The Evolution of Content Creation

Sharing her Wizard101 journey, Zaepha talks about content creation and how it's evolved over the years and shaped her experience in the game's community. Zaepha's ever-growing YouTube channel serves as a prime example of the evolution of content creation in the 101 universe.

What is it about Wizard101 that keeps people coming back fourteen years later? One answer is nostalgia. I discovered Wiz the summer after eighth grade, when it was one of the first games I played on PC, and my first ever MMO. My best friend and I were looking for a game we could play together, and after days of searching without finding anything that interested us, I stumbled upon a magical game called Wizard101 that had launched the year before.

I think for many of us those early days established a deep-rooted love for the game that is still there to this day. It felt so different from many of the other early MMOs of its generation. Learning my first few spells with my brand new pyromancer and then seeing them play out on the battlefield really did feel magical. I was immediately hooked. I loved the idea of being a new wizard coming into their powers with the help of a Harry Potter-esque crew of teachers and mentors in Ravenwood. As for the story, Malistaire felt like the perfect villain to pursue through the worlds, equal parts tragic and malevolent. The worlds themselves were so varied and vibrant as well. I couldn’t wait to see where the next area would bring me. I think many of us long-term players share a similar history, where we often discovered the game back in its earliest days as children or teens and have found ourselves drawn back as young adults and beyond.

While my friends did not end up playing Wiz long-term, I could never stay away from it for more than a few years. I played it on and off throughout high school and returned to it my senior year of college when I was feeling particularly lost and unsure of my future. It was so comforting to go back to my beloved world of magic and childhood memories, back when things were so much simpler. I again came back to it a year into my graduate program when I felt truly frustrated and unsatisfied with both my job and my studies. Again, Wiz gave me an outlet to relax and relive a bright, happy time from my childhood, which helped me cope with the difficulty of adult life and the responsibilities that came with it.

Some of my original wizards before the updated character models

However, I probably would have left Wiz, if not for another factor coming into play, one that would send me down a brand-new path that I never considered before. I always seemed to come back to Wizard101, but I must admit that for each interval I lingered for less and less time. It felt great to reminisce about my earlier years with the game, but it got to the point where I would play for a few days or just buy one month of membership before I got bored with the game or the nostalgia ran its course, and I would quit again.

I never really connected with the larger community when I was younger. I played mostly solo, and while I made a few friends here and there, nothing ever seemed to really stick. While I was aware of the number of community blogs, websites, and forums back in the day, I never engaged with them in any meaningful way, though looking back I wish I had, as they really were and continue to be the backbone of the Wizard101 player base.

No, this time what got me to stick with Wizard101 was the expansion of community content in recent years, from YouTube videos and livestreams to social media posts, fan-made art and music, and contests. The original fan blogs and websites were suddenly bolstered by Discord communities and social media pages where players could really connect with people outside the game in ways they couldn’t before. The amount of new YouTubers and livestreamers pumping out everything from walkthroughs, guides, and PVP highlights, to lore theories, music videos, and housing tours was so exciting to see. People were talking in depth about the development of the game and sharing their opinions, which opened up so many new areas of discussion and engagement.

I also noticed a shift in the way the developers communicated with the players. Before, much of KingsIsle to me was a faceless company, but now through Twitter and other social media I knew the developers by name and felt like my voice held weight when discussing potential changes to the game, even if I didn’t always get exactly what I wanted. I saw the development team make a larger effort to nourish and grow relationships with new communities and creators as well, giving out codes for contests and events or with promotions in their newsletters and posts.

The May 2020 Wizard Run Event with Around The Spiral

For the first time, I felt like I was part of the Wizard101 community. I wasn’t just there to play the game anymore. I wanted to stay because of the amazing connections I made with everyone else who loved the world as much as I did. But it went beyond that for me. I wanted to give something back to a game that had helped me through some of the roughest times in my life. I saw so many content creators who were just like me, with similar backgrounds and stories, and something clicked.

I could also be a creator.

It was at the height of the pandemic that I uploaded my first video to YouTube, a guide on how to craft a Deer Knight jewel. As many of us did during that time, I was feeling more isolated than ever and in desperate need of connection, and I think it gave me the kick I needed to put myself out there. Over a month I taught myself how to edit, how to capture game footage and audio, and I wrote and re-wrote my first script. When I was done, I had what I knew was a somewhat clumsily thrown together video, but it was the best I could do. I was so nervous when I pushed the upload button for the first time. I thought people would think the video was stupid, or I was stupid for thinking I could actually create something worthwhile on YouTube, but something magical happened instead.

People loved it.

I almost cried when I saw the comments flooding it. I knew the Wiz community was amazing, but I was so overwhelmed by the amount of support and positivity that came my way overnight. People really enjoyed my videos, and even more astonishingly, they liked me. I spent hours reading the comments and trying to reply to them all. The same night I uploaded that first video I knew this was something I wanted to continue to do for the foreseeable future. A spark was lit that has never really gone out since. I hit 1,000 subscribers less than a month after my first upload and made YouTube Partner shortly after. In the year and a half since I have been blown away by the growth of my channel and the larger community. Though I work full-time and am only able to upload every few months, the enthusiasm of my viewers has in no way diminished, for which I will forever be grateful.

Over time I’ve been a part of a number of different gaming communities, but never stayed for one reason or another. I can say without a doubt that Wizard101 has one of the most positive and supportive player bases out there. I have never felt so welcomed anywhere else. In other content creation circles, I’ve often seen creators compete against one another for attention or views and try to drag each other down or start drama. In Wizard101, I have come to befriend in one form or another so many different creators, and everyone makes an effort to support one another and cheer each other on. We celebrate every success and milestone in this community, and I couldn’t think of a more passionate and friendly group of people.

Wizard101 has changed so much throughout the years, but the most important thing that has never changed is the enthusiasm of its players. It feels like there’s truly something for all of us here, from questing and PVP to gardening, fishing, crafting, castle magic, events like the Deckathalon, Spiral Showcase, and Beastmoon Hunt, along with the newest addition of guilds and raids. However, with the expansion of content creation platforms, all these activities and interests can reach a much wider audience than before. All of us creators and players owe the developers for creating the game we love, but it is the players that have kept the magic alive fourteen years later. People return to the game all the time because of nostalgia, but they stay because of the community we’ve built here.

My first raid with a bunch of fellow content creators

Thanks to Zaepha for sharing her experience in this post!

How has your journey changed based on community content and connections?

Thanks for reading and see you in the Spiral!

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