What do you get when you mix online gaming, amusement parks, family and a chance encounter with NPH? One crazy, exhausting, and overwhelming humbling family trip, of course.
So this trip request started about 2 years ago when Make a Wish contacted Owen to see what he would want to do if he could do anything. “Visit the makers of the online game World of Warcraft” (Blizzard Entertainment) was his response. Now I’m going to admit that when he first said it (and I should preference this by saying I’m not a gamer) I thought “really, a gaming company?” Personally I think I would have opted for a trip to Australia, maybe a cruise… But it wasn’t my wish it was his.
2 weeks ago when we got the notice that the trip was finally going to happen – well by then I already understood why he chose it. He started playing the game when he was 8 (8 years ago) as a way to spend time with his dad and cousins. His cousins were on the west coast and we’re on the east coast – so their online gaming world gave them a way to stay connected, chat online with each other, and collaborate on quests that they could do together.
During Owen’s ongoing battle with bone cancer the game also became an escape. We would cart his laptop and internet booster with us to the hospital for chemo and whatever surgeries he might have scheduled. It was interesting because the TV would often annoy him but the game would always distract him. He would lose himself for hours within that online world; which when you’re in the hospital for weeks at a time it truly is a blessing. I should mention I’m the type of mom that tells her kids to go outside and play, to get off the computer, but things change when your child is sick. Then it becomes about letting them escape to a place that offers them peace… a diversion from their illness.
So on Wednesday, 2/22 when Make a Wish presented Owen with his trip to California to meet the creators of World of Warcraft.. Owen was excited, giddy and we were all thankful that he was given the opportunity to do so.
The very next day a limo picked us up and so our adventure began…
On Friday 2/24 we traveled once again in a limo from our hotel to Irvine, California were Blizzard’s corporate headquarters are located. There we met with our Blizzard contact, Kacy who graciously spent the rest of the day showing us around campus and making sure we got to all our various activities on time.
We started off the day at Blizzard by heading into a theater – where we met a couple lead designers who showed all of us how they design and create the worlds within World of Warcraft. I can’t adequately express how impressive it was to watch their presentation. The details that they build into the game, the tools that they use to build with, and just the intrinsic artistic beauty of their designs is an inspiration. We asked questions and listened to their presentation for an hour or two.. the time flew by.
Next we headed to the campus cafeteria for lunch and ended up surrounded by other designers, developers, etc of the World of Warcraft game. What impressed me the most is that I know they were given as equally short notice as we were that we were coming into Blizzard – however they all were genuine, warm and happy to have us there. They loved talking about their roles in the creative process and truly sounded like they loved working for Blizzard. They shared stories of showing their kids their work and were excited for fans to see their upcoming new release.
After lunch we headed up to the board room and met Chris Metzen, VP of creative development, and Rob Pardo, EVP of game design. They were both engaging and provided us another glimpse into online game development. We loved hearing how they got their start in the business, their philosophy on creative development, and their passion for what they do. Afterwards we took a tour of the campus where we were able to see various artwork and sculptures. The amount of talent contained within that campus is amazing.
Our last stop was a trip to the World of Warcraft development team floor… where Owen really was blown away by their generosity. Owen sat down with 4 different designers/developers on this floor and was able to add his own personal elements to the next release of the World of Warcraft game. I can’t say too much since we signed a non-disclosure agreement – but once the next release of the game comes out I will provide more specifics.
By the time he finished making the rounds with the various designers it was after 5PM… we made our way downstairs where again he was surprised by the generosity of Blizzard when he was given a huge box of World of Warcraft collectibles, comics, etc…
If I could say anything to the employees of Blizzard – I would say thank you for creating a memory that our son will never forget. Thank you for taking time out of your day to make him feel special. And mostly thank you for giving him (and I’m sure many others in similar situations) a place to escape to when needed.
Make a Wish trip … to be continued