screencap from wow
Game Culture, Play

The real reason for auto-follow (or how I game as a Mom)

I’m not a Blizzard employee or long-time player (yet), so don’t know the actually reasoning behind the follow feature in World of Warcraft.  However, based on my experience, I choose to believe it was created for moms who want to play an MMORPG, but don’t want to be Clara (of The Guild).

My friend Sara got my husband and me to start playing WoW with her about a year ago.  At the time my kids were 2, 4, and 7.  We generally wait until they’re in bed to play, but kids in bed does not necessarily mean kids no longer need attention.  Inevitably someone needs something, or has a bad dream, etc.  This is how the scenario plays out:

We are sitting around the kitchen table – said table covered by 3 (or 4 or 5) laptop computers, cables, mice, etc.  We pick up a bunch of quests, start out toward the first one, and down the hall come the sounds of a child crying for Mommy.

Lovely, isn’t it?  Now if I simple take off to deal with kid, leaving my character immobile as I go AFK, my fellow players have 2 choices: 1) sit and twiddle their thumbs while waiting for me to return, thus wasting valuable play time and taking away from the evening’s activities, or 2) go on without me, which leaves me completing quests on my own and subsequently lagging behind the people I wanted to play with for the rest of the evening.  Option 1 is lousy for everyone – they’re bored and I feel badly about making them wait – while option 2 is lousy for me – if I wanted to play by myself, we wouldn’t have bothered coordinating schedules to be able to play together.  Enter the hero: follow.  Here’s how we play out the rest of this scenario at my house:

Before leaving to deal with the child in need, I take a second to set my character to follow my friend.  I then go take care of my child while they all head off on the quest.  Since my friend is physically sitting at a laptop next to my laptop if I’m not back and the quest requires picking something, she simply uses my mouse and has my character pick up whatever’s needed.  When I get back I reclaim my computer (possibly even taking my character off follow, but I won’t swear to it J) and continue on with the group.

Admittedly this system means I miss out on the fun of actually completing some quests by myself and sometimes spend a few confused minutes trying to understand what we’re doing when I get back (depending on how long I’m gone).  It also just occurred to me as I was writing this that may not quite be what the finest of the fine print wants me to do.  However, I honestly do not think I would have stayed interested in WoW and kept playing had I not had this follow option.  The social component of playing with my friend was a big factor in my entry into WoWdom.  Now, when the child interruption comes during an instance/dungeon run, there is potential for awkwardness if someone notices the hunter isn’t really doing much ;).  However, this brings us back around to the social component.  When said instance group consists of 5 real-life friends – most of whom are actually sitting around your kitchen table – they are much more understanding.  In fact, that happened and they would usually just go ahead – with me following a friend – and just stop and wait if they got to a section that required all five of us to complete.  Again, it’s vastly preferable to my having to drop out and miss the whole dungeon – something that would be especially frustrating if I returned 2 minutes later and then had to watch everyone else play without me for the next half hour.

So that’s my take on the follow feature as it relates to moms.  It allows me to meet my kids’ needs and my own social gaming needs simultaneously.  As my kids are getting older and better at bedtime, the interruptions are becoming less frequent, but follow still has my back when something comes up.  Follow also helps with a real-life issue that I bring to my game, but that’s a story for another day.  Today I’ll end with this: if you’re trying to recruit a mom – especially one with young kids – to play WoW with you set up the game at her house and teach her to follow.  That’s how we non-Clara moms roll :D.

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