This May, St. Jude’s Children Hospital will be holding its third St. Jude Play Live event, and World of Warcraft streamer Zelse knows exactly what he’ll be streaming: 24 hours of Friendship Moose runs.
Previously an Alliance staff raid leader for OpenRaid, an online community for World of Warcraft players to organize cross-realm raids, Zelse is now IT account manager and beloved Twitch streamer known for his Friendship Moose runs, where he helps players loot the coveted Grove Warden mount, available only to those who successfully down raid-boss Archimonde on Heroic or Mythic difficulty.
Zelse and I sat down at our West Coast and East Coast computers on Monday, and talked fantasy books, writing, anime, and moose (or mooses, if you like).
Deva: Why the Friendship Moose?
Zelse: I actually didn’t start the Friendship Moose. It was started by Thomicks. From my understanding, what he was trying to do was create something for players to gear themselves to eventually kill Heroic Archimonde. The mount is only achievable through killing Archimode on Heroic, and people were upset because they wanted to get it through Looking for Raid or Normal. They didn’t think that they’d ever get it. Thomick’s idea was to create “Friendship Moose.” It was an idea of getting friends together, slowly learning Archimode’s fight, and getting the moose as a group. Unfortunately, a few weeks ago, he Tweeted that he wouldn’t be able to do runs anymore because he had too much going on.
Deva: You took me on a mount run, and you had given the WoW community 200-some-odd mounts. How many mounts have you helped the community get now?
Zelse: 26 runs and 317 mounts. I started a week before Christmas.
*Expletive because holy moly that’s a lot of freakin’ mounts!*
Deva: When did you come up with the idea to lead Friendship Moose runs?
Zelse: I saw someone post a “follow and retweet” to enter a contest to get the mount. I was thinking why? This person is in a top US guild in full mythic gear. This person could do it in their spare time. Why make it a contest and make it only available to one person? So I decided, you know what? I’m going to try to help people like I did before on OpenRaid. Other people were running raids to help gear players to kill Archimode in Heroic. However, I’ve always been one of those guys to jump straight to the end and get something done for people who don’t have time to get all the gear. I didn’t like the idea of making it a contest. I wanted to reach out and help them.
Deva: When I knew we were going to chat, one of the first things I thought of was why doesn’t he charge for runs? He could make so much gold.
Zelse: In the end, it came down to helping people. It was the same thing in OpenRaid. We were there to help people out and do raids, and I got to the point where I was running 10 to 15 raids a week, whether it was for achievements, heroic runs, or challenge modes. There was a request thread as well. People could put in requests for what they wanted to do, and I helped out.
Deva: How long have you led raids?
Zelse: Probably 8 to 10 years. When I first got into online gaming, it was all about me being the best I could. In Vanilla WoW, my first mmo, I learned the ropes of raiding. It took me about 6 months to a year to figure out what I was doing, and I started experiencing what participating in world-first content was like. I was 18 or 19 at the time, and I let my ego go. I got cocky. But I started noticing the online community wasn’t what you could do for yourself, it was what you could do for the community.
In my third year of playing WoW, I started changing my outlook on what it meant to play an online game. I started taking on a leadership role. That’s when I picked up raid leading. My fourth year in WoW, I started acting as a guild master and created my own guild. I’ve been helping and assisting others off and on since.
Deva: Have you done things like Friendship Moose runs in other games?
Zelse: I did in Destiny for a little bit before the first expansion. I was part of the first one percent in the world to do their raid, Vault of Glass, on a harder difficulty. After the second week, we started going through and helping people out. It was still pretty tricky on normal, but we would take players and explain the fight strategies so they could help their friends. I got help from Vitalitycross, one of my team mates. We would get so many requests, we’d each lead some people two times every other day.
With Destiny, it was easier because I was able to teach people while taking them through a raid in a first-person-shooter format. With an FPS game, the mechanics are not nearly as complex as you would see in WoW. The Friendship Moose runs I host on WoW are not necessarily teaching runs, but runs to help people get their mount. I’m more than willing to assist those that would like to take it a step further to learn the mechanics if they wish to host their own runs in the future.
After Heroes of the Storm launched and season four of Diablo was out, for a limited time you could get a Malthael mount in Heroes if you hit 70 during the Diablo season. I created a Reddit post saying if you couldn’t get the mount, I’d power level you in 20 minutes, and there you go. Free mount.
I don’t expect anything in return. It’s really about helping people out. I enjoy it. I like to help people.
Deva: Is there anything else in World of Warcraft you’d like to do, aside from the Friendship Moose runs?
Zelse: I’ve taken part in St. Jude’s Play Live fundraiser. It started in 2014, and they had a Warcraft weekend, and I did a 24 hour raid stream. There are other special weekends for different games.
Deva: What is St. Jude’s Play Live?
Zelse: It’s become an annual event. It started in 2014 and ran from June to September. Now it’s a single month. Last year it was May, and it’s May this year as well. I’ll be taking part in it again with my team, Team Zelse. To participate, you create a team, and play a kid-appropriate game. The main focus comes down to fundraising, and whenever you’re playing and streaming, you can have a bullet under your stream page that links to your St. Jude fundraising page to make a donation. All donations go towards St. Jude.
The first year, we raised over $5,000, which I was impressed with because I wasn’t a major streamer. The second year, a friend of mine from OpenRaid named MaliceQT, assisted my team. The night before the contest ended, we raised a little over $5,000. When I woke up, it had jumped to $9,000. We learned that in the night, game designer Scott Cawthon of Five Nights at Freddy’s went around and donated hundreds of thousands of dollars towards streamers participating in St. Jude’s Play Live. GameStop was matching donations, and we ended raising close to $16,000.
Deva: How do you think players can pay it forward too?
Zelse: With the online world, you have access to multiple games in different genres, whether it’s action/adventure, RPG, puzzle… What it comes down to is finding something you feel comfortable doing in an online game. Something simple to you might seem complicated to someone else. With WoW, doing Garrison missions and maximizing resources and gold might seem easy to you, but hard to someone else. Assist people with what you’re good at in the game. Just because I’m doing these runs doesn’t make me better than someone else out there. At the end of the day, when you help someone, you can make a friend or a lasting memory.
For those that are playing in the online world, they need to keep in mind that everyone has a different play style. Just because someone can’t do something doesn’t mean they aren’t good enough to earn something by themselves. They might just need an extra hand. It’s better to give a helping hand to someone to help them obtain something than be the person who already obtained it and then watch those who can’t get it fail.
With my hardcore raiding experience and a background in competitive content, I’m sure there was a point when I thought I was better than other people. However, you start realizing that you can do all these awesome things and be part of that one percent that’s doing something, but it really means nothing if you’re not assisting the community at all. It’s like real life – do unto others. The same rules should be followed in an online game.
Tonight, I hopped in World of Warcraft on my mage and teleported myself to Stormshield, this expansion’s capital city. I planned to PVP, and as I queued for a battleground, received two whispers. “Can I get a port to Shattrath?” “Hey. Can you port me to Stormwind? I have 10 gold.” Sure, gold’s nice. It’s really nice. But so is doing something for someone else. So, taking a cue from Zelse, I did what only mages can do: give someone a portal to another city. And instead of taking their money, I buffed them, and then threw an awesomefish at their head.