As many of us may have noticed, an event called Noblegarden became available on World of Warcraft servers with the arrival of Easter Sunday and will continue for an entire week. For Alliance members, quests can be completed in the starter cities (Goldshire, Kharanos, Dolanaar, and Azure Watch) to earn seasonal items. In one of these quests, one must hunt for Brightly Colored Eggs, which are items that contain Noblegarden Chocolate and Brightly Colored Shell Fragments, which can be turned in to NPCs for special rewards. Another special feature is the ability to turn into a rabbit for one hour in these cities, which speeds up the avatar’s movement and facilitates Egg hunting.
It is interesting that World of Warcraft capitalizes on a real-world holiday such as Easter and incorporates it into the diegetic space of the game. Rather than call it an Easter event however, the occasion is given the name “Noblegarden,” and the backstory is as follows:
The great feast of Noblegarden has long been celebrated by the races of the Alliance and recently adopted by those of the Horde. On this joyous day, it is customary for the nobles and lords from each race to hide coins, candy, and the occasional treasures within special eggs painted to look like wildflowers. These eggs are then scattered around the major cities for the citizenry to find. From heroes to commoners, and everyone in between – the feast of Noblegarden is meant to bring communities together to share the joy of life and friendship.
No religious allusions are made in this description—rather, it is described as purely a celebration of fun and friendship, yet incorporates traditional Easter activities (egg hunting, eating candy, etc.). By avoiding religious overtones, however, the game designers allow for a broader audience to enjoy the in-game festivities. This Egg collection activity lends itself well to the format of a RPG like WoW, in which quests often consist of killing set numbers of monsters to collect set numbers of objects to turn in for rewards. This procedural repetition of collection and trade-in allows the game to be addictive and rewarding, encouraging the player to continue engaging with the game.
A quick Google search indicated that there is an entire calendar of in-game events just like Noblegarden—there is a Lunar Festival (Chinese New Year), Love is in the Air (Valentine’s Day), Brewfest (Oktoberfest), Hallow’s End (Halloween), and Pilgrim’s Bounty (Thanksgiving), among many others. Each seasonal event is replete with its own set of collection quests and activities, which incite the player to return for “limited edition” unique items and adds to the fun of playing in the fictional world of Azeroth. These recurring events are clever implementations by the game developers to keep players addicted to the game, lest they miss out on goodies.
This is not unique to World of Warcraft. Other multi-user social platforms utilize the same method of incorporating special site updates for holidays and other occasions. For instance, the avatar-based social networking site, Gaia Online, regularly implements holiday-themed events that allow users to play mini-games and complete tasks (like quests on WoW) that reward the user with Gaia Gold, the in-site currency. Users also get holiday-themed commemorative items and clothing to equip on their avatars. These items and clothing can also be bought, sold, or traded on Gaia marketplaces, just as in WoW. Having used Gaia briefly in high school, I can attest to the addictive nature of completing these activities to collect seasonal items. David Golumbia summarizes this pleasure well in his essay, “Games Without Play,” when he writes, “A great deal of the pleasure users get from WoW or Half-Life, as from Excel or Photoshop, is a digital sense of task completion and measurable accomplishment” (192). Golumbia goes on to explain that each task is a discrete goal, one that can be easily attained, and satisfying to complete. Much like the satisfaction of crossing things off a to-do list, collecting items and earning rewards affords the same feeling, and contributes to the lasting entertainment one gets from playing games. The intersection of real holidays with their emulated version within the game world allows for a more immersive gaming experience.
“Gaia Online.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 07 Apr. 2015. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaia_Online.
Golumbia, David. “Games Without Play.” New Literary History 40.1 (2009): 179-204.
“In-game Events.” World of Warcraft: Game Guide. Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. Web. 7 Apr. 2015. http://us.battle.net/wow/en/game/events/.
“Noblegarden.” WoWWiki. Web. 07 Apr. 2015. http://www.wowwiki.com/Noblegarden.