My appointment to lead a band of brutal Vikings from around the world this past Summer started as a harmless curiosity. I saw a TV ad for of those mobile device games featuring masculine graphics, dramatic synthesizer music and the inevitable words “clan” and “war.” Normally, I withstand such appeals as trifling time-wasters. Ok. I dabbled in Clash of Clans because my nephews loved that game. This was different. The ad was for “Vikings: War of Clans.” As a sucker for all things Vikings and Scandinavian, I couldn’t resist.
So sometime in late May, after my second child was born (she is named after my Great Grandmother Emmy, who emigrated from a small Swedish town near the arctic circle to the U.S. in the 1920s) as I was camping out with her and my wife in the hospital’s maternity ward, I went to the App store and downloaded the free game produced by Plarium Global Ltd., an Israeli games studio. The home screen featured annoying music, garish orange flames engulfing a Viking village in the background while a hulking Viking stands in the foreground sporting bulging muscles, a ferocious braided beard, a helmet with horns (more myth than accurate depiction of Vikings) and a vicious look in his eye. Then, a sultry Viking avatar appeared to walk me through the game’s setup steps.
After naming myself “Jarl Glader,” building a simulated Viking town, selecting a name for my champion fighter or “hero” (I named him “Sven” after my great-grandfather, who also came from a small town called Palang, Sweden, to the upper Midwest of America in the 1920s), the sultry avatar asked me to select a “clan” in my Kingdom #157 (Myderig) to join.
Scanning the list of clans, I didn’t like any of their names. I particularly disliked the top clan, which called itself “LAWD: Hail Satan.” So I selected the option to create my own clan. I came up with the clan name “NRDIC: Nordic Onslaught” totally unaware that an “onslaught” is a feature of the game whereby players can team up for a massive attack on another player. When it asked me for a clan description, I wrote simply, “Viking enthusiasts in the U.S., Scandinavia and beyond.”
Then I turned off the game, unsure whether I liked it, wondering if I would delete it later. The controls, features and details looked complex and not exactly user intuitive. The game was like a massive board game digitized inside my iPhone. The war action wasn’t as visceral as that found in Clash of Clans. This game featured dozens of buttons, legions of data points and several dashboards to analyze player, clan and kingdom performance.