I have mentioned twice I play World of Warcraft (WoW), an interactive Internet computer game that is #1 in its field world-wide. I began playing in January 2009, mostly to understand why my husband found it so interesting. I got hooked.
My first character was a Tauren shaman, a race and class that is very interactive with nature, with quests based on environmental balance. There are two factions in WoW: the Horde and the Alliance. Horde races are Taurens, Orcs, Trolls, the Undead, and Blood Elves, with the recent addition of Goblins. Alliance races are Humans, Dwarves, Gnomes, Night Elves, Draenei, and the recent addition of Worgen. Looking at the races, it might be easy to casually characterize them as the Bad Guys and the Good Guys, but the way WoW was played then, there was no real distinction. Both factions confronted environmental degradation and committed their own versions of it. There were Third Parties they both fought, such as the Venture Company and the Defias (robbers, generally). My first few characters were on the Horde side, but eventually I had characters from both sides, and enjoyed each of them for various reasons.
There are a variety of ways to play WoW, and if you like Player versus Player (PvP) or Role Playing (RP), you can get on specific servers that cater to your preference. I enjoy Player versus Environment (PvE), which means you play the quests and interact with other players, but you do not specifically fight player characters from the other faction. I do not even duel, which PvP players find incomprehensible, and sometimes get quite rude about. All servers are based on PvE, because it is one of the ways to level up your character.
In December, Blizzard Entertainment brought out the new WoW upgrade: Cataclysm. The basis of the story is that humanoids in both factions messed with the elements, and brought forth disaster. Instead of working together to find a solution, each faction blamed the other side for what happened. With this upgrade, the philosophical basis of WoW has shifted — what was once fantasy, now has a heavy dose of reality, and the Horde is being portrayed as the “Bad Guys.” The busiest capital city of the Horde, Orgrimar, has turned FAR more industrial; it even has Goblin slums. The Undead have always warred with the living, but now they are polluting the land as well. The Alliance also got a heavy dose of not-so-happily-ever-after. The new race, Worgen, is based on werewolves out of the old Hammer films. One of my favorite Alliance areas was Westfall, because it reminded me of Southern California in the 1950s and early 1960s. Now Westfall is overrun with homeless people, crime, and gang wars. If I want that much reality all I have to do is watch the news or read a newspaper! Blizzard dumbed-down the player mechanics, apparently appealing to a younger crowd (11-year-olds?) that has trouble with logic and reading directions. They are also encouraging the whole Us versus Them view of the two factions, having new characters fighting members of the opposite faction before they even leave the “newbie” areas.
A lot of WoW players are very helpful and cooperative. I have done quests in lands used by both factions, and a member of the opposite faction has come to my rescue when my character was about to be killed by a computer character. I have seen higher level characters give gear and help to lower level characters they may never see again. People will give good advice when asked. [There are also rude idiots playing, but that happens in real life, too.]
I am disappointed with many of the changes Blizzard made. I play WoW to unwind, to imagine a world that is more manageable than real life. I don’t want this much reality intruding on my fantasy. I do not want to extol industrialization and pollution, so I have deleted all but three of my Horde characters. (The only reason I left three is to have some to play with my husband’s characters.) I have cut way back on the amount of time I spend playing WoW, so guess I should thank Blizzard for curing my WoW addiction. I know people who have quit playing the game altogether because of these changes. I suppose there are people who like the new WoW — Blizzard is a commercial enterprise after all. I am wondering what effect Cataclysm has had on the number of subscribers. I wish they had adopted a more positive philosophical basis. Sigh . . .