Hearthstone and the Language of WoW
I finally got to try Hearthstone for myself last night thanks to an extra invite from Newbie Blogger The Jazz Panda. I say “finally” because although the game is still in closed beta from what I can tell literally every other person in the world got an invite before I did*. It’s an interesting phenomenon to feel behind in a game before it’s even out of closed beta.
Anyway, I’ve heard great things about Hearthstone and I was eager to play it, but I had some reservations because despite my best efforts “Collectible Card Games” just haven’t stuck with me. I made a pretty solid effort to get into Magic: The Gathering a few years ago, and while friends helped me put together a couple of decks I found the number of options and my complete newbie status to be overwhelming. I didn’t even know what was in the realm of possibility much less what had synergy.
The sheer amount of information I’d need to play at a reasonable level stressed me out to the point where I decided to not bother at all. (This is also the way I feel about League of Legends and to a lesser extent DOTA 2, with their walls of champions and items.)
To be fair, my brief foray into the world of Magic definitely helped me understand the basic principles of Hearthstone. There’s a resource that renews with each turn, there are creatures with a damage number and a health number, and cards can work together to do funky things. But the real reason I feel comfortable taking on Hearthstone is because through WoW I already natively understand many of the mechanics.
For example, last night I was playing against Thrall, the shaman NPC, for the first time. He dropped a windfury totem and my first reaction was, “Oh crap, I bet something is gonna hit me twice now,” which is indeed exactly what happened. I already know that the Frost Nova card is going to freeze everything in place. I can guess without looking that Innervate is going to give back some mana crystals. The Priest deck is going to have a lot of healing, the Warrior deck is probably going to have a lot of charging.
Coming into the game already having a basic understanding of card mechanics has made a huge difference in how much I enjoy deck building. In the current digital trading card game boom, having this additional accessability I think will be a huge marketplace advantage for Hearthstone.
A lot of people have suggested that Hearthstone was a pretty sneaky way to get people back into WoW, but I think that works both ways. One of the neat things about WoW is that it historically brought people into MMOs who didn’t play before, like women and older grown-up folks. This audience is also traditionally not into the CCG scene, but by using WoW language in Hearthstone I think Blizzard has quite cleverly made the genre more welcoming to a larger crowd than ever before.
* This may in fact not be literal.