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70-year-old raiding grandma wields legendary and leads her guild

Fighting Warlord Zon'ozz
You don't get much more charming than the Knitting Grandma, the surprise hit guest at last fall's BlizzCon 2011 WoW Insider Reader Meetup. Remember her? She charmed our staff and meetup guests alike with her dry wit and talk of Thunder Bluff-themed socks.

Today, we press forward from the warm, fuzzy territory covered by the Knitting Grandma with two window-rattling volleys in the battle against gamer stereotypes:

  1. You don't have to be a granny to knit and play World of Warcraft. Even the author of Clique, the preeminent click-casting addon, gets his knit on.
  2. Whether they knit or not, even grannies can be GMs. Of raiding guilds. Who've raided since original Molten Core. And top the DPS meters. Wielding Dragonwrath, Tarecgosa's Rest. (So yes, that does indeed qualify her to tell you kids to "GET OFF MY LAWN!")

Meet Marthazon, the 70-year-old GM of Spartans on Dalaran (US-A).

MarthazonMain character Marthazon
Guild Spartans
Realm Dalaran (US)

WoW Insider: Level 70 in real life -- and of course, GM of a raiding guild in game ... That's not a usual mix! Take us back to how you got started in this crazy WoW endeavor we all love.

Marthazon: I started playing the game on the Alliance side as Marthazon in January of 2005. I had played for about a month earlier as Horde in order to play with my daughter. She had an undead warlock. My daughter, who is 33, knew that I enjoyed the genre of swords and sorcery in literature and movies. I had read Lord of the Rings to my three children as a nightly ritual when they were young. She had bought World of Warcraft when it came out and kept nudging me to give the game a try because she "knew" I'd love it.

And obviously, you did! Coming into the game via grown children who play is a pretty common method of entry for older players, although most folks your age seem to stay on the casual side of things. How did you make the jump into raiding?

I joined Spartans at level 15, and I think that our GM at the time was at level 40 and the highest level in the guild at the time. We did every dungeon in the game as a guild, but our first venture in Molten Core hooked me on raiding. I really loved learning the fights, learning to figure out the most efficient and safest way to down each boss. At the time, the guild was using signups to fill the 40-man raids, and many raid nights we struggled and watched the time tick away before either filling our raid or cancelling the raid.

I turned to PvP when raiding slowed down or stopped. The fact that I managed to reach the PvP rank of Marshal prior to the first expansion says a great deal about the difficulties of filling a 40-man raid.

Marthazon in action
Old school! And now you're the GM ...

During The Burning Crusade, our GM found that he had too much going on in his real life to continue playing, and he passed GM to me in December of 2007. Suddenly I was responsible for enabling every player in the guild to meet their own raiding goals. An in-depth discussion between all officers led to the same conclusion: Move the guild to a set team format and maintain a roster of raiders able to commit to three nights a week. Acknowledge that real life is the more important factor for all players, and do not penalize players when real life prevents participation in the game.

Topping the meters That sounds like a pretty typical raiding guild, then -- nothing granny-style about that!

We raid three times a week: Tuesday, Thursday, and we end the raid week with the Monday raid. As I said, we raid with a set team – slightly more than 25 players to hopefully cover players that need to post out. We try to hold to a 25-man raiding format but when we can't field 25 players, we are able to quickly form 10-man raids -- two 10-man raids, usually. We are recruiting and hope our future holds a third 10-man -- and give the 25-man raid a better chance at filling spots.

Our members all have my phone and text number, and they are good about keeping me informed about being able to play as I've scheduled them. I set the entire schedule up every month and adjust it as players call when they can't play. Working the schedule every day is the first thing I do in the morning. In addition to the Dragon Soul raids, we also play two ad hoc Fireland raids on the weekends, helping several other guild casters get their own Dragonwrath staffs.

What is the guild currently working on?

25-man Ultraxion; Spine of Deathwing and The Maelstrom in 10-man. The holidays cut into our raiding quite a bit, along with demands for overtime at many workplaces. With the economy so slow, many players relish the extra pay.

Oops
And on top of all that, we spy a Dragonwrath in your inventory -- congratulations! Tell us a little bit about the long road to achieving your legendary.

Dragonwrath was quite simply a gift from my guild. I only had to run around a pick up the various items while they killed or after they killed the bosses. The process of collecting the various items takes so long that it requires dedicated raiders willing to show up week after week to make those collections possible. The one solo part of the quest line -- the Nexus dungeon -- was amazingly fun to do, but nothing compared to the work the guild put in.

Now, your husband doesn't raid, so when do you get to play with him -- or do you?

We do dailies together, and we farm for those ever-needed mats that raids require. It is very rare that we miss a day of playing together. We play together mostly in the morning, logging off around noon. I might return in the afternoon for some randoms and those ever-needed valor points, but I also work at our family genealogy. Afternoons often have me playing, as their ads say, family detective at Ancestry.com.

When it comes to raiding, I like fielding dedicated, knowledgeable people that have that singular desire to figure out what the developers are throwing against us and how to most efficiently down the fight. My husband enjoys the storylines and leveling, but says he has no patience for raiding and the seemingly endless wipes.

Getting ready to raid
Sounds like a perfect blend. So has Marthazon always been your main? Do you play any significant alts?

Marthazon has always been my main. I do have alts -- I leveled most races and classes to enjoy their storylines and zones. I have a priest that I can raid at need for the guild when we are short healers. She's fun ... but she's not my mage. The others are only farming alts and taken down for a spin when I need some mats for something.

What's the average age of your guildmates, without considering you and your husband?

Average age is around 28 to 33. We have a number of husband/wife players and many with young children and several with children almost ready for college.

Do you find much of a generation gap in social interactions with your guildmates?

Not really. Now and then, someone will say something (especially in trade channel) that I don't quite understand ... I just ask in guild and someone will (usually with much laughter) tell me.

Probably the biggest generation gap I experienced was back when I was around level 40. I should paint in a bit of background first. When I first joined this guild, I was thrilled that so many of the other guildies -- the toons -- were women. I remember thinking that that held great promise for women being involved in technology. The day came when the guild was running Zul Farrak and one of the players, a female night elf, typed something out in chat that made me say in chat, "That sounds like something a man would say." The run came to a standstill as the other players took great pains to explain to me (with much leet laughter) that I was the only woman in the guild at that time and why they played female avatars.

Daily quests
Were you comfortable with computers before you started playing World of Warcraft, or has playing been an introduction to that world as well?

Computers have long been a part of my life. My father worked with early computers for the GSA as a data programmer after he retired from the Army in the '50s, and I've always been fascinated by the technology. My last job before retiring was computer tracking a large fleet of commercial trucks and their deliveries. I helped design the in-house program to track the data we needed to maintain, and I acted as the office IT.

When my children were toddlers, we bought a VIC-20 and a handful of text games -- you know, the kind where you get a clue like "The bear is sleeping in the clearing. What do you do?" The kids would offer suggestions, and I'd type each suggestion in until we got the right one and the game responded. Two of my children went into computer technology fields.

So you've been at this a good, long while! Is there anything in World of Warcraft you feel you're slowing down at or getting less efficient or effective at as you get older? Would you say that your age is affecting your game?

World of Warcraft is sort of like the French Foreign Legion of games when it comes to age. As long as you can do your part, it's rare for someone to ask "How old are you?" As long as I can maintain the same focus and the awareness that I want from other players, I feel that I can hold my own.

I'm not the oldest, by the way, in my guild. That honor goes to my husband, who is 72. He doesn't like to raid, however. He is our AH king, keeping our raiders in repair gold. WoW is an excellent and inexpensive recreational outlet for us old codgers. A lot less expensive than golf.

Marthazon at work
Fair enough! That said, what's the continued draw of World of Warcraft for you? What keeps you playing?

Living on a fixed income, World of Warcraft provides a lot of entertainment that is fun and affordable. At the same time the game doesn't require using the car, fighting traffic, crowds, or weather, buying tickets or paying fees. I have to think about what I am doing in game. I'm not a couch potato just watching a cartoon on the TV. Blizzard's work at keeping the game open-ended and providing new content keeps me coming back.

"I never thought of playing WoW like that!" -- and neither did we, until we talked with these players, from Game of Thrones' Hodor (Kristian Nairn), to a blind ex-serviceman and the guildmates who keep him raiding as a regular, to a man who plays as part of his battle against Alzheimer's disease. Know someone else we should feature? Email lisa@wowinsider.com.

Filed under: Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

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