Wowhead’s Take on the “Morality Issue”

February 3, 2009 at 12:13 am Leave a comment

This issue is popping up everywhere, and after reading this article I just wanted to give a few more personal comments.

[Wowhead]

“I submit to you the following question:

“Is your WoW character a violent person?”

Ostensibly, the answer would have to be yes, given that probably about 90% of what your character does involves fighting. And yet, I’m not exactly sure that needs to be the case. Is someone a “violent” character if they routinely use violence to accomplish goals that can only be accomplished through violent means?

Obviously, 99% of the quests in WoW can only be accomplished through violent means, but does it make a character “violent” to routinely volunteer for these quests? I’m not so sure. Being “violent” has a very negative connotation, but few people would argue against the use of force to, say, protect a small settlement from being raided by bandits—which is virtually all you do in Westfall, among other locations.

Likewise, if someone got attacked by a bear, it’s hard to criticize them if they use lethal force in defending themselves. Imagine, however, if somebody said to them, “Don’t go there, son, that’s bear country,” and they said, “It’s chill, I’ve got my handy assault rifle,” and then went out and shot, like, 40 bears because they “attacked him”. It’s hard not to question their motives.

Now, replace “bear” with “bandit”. It’s no surprise that the morality of the situation shifts significantly when you’re dealing with sentient creatures, fault and responsibility aren’t concepts that can be easily applied to a bear. But if you go into “bandit territory”, and get attacked by bandits, fault clearly lies with the bandits, right? Well, if you know that bandits are going to attack you when they see you, and you know that this area is bandit country, is it still the bandit’s fault for attacking you? It’s… unclear at best.

And yet, for virtually all games, the answer is a resounding no. In fact, it’s usually acceptable to attack someone first, as long as they would attack you if they could see you. In Fallout 3, you can play an absolute paragon of morality, that still abides by the hard and fast rule “If my targeting reticule is red, I kill the thing it’s pointing at.”

This is one of the things that I find the most promising about Wrath of the Lich King. Things began moving in this direction with The Burning Crusade, but everything I’ve seen so far suggests that WoW is trying very hard to sidestep this kind of “Hero Morality” that virtually all games fall victim to at one point or another. By trimming the number of various antagonistic factions and filler quests, not only do you get a more unified narrative (“No, guys, really, we gotta stop Arthas”), but you get heroes who are, well, actually heroes.”

Heroism, by SBMrClean

With the release of Wrath of the Lich King, I have noticed that more and more bloggers are asking these sorts of questions, what with all the torture quests that seem to run rampant in the expansion.  Is this Blizzard’s intention?

Now, not owning Wrath I cannot testify to whether this is actually the case or not (aka the increase in morally-questionable content), but I can side with the point of view that this may be something Blizzard has to do in order to keep interest in the game.  Would you really want to play a game where you have badass spells, hulking armor, horrendously bad dudes, and no killing is involved?  Although there are certainly games out there that don’t boast this level of violence, most players aren’t looking for a game that will baby them.  They are looking for a game that transcends reality, and what does so more than dragons, wizards, and epic fight scenes?  What doesn’t attest more to the idea of diving into an unreal world than being able to kill things?

Obviously killing is a necessary part of Azeroth, and although it doesn’t have to be that way, most players prefer it.

Speaking from personal experience here: as a somewhat cannabalistic, sexy, bloodthirsty, bezerking, Beast-Within-popping, ammo-fueled machine of death with a huge turquoise cat, I have had no problem just smashing everything in my path.  It didn’t start that way, but when I realized that WoW wasn’t just running around and exploring, that in order to “have more fun” I would need to level and gear and farm like my life depended on it (which it did), I started to care less and less about the “honest” parts of the game.  Soon my hunter-y world became about killing bosses and farming for enchants.  Even PvP, an activity which I enjoyed immensely, became a race for honor and gear.  Exploring was a waste of time, and yes, you do have to go massacre those Blood Elves every day.  Good hunter, good.  I found that most of my drastic change in perspective was due to a change in who I played with, namely that I left my better friends for a ‘lock (now ex-) boyfriend who raided and thought exploring was “fucking stupid.”  That did not, however, make up for what I had become.  Unfortunately I didn’t even notice myself until an outside-of-WoW witness saw me kill my way through a cave of Twilight hooligans just so I could see what was at the end of the tunnel.  Call that my epiphany.

I think that with the right amount of attention to the quest text, players would start to realize just how far into mindless-killing-territory they’ve gone, just like I have.

I find it very interesting that Blizzard has suddenly targetted this very real emotion for players, whether they meant to or not.  I’m not sure whether people will rise to the call and defend what they think is right or not.  I have no idea whether the Alliance will put their foot down, or the Horde will decide they’ve had enough (they are, after all, quite sentimental and intelligent creatures).  I guess we’ll have to wait and see.  But like the author of the article says, Arthas does have to be stopped.  Who’s man enough to do it?

rayare_grave2

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Welcome to Sauteed Sunfish - a blog about playing the "right" way in a morally corrupt Azeroth! I'm Rayare, Horde ex-hunter and baby druid extraordinaire on the realm Onyxia. There be dragons, baby. Dragons.

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