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.
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.