Most of us know guildmates who are related: brothers, or cousins, or even husband and wife. With the widespread popularity of gaming today, playing with family members has become commonplace. (Nightmare couples politics between the GM and incompetent DPS player #496, anyone?) But TomWolf of Sporeggar-EU (PvP-RP) isn't content to play with a mere one or two family members – he networks three generations of relatives together in an nexus of gaming and long-distance communications.
The family that plays together, stays together – even across the miles. When TomWolf and his wife Seriny flew from their home in Sweden to the Dominican Republic for their (real life) wedding, TomWolf's mother was unable to attend. She was, however, "very, very happy to attend the virtual version" in World of Warcraft ... a win/win for the entire family.
The cast of characters
TomWolf (husband) Dwarf Hunter with a love for vanity pets; loves to run around in a Murloc costume, together with his adopted Gurky
Seriny (wife) Night Elf Druid who loves to play it kitty-style but can't help spending most of her time in bear form; she says it's for the good of the guild, but we all know she just likes to be able to sit on me.
Mossan (mother) Dwarf Hunter who still drags along her boar, Princess; it's amazing that she has a character almost level 70, since she is an altoholic (started at least five Dwarf Hunters ... on the same server)
Alexj (brother-in-law) Dwarf Rogue who just did the Linken quest line and uses the sword, even though he has better ones in his backpack, because it looks good
Viceguy (brother) Human Warlock with a flare for stylish clothing; "I thought you had 40 gold!" ..."Yeah ... I kinda saw this jacket in the AH that looked sooo good."
Ronjis (niece) Human Paladin, she just loves to hit things ... a lot
Server Sporeggar-EU (PvP-RP)
Guild The Night Council
WoW player since September 2007
15 Minutes of Fame: What's your gaming background, TomWolf?
TomWolf: I started playing since I was lecturing a lot about practical applications of computer games and virtual worlds, and one of the games that often came up was World of Warcraft, a game I had managed to stay away from for a couple of years without even trying (knowing what would happen if I did). So I downloaded the trial just to try it out and installed it on both my and my wife's computer. I liked it but fully intended to keep staying away from it, concentrating on Counter-Strike (which was my game of choice), but my wife (Seriny, in game) would have nothing of it. Before the trial period was up, we had ordered the CD keys online.
Who's the youngest player in your little family group?
My niece is 12 ( soon 13). She recently convinced her father to buy the game after trying it when visiting her grandma, my mother.
Who's the oldest?
My mother is 57.
Do you have your own family guild, or do you belong to another guild?
Me and my wife joined a newly founded guild the first month of playing and have stuck with them since. The Night Council has grown from a social group of casual players to a very tight, still kinda casual, raiding guild. When my mother started playing, she tried on a few guilds, and after a while she came to join TNC as well. My brother-in-law also just joined the guild after dinging 58. We all kind of felt that it's better to try your wings by yourself instead of having someone watching over your shoulder while you learn, and then when you got the grasp of things, we start playing more tightly together. The Night Council is very tight and friendly. Last time I counted, we had four couples, three of us married, in the guild.
Is everyone in the same general level range, or do you play as mixed levels?
TomWolf and Seriny are both level 70 since quite a while back, and my mother is dinging 70 soon (we hope) with Mossan. The rest are going through the motions with leveling. Me and my brother planned on doing the "invite a friend" thing, but unfortunately, he had two trial accounts and used the wrong one when he bought the game. Blizzard's response was more or less "tough."
Do you use voice communication on a regular basis?
The guild rents a Ventrilo server, but mostly when I play with family we use Skype or stick with in-game chatting (mixed up with a phone call or five).
Have you run into any "generation gap" issues getting your mother started playing?
Back when eight-bit Nintendo was the hot thing, my mother sent us to bed so she could hog Zelda or Tetris for herself. She currently owns a Wii, but as far as I know, she hasn't used her Wii Fit as much as it is worth using (smart little gadget, that one). When it comes to computer games, she is kind of fresh coming to WoW, not counting The Sims and a bunch of arcade games like Jewel Quest and Zuma Deluxe.
So yes, there have been a lot of long phone calls with explanations on how to install addons, change settings, find information or play the Auction House -- but I wouldn't call that a generation gap since I have had to do the same with my brother. To be honest, I think these talks are one of the reasons why we choose to play together.
My niece enjoys the game her way. Being from Sweden, she doesn't understand all of the English, but she doesn't really have to understand it all, either. That's something I've come to understand about WoW since she and my mother started playing. There are so many different ways to enjoy the game.
What kind of activities do you enjoy doing as a group?
Boosting, of course. We don't play in the same area a big amount of time, since we are all different levels, but every now and then me and/or Seriny logs an alt and we do a bunch of quests or an instance. Having a full group of five family members is immensely enjoyable, even if it is just mindless killing in a cave or boosting someone through Stockades or Gnomeregan. Since my mother recently has came up closer to me and Seriny in level, we have gotten to do some fun things together like taking down the Horseman. Not a big feat, but still very fun to do as a family.
Ok, so tell us the real scoop: What happens when family members disagree on something in game?
I tell some Horde friends to grave camp them until they give in! Seriously, though, we don't disagree a lot; that's one of the perks living hundreds of miles away from each other. When me and my wife disagree about something in game, we have a wonderful in-game family to take care of us and sort us out ... both the real one and the guild.
Do you live near all the other family members who are playing with you, or is WoW helping you maintain a long-distance relationship?
My brother and his niece live more then 500 miles north of where me and my wife live, and my mother lives about halfway in between. Playing WoW together has definitely brought us closer together and opened up a lot of conversations that wouldn't have happened otherwise.
Have you found that you spend more time talking with family members, now that you have a common hobby you're all sharing?
Me and my older brother have never really spent a lot of time together, him being four years older then me. We've gotten closer lately, and now with him playing World of Warcraft, we definitely talk a lot more then we would have otherwise, both WoW-related and personal. That goes for my mother and me, as well. We spend a lot more time talking about both WoW and other things now than before we got this common interest, even though many conversations either start with or end up being about the wonderful World of Warcraft.
If you were talking to a non-gamer out there who thinks that video games are a waste of time, what would you tell them about the experience of playing WoW with your family?
I do talk about this a lot with non-gamers in the form of lectures. World of Warcraft is a game masterfully designed to give instant gratification ... totally pointless, useless, meaningless, but very satisfying gratification -- kind of the way sports are designed. Playing a computer game with my family is comparable to a father coaching his son's football team. It is a common interest where we see each other reach goals, both common and individually. It's a very bonding experience.
One of my other brothers-in-law has bought the house next door. When they get internet set up, we'll probably lure him in as well. I would probably have a go at my third brother-in-law, as well, who loves fantasy games -- which is actually how I met him and ultimately my wife -- but I have to wait until he gets back from Japan. My second niece, a couple of years younger, also really likes the game but doesn't play as regularly.
For you and wife, what about your mains -- are you continuing to work through Zul'Aman with your guild, or has your focus shifted away from raiding toward more casual play with your family?
We have gone very casual now, together with most everyone. Every now and then, we play a little beta, do a raid with guildmates, work on my pet collection, level our alts or just fool around. We love doing silly events together with guildmates. We actually had an in-game wedding just weeks after our real-life wedding. The guild planned everything and had us walking through a gate of flames (Summer Festival juggling). It's all very casual. My latest conquest was main tanking Headless Horseman with my pet.
Is the family planning to level together in Wrath?
Me and Seriny are probably powerleveling to 80 as fast as we can together with the guild. We want to get into raiding as fast as possible. Personally, I look forward to all the new exciting vanity pets. I just can't help it; it's an addiction, it truly is. My mother have hopefully dinged 70 when the expansion hits, so perhaps we get to take her with us while leveling, though she tends to take things a bit calmer.