Blizzard had recently held a holiday sale of World of Warcraft. For $35 total you could get the entire game of WoW, vanilla through Cataclysm direct through their store.

Sadly, that sale is no longer in effect, but I took advantage of it while I could.

For months now, my son Alex has had a free account to play in WoW, and by watching over his shoulder I’ve seen just how miserable it really is to play on one. My son was initially excited to play WoW on a free account, but one of the biggest draws was the idea of playing with mom and dad, grouping and chatting and questing.

His enthusiasm waned pretty quickly, and as I want him to do what he wants without being pressured into playing with what I think he should (or with what we spent a lot of money on and damn well want to see played with, that shit is expensive yo), I let it go for a while.

Recently, I asked him why he wasn’t really playing WoW anymore.

He said it was because his WoW is different than ours, and because it was so difficult to do the stuff we take for granted. On a free account, he can’t participate in trades, he can’t be in a guild, he can’t just log in and say hi to us (initiating a conversation), get or send mail, buy things on the auction house, make a Worgen or Goblin, etc.

All the things that prevent free accounts from being useful to a thief. Er, by thief I mean gold seller, a title which is semantically equivalent to thief, but should have the added emotional qualifier of ‘unwashed scrotum sack’.

This made me a sad bear. We do spend time with Alex of course, but he sees both Cassie and myself play WoW as our only real ‘adult’ hobby thing. Being able to play WoW would become yet one more thing we did together as a family.

So I caved. Last weekend, I used the fresh WoW boxes to upgrade him to a full WoW player.

Queue the doom bell.

Alex was very excited, and I found I was in the perfect position to see the game through fresh eyes. What would he run to do first? What excited him most that he hadn’t been able to do?

What would be his impressions?

The first thing he did was make a dwarf shaman. Then a dwarf rogue. And now he’s got a dwarf hunter. WTF?

I found out why he makes so many dwarves… Dwarves are SHORT, like Alex is! He can relate to the short little buggers. Doesn’t answer why they all have beards, though. Or why he doesn’t like gnomes.

Well, I guess the ‘doesn’t like gnomes’ thing is self-explanatory. And he’s too short to punt them himself. (Sorry Gnomer, love ya man.)

He also explained that when he makes his new dwarves, he looks for faces that appear kind and gentle, he doesn’t like the fierce or angry faces. Surprisingly, there are some peaceful, kindly dwarf faces to choose from when making a character, and he selects those.

He got going on his shaman, so I made a dwarf mage to travel and quest with him, and we had a lot of fun cruising to level 10 before we quit for the night. I let him do all the leading. I nudged him a bit to keep us on track with going from quest to quest, but otherwise he had made so many dwarves in the starter set that he was well familiar with the area.

First impressions;

He may go from quest to quest, but there is ALWAYS time to stop and kill the wabbits.

He prefers killing the fat wabbits to the skinny wabbits. I didn’t even know there WERE fat rabbits. Lrn2rabbitrecognition.

He doesn’t want to get overwhelmed with things to remember, so he has been taking one quest, doing it, then turning it in before taking a second quest from the same place. I explained that the game was mostly designed so all the quests available from one place at one time could all be completed in one trip. This came as quite the surprise.

Shamans are cool because they can drop colorful totems with neat flames and stuff, and because they can cast spells that make their weapons glow with fire. Also, they can shoot things with lightning. Shooting things with lightning is great. It’s also great to be able to beat things up with two weapons. But since he doesn’t like to get hurt and wants to be invincible, why can’t he do Enhancement combat with a mace and shield? Why does his special ability require an offhand weapon? He likes his shield.

Funny how unsatisfying it can be to answer, “Because the game is designed that way.”

The next day, he decided to create a Worgen. A Worgen Druid.

I created a Worgen Warrior just to help out, because Gilneas ain’t easy mode. All that instancing and scripting makes for buggy play. Fun and interactive, but buggy.

In an eyeblink we were both level 6, and he was having fun playing with me, but very, VERY frustrated at playing as a caster. He was ready to toss the character and try something else.

Why?

Because his shaman can cast neat spells like lightning, but when it came time to fight there was a mace and shield to beat up the bad guys! This druid worgen is all lame, smacking things with a stick.

I encouraged him to hang on until level 8, when he could get kitty form.

Once level 8 came around, he started having a lot more fun. He likes hopping around, killing rats he passes by (because cats kill rats, don’t you know), going into stealth and moving around that way, and using Rake.

I may have made a mistake explaining the relationship between Mangle, Rake and Ferocious Bite.

He gets the idea of combo points, he explained to me (quite patiently) that he didn’t HAVE to wait until 5 combo points to use Ferocious Bite, he could use it at one or two, and it does lots of damage.

What he does as his main attack, though, is use Rake.

I explained to him that Rake was a damage over time attack, just like a snake biting and poisoning the bad guy.

He seems to like the idea of poisoning the bad guys and making them suffer, so he uses Rake as his main attack, so he can poison them. He does also use Mangle, I’ve been watching, and I’m impressed with the way he mixes his attacks up with Mangle, Rake and Ferocious Bite if something lasts long enough to get it in there.

What I really find interesting is my response to how he fights.

I haven’t said anything, but as I watch him, I see him flip into Kitty, use his Mangle and Rake, flip out to caster and Moonfire Spam the SHIT out of something, flip into Bear and smack it, go back into Kitty for a Mangle when it’s dead, and then on the next mob just stand as a caster, sneak up and blast the crap out of it with Starfall, then Moonfire Spam again, and then a Wrath.

My gut reaction was to want to coach him to stay in one form to maximize his damage output with combo points and finishing moves. Just for a second, but watching him switch out of kitty in melee range to cast Wrath hurt.

I had to ask myself… why? Why feel even a moments twinge? That’s the way it’s supposed to be played. Even now, casting something like Wrath as a pull before shifting in is legitimate to get some starting aggro, although with the changes to aggro all that precast stuff is mostly redundant as long as your group holds their horses.

I used to pride myself on taking the time to have fun swift shifting in combat, just for the hell of it. Here my son is doing just that, and it feels like I’m watching someone doing it wrong, just because he cast the kitty stuff first before switching to caster for the long cast times when already in melee range.

He’s trying stuff out, and he’s migrating naturally to fast reaction time stuff. Early days.

I still haven’t decided whether to laugh or cry that my 8 year old instantly discovered and fell in love with Moonfire Spam.

Getting Kitty form was just the beginning, and once he got Bear it’s been shift city.

“I like bear, it’s great being an Invincible Bear!” (bounce bounce bounce)

We wrapped all the questing and leveling up the other night at level 17 (one more night ’til he gets his first mount!), and I watched to see if he’d log out, or what he wanted to do.

He logged into his dwarf, and found that I’d mailed him a pet cat (the calico) that looks just like one of ours. He saw that, I showed him how to learn the pet and display it, and then he asked where I got it. I told him the auction house, and he insisted I show him where the AH was, and how to use it.

Once I got him started, boy did he take off.

What did he want to do?

Browse pets he could buy.

He even bought a pet himself, a cockatiel he thought would be very pretty. He pointed out one rather odd feature of the pet section of the auction house.

Why can’t you get a picture of what the pet looks like when you’re browsing pets? How do you know if you want it, if you can’t see what it looks like until after you bought it?

I have to admit, that’s a good question. It makes me think the feature was intended for collectors who want to buy every pet they don’t already have, regardless of what it looks like. Adding picture preview for pets would be awesome.

One last observation.

We’re in the Gilneas starting zone, and we’ve just watched Lord Walden jump off a cliff. As we head up the trail between the hills, the path is covered with a flock of sheep.

A lot of sheep in a very small area.

It turns out kitties like killing sheep.

As the slaughter of the lambs began, Alex made the comment, “I hope none of them are mechanical sheep”.

It took me a minute before I remembered what he was talking about.

A while back, I flew down on my druid to group with one of his old free starter edition dwarves, and fly it around on my dragonform.

As we flew over the mountains from Stormwind to Burning Steppes (I think), we flew over a point of interest that included sheep.

I landed, and he killed sheep.

I noticed something, and mentioned it to him. One of the sheep had that engineering robot look to it. Nobody around, no dwarves or NPCs, just a flock of sheep with one mechanical sheep hanging out. Clandestine Robot Sheep.

Alex, attacked it, and it blew up, blasting him in the process.

He remembers that, and it made him pause months later to do an Exploding Robot Sheep check.

How cool is it that I live in a world where I can write that last sentence? That right there is reason enough for the internet.

18 Responses to “Bears and Cubs”
  1. littlebyt says:

    über cool! Great little post. Please do keep us uptdated on “Adventuring with Alex”. :)

  2. Gekkoracing says:

    Hey BBB,

    Great post as always! My 4 almost 5 yr old plays…..I played with him as a newborn…..he’s been exposed to Wow from the beginning….including his older bros…….He’ll be 5 in Feb…I can’t wait til he really starts to read the quests and we can truly start adventuring together!!! :-)

    /explodingrobotsheep check!!

  3. Gladly says:

    Aww, this was a great post! I loved it, ended reading most of it aloud to my other half. Was adorable, thanks for this!

  4. Targeter says:

    Clearly, your son has impressive taste. Even at his young age, he realizes the superiority of shaman. This is the way of things.

  5. Bristal says:

    Love your views from Alex, very cool read. And coincidentally, I was mog-hunting on the AH the other night, switched over to pets and had the same thought. Tell Alex great minds think alike.

  6. Rades says:

    I love reading your Alex stories, BBB. It’s so fun to see how children view the game, I always get a kick out of hearing about their honest and sincere enjoyment. :D Hope to hear more as he continues to play!

  7. Elfindale says:

    Great read. I can’t wait to hear more about Alex’s experiences.

    Also, I remember when I found those sheep. http://worldofelfi.wordpress.com/2011/07/01/the-one-where-i-offended-a-lonely-sheep-farmer/

  8. Thelandira says:

    Along with everyone else, I love reading your “Alex stories”. I especially love how Alex kept popping in and out of forms to utilize different attacks….makes me want to hit a training dummy on my druid and play around and see what kind of dps rotation I can concoct (sp?).

    It does stink that there is no “pet preview” for the AH, but I have a couple of links for you that might make Alex’s night. They’re links to an addon called MogIt. It allows you to browse all the gear in game to see what it looks like on your toon (like your own little fashion show). They have a sub-addon for browsing all the companion pets as well. You could install them and allow Alex to look through all the different non-combat pets to see which ones he likes and wants to try to get.

    You may want to browse the pets yourself first though. They list ALL non-combat pets and I’d hate to see Alex set his sights on one only to find out it’s a Blizzcon pet or some pet that’s impossible to get (speaking of…did you know that there is a Golden Pig pet? I didn’t until I browsed MogIt. It was only available in Korea, but it’s really cute). The addon has filters so you should be able to set it up so that the more difficult pets to get (Blizz store, redemption code pets, etc…) will not be displayed. However, the filters reset when you log out/in so you’ll want to set it up on one of your toons and then let Alex “come take a look”.

    Here are the links:

    MogIt – http://wow.curseforge.com/addons/mogit/
    Companion Pets – http://wow.curseforge.com/addons/mogit_companions/

  9. Navimie says:

    Loved your Alex tale, BBB. Had to link it, since I love positive wow and kids stories.

  10. Eva Elisabeth says:

    You and your son rock :-)

  11. Tesh says:

    The “that’s how the designers made it” is a very unsatisfactory answer. My five year old loves Minecraft over WoW simply because it lets her do more of what she wants to do. It’s interesting how easily we accept and work within the dumb arbitrary guidelines as grownups, but the little ones question things. Lots of things.

  12. Kemonojin says:

    Guppet does something similar to MogIt, but also gives you one button to pick a random mount (you can uncheck things you don’t want, like the fuglyphants, or the bugs you can only use in AQ), as well as another button to choose a random companion pet. I don’t use it much, tend to run around with my worg pup mostly.

  13. Leit says:

    It’s interesting how a person will forget all about the things that could be improved once they get used to doing it the long way round. See: complete lack of preview facility for pets and mounts. :(

    Durid iz 4 shapeshift! All he needs is an Art of War equivalent. Make it happen, Blizz.

  14. Sabrina says:

    I love reading that story. Interesting parenting choice because its one my husband and i made ourselves. My husband chose to upgrade our sons trial account and include him daily in our questing and dungeons. The results are a communicative relationship with our son in his teen years. He can and often does unload r/l information in a private chat things he is not bold enough to say face to face. We have had less problems with peer pressure activities such as drinking, drugs, and crime based fun. Our son is not a nerd by any means and often after visiting with friends describes other families as distant and dry. Said all that to say this, keep those lines of communication open with your children. Laugh with them, do fun things with them, make sure they know they are the best thing since sliced bread. As untraditional as playing World of Warcraft is in a family setting, a bit of Papa Bear & Baby Bear Cub time now may be just the HOT you need to tick during his teen years to keep your house unified.

  15. RobBy says:

    Nearly 8???!!! OMG
    Shape shifting is da bomb.
    ICC trinket to take on moar forms. Fire-kitty staff. LFR for the bigger-bear-butt (although, big form does not make for easy access through doorways).
    Gotta get them all ;)

    Young padawan learns well, he does.

  16. caliokiegirl says:

    Love it!!! My eight year old daughter suddenly decided she likes WOW. I had the same problem of wanting to “help her”, but I quickly realized it was better to be on call, and let her do her thing. Nothing wrong with dwarves. I have a dwarf priest I love. I say more power to the dwarves. Good luck with your adventuring, and I hope we get to read more baby bear blogs. God Bless.

  17. keefbeef says:

    Awesome post and story about your little one. Its always so refreshing to get a truly different perspective. I still remember a post a while back where your son requested Gnome hunters with the possibility for Goldfish pets (the awesome kind that fight mobs in a mechanized fishbowl that you could upgrade). I am a melee tank to the core and I come here for the philosophy of cooperative play, but I would roll a Gnome hunter alt yesterday if this pet were available!

  18. Simon says:

    Late to the party, sorry – but just wanted to add that you need to either do more of these, or get the Little Bear Cub blog going in its own right!

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