I played Hearthstone for a few months a year or two ago. I found it very entertaining and fun, but after a while I just stopped playing. Mainly because I am not a huge fan of competitive games. But also because I didn’t see it as anything more than a card game.
Just recently, I saw this animated short for Hearthstone called Hearth and Home. It came out a while ago, but I only just saw it, and it made me a fan of the game again. Even more so than I was while I was regularly playing. It is incredibly well animated and has a beautiful sentiment. It plays like a scene from a Disney movie, and feels just as wholesome and heartfelt.
The opening of Hearth and Home reminds me of the story of the Little Match Girl, where a young girl is shivering and alone in the cold of winter. She lights the matches she is supposed to sell to keep herself warm, and sees visions in the match light of a warm home, loving family, and safety. But unlike the Little Match Girl, at her moment of greatest need the main character of this short finds a warm and happy place where she belongs.
The thing I love about this short is how it relates playing Hearthstone to the comfort of being safe and warm at home. It evokes the feeling of Christmas and Thanksgiving, surrounded by family and friends, good food, warmth from the fire, and safety from the harshness of the world. It tells people that no matter how lost, cast out, friendless, and alone they feel, they can find a community in Hearthstone. Anyone and everyone, no matter who they are, can feel like they belong and are welcome.
I think that this is a beautiful message for an online game to have in this day and age. I don’t play a lot of online games, but I know that there are a lot of problems with toxic communities, trash talking, and general bad-sportsmanship. In light of all of that, Hearthstone is marketing itself as a haven. A safe place to play on the internet and have fun without fear of ridicule or trash talk. It has a message of good sportsmanship and community. Of lifting each other up and supporting each other instead of tearing each other down.
Now, I know Hearthstone is not immune to the influence of the trolls that occupy the internet. However, I am inspired just by the fact that this is how the Hearthstone franchise is being marketed. It means that the creators actually care about the experience of their players. It means that this is what Blizzard wants its players to feel, and is how they will continue to mold the user experience. While watching this short, I imagined the people in the tavern as not only other players, but as the game’s creators. They are there for you, to help you play, the help you learn, and to make you feel welcome. And most importantly, to keep the trolls in check.
Anyway, this was a short that hit me straight in the feels. I did not expect a piece of promotional material to be so heartwarming and thoughtful. Even with all the awesome Overwatch videos coming out recently, this is my favorite video game related short. The genuine love that the creators must have for their game and their community is palpable in this short. That if nothing else makes me a fan again. This short has single-handedly rekindled the flame of my enthusiasm for Hearthstone. While I may not begin playing again (competitive games are still not my thing), I will have a much fonder outlook on the game, and will continue to support it. Because the magic of Hearthstone warms hearts.