The war against fantasy races and immersion has entered into the world of Azeroth, as a recent opinion piece published by general Blizzard fan site Blizzard Watch has called for the “end of race-based factions” based on rhetoric advanced by the Black Lives Matter movement.
In the piece titled “Now more than ever, Blizzard needs to rethink WoW’s race war,” author Scott F. Andrews laments the use of races within Azeroth as a defining factor for the game’s two major factions, the Horde and the Alliance.
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Andrews’ piece begins with a reflection upon the storyline for the expansion Mists of Pandaria, where the Horde and Alliance enter a once foreign continent and bring their conflict to the peaceful land of Pandaria which results in much of the region being devastated beyond recognition.
Andrews believes that the events of this expansion could have provided a suitable finale to the game’s longstanding war narrative, as he says that “in the story’s finale, the two factions — and by extension all of Azeroth’s main races — come together to defeat Garrosh. Bit this conclusion could have been even more powerful: it could have been the end of race-based factions.”
This ‘all hands on deck’ resolution to the war appears to omit a few minor details, such as King Varian Wrynn’s warning to the Horde about upholding honor (a quality that Blizzard forgot existed while writing Battle For Azeroth) or how Jane Proudmore prevented the Blood Elves from rejoining the alliance due to their association with the Horde, which would quickly prevent the simple formation of a greater alliance.
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Andrews further argued that “fantasy literature has also largely moved past the idea that all members of a fantastical race share the exact same beliefs and values, that in any war all members of a given race would naturally be allies against other “enemy” races.”
While not as widespread as Andrews’ blanket description presents, certain fantasy publications have recently made concerted efforts to move away from the use of classical fantasy race tropes as a tool to explore human behavior.
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One prominent example of this effort can be seen in recent moves by the publishers of Dungeons and Dragons, who are moving away from the use of unflattering racial traits in their latest campaign books, as the company believes these are “are painfully reminiscent of how real-world ethnic groups have been and continue to be denigrated.”
Though Andrews and those who put forth similar arguments claim that they only seek to expand upon story lines and enrich the community, it appears that their actions are motivated more by contemporary social politics rather than any concern for the enjoyment of the game.
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Andrew notes that “the massive worldwide Black Lives Matter protests following the death of George Floyd on May 25 have put a spotlight on racial injustice throughout the United States and elsewhere” and observed that “many changes, big and small, have come about as a result.”
Based on these recent real world events, Andrews argued that “Now, more than ever before, it’s time to end WoW’s race war. It’s time to let factions be factions, not racial segregation. Let faction pride be pride in a set of beliefs, not prejudice.”
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This reasoning was quickly followed by the hyperbolic comparison between fictional battle cries and real-world hate speech, as Andrew claimed that ““For the Horde” and “For the Alliance” are the two opposing rallying cries of WoW. But when you think about it, are these cries really any different from shouting “white power” in America today?”‘
This comparison only makes sense if one completely ignores the longstanding lore behind both the Horde and the Alliance.
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“For the Horde” is a battle cry that, created by the Orcs, is cried out by the Forsaken, Blood Elves, Trolls, and Taurens as a unifying cry that brings all these races together, in opposition to their treatment as ‘outsiders’ by the greater inhabitants of Azeroth.
In the case of the Alliance, “For the Alliance” serves a similar purpose and acts as a unifying call between Humans, Dwarves, Gnomes, Worgens, Nightelves and Dranai, signifying that the different races are united under the same banner.
Given that Blizzard staff was heavily inspired by the settings of classic Dungeons and Dragons campaigns and the epic fantasy world seen in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, it should come as no surprise to see that World of Warcraft’s twin factions have provided multi-racial unity in the face of looming threats since the game’s launch in 2004.
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World of Warcraft also prominently features non-race based factions that are less ridged with their membership requirements and feature representatives from both sides of the war, such as the Argent Crusade, made up of living and undead members of both factions, and the Cenarion Circle, whose membership is based on one’s class rather than their race
However, despite framing his argument as concern for a hypothetical player’s wellbeing, Andrews appears to be more focused on using the game as a vehicle for his own political views, underhandedly stating that Blizzard is “aware that the game promotes a race war, and they are aware, as we all are, about this powerful moment in history.”
He then urged “Blizzard to seize this moment and make changes.”
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As World of Warcraft was recently saved from the brink of extinction through the introduction of a “classic” version of the game, would the future removal of such fantasy elements truly help it’s continued survival or signal it’s end?
Let us know in the comments down below!