As I previously mentioned, one of my Christmas presents to my wife was a copy of SWTOR. It was a very last-minute purchase, spurned on by an off-hand comment she made during lunch one day about having liked the beta. Now my wife’s never been one to fully embrace MMO gaming for the most part; she’s more predisposed to playing quick flash games and iPhone freebies more than anything else. Yet she’s not oblivious to them either, having enjoyed a few months in WoW, Wizard101, and even LOTRO. So why not?
It was as much an experiment as it was a present. I was genuinely interested in seeing whether or not SWTOR could sell its story-centric game to a woman who, to my knowledge, has never once played a game for its story or even read a single quest in World of Warcraft. I envisioned perhaps a few days of mindless grinding and then a loss of interest.
What I got was a woman who turned into a hardcore gamer overnight, spending her week of post-Christmas vacation plowing through Star Warsian adventures and raving about it. Like, seriously, raving.
I tried to be as hands-off as possible, for the purposes of this experiment. I answered questions when she asked and helped guide her through the character creation process. She chose, and I have NO idea why, a male Sith Warrior to play. To my knowledge she’s never played a male character, but I think she liked the tattoo options and the voice. After that, I left her alone except to be a source of knowledge and an occasional helping hand through flashpoints and heroic missions.
She took to the gameplay pretty easily, and I think that’s where her previous experience with WoW helped. I did have to explain some of the differences, like custom gear, advanced classes, social points, and whatnot, but the core was easy to pick up.
I think it took a day or so for the “story” part of the game to kick in. She got a huge kick out of the quest choices, particularly when she could be evil and cackle about it. Without concerning herself with the Light Side/Dark Side system, she eventually created a balance between the two as she navigated her way through the decisions. But the real defining moment was when she got Vette, her first companion, because she started to identify with the character and the relationship between her and it. Every day ended with her telling me some interesting moment that happened, and at dinner the other night she was regaling me with a lurid happenstance that sent her into peals of laughter to recall it. She LOVED when we ran Black Talon that *her* choices prevailed and we killed the captain AND the general (she’s ruthless, this one).
In fact, every day over the past week she’s been begging me to play with her, and she roped her brother in as well. I think I’ve done more grouping, both with family and strangers, in the past couple weeks of this game than I have in LOTRO in a year.
Now, argue all you want about SWTOR’s numbers and MMOness and all the other minutia we like to jaw about, but here is a completely unbiased mostly non-MMO gamer who has been entranced by this game’s story and characters to the point where she was staying up late just to see what happened next. It’s just one example, but from my perspective it’s significant because not even WoW affected her like this. Not even WoW had her dragging me into the game so I’d run some missions with her. In her case, SWTOR is a success, and if it’s any indication of how others out there who’ve not really found an MMO to stick with in the past could find that this hits the right spots, then we might see some surprising statistics in 2012 indeed.