW has grown boring to me. There was a time where I would sit down a few nights a week after school and get together with 9-39 of my fellow guildies and friends and run raids or pre-made BGs and have fun, share laughs, share stories and just all around HAVE FUN with people across the country and world.

    Muqq from Ensidia said it best:
    “I look back at Wrath of the Lich King, and I think, what was the point? When I sit down and play a game, any game, just to pass judgement on it later, I always keep one thing in mind. Is this fun? The things I’m doing, the progress I am achieving, the people I meet, is it fun doing all this? Obviously, despite what many people might consider important, I’d say the most thing that leaves the biggest impact and keeps you in the game are the people you meet and possibly befriend.”

    R.I.P Ezra, you have taught us about the importance of a strong relationship, even if the only way to keep it strong is a video game.

    ~Moose

  29. Zy says:

    I started playing WoW to spend time with my husband and it became very handy when he left for his second deployment to Iraq. The Army frequently blocks chat programs like AIM so WoW became our most dependable way to communicate. We could chat in-game about whatever we needed to talk about and if there wasn’t anything to talk about we could run around and quest together. It was much more fun that our first deployment (neither of us played at that point) because it actually felt like we were doing something, accomplishing something with each other.

    When we tell people we play WoW they are frequently shocked, they can’t imagine the game being useful in ways like this. We’ve managed to change a few minds about WoW with our story. Husband frequently travels with his new post and WoW continues to be a good way for us to spend time ‘together’ even when we are not on the same internet connection!

  30. Bullz says:

    from Azuremiyst Hungry for Death will do this request

  31. Earthsong says:

    My sisters and I dont raid much any more. We got tired of immature jerks and it was just too much work trying to find good times.

    So we 3 man stuff like MC for fun.

    We did the Eye with the 3 of us. Took down the phoenix no problem. ok well we hadnt done it before so their first time we died spectacuarly. And i got to learn that totems left above channel his explody damage to the shaman below without taking any themselves.

    We decided to skip to Kel cause we knew we could do the other two and a druid friend joined us. The four alone were easy but we couldnt kill the weapons. But we had a wild fun time.

    Were making some plans to go back. We think we 5-6 people we can probably make the dps for the weapons. Who knows about Kel :)

  32. Xaeth says:

    Well hell, I’m been reading this blog ever since I started bear tanking way back pre-TBC. First time I’ve posted, sadly I don’t have enough people to try and organise this with but I love the sentiment. It just kinda reinforces my play style, I run in circles jump around like a madman making jokes trying to engage my fellow LFD party members. Being on the internet I get that these are real people with real feelings (it’s why I sucked at having a succesful raiding guild, far too lax with my members). I just want to post cause I’m a pretty emotional guy, just to say thanks for your post. I never knew about Ezra but I’m glad to have been enlightened, it’s a truelly wonderful (and sad) thing. Thanks for every post, even the ones I haven’t read, you must put alot of effort into them (at least most of them). Have a nice day BBB :), heck have a nice week :D!
    Much Love Xaeth.

  33. Flargan says:

    Hey BBB, just wanted to let you know, our guild ran this last night. No mount drop, but the guild walked away having a good time (it was our 3rd Anniversary as well, and this was our capstone event for the evening). We only had time to kill the phoneix Al’ar (sp) and then Kael’Thas but it was an epic fight (like forgetting about dropping to the floor during Al’ar’s fight…wiped a group of rather well geared 80’s) and then the epic fight against Kael’ Thas and his overlords. Good times. Also, I took my little level 9 druid and ran Kyles gues that same day. Kind of put things in perspective. Nice to know that he lives on a bit, even if it is only as a game character. Anyway, sorry for the ramble, just wanted to let you know that we of Quel’dori made it happen.

  34.  

World of Warcraft™ and Blizzard Entertainment® are all trademarks or registered trademarks of Blizzard Entertainment in the United States and/or other countries. These terms and all related materials, logos, and images are copyright © Blizzard Entertainment. This site is in no way associated with Blizzard Entertainment®