The Joy of (Hearthstone) Gifts

I suppose I have only myself to blame for this. That might be my cold-addled brain talking, though!

As you might know from reading this blog with any regularity, I enjoy the occasional game of Hearthstone, which slowly devoured my wallet over a course of 8 months. While I wouldn’t call it the most serious game in the world (hence the usually call of “esports” when something completely random decides a game, such as Ragnaros the Firelord), it does present a ton of diverse, interesting nuances, mechanics, and synergies for those willing to experiment. The core game remains exciting, simple, and intuitive despite the “hardcore” and “tournament” players who undervalue strange cards, and I beat my head against the wall getting unorthodox strategies to work. That has, at the very least, increased the game’s longevity for me.

Do other, longer running trading card games provide a fuller experience? Sure, I’m absolutely certain that Magic the Gathering is the better game by a long shot. On the other hand, I do believe aesthetics and the trappings around the game play some part in its effectiveness, and most digital translations of Magic the Gathering look and feel  nothing short of horrendous. Every time I look at it, I compare it to Hearthstone and they never look flattering side by side.

That’s no more true than in the sacred ritual of the pack opening. In most physical, actually tangible card games, opening up a pack means you get new cards. In a sense, there’s a lingering excitement from obtaining new strategic tools, but otherwise the whole process turns quite functional. Blizzard, on the other hand, masterfully manipulates its audience with audio and visual feedback when opening packs. Each expansion has a unique pack opening animation, which builds up anticipation; the Innkeeper, who often talks to the player, announces certain cards with intense excitement. At rare cards, he merely states the obvious: you picked up a rare, hurray. There were going to drop in every pack anyway, so he’s no more excited than you.

When you obtain higher rarity cards, though, prepare for the Innkeeper to literally scream in ecstasy over your prize. At Epic, he gives you a minor, firm push to happy days with his general fervor. But man, when you open up that legendary, the screen EXPLODES in orange light while the Innkeeper bellows LEGENDARY, emphasizes every last syllable. And, really, you just get caught up in the excitement of opening new cards. That’s not to mention the opening of Golden cards, which also come with associated audio feedback from the faux-Scottish accent voice actor. In sum: it’s awesome, and psychologically manipulative, but I love it.

LEGENDARY

Just a taste!

I liken it to the experience of Christmas mornings. As my parents tell me, my excitement during Christmas often hit levels of extreme absurdity; I lose sleep over this stuff. The idea of obtaining gifts for free, especially ones you want, is almost too much pressure for a kid to handle. I didn’t ever search around for the gifts, either! I would rather experience the delight of the gift from people I love, without cheating myself from the Grand Reveal of Awesomeness that was Christmas morning. I imagine that’s the whole point of Christmas morning: it is a reflection of the free gift Jesus Christ gave to us, salvation, through His actions, not our own.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and [h]that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship,created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

Ephesians 2

 

And man, anyone who tells you receiving gifts isn’t as good as getting them is fooling themselves…but giving them is just as good, depending on the context! That explains why God gives us such as gift as salvation: not only does it save us, but it delights Him. You don’t often think of God in the sense of raucous enjoyment, but what other major figure of a religion do you know who hangs out in bars with prostitutes and drunkards? Or creates giant vats of wine for a wedding? Gifts are awesome; the Lord receives them by giving them to us, and I imagine He would have it no other way.

So what do you think I did on Monday, when The Grand Tournament came out? I bought a whole lot of packs that I obtained via gifts and earned daily quest gold. Then, I opened them all. It takes a long time to open 76 packs!

And then, after that, I wasn’t finished. I figured nobody wanted to watch me open up more packs. I used Amazon’s kickback promotion (20% on any in-app purchase, combined with a 10% discount on their currency, meant I got a pretty substantial discount) to open up about 150 more packs. Yes, I am insane. Yes, I have disposable income. But considering how much time it would take to obtain these cards otherwise, I feel no shame in spending my money rather than wasting massive amounts of time grinding. Plus, I don’t even want to recount how much time I spent playing the game over the past year…

Each pack hits you like a little bit of Christmas, one at a time. Or, at least, my body thought so. Immediately upon opening all that stuff, my mind and body alike decided that they would never let me sleep nor stop thinking about Hearthstone, and thus I ended up exhausted the next day with a nasty cold, horrible congestion, and any other terrible symptoms you can imagine. I haven’t gotten sick in years, but I got my packs, man!

If you are curious, I ended up with 8 different legendaries from packs, and enough dust to craft 8 more. I would call that a pretty good exchange, all said!

About Zachery Oliver

Zachery Oliver, MTS, is the lead writer for Theology Gaming, a blog focused on the integration of games and theological issues. He can be reached at viewtifulzfo at gmail dot com or on Theology Gaming’s Facebook Page.