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May 16, 2006

Comments

1.

As a student of design and literature, the largest issues I see in pinning in-game races to real-world nationalities is one of the decline of good fictional development, and in setting those pins in poor places. Simply put, it's easy to communicate cultural identity of a fictional group by making it a shadow of or a mirror to an existing cultural group. It's far shorter a row to hoe than to develop a fictional culture from scratch. Second, when so many games (and films, etc) involve advarsarial relationships, pinning a real world culture into a position that may be construed as a 'bad guy' role is unfortunate for obvious reasons.

There's just so much baggage that comes along for the ride when a designer takes the shortcut of transporting cultural artefacts from the real world into games that I believe that baggage should incent the designer to do his/her homework and at least obscure any references to real cultures, rather than emphasize them.

2.

One interesting thing about any colonial undertones to WoW is the extent to which WoW does (or doesn't) adhere to the traditional Euro-centric view of the inherent superiority of the colonial powers.
As the history of the Warcraft universe has unfolded over the course of many games, we've learned that, contrary to early portrayals of orc as bloodthirsty savages, their pre-demon corruption culture was relatively peaceful.
Furthermore, we learn that the alliance races have their own fair share of unreasonable prejudices (the similarity of the orc internment camps to indian and japanese internment camps is not coincidental, nor are the, to our view, extremely questionable justifications for their existence).

The interesting aspect here is that Blizzard appears to be using their fictional world's unfolding history to mimic the dissolution of traditional (american) colonial narratives that has occurred in historical scholarship.

3.

Art imitates life. The designers will unquestionably draw upon the personally familiar. The magic is when it moves past basic derivation and becomes its own unique, breathing narrative.

Indigenous/low-tech cultures portrayed as the Bad Guys is the norm. That's what consumers buy, because that's what consumers find familiar to believe.

4.

And... er.... what do we mean by "cultural" references? For example, if we have a game based on the American West, is it the "real" American West, or the film version that we've all come to "know" through movies? And, even if we are using "real" historic cultural references, are we talking about references to one culture at one point in time, or to a culture who's own significant touch-points are based on many past cultures?

It's a very weird question, and one that, of course, pops up in every field of artistic endeavor, not just games. If I reference a mythic Old West hero, am I also bringing in references of the Roman ideals on which he is based and the Greek ones on which those are based, mixed in with various Norse and Celtic traditions, since those are also heavily laced into American folk stories?

And when folks start pointing at various game art/concepts like the Tauren and saying that it's clearly "Native American," but what it really is is an amalgam of popular, modern myths about such... well, you run into the question of whether your game material is truly based on cultures, cultural myths, myths of cultures, folklore, earlier fiction, etc. etc. So even if you *intend* to put cultural references in your games, is that what you end up doing?

A question I find more interesting, and one that hasn't been explored as deeply (that I'm aware of), is why racial boundaries are so often (and I don't mean to pun) "black and white" in games. That is, to use WoW as an example, why are humans generally allied with other Humans and Dwarves because of purely racial/cultural reasons, and the enemies of Tauren, Dark Elves, Trolls, etc., because of same? This seems to enforce an "earth-centric" and medieval view of where one gets one's allies and enemies; a view based on our own highly charged ethnic and cultural wars.

There are plenty of other instances, however, where allies/enemies are made based on philosophical, geographic, state, religious, class and economical differences. And in some great sci-fi and fantasy series, the big "break" between enemies can be found in terms of "do you favor nature" vs. "do you favor tech?" We don't have to look for enmity differences that are, essentially, ones of culture and race. Ones based on clear choices of character are certainly available. You can have evil, thieving humans and good natured trolls. I'd love a WoW game where the "race" of the characters had less to do with alliances than what kind of kingdom management they preferred ; )

So much high-fantasy is derrivative of Tolkien, that we have to acknowledge that stuff like WoW is going to rely heavily on preconceived (and, thus, easily sold) notions of elves, orcs, trolls, etc. So, regardless of "beardy" discussions of what's PC and right... we like our elves sleek and good and pretty and our trolls and orcs ugly and bad.

5.

Great post. To add fuel to the fire, what about the construction of humanity vs. non-humanity in WoW? While we're wondering about what it means to co-opt/borrow from cultures of stereotypes of cultures, I think it's worth noticing another insidious bit of racialist re-inscription (god, I love writing all radical =P) in the coding of humanity as European.

It is completely unambiguous that, even though you can pick a number of skin tones in WoW for your human character, the culture of humanity is clearly European. There is no existence of non-european humanity in Warcraft lore whatsoever.

So when you look at WoW (and frankly a lot of western fantasy) under a filter checking for racism/nationalism you can see that in general humanity is portrayed as European and other cultures are coded not only as "other" but even not quite human. That's pretty disturbing, from my perspective.

6.

Well, as some have alluded to, Blizzard is aware to some extent of this crypto-colonial outlook, and is willing to explode it.
For instance, when speaking to the Orc leader (Thrall, whose story is interesting in and of itself), he comes across as a supremely wise and reasonable person. Whereas some of the Alliance leaders seem rather intolerant and shortsighted. I don't think this is an accident. One of the things I think Blizzard might be trying to do with this is to intentionally create an ambiguity, that gets the intelligent player to question the "official" viewpoint of history.

Personally, most of the Horde RP-centric players seem to regard the Alliance as corrupt and evil.

7.

I've talked this through with my guild, and we all thought it was obvious in Warcraft that the Horde were the "good guys."

Look at the plots of Warcraft III. Contrast Athras' destruction of half of the human-occupied lands and his creation of the Scourge with Thrall's narrative of trying to carve out a home for his people (and the Taurens) in the Barrens.

The Alliance are all about xenophobia, ethnic cleansing, inhumane experimenting on living beings, drunken-ness, expansion and superficiality.

The Horde (with the exception of the Forsaken) are just trying to build a home. To stay safe. To protect themselves. Yes, they are ugly. So what?

Look at the rulers of the two factions. Thrall leads the Horde. Who again leads the Alliance? Onyxia?

The great secret of Warcraft is that the Horde are the heroes.

8.

I was talking about this with a friend of mine when a curious (if nasty) thought struck me: It's interesting that when Blizzard borrows from a culture you wouldn't expect to contribute a lot of players they don't hesitate to sort of make fun of the culture --e.g. the trolls and their ridiculous Jamaican talking).

But when they're borrowing from a culture that probably will be contributing a lot of players, they're a bit more respectful. I note the complete lack of Episode I Charlie Chan asian accents from the pan-asian Night Elves as an example.

9.

Fantasy and science fiction has ALWAYS borrowed heavily on history for its themes. Robert E. Howard's CONAN is nothing but a mish-mash of ancient and medieval civilizations, overlaid with a dose of 30's jingoism.

Science fiction writers borrow historical events and institutions all the time. For example, the Royal Navy in its glory is clearly the paradyme for David Weber's very popular Honor Harrington series. In fact, historical cultures and events frequently make cameo appearances in SciFi, from medieval knights in Poul Anderson's High Crusade to the frequent appearance of nazis (or Nazi-like civlizations) in Star Trek episodes.

Personally, as someone trained in history, I am delighted to see historical paradymes being reused. I am even more delighted to see them used intelligently and carefully, with due attention to multiple views and aspects. The duality of viewpoints possible about the Horde in WoW is just one example. DAoC is actually a much better example, since the opposing factions there actually developed derogatory nick-names for their opponents ("Albs," "Hibs" and "Mids"), and all to frequently did rude victory-dances upon the fallen of the other side. It was amazing to see a "wartime mentality" emerge among the players, and how easily they switched viewpoints if they switched servers.

10.


I'm surprised no one has yet mentioned the glaringly obvious (to me, anyway) issue of the Goblins as broadly-stereotyped Jews. The Brooklyn cabbie accents, preoccupation with money-making schemes, presence in (if not outright control of) the banks and auction houses, and most clearly their status as unassimilated "neutrals" who profit from the war between Horde and Alliance. Sounds pretty much like a Fagin-esque, almost John Birch Society takeoff on Jews as money lenders and "international bankers."

11.

"Cultural borrowing" has serves as an excellent frame of reference for assisting in immersion. When developing a game world for pen-and-paper, explaining that a community is similar to "celtic mythology" or "heroic-era greece" can fill in many of the gaps players may have in the culture faster than I could otherwise present them... and if they don't know the era, well, there's my vast array of GURPS sourcebooks to help them.

This benefit can be seen in WoW. By mixing scenarios that have real world emotional ties (the orc relocation camps) the emotional weight of these events can carry over into the game. By including a common symbolism, players can draw on their own experiences (or, more likely, stereotypes) to more easily slip into a role that could otherwise be unnaturally alien to them.

However, since most of WoW's 6 million players have likely never met a native american or nomadic people, how we read these symbols is largely based on stereotype, often a very unfair characterization. The question remains: does the use of these stereotypes reinforce the mental image of a people, or does the blending of stereotypes and fantasy help weaken these perceptions?


12.

The question remains: does the use of these stereotypes reinforce the mental image of a people, or does the blending of stereotypes and fantasy help weaken these perceptions?

"So I was at the county fair with my girlfriend last weekend and we're walking around she goes OMG, look over there Tom, that Indian guy with the horse totally looks like our guild main tank, Thunderhorns!"

Not a conversation that will ever happen.

PoMo for the win. Everything will borrow from everything, and becomes just as valid and deserving to exist in its own right. I think the Azerothian mythos and history, though completely derivative, still holds its own -- I would bet my job on the wager that people who play WoW are familiar with WoW history -- back story -- than with European and American history.

In that context, I think however Blizzard wishes to portray races in Wow is fine. No one will seriously bring up Admiral Proudmoore for comparison in a flesh world discussion of genocidal world leaders.

13.

For my undergraduate thesis I studied gender stereotyping in the depictions of the armor and emotes of WoW characters. One of the most interesting findings to come out of the research was that the Trolls were highly sexualized and highly violent.

Six of the 11 emotes that refered to 'sexual eagerness' came from Trolls, and four of the six emotes that referenced violence behavior came from Trolls. The fact that the Trolls are coded as Jamaican makes these findings even more significant. It raises some interesting questions about racial stereotypes and what effect they could have.

14.

hikaru: "So I was at the county fair with my girlfriend last weekend and we're walking around she goes OMG, look over there Tom, that Indian guy with the horse totally looks like our guild main tank, Thunderhorns!"

Not a conversation that will ever happen.

And thank goodness for that.

But really, the blending of stereotype boundaries, which that would demonstrate, would tend to weaken stereotypical models, and that would be a good thing.

Stereotypes serve a purpose: it helps us deal with the unknown before we have enough information to make our own judgements, but deeply-entrenched stereotypes often override direct observations and lead to prejudicial behavior.

The concern comes if these reinforce one's stereotypes. If the Jamaican parallels with trolls (and their sexualized emotes) reinforces a person's view of jamacans along these narrow constraints, then there is reason to be concerned.

The "Jar Jar Binks" controversy extended beyond just being jamaican. Many complained that the exaggerated facial features, behavior patterns, and even body language all took common racial stereotypes to gross characticure (sp?). Nobody was saying that Jar jar would be mistaken for a native down in Jamaica, but many were concerned that the exaggerated characteristics would still reinforce stereotypes, much as blackfaced-vauvillians might have a century ago.

15.

I spent some time talking with friends in a guild of quality roleplayers about this recently and was fascinated to find that the tribal aspect of the Horde was very much an explicit draw for them. They found it a neat change of pace, and some of them were actually reading up on real-world precedents, and sharing what they were learning.

The group also agreed strongly that both factions come with a pleasing amount of ambiguity - heroes and villains to spare. It's possible to read either side simplistically, but only by ignoring quest givers and overt stuff like that.

16.

I have concerns when people questions "Fantasy Worlds" in this way. These worlds are hand-built by imagination, unless World creators would create a complete lore/history from Day 1 to "today", it's impossible to judge their world/work.

Of course, we can do comparison or we can cross-reference with our real-world experiences and history. But, why a fantasy world could not exist without black people, "old-fashioned tribes" or disturbing contents (racism, violence, etc...)???

Virtual worlds take/took their own path to Evolution. I nerver judge or arguments about Virtual Worlds lore or values. I accept them, I "enter" the Worlds as they presented to me. I accept to fact that when I create a character in those world, I'll face the rules of this world. I will have to accept the History/Values of this Virtual Environment. I play a game, I don't live my life there.

I'm pretty sure, that someday a company will come out with an MMO that would be very open regarding values/content/etc... And this world will surely be full of racism, violence, sexual reference, etc... The majority of MMO are built around a world of conflicts and wars. And where combats take place, there is always inequity, judgements, racism, etc...

There would not be combats without that! Basically, if you want to fight in a game, you must create situations and background (lore, history) to give reasons to players to fight.

This means that you have to create Cultures. There would be oppresssed, dominants, violents, peaceful. Some would be more advance in technology, some would be ruled by politics, others by economics...

I stop here, I could go on and on and on!

17.

A fascinating post, especially since I hadn't made many of these linkages, and here's why: I don't know what the races sound like. I've played WoW with the sound off from day one, because I play in a room with my family while they watch TV and one source of sound had to go. I've also set WoW so that the dang quest text doesn't scroll, so obtaining quests isn't a matter of reading, it's a matter of clicking ACCEPT. Between the two choices, I've eliminated two major vectors for creating cultural linkages (accent and written dialect), leaving only the visual. It's a strong reference - the Tauren totem poles, for example - but without some of the other cues, I'd have been hard pressed to say that Trolls were Jamaican/Carribean in nature, as much as just lanky/slouchy/bouncy. Of course, it may also be that I'm generally oblivious, just another culturally insensitive Night Elf... ;)

18.

First off, let's no read too many of our own prejudices into WoW and cry "racist!" or "sexist!" or "whateverist!" right away. The cultures of WoW are a bit more layered than initial reviews suggest. The trolls, for example, may sound Jamaican, but their architecture and worship of bloodthirsty deities (Hakkar, anyone?) remind me of Aztecs. The feral trolls (the NPC tribes, not the Horde-affiliated Darkspears) also practice cannibalism. And their religion is African by the way of the Caribbean... If the Tauren are the equivalent of Plains Indians, then aren't the Centaurs the U.S. cavalry, rather than the Alliance?
Any objections to the portrayal of goblins as money-grubbing bankers ought to be sent to J.K. Rowling first. And aren't most cabbies in Brooklyn Indian, anyway?
WoW is not black-and-white. Each race has its "evil" members: the Scourge, the corrupted druids, the Defias, the Dark Irons, the leper gnomes (good job nuking your own city, gnomes, how's that +5 Int bonus feeling now?), Dragonmaw and Blackrock orcs, all sorts of trolls... there are even renegade Tauren. of the playable races, only the Forsaken could justly be called "evil," as their agenda for a new plague is outright genocidal.

19.

The Jamaican connection to the Trolls in WoW most likely came from the fact that the trolls lived on the islands off Kalimdor and practiced voodoo.
I believe their violent nature portrayed in WoW comes from the standard fantasy lore surrounding trolls in general. But suggesting that developers purposely used a Jamican sterotype to reinforce a violent perception of Trolls will certainly be picked up on most academic's PC radar.

However, I think most gamers are smart enough to know the difference between real Jamicans and fantasy Trolls that sound Jamican. And even more likely not to care that much.

20.

As others have said, one thing I enjoy about Blizzard's universe is the way that the concepts of good & evil are intentionally blurred and questioned. I have been impressed by the number of WoW players I've met who problematize "savagery" in the horde. They recognize that the cultures are more complex than it may seem at first glance. They also recognize, or come to recognize, that each group has its own motivations for its actions. Conflicts aren't as cut and dried as right vs. wrong. Really, given what I know of certain individuals with whom I've had this discussion, I almost feel like WoW has been a valuable teaching element for them (leading them to question Eurocentric histories).

I do agree that a discussion of cultural/racial stereotyping in videogaming is important. If left unexamined it could be harmful. In this instance, however, the very discussions that naturally arise from the plotlines around the cultural "borrowing" have been illuminating to those who may not have otherwise had such conversations.

21.

One of the problems involved in RPG design -- as in stage acting! -- is motivation. How do you motivate the players to care about their characters and to take in-character actions that further the plot? In a game that is meant to be combat-oriented, this means (in part): How do you get players to engage their characters in fighting rather than, say, hanging around telling jokes? How do you get them to care about the outcome of battles?

The cheesy way to get people to care about fighting is to give them power rewards: items, leveling up, and all that. However, this only goes so far as a motivation -- observe the well-known parody, Progress Quest. Just getting higher stats is not, by itself, very interesting without an engaging world-story in which to _use_ those higher stats.

So, story. Motivation.

By presenting characters as embedded in cultures with histories, the game designer gets a whole set of motivations for free. Why does a human want to kill an orc? Because humans and orcs have been killing each other for centuries. And, because humans have racist beliefs about orcs. This is well illustrated even in WC3: almost every time an Alliance NPC expresses an opinion about orcs, it is a negative and racist one.

Hell, in TFT, we early on see human racism against elves too, providing an early motivation in the Blood Elf campaign. And in Arthas's pre-undead days in ROC we see that the Alliance's foremost military faction, the paladins, is founded upon notions of "purity" which are disturbingly Naziesque.

Tolerance is a great real-world value, as far as it goes. (How far does it go? Well, it doesn't make sense to be too tolerant of people who want to destroy your culture of tolerance and replace it with tyranny. Remember Pim Fortuyn.) However, tolerance is not nearly as dramatic a motivator for a fightin' story as is intolerance and hatred.

Playing a role-playing game is _rarely_ about behaving as you would in an ideal, utopian world. It is usually about playing in a world that is _more_ dangerous and harsh -- and therefore, more dramatic! -- than your own life. Most people who play WoW or any other online combat game do not themselves engage in mortal combat in real life, after all.

22.

Why do we reify the loremakers at Blizzard, as if their creation of myth has similar standing to, say, the ancient legacy of Native American mythic culture? In c. 2000 AD a bunch of 20-something guys in Orange County, CA made a lore. It's now the basis for the funnest game ever, true. But does their lore work, aesthetically? Maybe if you've been totally into the Warcraft universe for the past five years, it may work. FCS there are people who read every Forgotten Realms novel that comes out. But relative to Dante, Shakespeare, Wagner, or even Peter Jackson - is the Warcraft universe worth five minutes of time? Does it make sense to spend time getting into these wierd, blunt, arbitrary rewritings of the cultural background? I mean, c'mon: Jamaican trolls.

Awhile ago here I argued that on the basis of the green skin, the fangs, the skeletons, the lack of pleasing humanoid features, etc, you kind of had to look at Horde as evil. And of course everyone here disagreed; I couldn't hold my argument up at all. I had to back down to an argument that Blizzard's lore is just kind of stupid. And I guess I'm still there. OK, so they decided to have Native American Cows and half-wicked Euro-Humans and Chernobylic Gnomes. Well, Power Rangers do Asian martial arts and the Wiggles are four Australian white guys. Long run, it's not a big deal.

23.


Someone said that the playable human race is very much a European medieval model, and while I won't try to deny that I would note that each of the playable races is just one faction of the general race. We are allowed to play the Stormwind faction, which is far removed from the (historically) main body of humans in the north. The other human nations that are now destroyed ,(or hidden) could well have had different cultures. Although looking at the ruins they do seem european medieval as well (and if you look at previous WC games as well).

However this is just humanity, the other races do not seem to have quite this uniformity. Looking at the Dark Iron Dwarves, not only are they universally darker in skin, their architecture, weapons etc all look quite distinct from the playable Ironforge dwarves, as do the Wildhammer Clan. Night Elves are far removed from High Elves, Highborne etc. The playable trolls do seem quite far removed from the various troll cities one sees in instances like ZG, ZF and really all over the place. So there is evidence, whether intentional or not, of quite distinct variations within the races.

Regarding the alleged sexual eagerness of trolls, wow, I'd never really thought about that angle. I am not entirely sure what is meant by that phrase, however from my perspective the emotes of the Trolls do not come across immediately as being any more sexual than other races. Having played all the races, some more than others, I'd have rated Humans and Night Elves as being far more obviously sexual, and have you looked at Gnome dancing? Only Dwarves, Undead and the Tauren seem to escape the sexually explicit dance in my opinion.

24.

It's not a big deal...

That's what my wife says about every game I've ever played ; )

25.

"The only alliance race with darker skin is the Night Elves" and humans and dwarves. And maybe gnomes, but I'd need to roll one and click on the skin tone button once to find out.

Did you try that? Changing the skin tone? You can do that in WoW, you know.

26.

Your argument is quite weak, I am afraid.

The humans locked the orcs in internment camps, which speaks to the evil that humans are capable of, not the orcs. Also, if you have done the 'Stockades' instance in Stormwind city, the humans are torturing their prisoners as well. Sadly, in the middle ages (as most fantasy is modled after) it was all too common.

The Tauren are quite naturalistic and nomadic, but by no means, barbaric. I do believe that Native American cultures are viewed as peaceful and spritual by most people in this day and age.

Your arugment gets even weaker when you consider that the Blood Elves are going to be on the Horde when buring crusade comes out.

They have blonde hair, green eyes, and pale skin. Also, they are quite advanced in their buildings and attractive. They look as European as can be. And they dance the -TWIST- an American dance.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

27.

I'll apologize for the length of this post. I felt compelled to respond in a complete manner.

I haven't completely read either of the two articles, merely skimmed through them. I've tried to skim through the articles and gather the general gist of them and I will try to relate my points as closely as possible here. I'm interested and fairly knowledable in the general "World" of WarCraft. As such i'd like to provide a counterpoint to this article's points, as well as the one called "Stereotyping the Horde" (but regarding that article more generally than directly.)

So, with that being said I will state this: The Horde are Not Evil. Chris Metzen will obviously be the only person to truly tell people 'what' each faction or race are in an over-arcing sense but it is my strong personal belief that the horde (in general) are not evil. To see this point of view you must deeply consider the background surrounding the Orcs, Tauren, and Trolls, as well as the Undead (I can't vouch for the Blood Elves at this moment coming in Burning Crusade... Honestly, i'm not entirely sure what's up with them, and they seem to be lumped in with the Horde just because the Horde's general perception is "evil" - which is very sad.)

This is the perception that I have taken from the game.

Firstly, I'd like to address some points made in "Cultural Borrowing in WoW" and I would like to refute a lot of the points brought up by comments made in the article; referenced therein as comments by "Aaron." I have not read any of the comments to the article, but I'm just posting this as a one-off. Perhaps I'll even create some discussion.

So, the horde aren't evil. WoW (as a game) isn't racist - or doesn't present a negative message of the cultures that it has been referenced from. It could almost be implied that the comments come from somebody who has not played the game, or has only taken a glancing look at what it has to offer. So I'll start with the points, first.

"(1)...The only alliance race with darker skin is the Night Elves, and they are viewed with suspicion by other alliance members."

Untrue. Yes, the Night-Elves color palette have generally a darker skin tone, but the choices available to you when you create a character allow you to create a black, brown, albino or "tanned" version of any of the species mentioned. Night-Elves aren't really regarded with suspicion at all; They are not "untrusted". In fact, one could go so far to say that the elves are distrusted because they distrust most other races. They are extremely old. They are the Keldorei, the first to awaken on the world. They are seclusionists, and they are very protective of their land and their world (for good reason). They have lived in peace and fear of the Burning Legion for thousands of years, and now that peace has been shattered, and those fears have been realized since the invasion of the burning legion and the destruction of the World Tree.

(2) The visual iconography of the horde races suggests real-world cultures (e.g. totems, tents, face paint), and the horde in general are portrayed as "primitive."
.

The Orcs are a new race to Azeroth. In fact, except for the Undead every race are displaced people. Orcs come from Dreanor (another world, for the un-lore-educated), they are not native to Azeroth, and in 10 short years they have constructed the mighty city of Orgrimmar. Their cities look primitive because I don't think the horde have been on Azeroth for any more or less than 100 years. unlike the Alliance, they haven't been on Azeroth for thousands of years to develop a solid foundation, or solid cities and thousands of years of history on this world.
The same applies to the Tauren. They have been nomadic for centuries, they have been hunted to near exctinction by the Centaur and are only now coming together, rallying under a single banner and leader, and in those 10 short years they have also established Thunder Bluff - an absolutely GORGEOUS city atop the plateu's of Mulgore, rich in the markings of their nomadic history. A newly formed city is hardly going to be made out of solid-stone the first time. The Tauren's are also far too close with the Earthmother to build stone structures. They are very into the land, much like the Night-Elves. IN fact, the two races are quite close fictionally sharing the "Cenarion Hold" faction.
The Trolls as well have a very sad history. Originally the mighty troll Amani Empire stretched nearly from sea-to-sea on the continent of Azeroth. Hardly to be considerd "primitive". If you play World of WarCraft and just walk through places like Stranglethorn Vale you can only began to imagine how glorious and powerful the ancient Amani empire was - some of its ancient stone structures still stand to this day. After the death of Hakkar, Troll civil war, and a bloody and terrible war with the High Elves, the troll empires shattered and splintered. They have never been the same since. The DarkSpear Tribe (the ones allied with the Horde in WoW) were saved from exctinction by Thrall and the horde. Since then, Vol'Jin has sworn allegiance with the Horde.

(4) The alliance actually locked the Orcs up in internment camps, a move which she compares to the Indian Removal Act of 1830. She writes, "The Orcs’s bloodthirstiness was subdued during their stay in internment camps, which is a disturbing sort of justification for the imprisonment and enslavement of another race of people."

Of all the statements above, these are the most unfortunate. For untold number of years the orcs lived peacefully on their Homeworld, co-existing peacefully with most of the races there, and developed a rich shamanistic heritage in-tuned with the spirits and laws of the earth. Then the Burning Legion came. Bending the elder shaman Ner'Zhul to his awesome power, the demon Kiljaeden had the orc chieftains drink the blood of the demon Mannoroth. They cursed themselves with bloodlust and savagery. The ensuing lust for combat saw the horde wipe out all living sentient life on Dreanor, and almost wiping the Dreanei to extinction. Through further machinations involving Ner'Zhul and the mind-controlled human mage Medivh the orcs came to Azeroth and waged war in the name of the Burning Legion all of its races. Twice they attempted to destroy all life in preparation for the coming of the Burning Legion, and twice they failed. After the second war the orcs were rounded into internment camps by the alliance - trapped on Azeroth after the Dark Portal closed - more because the Alliance races did not know what to do with them, and did want another war to outbreak and destroy the already weakend nations of Azeroth. During this time of internment for the orcs they began to become less-and-less bloodthirsty, their bloodlust somewhat fading with the absence of their corrupted leaders and the absence fo the Burning Legion. This was a trait noted by the human Archmage and then-head of the Kirin Tor, Antonidas. Soon after a small orcish child was born, and was raised as a gladiator by human parents. This was Thrall. In the final days of the Third War the WarChief Thrall and his long-time friend Grom Hellscream met and destroyed the demon that had infused the orcs with their bloodlust: Mannoroth was destroyed. His final words to Thrall were: "The bloodhaze has lifted. I have freed myself" - and as he died, Thrall realized that Hellscream's sacrifice to destroy Mannoroth had saved his entire race from the bloodlust. At that point, Thrall committed to going back to the ancient and shamanistic ways of his forebearers - to create not only a more peaceable Horde, but to release themselves from the bondage of the Burning Legion and to forge a new brighter destiny for his people. Thralls loves his people dearly, and he welcomes with open arms all those who would ally with the Horde in the name of a brighter future. The Horde, Orcs and all - are more or less peaceful, driven to war as everyone is by failing and suspicious alliances. Wars that Thrall loathes and does not want to fight.

The imprisonment of the Orcs had nothing to do with their encroaching lethargy, and had everything to do with a fading bloodlust brought on by the absence of a retreated and beaten agents of the Burning Legion. Their freedom from that bloodlust comes from the sacrifices made by Thrall and Grom during that titantic battle.

“Horde seem to be more tribal or barbaric. Much more primitive or backward.... The Alliance cities are paragons of sturdiness, whimsy, technology, and nature. This reinforces the idea that the Alliance are the ‘good guys’ by being more advanced.” Part of this thought process seems to reflect a certain measure of acknowledgement for the ‘European’ or Western bias built into the good vs. evil dichotomy in the game. As one interviewee puts it, “Alliance cities are cleaner and more epic. Even the music is epic.”

You can note my above responses for that. To reinterate the Orcs have been on the world of Azeroth for a very short period, not enough time to build a wonderous city. Because most of those years are spent in constant warfare the orcs have constructed cities for their defense; with burning shards of wood and reinforced concrete all throughout the cities to shroud and reinforce the city from sight-finders of catapults and trebuchets. It's an actual tactic used in medieval times. Very effective. They are a culture steeped still in war, and prejudiced against for their terrible past actions brought upon by the corruption of the Burning Legion. The orcs are the ultimate Wow story of racial redemption and great pain and sadness for all involved.

People that take these sorts of negative views towards the game also have to realize that without the divides - that are not always fictionally correct, mind you - there would be no GAME. The taurens are fictionally "friendly" with the Night Elves, yet for the purposes of the game they fight - but fictionally the Cenarion Hold is a bastion of peace for both sides. Fictionally, Jaina and Thrall are fast friends, and they both do what they can to maintain their friendship, and whenever things go aloof Thrall and Jaina are always concerned the impact it may have on their alliance. But for the purpose of the game, Orcs and Humans fight. For the GAME.

With no clear factions, there would be no game, but understand that things are not really so black and white in the World of WarCraft universe. Some orcs, and some humans are friendly with each other - fictionally. The Taurens and the Night Elves are friendly - fictionally. Some of the undead are not intent on destroying all life - they merely want to find a cure for their undeath and release themselves from the horrors they have to live, and the rejection they must face. This is echoed in many quests playing Undead, or taking quests from them.

Like all humans as well there are evil within them. The Warlocks of the horde, steeped to dark magiks and dwelling in the forbidden art that brought the Burning Legion to Azeroth. Several factions of Orcs known as the Burning Blade, or the power hungry orc Rend Blackhand; The False Warchief. There are the "evil" and displaced Taurens known as the Grimtotem Clan - refusing the summons of Cairn and refusing to join the Horde for unknown reasons. The "evil" humans which are prevalent everywhere whether you are Horde or Alliance, including pirates and bandits, the demented Scarlet Crusade, or the rejected Defias Brotherhood. Night-Elves even have members within their faction that are falling into their old 'evil' ways - the ways that lead to the first coming of the Burning Legion. The creation of the new World Tree Teldrassil - unblessed by nature - has disrupted the opinions of powerful druids such as Malfurion Stormrage. Even the jolly dwarves have evil factions within them - the Dark Iron dwarves of Blackrock Spire, warring with the dragon Nefarian and Rend Blackhand's Blackrock clan of orcs.

To an outsider, you can take World of WarCraft at face value and have your misjudgements, but if you took it at face value you'd be missing a rich backstory, and very interconnected fiction that defines what I covered above - only a small fraction of the true story.

28.

I'm sure that many members of the colonised, conquered and dispossessed cultures in the real world would be well pleased if the balance of power that exists between the Horde and the Alliance in Azeroth, pertained in RL.
:-)

29.

i think you may have a bit too much time on your hands :P
but it is not good vs evil, it is 'good guys' vs the 'anti hero'. you can see this in many books, movies, tv shows etc. the best example is in xmen with cyclops and wolverine.

30.

i think you may have a bit too much time on your hands :P
but it is not good vs evil, it is 'good guys' vs the 'anti hero'. you can see this in many books, movies, tv shows etc. the best example is in xmen with cyclops and wolverine.

31.

Have you noticed the viking helmets? And the names? Dwarves are parodies of Norse culture, right down to their hanging out in the winterlands surrounded by polar bears, talking with a strong accent with rolling r-s and and a heavy liking to alcoholic beverages. Add to that the myth of the real size of vikings - all can see from their beds that they would have to be dwarves - and the strong flavour of the older sagas as well as the Edda poetry, and there are quite a few heavily-paying scandinavians who should be quite offended. Not to mention all the Americans of Scandinavian descent.

I think one reason why American Scholars react to the trolls is that we believe only non-aryan people have ethnicity, in much the same manner as only women have gender. Those whose ethnicity should be protected and whose feelings should not be harmed are "the others".

Personally, I love the thought of playing a creature from a tropical island, and I hope players from the tropics enjoy the thought of living in the snow. Both extremes have borrowed from corresponding real-life cultures, only the trolls got the better deal, I think.

32.

Kay Zeller is 99% correct about his WoW-lore-facts (seems Night Elfs weren't the first sentient race, but were a magically-infused evolution of Trolls that discovered the Well of Eternity).

BUT he has kind of missed the point...
All the arguments he brings up using lore (like, Orcs haven't been in Azeroth long enough to build grand stone cities) are useless. How's that, you ask?

Why do Orcs not have more advanced settlements?
Not because "they haven't been in Azeroth long enough", but because Blizzard MADE them that way. If Blizz wanted Orcs to be more advanced, they could've just NOT made the lore say so. Example: WoW itself could've taken place hundreds years later than it is now (only 4 years since WC3:TFT).

This is but one example off course... The point is: if something is a certain way ingame (internment camps?) then it is not because the lore says so (bloodlust), but because the lore was made to say so.

33.

I haven't read all the comments in this thread, but judging from the few that I have, I want to make a blanket gesture.

I realize that, in this day and age, it can be pretty much assumed that the average fantasy gamer has NOT read Lord of the Rings. And even if you had, that's not enough; to understand the incredible depth that was the person of J.R.R. Tolkien is enough to be a specialization in a field.

That's not the point. The point is that Tolkien successfully created his own mythology based off Norse, English, and Christian histories and mythologies to color Middle Earth. It's possible. And while it might not be possible for a couple of 20-something guys in Orange County, you shouldn't be too quick to dismiss it, either. Tolkien made a statement on the nature of evil; he also made a statement on the nature of courage -- how many people see that? Around none.

I recommend the book by Tom Shippey: "The Road to Middle Earth: How J.R.R. Tolkien Created a New Mythoology".

34.

Has it occurred to any of the intellectual giants here that The Forsaken are modeled on Liberal White People.

DOH!! I guess the Horde REALLY IS Evil!!

Another stupid navel-gazing article trying to turn everyone into a Racist. Liberals aren't happy unless everyone's a victim and everyone hates each other. You people would find racism in fucking PAC-MAN.

35.

This is a really interesting article and definately worth exploring in greater depth.

I have come across this kind of "burrowing" discussion before in Lineage 2; I was hunting in a party in Cruma Tower when one of the party members commented that The orcs were like black people seeing as how you could not create a black/darkskinned or any other non-caucasion character from the Human side of the game.

Being Black, African, and one of the few lucky enough to work in the games industry; this vexed me sorely and left me with a bitter taste in my mouth. of course the guy did not mean anything by it and I had always known there has been an issue with race in games, which I dont think or see why there should be. But that is another discussion.

Anyway without going too far off track, what I really wanted to say is that the bigger issue and one this article hints and touches upon is that it is more indicative of the thinking and mindset of the west, in particular those who create games and last but not leasts our perceptions of there intentions and designs.

firstly let me start with our perception of beauty and ugliness. A lot of people have commented that Orcs, Trolls, Taurens, the Undead, etc ... are ugly, when I would actually argue that that is a subjective opinion. Example, a chinese female friend of mine, after seeing a caucasion guy and his girlfirend making out, commented on how western guys always seem to go out with ugly chinese girls, I commented and said that, the girl was really pretty, and she replied and said you obviously dont know how to look at Asian people, I started thinking about that and realised she had a point, I mean how many times have I heard jokes and comments on how black people all look alike when in fact that is so far from the truth. Not the best of examples but I hope it is clear enough.

WoW is not a racist game, and those that see the game as painting a deragotory picture of other racial groups are either misinterpreting the lore of the game or have issues of there own and are seeing things that are not there.

I do feel though that blizzard should take this oppurtunity to blur the boundaries and conceptions of WoW by making a third Rogue Faction, there are so many players who start playing or who have freinds that are an opposing force and would like to play with them but cant, maybe by creating a third rogue like faction, will balance and staid to the whole issue of this article and also help to add another aspect to the game; Basically players from opposing forces could join or form a clan/guild together and would then be considered outcasts of there race for siding with the opposition, anyways thats just me thinking out loud, that is probably another one for another discussion.

36.

Welcome Slashdotters (and thanks for the link, Zonk). Some pretty cogent discussions going on over there.
Link

I'll reply more later, but I just wanted to make a few quick points (probably futile when a thread reaches this critical mass, but anyway):

1) the OP was not titled "Blizzard is Racist" -- I honestly don't think that at all. The OP was just an invitation for discussion about how people feel about recognizable cultural references in WoW (and in fantasy/sci fi generally). Zonk linked to a sentence with a potentially more critical tone (stating "I wonder" about the references) but only as a means of entry to the student paper on WoW, relating it to the "Jar-Jar Binks affair" etc.

2) I truly appreciate all the comments on the Warcraft lore. It's actually just as interesting to me to see that some people care so much about the lore as it is to hear what the lore is.

3) Though I referenced Ted's post re "The Horde is Evil", I don't agree with it, and in the OP I particularly hoped to avoid re-opening that discussion here. If you want to slam Ted again and tell him "The Horde isn't evil!" (it's been done before, trust me), I'd request you post to that thread, not this one. Then again, we're an anarchic forum here, so whatever...

37.

It's a game, and if the background is read it is clear to see that both sides...much like in real history...have a hand in the events. It is not the game that is labeling things, it is our culture its self that needs to have a "Good" and "Bad" side. Gray is where the world really is....in this case, as in most that is lost in the rush to find labels...or in this case, to damn them.

Perhaps we should consider if author has fallen into the trap they accuse Blizzard of. Rather then looking at the lore and finding the ills in the Alliance races, or the good works of the Horde...The Horde is slanted as "Evil" to validate a point.

38.

The Jamaican connection to the Trolls in WoW most likely came from the fact that the trolls lived on the islands off Kalimdor and practiced voodoo.

Firstly, the Jamaican connection to Trolls in Warcraft has been present long before WoW. Secondly, the trolls (or more accurately, the Darkspear Tribe) moved to the islands off the coast of Kalimdor during Warcraft III. Their ancestral home, like other troll tribes, is Stranglethorn Vale. STV as a zone, in my opinion, is far more influenced by the jungles of India and South America.

The question why trolls are linked with Jamaica is a valid question, but I think that it's roots can be found in the game development process. Sometime during Warcraft 2 or 3, when Chris Metzen was looking for a voice actor to voice the trolls, he chose one with a Jamaican accent/impression. It worked well, so it became part of the lore.

39.

Responding to Edward Castronova's comment -

I don't think anyone here is arguing that this body of lore is equivalent to Shakespeare or Tolkien. Obviously, it can't have the weight of what you call "the ancient legacy of Native American myth culture." It is new, as you point out. However, dismissing it as not worth 5 minutes is shortsighted. Artifacts from pop culture certainly shape our society as much or more than those of high culture. It would be foolish to ignore the impact of this particular body of (pop) literature because you think it's poorly written.

40.

Welcome Slashdotters ...Some pretty cogent discussions going on over there.

... I just wanted to make a few quick points (probably futile when a thread reaches this critical mass, but anyway):

1) 1) the OP was not titled "Blizzard is Racist" -- I honestly don't think that at all. The OP was just an invitation for discussion about how people feel about recognizable cultural references in WoW

Emphasized again, just in the hope this can get back on track.

Seems to come from the habit of a vocal slashdot minority never reading the article before posting. They see others speak about race and culture and assume the worst of the original author...

Ed's "the horde is evil" post the OP cross-linked to is getting similar attention- responses that almost guarantee that the OP's only read the 2 titles before responding.

---


As was mentioned before, cultural "borrowing" can help with immersion by allowing players to make assumptions based on what they know of the borrowed culture. It can really help players get into the role faster and easier.

One of the problems I've run into is where players assume TOO MUCH from the related culture. Perhaps they haven't played enough to discover the books explaining where the cultures, histories, or perspectives DIFFER. Perhaps they'd already defined their character based on the original assumptions...

As a basic example from a less-controversial "fictional" culture: TSR's "Drow." While popularized by TSR, the idea of an evil dark-skinned elf race wasn't entirely their own (references to "dark elves" go way back). EQ and EQ2 made their evil elves similar in appearance (black skin, white hair) but the culture is notably different. (It's not matriarchial, for example) Read the bio of many dark elves in games, and it's clear they used TSR's backstory and culture to define their character.

It's the bane and benefit of cross-borrowing. A player can assume a certain style without every nuance being exposed to them, but they also may assume characteristics that you DON'T want associated with your world.

(To tie this all the way in to Ed's piece on "the horde is evil"...) Now, imagine a new game that draws WoW players in. In it, orcs really ARE evil, in the tradition of old lore, but players brought up on WoW's lore bring over their own assumptions based on orcs there, trying to write off the evil tendencies as simply misunderstood. Now, a truly "evil" character is seen sympathetically when it shouldn't. It's one of the problems with cross referencing anything creations...

but is anything truly unique? When will pattern-recognition cause people to make associations that I didn't intend? When will a more-or-less "unique" game culture reflect a real world culture, or a popular work of fiction's, through just sheer coincidence?

41.

Honestly, the Tauren are the least evil race in the game. I challenge anyone to name an "evil" characteristic about the race.

42.

This article has provided a viewpoint I hadn't considered before. I noted the obvious parallel with Tauren and Native American and the Jamaican accent of the trolls, but I never looked any deeper. I won't let this article color my vision and think the races in WoW only represent the stereotypes mentioned here, but it will open my eyes to look for symbolism and relationships amongst the races.

I chose to play a human paladin as my first character because it gave me a known platform from which to explore the world. In D&D and numerous PC games, I typically chose the paladin-like characters because it suited my personality and my ideal of how I would act in the presented situations. Once I became comfortable with the interface and the world, I immediately started making other characters of various races and classes. I've tried almost everything.

I dislike numerous aspects of several races, but I definitely do not see real life racial connections to my dislikes. I don't like the troll accent simply because it gets tiresome. I dislike the undead's ability to consume their victims, so I simply choose not to do it when I play my undead. Orcs are a mirror to humans. If I hadn't played several classes as a human, I might be interested in playing an orc, but there's nothing new there. If I'd played an orc first, I'd feel the same about the human. I dislike the gnome voices and the simple fact that you cannot see over shrubbery. I'd have preferred halflings. I dislike the night elves always bouncing, how difficult it is to hear their voices and how much more difficult their starting zones are compared to any other race. I have no complaints at all about the dwarves or tauren. If I could create every class as a dwarf or tauren, those would be the only races I'd play.

Cultural differences, race and other social differences only matter if we make a big deal out of them. I think Blizzard took shortcuts on making some of the races by borrowing from history, but they don't make a big deal out of THAT. What they do make a big deal about is the war between the Horde and Alliance, to me a completely fabricated, racial war. A war in which I cannot help but be a factor, but one in which I can choose how much I participate. I choose to be peaceful with the opposing faction whenever possible.

43.

- (To tie this all the way in to Ed's piece on "the horde is evil"...) Now, imagine a new game that draws WoW players in. In it, orcs really ARE evil, in the tradition of old lore, but players brought up on WoW's lore bring over their own assumptions based on orcs there, trying to write off the evil tendencies as simply misunderstood. Now, a truly "evil" character is seen sympathetically when it shouldn't. It's one of the problems with cross referencing anything creations...
-

things have this way of being evil if its not understood. its prejudice based on ignorance, and I think everyone can see examples of that in history. when considering what to call good and what to call evil, you have to look at the motivation for that person doing what they do. Is it out of a sense of duty, for their faith, out of fear, because they believe it will help others, or is it out of selfishness, or pleasure? the first four could be done in a way many consider evil, yet its the misguided act that is evil, because the intention is to do the right thing. With the latter two its just about sadism or not caring at all. that seems more about evil in a person than the others. Nazi war criminals didnt cry because they were never again going to be able to kill someone, they cried because they knew the wrong they had done. This tells me that they did the dutiful thing at the time, believing it was right to do that duty, even when it felt wrong. I can see and understand this even though I would like to see naziism disappear this instant, because I don't let myself become bigoted and fearful because that clouds my ability to examine the reality of it all. Doing so is to deliberately blind yourself so you can villify everyone associated with a particular group without having to feel bad. Doesnt that sound like racism/sexism?


In short, a person who is at least half alive playing that game should realize from the motives of the characters who is evil and who isnt. its motives that are the tell-all, and if people stop being able to label good/evil via the motivation as you fear they may, than I am really concerned for the real world.


-
Has it occurred to any of the intellectual giants here that The Forsaken are modeled on Liberal White People.

DOH!! I guess the Horde REALLY IS Evil!!

Another stupid navel-gazing article trying to turn everyone into a Racist. Liberals aren't happy unless everyone's a victim and everyone hates each other. You people would find racism in fucking PAC-MAN.

Posted by: Stormgaard | May 18, 2006 7:20:04 AM
-
to add to that.
I didnt know liberal white people were forced into servitude by being killed, raised as undead, and mind controlled to commit genocide against an entire world, then freed in a rebellion and are hunted by every alliance race(in the warcraft world) simply because they are undead, which is (mythologically) inherently unnatural and evil. Paladins ( in the warcraft world ) would love to wipe the forsaken out completely, simply because theyre undead, and just for extra measure, were also part of the scourge, and most living humanoids probably fear and hate them simply because they are undead.

As another put it so simply, anyone who glances at it gives their opinion, which is simply to say it is racism by cultural borrowing putting certain views on certain cultures. Since it takes work to create something, the value of that something created is based on how long it takes to complete it, and if someone is taking a whole minute to look at a discussion where they know nothing of WoW or its lore, than writing something like, WoW is racist, they have merely done the same amount of work it takes to shit. And we all know the result of that job.

44.

"I was talking about this with a friend of mine when a curious (if nasty) thought struck me: It's interesting that when Blizzard borrows from a culture you wouldn't expect to contribute a lot of players they don't hesitate to sort of make fun of the culture --e.g. the trolls and their ridiculous Jamaican talking).

But when they're borrowing from a culture that probably will be contributing a lot of players, they're a bit more respectful. I note the complete lack of Episode I Charlie Chan asian accents from the pan-asian Night Elves as an example." - illovich

Obviously, illovich either has not played WC3/TFT or wants to completely ignore it, but the Asian accent that illovich mentions is used by the Pandarens. Also, anyone dwarves derive their accents from the Scottish, which no one has seemed to mention either.

45.

Also, anyone *that's played WC3/TFT knows* dwarves derive their accents from the Scottish, which no one has seemed to mention either

46.

>>Also, anyone *that's played WC3/TFT knows* dwarves derive their accents from the Scottish, which no one has seemed to mention either<<

well, ignoring the fact that it's culturally acceptable to make fun of the Scots (when was the last time you heard a sheep joke?), the dwarves in WoW or other settings generally don't borrow anything *cultural* - for all intensive purproses, they're all tolkien dwarf clones rather than lightly armored, kilt-clad, claymore wielding, bagpipe playing, woad-painted, clan-oriented scots of yore.

47.

I think its probably worthwhile to keep in mind the fact that the typical (North American at least) player is fairly ignorant about human history, culture, other cultures etc. The crowd who posts here is fairly erudite, and its probably easy to forget how deeply ignorant the typical player probably is concerning many cultural and historical facts. They don't care, they don't care to know and they sure don't care to be educated by a game. Thats not its job after all.

Using Stereotypes of different cultures allows the designers to provide a background to the various races (note that should be "species" but the misuse of "race" is endemic in Fantasy and RPGs sadly). So the Taurens are not Native American based, they are based on stereotypes of Native American cultures that bear little resemblance to actual cultures for the most part (ie Plains indians never used West-Coast native Totem poles). I think the designers merely played off the various cultural stereotypes to provide an easy anchor for otherwise ignorant players.

Tolkien more or less created an entire world based on human culture, history and mythology. He was a professor of Medieval English though and its probably a bit much to expect game designers to devote the same level of detail in designing their worlds. Most modern fantasy is derivative of Tolkien but I thought it was a good point that someone raised when they said the typical player probably hasn't read Tolkien. I would amplify that to suggest (without evidence mind you, its supposition) that the typical player doesn't *read* in all likelihood. I have met a lot of people who read they say - at best - a novel or two a *year*. I have met a lot of gamers who evidently considered the Dragonlance series of books (or Robert Jordan's endless series) to be some of the best literature ever written, certainly the best they had ever read. My wife and I read a novel or two a week, sometimes one a day, so I know I am not typical. Keep in mind that the average TN poster or reader is not the average person, and most likely not the average player in this regards.

As a result I think stereotyping, no matter how unfortunate it may be in some regards, was a very viable way to differentiate between the various species/cultures in the game. Now, kudos to Blizzard for not making it cut and dry. If you read the history of their world, all species/cultures seem to have reprehensible actions and attitudes or questionable motives at various times (Taurens excepted perhaps). No one is pure, no one is viewed as undeniably "good" or "evil" per se. I think that was a very smart direction to take. Obviously smart enough to spawn this discussion.

I think the best approach to this sort of constructed animosity between cultures was that of Dark Age of Camelot. There, each culture was at war with their opponents and each was unique, each viewed themselves as the "good guys" and each was justified in doing so. The reality is that no one thinks of themselves as "evil" and can rationalize any viewpoint or actions they take as a people. Its only when you contrast their actions and attitudes with your own that you can make a judgement as say you view them as wrong. There are no morale absolutes - only conventions we agree on as being morally correct collectively. I think its very clever of the WOW designers to implement that after a fashion. I think it was even cleverer the way it was done in DAOC. Mind you I know I have a bias as I think WOW is a remarkably poor game overall and DAOC at its inception was a remarkably great one :)

48.

-

I didnt know liberal white people were forced into servitude by being killed, raised as undead, and mind controlled to commit genocide against an entire world, then freed in a rebellion and are hunted by every alliance race(in the warcraft world) simply because they are undead...

-

And I suppose you didn't know either that they dress and dance like goths, speak in a well measured, pretentious, and vaguely british tone of voice, have sadomasochistic fetishes, and secretly want to dominate every other race on the face of the planet...

But it's okay for Jamaicans to chuck spears.

JACKASS.

49.

Which of the First Nations/Native American Nations ever built a 50 storey-tall totem? How many Hatians do you know who practice Voodoo and speak with a Jamaican accent? And regarding the Panderen, are you guys suggesting that all Asians are all booze-hounds who know kung-fu-tyle martial arts? What are you guys going to do if it turns out that the Blood Elves, the Horde's only "white race" speak with a French Accent? Will you chastize Blizzard if they have the Draenei speak with a High German dialect, like Hessian? Why doesn't anyone show concern that Goblins sound like they're from New Jersey? Maybe some people from the East Coast would rather not be identified as small, green little tech-heads.

Stereotypes are just that: they're a commonly held misconception about a group/culture. Anyone who shows this much concern about "cultural borrowing" are idiots who are trying to pat themselves on the back with the belief that they're sooo sophisticated with a broad, intellectual scope. Because if I follow your lead, I could just as easily make the following statement based on the commentary I've read so far:

"This debate consists of idle ruminations of a bunch of bored, white people who harbor some guilt about stereotypes that they bought into."

Some of you guys need to get over yourselves and learn more about world cultures before riding in on your horses to defend cultures that don't need defending.

50.

"And I suppose you didn't know either that they dress and dance like goths, speak in a well measured, pretentious, and vaguely british tone of voice, have sadomasochistic fetishes, and secretly want to dominate every other race on the face of the planet..."

The narrowness of your worldview is appalling. What are you, fifteen? You cannot extrapolate the nature of such a widely-ranging group of people based only on your observations of the handful of only partially representative individual you have come into contact with personally. The world is much bigger than your experience of it, and the truth is much more complex than "All liberals = stupid goths."

This is where racism comes from.

51.

Regarding the alleged sexual eagerness of trolls, wow, I'd never really thought about that angle. I am not entirely sure what is meant by that phrase, however from my perspective the emotes of the Trolls do not come across immediately as being any more sexual than other races.

The allusion was to the classic critique of the racial construction of the black male as an essentially savage and sexually potent (and sexualized) being. It went along with the Trolls being coded as (Black) Jamaican and thus inheriting (both via Blizzard's design and inferred) a slew of cultural ideas and stereotypes (from sexuality, to penchant for violence, to raw physicality, etc. ) It's not really my field, but there's tons of literature on the subject. If you are at a university, you may wish to try The Black Man on Our Screens and the Empty Space in Representation by Ed Guerrero. It doesn't deal with video games much (or at all), but it should give you an idea of what the some of the issues are surrounding that topic.

But it's okay for Jamaicans to chuck spears.

JACKASS

Lol, good one.

"This debate consists of idle ruminations of a bunch of bored, white people who harbor some guilt about stereotypes that they bought into."

Some of you guys need to get over yourselves and learn more about world cultures before riding in on your horses to defend cultures that don't need defending

So people talking about cultural symbols and the way social prejudices are consciously or unconsciously woven into popular culture is "a bunch of bored, white people," huh? Talk about prejudices...

For those that might need a bit of reminding about this website, it's an academically oriented blog about virtual worlds. I hate to burst your bubble, but academics tend to analyze stuff a lot. We look for contexts, hidden data points and clues to deeper meanings and currents than just "Oh boy, Warcraft is the coolest video game evar."

In doing so, we tend to find things that make other people and even ourselves uncomfortable and then we write about them, trying to find the sources of systemic problems or the hidden roots of cultural movements. As Will Farrell's Robert Goulet would say: "you know, stuff like that."

I've noticed in the comments section of this site whenever stuff that has a political charge to it (racism, sexism, etc) gets brought up, there's a reliable cadre that tries to shut stuff down by either employing the "it's just a game, get over it" tactic, or trying to show how the game designers "get it" and really the case is the opposite of the criticism put forward, or (in my mind) worst advancing some reverse-racism/sexism charge where the poor white man is somehow the most put upon being in the world, still carrying that white man's burden that's oh-so-heavy.

Give it up. If you want to join in and find fault with the thoughts of the academics who write this blog, or the people who comment -- try to keep it in an academic vein. If you don't like the way academics look at the world (that is, critically and analytically, even when the results are unpleasant) I'd suggest you go read Otaku or the stratics websites or one of the fanboy websites that will never ever say something harsh about your favorite AAA game franchise, or make you feel like there might be something wrong with the things you love.

Another stupid navel-gazing article trying to turn everyone into a Racist. Liberals aren't happy unless everyone's a victim and everyone hates each other. You people would find racism in fucking PAC-MAN.

Ahem, as I was saying.....

52.

Gah, why is everything in italics? I previewed and everything. It makes it hard to see what's a quote. =\

53.

Posting a quote used as an example without its original context is hardly academic.

54.

Posting a quote used as an example without its original context is hardly academic.

Assuming this is directed at me, I'll respond:

1) Your entire port was only a page up/3 posts back. My assumption was that since the original text was literally the gesture of an index finger away it was unnecessary to obsess about framing the context of your statement too rigorously.

2) That said, your comment was merely hyperbolic rhetoric where you constructed a willfully ignorant argument to belittle the conversation. By exaggerating the topic being discussed to an absurd dimension, dismissing it for being absurd, and ending with your crack about "bored white people" you betray a antagonistic attitude towards the work of many schools of academia, and arguably intellectual curiosity in general.

Furthermore, your attempt to educate us on the nature of stereotypes was as effective as any half-baked rant I've ever heard from an incoming freshman: amazing in it's lack of depth, and yet awe-inspiring with the sheer gall of it's conceit of the possession of anything that could be charitably called a clue.

Which made your post a perfect prolog to my semi-rant: Your anti-intellectual attitude is exactly what I was lamenting.

I don't mind your attitude by the way, it's just not clear why you chose to post here, and I think that there are better sites on which to vent your spleen. Get to it! The internet is a vast and wondrous place with plenty of room for your spleen juices.

55.

Illovich: Nice. A tip of my liberal, intellectual, academic, size-8 bowler. Couldn't have put it better myself.

One suggestion: "spleen juices" might well be contracted to "bile."

Crazyhawk: To discuss something is not to necessarily demean either side of the argument. That is one of the *other* lovely aspects of academic debate that some of us enjoy (very much) about TN -- we can spend some time on both (or many) sides of an issue in order to examine it more fully and... I don't know... learn something?

The Buddhist concept of "The Beginner's Mind" requires that you accept and cherish a state of being where you are comfortable recognizing that you don't know everything. Or anything. About anything. It is a requirement that precedes learning. This is an academic stance.

The opposite -- which, with my students, I call "The Ended Mind" -- is that nice little place you go when you are sure you have the answer even before the question is asked. From there, guess how much you learn? Nada.

So... if you come to a discussion -- like, say, one about cultural borrowing in computer games -- with a pre-set idea about how liberals, communists, white people, non-white people, or anyone might respond... or if you come with an idea that discussing such a thing is stupid... you have already given up on the basic notion that there is something to be learned from a discussion of this topic.

What are we trying to establish? Why are we rubbing our pointy heads and scratching at our gnarly beards and thinking our deep thoughts instead of just having at it? Because we believe that, over time, somebody has to. Has to "drop back" and have a good, solid think about stuff. Has to consider the cultural and social and literary implications of a genre that touches more lives than many of the classic authors of the Western Canon.

I had a friend in college from Germany. His cousin came to visit for a week once and we were drinking and talking about cultural stereotypes. My friend's cousin remarked that it really irked him that so many Americans got their main cultural ideas about Germans from "Hogan's Heroes."

"That's OK," my friend remarked. "Don't worry about it. We get most of our ideas about America from 'Dynasty!'"

Nobody here is saying that WoW is "bad." I don't see that anywhere on this post or any of these comments. Nobody here has pointed a finger at Blizzard and cried, "Racist! Sexist!" But there is cultural context for the mythology they've partially invented and largely borrowed. And that context is now shared by 6 million plus players, many of whom are more engrossed in this world than they will be in many other forms of art.

That makes this a not insignificant conversation.

Is your opinion that cultural reference within games is meaningless? Completely? Totally? Zero? We could have blatant, ethnic or class stereotypes -- not necessarily negative, mind you -- and that wouldn't matter?

If that is your opinion... argue it. But don't call the argument stupid. That's stupid.

56.

This has been a fascinating discussion.

So far, several people have commented on the Jamaican accents of the trolls. When you pay attention to the actual substance of the emotes, the racial coding becomes even more blatant. For example:

When flirting, Troll females often say "Arent'cha gonna axe me out?" The use of the word "axe" in place of the word "ask" is a common feature of the dialect known variously as "Black American English," "Nonstandard Black Dialect," "Black English Vernacular (BEV)", African American English (AAE)," "Ebonics," and "Casual Register English" (Martinez, 2003).

While stressing that not all African Americans choose to speak this dialect, Maurice Martinez (2003) argues that 'Black English is the language of Black America.' He goes on to suggest that it is composed of a consistent phonology, lexicon, grammar, and rules for verb conjuagation.

White Americans who attack Black English will often cite the axe/ask issue as an example of the "inferiority" of Black English. For example, consider the comments of Sally Swift in her web log The Daily Sally, when she criticizes an African American woman who works at her local gas company:

"This woman can pronounce 'significantly' without a flaw, but she can't manage the word 'ask'? And either nobody caught it, or nobody cares. I frankly don't know which is worse...[P]lease don't expect me to answer any more personal questions until you can ASK me properly."

++++

This is just one of the WoW emotes that references real-world stereotypes about African Americans. The male Troll emotes about "jungle love" and penis size are equally relevant examples.

When you take into account Elizabeth Cox's finding that Troll emotes are disproportionately likely to express violent and sexual intent, there is clearly something going on here.

This is interesting and important.

57.

WoW is not the first Warcraft game. Not a lot of the things you're discussing were decided specifically for WoW. The games and the stories go back 10 years and have evolved over time. There are some obvious cultural influences, but the stuff you see in WoW is only an extension of what was already established. So remember, this was not a group of people sitting down and saying, "Hey, let's have trolls in this new game we're making and let's make them talk like this", or something like that.

I do think that World of Warcraft did a lot of things wrong and changed things where it shouldn't have. The Tauren, when they were introduced in Warcraft 3, were only loosely based on Native Americans, and it had a cool feel to it. Now it's just what they are, and it doesn't feel unique anymore. The trolls have been similarly exagerrated just for WoW.

But being someone who has been playing these games since the very first Warcraft, it seems pointless to try and analyze WoW by itself. Blizzard games have always had a good sense of humor, and their stories have always been important to them (until WoW, that is -- yeah, I'm not a huge fan of it).

Anyway, try to remember that there is going to be a lot that you're missing if you're just basing everything off of WoW.

58.

-

The Buddhist concept of "The Beginner's Mind" requires that you accept and cherish a state of being where you are comfortable recognizing that you don't know everything. Or anything. About anything. It is a requirement that precedes learning. This is an academic stance.

The opposite -- which, with my students, I call "The Ended Mind" -- is that nice little place you go when you are sure you have the answer even before the question is asked. From there, guess how much you learn? Nada.

-

No offense but this is a bunch politically correct philosophical voodoo that liberals use to try and intimidate anyone from ever coming to a conclusion about anything. Yea verily at the core of the intellectual liberal being conclusions = fascism.

...which is total horse-shit. That's why we live in a Democracy and why Democracy works so well. People come to conclusions all the time. People present the conclusions they come to in an open public forum and the public at large votes on which conclusions are best.

Not all conclusions are correct and some are better than others but if they do suck we simply vote all over again the next 2 years and try something new. It's this ability to adapt and evolve as a society which has made us as successful as we are.

But to sit there and tell people that it's the antithesis of wisdom to have a coherent set of principles or that it's foolish in some way to come to conclusions on a regular basis and stand by them is just fuckin' retarded.

We'd still think the Goddamn Earth was flat if people did that. Or better yet we'd be just like the frikkin' Chi-Coms having the government run us over with tanks thinking that "We don't know anything about anything" and that we "Just have to shut the fuck up and deal with all this suffering" (another WONDERFUL tennant of Bhuddism).

59.
No offense but this is a bunch politically correct philosophical voodoo that liberals use to try and intimidate anyone from ever coming to a conclusion about anything. Yea verily at the core of the intellectual liberal being conclusions = fascism. But to sit there and tell people that it's the antithesis of wisdom to have a coherent set of principles or that it's foolish in some way to come to conclusions on a regular basis and stand by them is just fuckin' retarded.

Heh, no offense huh?

I don't recall anyone saying anything about the foolishness of having a set of coherent principles, or that it's foolish to come to conclusions (or stand by them). As a matter of fact what you describe is the basis for most intellectual work.

What he was getting at (I think) is that there are a bunch of people here who have suddenly come into the academic side of the house without understanding the methods, language and tools that we use for analyzing the world but are trying to break us down for not "getting it" when in reality, it the visitors that don't really understand the enterprise of academia. or what's going on here.

So what he was proposing (I think) was that those who were just getting to know the site should maybe approach the site with a "beginner's mind" and maybe keep their more egregious opinions to themselves until they have a better understanding of the way the academic (and more specifically the Terranova) community communicates.

...And "no offense, but" we get it. You're an anti-itellectual conservative that thinks anything you don't understand or like to think about is "liberal horseshit." You probably have a strong libertarian streak, and you know you have the world all figured out. We know, we just like talking amongst our effete, useless, big brainy selves about crap that doesn't matter.

Now that we have that cleared up, isn't there some developing scandal involving Bill Clinton brewing over at the Drudge Report that you have to post endlessly at Free Republic about?

60.

I think these conclusions about cultural borrowing and associations of certain stereotypes with good or evil is more evidence of the biases of the viewer than evidence of a latent cultural bias within the game. The game mirrors some of our reality. Is this wrong or inappropriate? When you look closely at the different factions, neither side has a lock on all that is evil or good.

For example, it might be our own biases that cause us to see the Horde as "primitive." Consider that Ironforge has existed for centuries, whereas Orgrimmar is a new settlement. One might be impressed at how massive and complete Orgrimmar has become in a relatively short period time, rather than taking a simplistic view and seeing the city as "primitive."

Further, the only true evil within the Horde is associated with the cultures of humans and high elves, not the Tauren, Trolls or Orcs. The Foresaken (and their soon to be associates, the Blood Elves) are former humans and high elves, and they have the most evil intentions of any of the races of Azeroth. The only recognizable parts of Foresaken culture are closely linked to the humans' culture. One could argue that the Foresaken actually strip all the trappings and reveal humans' hearts to be more evil than any of the other races might imagine.

While it is interesting to observe how entertainment can stylize our reality and reflect it back to us using certain stereotypes, it is more interesting to observe how we force our biases onto the game and draw conclusions from facts that were never there in the first place.

61.

Riiiiiight... it's all so clear to me now... because...

A.) I don't follow the rules, pretend to be a retard, and entertain the idea that ideas which are logical (but not probable) are just as valid as those which are logical AND probable...

And

B.) I don't write like a pompous, navel-gazing asshat...

...then my ideas don't count.

Whatever d00d

62.

Well, came a little late to the party, after all the usefulness is gone. I'd add that there do seem to be some recognition of the issues surrounding the trolls in WOW, at least on RP servers (I've met more than a few who feel uncomfortable with the accent and such- and there's been a definite push to fill in the lore unofficially, to at least to give them more unique characterization).

The problem seems to be that, when the horde borrows culturally, in most cases it's slightly obfuscated (Forsaken and Orcs- while they both have outcast and tribal aspects, it'd be hard to tie them down to a specific culture), or given a deeper lore grounding that excuses some of the surface jokes (if the Tauren were only "How, white man" with a sprinkling of cow jokes, it'd be a similar situation to the trolls). The entirety of troll lore is a silly Jamaican accent, and some mumbling about lost empires- "mumble Conquered the world, fell, mumble, ten thousand years of savagery."

It's also kinda relevant to say that Blizzard likely takes a similar view to the official line on Jar-Jar- that the accent is an aesthetic choice, and doesn't mean anything deeper (a troll unit in WC3 says "Whadda ya mean what kind of accent is that? It's a troll accent!").

63.

I see the words "internment camps" used a lot, but I think that term is misued in this case. The imprisoned Horde members were Prisoners of War. The Horde were not native to Azeroth, and were brought there solely for the purpose of conquest. I believe Katie B. put it as:

4) The alliance actually locked the Orcs up in internment camps, a move which she compares to the Indian Removal Act of 1830. She writes, "The Orcs’s bloodthirstiness was subdued during their stay in internment camps, which is a disturbing sort of justification for the imprisonment and enslavement of another race of people."

I believe a better analogy would be if the Incans and Aztecs had created prisons for the invading conquistadors. Considering the fact that the Horde was bent on the unprovoked complete destruction the Alliance, the fact they took prisoners at all is surprising

64.

WHen arguing points about cultural borrowing, you have to keep in mind the original context for adding it to these games. I think a good vantage page to look at this from is the transition from Warcraft 2 to the Warcraft 3. In creating Warcraft 3, the Warcraft universe was basically reinvented and became highly stylized. Many of the cultural elements were added simply to make the game interesting, and to a much lesser extent to make a platform for creating stories. In fact, the personality and flair added to the game in this manner is one of the big things that made Warcraft 3 such a groundbreaking game. Most RTS's up to that point were completely lacking in personality. They were strategy games, but they were not immersive worlds.

In moving from Warcraft 3 to World of Warcraft, I'm sure the team at Blizzard had long ago realized how important it was to create the depth of personality they introduced in Warcraft 3. It doesn't necessarily need to make sense, it doesn't need to totally originally, but it still adds a lot. In the same way Warcraft 3 was revolutionary, World of Warcraft has been with the amount of character it possesses when compared to other MMORPGs. The cultures in the game, whether they make any sense and no matter how stereotyped they are, add flavor to the game. Flavor above and beyond what other games possess. Depth, flavor, personality, and polish are key things Blizzard is known for, and are heavy contributors to the success of WoW.

65.
Many of the cultural elements were added simply to make the game interesting, and to a much lesser extent to make a platform for creating stories. In fact, the personality and flair added to the game in this manner is one of the big things that made Warcraft 3 such a groundbreaking game. Most RTS's up to that point were completely lacking in personality. They were strategy games, but they were not immersive worlds.

I think this is well understood, and has been taken into account. However, this does not exclude World of Warcraft either as a single text or in the context of the entire series of texts from the analysis or criticism that's being offered here. What Blizzard added or removed is interesting (and to the person who pointed out that Pandarens have the Charlie Chan accent, notice that Pandarens don't come up in WoW), but what we're concerned with is what's in the game World of Warcraft now and what significance it has from various viewpoints.

In this light discussions of the exact content or meaning of lore, Blizzard's intentions, the ground-breakingness of the franchise, etc., are interesting but don't change the content of the critique. Actually, I don't think the extra-game lore is of primary importance to most academic discussion of Warcraft as it's extra-textual and outside of the experience of both much of the player base, and is not core to the experience of the primary text.

66.

Why is the only possible conclusion that Blizzard has made unflattering cultural references? If some part of the programming makes you think of a particular culture in a derogatory way, shouldn't the question be, "Why do I associate the derogatory behavior with a particular culture?" Is it so unreasonable that perhaps Blizzard - or whicever developer, producer, director, or what have you is supposedly promoting stereotypes at the moment - doesn't see it that way?

Take the prevalent argument here, for instance. Trolls have a Jamaican accent. I ask you, so? Trolls have a more violent and sexual range of emotes than other WOW races (apparently - I did not notice, myself. Don't they all have the same emotes?). Again, so? Therefore, Trolls are a derogatory overgeneralization of Jamaicans and those of African descent in general, and stereotypes these peoples' violence and sexual agressiveness. I'm sorry, what? I hope you stretched out and limbered up first, because that was something of a leap there. If you'd said it was a derogatory overgeneralization of how Trolls behave, well then maybe I think you might have had something.

The bottom line is the accents were a good way to distinguish the playable races from one another and Jamaican - in my opinion, at least, and most likely in the opinion of the developers - was a fine choice. Why does it have to have some deeper meaning than a programmer deep in the bowels of a software company asking his coworkers, "Hey, man, you know what would sound really cool right here?" Perhaps they simply made an effort to develop multi-faceted characters, and any resemblance to real-life cultures is coincidental and / or in the eye of the beholder.

Some Trolls have Mohawk haircuts and wield throwing axes. Are they then a negative stereotype of Mohawk Indians? Many Trolls have tusks. Are they negative stereotypes of folks with poor dental hygeine? Some male Trolls wear robes. Are they negative stereotypes of transvestites? Or are they all, perhaps, fictional characters in a world of its own rules, not of real-life rules, which we define - perhaps inexplicably, perhaps illogically, perhaps reasonably - by our own bias?

Personally, I say they are just Trolls. Maybe they're violent, maybe they're sexually agressive, maybe they have a far more interesting accent than I do. But they're still just Trolls.

67.

Stormgaard:

We live in a republic, not a democracy. I suggest you research the founding fathers' views on democracy ("Four wolves and a sheep voting on dinner" as Heinlein said)--it's very interesting reading.

Also:

> No offense but this is a bunch politically
> correct philosophical voodoo that liberals use
> to try and intimidate anyone from ever coming
> to a conclusion about anything.

Come to whatever conclusion you want, but there is always information you don't have. Such information may confirm or deny your conclusions; when you examine the evidence critically your conclusions are either strengthened or refuted. The end result of always seeking out more information, objectively examining all evidence, and being willing to change your opinions when the evidence so examined requires it is that your opinions are stronger and closer to the truth. And you don't feel the need to bash other people in a discussion, but can instead get your points across in a manner that is more conducive to their transmission.

In other words, if you're trying to convince people, you're going about it all wrong. Name-calling and snide comments aren't going to convince anybody you're right. A well-thought-out and flawless argument is the only thing that's going to work here. And said argument doesn't contain generalizations about groups of people or mistaken assumptions about the government of the United States. (Also, the discussion isn't about coming to a common consensus. It's about refining ideas through argument and making sure your opinions are valid. It's an individual process as well as, or more than, a collective one.)

And before you say this proves your point, I'm not a liberal. I used to be, but through the process I described, I have become a libertarian.

And about that--hey illovich, you gotta problem with libertarians?

'Cause I'm fine with that :)

But I don't think that's this. I haven't seen anything based on freedom of anything in Stormgaard's posts--libertarians tend to be generally more live-and-let-live.

I'm afraid everything else I have to say--Night Elves reference the Chinese; the Horde are peaceful while the Alliance makes war; the gnomes are nerds, the dwarves are nordic people with Scottish accents, and the humans are Americans (recall the jokes?)--has already been said. Also, the bit about how we apply our own stereotypes to the game races because they have characteristics we associate with other stereotypes...

Each player sees a characteristic in a certain race and associates it with other characteristics. There's not really much the game designers can do about that other than combine a bunch of characteristics in one race that don't necessarily match the real-world stereotypes, so they can create a disjoint in the player's mind that might lead them to examine the game race more closely, thereby getting the player more involved in the game and less likely to leave it. But ultimately that's the point--immersion, and therefore the monthly fee. The question of what the game says about the culture and the individuals that created it is an interesting one, but it's extremely easy to apply one's own stereotypes to the races. For the most part I think the discussion has avoided that.

68.

How about we try and go 1 month without an article about WoW? I pick June as that month. Wouldn't that be nice?

Is that at all possible?

WoW is the most simplistic, featureless, derivative MMO created to date. The only thing "interesting" about it is the fact that they make a crapton of money.

Whenever an issue is raised, and WoW is the example, there are at least a handful of other MMOs that are a better example of the same issue.

The obsession with WoW here is even worse than the SL obsession, because at least SL is a "little guy" who maybe needs the free publicity.

69.

Fezzie: The claim that Trolls are more likely to display sexual promiscuity and violence is based on Cox's (2006) study of game emotes. She found that more than half of the violent emotes in her preliminary sample were voiced by Trolls, and more than two-thirds of the sexually suggestive comments were linked to Trolls.

Is this a big deal? You might think that this is just a case of liberal intellectuals imposing their own prejudices on the game, but I encourage you to take a closer look. Those of us who have commented on these issues are intrigued because we recognize a pattern of representation that has real-world parallels.

For decades, media scholars have consistently documented the tendency of popular culture to represent African Americans as violent (Lipschultz, Hilt, and Simile, 2003; Harrison, 2001; Bogle, 1994) and hypersexualized (Givens and Monahan, 2005).

These stereotypes have real-world effects. As reported in Black Issues in Higher Education (2003), a study conducted by Mary Oliver at Penn State found that "African Americans are especially likely to be mistakenly identified for perpetrators of violent crimes." In a press release released by the university, Oliver explained that her "findings support the notion that stereotypes of Black men as violent criminals are reflected in what people recall from news reports. This kind of `mismemory' has many implications ranging from issues related to law enforcement to issues related to everyday activities such as greater fear or distrust of others."

This is just the tip of the iceberg. For those of us who research media influence, the traits associated with Trolls in WoW are strikingly reminiscent of real-world stereotypes. When you fold in the Jamaican accent, the direct reference to Black English (axe vs. ask), and the references to "jungle love" and penis size, there is clearly something going on here.

References

Apologies for the informal reference format.

Title: Race Stereotypes and Perceptions about Black Males Involved in Interpersonal Violence.
Authors: Harrison, Lisa A.
Esqueda, Cynthia Willis
Source: Journal of African American Men; Spring2001, Vol. 5 Issue 4, p81, 12p

Title: Race Stereotypes and Perceptions about Black Males Involved in Interpersonal Violence.
Authors: Harrison, Lisa A.
Esqueda, Cynthia Willis
Source: Journal of African American Men; Spring 2001, Vol. 5 Issue 4, p81, 12p

Title: Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films (Paperback)
Author: Donald Bogle
Publisher: Continuum International Publishing Group; 3rd edition (December 1994)

Title: Priming Mammies, Jezebels, and Other Controlling Images: An Examination of the Influence of Mediated Stereotypes on Perceptions of an African American Woman.
Authors: Brown Givens, Sonja M.1 givenssb@email.uah.edu
Monahan, Jennifer L.2
Source: Media Psychology; 2005, Vol. 7 Issue 1, p87-106, 20p

Title: Study Examines Role of Stereotypes In Identifying Criminal Suspects
Source: Black Issues in Higher Education, 07420277, 1/30/2003, Vol. 19, Issue 25

70.
Take the prevalent argument here, for instance. Trolls have a Jamaican accent. I ask you, so? Trolls have a more violent and sexual range of emotes than other WOW races (apparently - I did not notice, myself. Don't they all have the same emotes?). Again, so? Therefore, Trolls are a derogatory overgeneralization of Jamaicans and those of African descent in general, and stereotypes these peoples' violence and sexual agressiveness. I'm sorry, what?

Well, I can answer anecdotally. I had a Jamaican student worker until he graduated recently, and this discussion piqued my curiosity, so I asked him.

Interestingly, he may have been most insulted at first by the fact that the "jamaican" accents were so poorly done. He wondered why actual jamaicans couldn't have been used to do the voice work, especially in light of the fact that the voice actors work was so poor (he said it was obviously white actors "trying" to sound Jamaican, and failing).

He was clearly insulted by the troll emote (I think it's one of the /silly ones ) "If cannibalism be wrong, I don wan ta be right." His exact words as his eyes went wide: "What, so we're cannibals now?!?"

In general though, he felt that the emotes were demeaning and insulting. He was also not particularly pleased with trolls having been picked to represent Jamaican or Caribbean culture.

Oddly, he claims that the most accurate portrayal of Jamaicans ever in a video game was in Driver but I have no way of confirming that.

So there it is, anecdotal evidence at it's finest.

And also:

hey illovich, you gotta problem with libertarians?

Actually, no I don't really have a problem with libertarians. I think sometimes the more extreme libs are a bit self-deluding when it comes to actually solving a social problem -- but you can say that about the most extreme of any ideological makeup. If it matters, I tend to identify myself as a social liberal and a fiscal moderate with strong individualist preferences.

71.
For my undergraduate thesis I studied gender stereotyping in the depictions of the armor and emotes of WoW characters. One of the most interesting findings to come out of the research was that the Trolls were highly sexualized and highly violent.

Note to Elizabeth Cox:

Is your undergraduate thesis anywhere on the web? I googled it and came up short. I'd like to read it. =)

72.

Just a note to support Michael Hartman, I would love to see a ban on discussions focusing on WOW OR SL for the month of June. Lets expand our horizons a bit and examine other games and ideas. While individuals opinions concerning either WOW or SL are of course their own, both games tend to dominate all discussions here it seems, and they are hardly representative of the entire MMORPG genre :)

I admit my bias mind you, I have no interest in SL and found WOW to be extremely disappointing, simplistic and badly designed. Obviously 6m other people disagree with me :P

More on topic: the feedback related from exposing a real Jamaican to the Trolls in WOW was very informative. I can imagine similar responses from Scots with regards to the dwarves etc. While using real world stereotypes may have been an easy handle to differentiate the various cultures/species, it really could have been handled in a different and less biased manner. A bit of clever voice work mixing accented English from various cultures into a unique hybrid wouldn't have been all that difficult to create to my mind.

73.

Warren and Michael : You guys ask for a ban on WoW and SL conversations, but in reality these are two areas that are great settings for conversation and discussion. There is a huge amount of cultural diversity in these games due to thier uniqueness (SL) and Genre Expanding Success (WoW)- Rather then put a hiatus on it I would say; embrace the ability to find a medium that can be universally used as discussion pieces.
I understand that you have your preferences of games, that are not SL and WoW, however this board is not about WoW or SL but about the people and the society that plays these games, and like it or not 90%+ (educated guesswork here) play those two games, so best we focus on them, wouldn't you agree?

My 2 Cents
-Jesse

74.

As soon as another MMO comes out and gets 5 million subs or radically changes the way players interact with the virtual environment while creating new intellectual property that they own, I guarantee we'll post about it. And if we're missing them, please let us know. Sorry, no bans here.

Good ideas for posts or topics about any virtual world issue can be sent in via email (as frequently happens), or posted on the boards under appropriate threads.

Channeling the hive mind for a moment here, we want to cover what's interesting, new and provocative, and if you know about it and we don't, help us out.

75.

Blizzard's use of the Jamaican accent and other stereotypes isn't just the case of a group of people laughing about a non PC joke they programmed into their game. I am sure they are laughing about a lot of other things they put into the game also.

In fact I am shocked that no one has mentioned how the Warcraft series in general is based on the exaggeration of real world ideas and styles. The character models are mildly cartoon like rather then realistic. The breakdown of the player versus player format on the surface mirrors a simplistic good=pretty and evil=ugly format. The game is littered with popular pop culture references and stereotypes: humans dance to Disco and the Macarena, the good guys ride the American bald eagle, and trolls are violent voodoo worshipping Jamaicans.

Through this all it becomes obvious that the style of the game is that of stretching and exaggerating real world issues so that A) People can laugh about it. B) People are drawn into the game.

I fail to see how the game is any different from the Daily Show in that it portrays real world politcs/sterotypes/racism in a exaggerated manner to get laughs. If you have a problem with the exaggerated stereotypes used in the portrayal of the Humans/Tauren/Trolls then you should not be laughing when somebody makes a joke about blood sucking republicans or nerdy white guys. Fortunately its just a matter of recognizing the hypocrisy of being offended when minorities are stereotyped and laughing your butt off when a majority is stereotyped. In the end I think there are better uses for this blog's brain power then pointing out obvious stereotypes that were put into a game for amusement factor.

76.

Obvious Stereotyping is not a method of poking fun and laughing, its about creating and effect that further sustains the suspension of disbelief.
This concept is a key factor of why WoW has been so successful. People can relate to the characters much more easily and sustain that relation for longer if they feel that the character represents something in the real world. Most other games have done it; some with less success some with more. It is not just a 'LoL' factor it's a calculated phychological effect we game developers use to increase 'replay value' or in this case retention rate in customers. The fact that it has popped up in a TerraNova blog shows that people are starting to notice that its there, and the effect is becomming more apparent.

4 cents
-Jess

77.

Accent is just one way of charecterising Trolls (or any other race in a game), and by no means the defining one for everyone. Besides of which, what accent do the trolls use in non English WOW versions? How do such cultures characterise Trolls?

I'm from an english speaking culture, I listen to Bob Marley, and have probably absorbed all sorts of images from popular culture about Jamacians, African Americans and the such BUT I don't see Trolls as being an avatar of Jamacians or African Americans.

Maybe this is just me, and the fact that I've played the game for sometime, and have seen Trolls all over the place, seen their villages, ruined cities, instances, temples, read their back story, fought them in PVP, played them etc. Has anyone actually surveyed WOW players (english speaking) to see what their impressions of trolls are? To me that would be the better test, the surveying of WOW players (both Horde and Alliance) as they are living in that environment.

Sure, to an english speaking audience, if you showed them brief excerpts from WOW - say a troll talking they might make the Jamaican link, but that is a very artificial test. What if they just saw a troll dance, or a troll village? What impression then would they form?

78.

Hi, first post here.

As a seasoned WoW player, and once a deep explorer of Arda, I can't help but feel that many of the posters do an injustice to the lore in WoW.

Tolkien's work is impressive in it's scope, but more for the linguistic basis, rather than the mythology. Furthermore it was crafted over a long time, and if you read the Histort of Middle Earth books, you find that it was much revised as it went.

In Blizzards case while they have largely ignored the linguistics of their world, the mythology and history is deep and complex. Unlike most fastasy it aims fir a mix of comedy in with the dramatic story elements, which is obviously a formula that resonates well with the audience.

Recently the new alliance race was added together with a new backstory that contradicted the published lore, and was readily picked up by many of players. Chris Metzen eventually responded saying he would resolve the issue, but the response from the community shows that at least a small portion of their customers care somewhat about the story behind the game.

As for borrowing from real world cultures or existing works, it is hard not to. There are many example of parody or comic references to other works while questing, and part of the fun is trying to work out some of the more obscure ones.

The surface characteristics for the orcs, elves, dwarves, and humans at least are pretty taken from the modern fantasy stereotype, with the exception that quite a bit of effort has been made to make all races morally diverse. Gnomes have been modified to have a technological side to them, but like most fantasy, technology has a dark-side associated with it too. The undead leaders do have rather sinister plans, but the lower level quests are more about defending their new nation than assimilating others.


Blizzard's take on trolls is quite different to other fantasy. They certainly have a vooduan feel to them, and for an american audience, this is most naturally expressed in a west-indian (Jamaican) context. The playable troll faction largely excises the darker side of the western take on voodoo, though as most quests are once again about strengthening the tribe, and helping their allies.

As a race the Tauren are I think new to the fantasy genre. Sure they've got a basis in the real world american-indian and inuit tribes, but I think that co-opting works well in game.

Anyway, I should get back to work, and for those that wish to read and comment on the WoW lore without having to play the game, http://worldofwarcraft.com/info/story/chapter1.html is prety good.

79.

Jesse: Warren and Michael : You guys ask for a ban on WoW and SL conversations, but in reality these are two areas that are great settings for conversation and discussion.

You're right, to a degree. WoW and SL are very different extremes in a broad spectrum, perhaps too different for comparisons to bring to light very much.

I'd be much more interested in comparisons that used WoW as a baseline, much as a study of the criminal justice processes of the Phillipines might use the US system as a baseline reference.

Take the current topic: WoW uses cultural borrowing, and many of us say it helps with immersion, while others have expressed concern on how this might reinforce negative stereotypes. Aaron Delwiche has done a great job of giving us additional reading to contribute to the scholarly debate of the second issue, but what about the first?

Well, we could compare WoW to other MMO's to see to what extent they used cultural borrowing, and (less easily measured) how the use or absence of it affects playstyles there. Second Life is too different for any reasonable comparison to be made. Too many uncontrolled variables for any good conclusions to be made.

Instead, we should be looking at another fantasy MMO, preferably one that's similarly more game than world, preferably of the same generation, and preferably not one that's based on a franchise that extends outside the game world (assuming that franchised worlds have so much other content to draw on that cultural borrowing would be less necessary to build immersion).
Maybe Everquest 2? DAOC?

Compare it to others that are more similar will help in determining the prevalence, the value to the game, and perhaps will allow us to better understand the phenomenon. Compare it to SL, and we'd just get into a debate that "the difference isn't because of X, but because of y"

80.

I think its generally boring and unimaginative. However, Battletech did it incredibly well. And it worked, because the societies were extensions of earth.

Seeing engineers in wow that obviously took their names from Star Trek, as well as other 'borrowed' cultural types of things, is trite, boring, and overall, incredibly inane.

As for the socities of the different races, they are often fairly obvious, overdone, and can be insultive. While its easy to borrow from what one already knows (can add to what might be more 'real'), it should be done in a much more tactful and less transparent way.

81.

All fantasy worlds derive their power from existing culture(s), history and myth. A secondary world must be built upon some existing fundamnet of history/myth/culture to have some significance and connect to the reader/player. WarCraft is no exception. However, as in any well built secondary world there's a possibility for various interpretations. You could for example view the Alliance as a representation of modern values of technology and science and the Horde as a representation of older values of honour, tradition and religion. And that's only one of the possible view points. In fact, the significance/view-point a person reads into a secondary world/work of art in fact reveals much more of what kind of a person he/she is than of what the work of art intends to convey. If one reads a racist message into a way races are represented in a secondary world it means that this person has unresolved issues with racism (or even latent racist tendencies!) rather than that the creator of the secondary world tries to convey a racist message. Finally, I must say that articles of the sort of the one quoted above (written by Katie B.) are at their heart a rather dirty thing, having to do more with yellow journalism than with honest scholarship as their aim is creating controversy, rather than an intelligent discussion of an issue.

82.

World of Warcraft pretty much uses the traditional old germanic mythologies, that we all mostly know from Tolkein literature, and adds to it historical cultures and ethnic groups from our world with western stereotizing. As a result there are some racial undertones that appear in the game. We have the alliance which are comprised of the seemingly culturally superior humans, dwarves, gnomes, and night elves. Humans, dwarves, and gnomes have the western european stereotype in both appeareance, culture, and ingenouity. Night elves in WoW borrow alot of their culture from asian civilizations like China and Japan. Night elves keep to themselves cut off from the rest of the world in their own forbidden city they are looked upon as being shifty and multi faced fitting the stereotype that most westerners felt towards asians throughout history. The horde is made up of your primative races, Orcs, Taurens, and Trolls. You can see that these are heavily influenced from western europes contact with primitive tribes and native ppls of africa, north america, and the caribean /central americas. The orcs closely resemble africans as being a sturdy strong race that makes it homes in the grassland savannas. They were even enslaved and are just now once again regaining their freedom from bondage. The way that most alliance see the orcs is much like how typical western europeans viewed african s. They are viewed as primitive, unable to think for themselves, and inherently savage. The same is true for the Trolls which mirror how western conquistadores viewed the aztecs as being blood thirsty heathens and practitioners of dark evil religions. The Taurens share the romantic depiction of being protectors of their land just like the native americans, but are still veiwed as culturally inferior through the alliance/western eyes and resistors of progress. The goblins as someone else picked up on carry jewish and italian stereotypes as being the bankers and raqueteers only interested in personal gain much like they were viewed throughout history as western europe built its empires and nations. Racism is left to be ultimately carried out by the players in WoW. The background and history is there and to say that racism can't exist in the World of Warcraft universe is to say that it doesn't exist in our own. Even the addition of the blood elves and dranei bring in two more cultures based largely on Indian and Persian/Arab ones of our own world and introduce more western stereotypes. Would the absence of these stereotypes hurt WoW? I would actually say yes because these stereotypes help us to connect this world with our own and as a result strangely enough add a comfort zone to the player. And ironically what players will learn by playing each race is that you cannot hold a stereotype to an entire race.

83.

Its a fucking Game, no racism, or Political culture or any other mambo jambo you are talking about. Plz, if fyou want to analyze things, do it in real things

84.

There is arguably some degree of fun in alternate histories or fiction with real-world parallels, but as far as the nitty-gritty question of whether there is some sort of cultural typecasting with perjorative overtones... please, I'm sick and tired of this debate. Let everyone say and think whatever they want and cease to psychoanalyze the rest of us to see if we conform to a PC standard. Isn't that the root of this inquiry? To find out whether WoW Blizzard implies something harmful statement about native americans and jamaicans? This is where I get off the boat.

85.

If no one has written this already I would like to add that a far more complex history of the trolls has been revealed. In fact the first troll empire, the Zalander, was based on knowledge http://www.worldofwarcraft.com/info/story/troll/history.html

Poverty and chaos explains how the worship of hakkar starter, the trolls are mad because the humans and elves destroyed their once great empires. Its at least nice they reveal why these creatures act the way they do

Their are a few forsaken who are noble, one fights in an organization known as the argent dawn, so they are not innately evil. The majority are genocidal because they are constantly being attacked themselves, so the forsaken are like jews and nazis at the same time. Personally I don't see the forsaken in general as evil under the circumstances. And the darkspear tribe is tame compared to most teenagers.

My favorite part of WOW is the orcs and their culture/archetecture. Its a result of constantly being attacked and surviving in a harsh world, I love how the orcs adapted to their situation. Very militant Spartan like

The deeper you look the less one deminsional things are in WOW

86.

I don't mind if WOW takes from real cultures, but if these creatures that mimic those cultures are just innately like that I would find it offensive.

But WOW has hitstorie's within its world which explain how these cultures developed that way.

The races everyone calls evil were persecuted by the "good" races, if you read the story the "evil" actions become more understandable, and their is diverity within each race.

To dismiss any race in WOW as good or evil is either to misinterpret lore or ignore it, Tauren are members of cults that worship evil gods for example

87.

I mean some tauren are, as will as all the other races

Also one thing no one points out is the night elves are just as primitive as the orcs, the difference is the orc religion of the elements mere their rugged life style. The night elf religion in life mirriors their gracefulness, but they are still premitive

88.

The fact that some individuals can break from that race's norm show to me blizzard is trying not to sterotype i.e. those few taurens who are members of the twilight hammer I mentioned

I see WOW as the last fantasy world anyone could be offended by.

89.

I keep thinking of things to say, this is the last one until somone else replies lol

It is understandable that humans are civilized, they are like us and Americans are civilized, that is having towns and stuff. It does say alot though.

I am thinking of making my own fantasy world just for the heck of it. Humans would be the more primitive race (will not premitive because of the race, but because they simply havn't progressed/havn't chose to). They would be a mix between WOW orcs, klingons and a tough simple life style like spartans, they will reject all the comforts that the weaker races enjoy. (weaker as in having less strentgh) These humans are biologicly the same as us, but compared to the other races the humans look the same as we see orcs. Humanity is will have some diversity in this world, but although the clans will have different customs they exist in a small part of the world so all the tribes have simmilar cultural elements, mabye like the Greek city states.

The humans innately have a greater temper and react to things by acting violently than any other race. (this part is biological not cultural, although the humans are just like us so they can control their anger, but why would they want to) A creature from another race will panic seeing a human enter one of their rages, while we see a guy pounding his fist on a table and cursing as normal. Their culture involves head hunting and canibilism, and although innately more violent compared to other sentient races they follow a strict code of honor, so humans although being innately more agressive have less bloody wars. They are perpetually in war with each other. Those who have their head taken or were eaten are would consider it an honor, war is a sport that involved a few people getting killed. The humans live in peace with the other races mostly because the other races are terrified of the bestial humans.

Mothers will tell their children horrible stories about the savage humans. Although we know humans are capable of not being savage the system does work for these humans and they keep it.

I'll have to think more into this world I wish to create, but I think humans as the bestial race would be cool. Whatever part of the brain that causes anger is simply larger in the humans, now I'll just have to develop another race and cultue/biology. Of course individuals of other races can learn to be violent, and humans can learn to be meek despite biology.

I don't want the humans to be totally noble savages, so at some point some humans will commit some massacres, a small group of humans could burn a whole village because they have so much strength.While the non humans are just as evil as humans they tend not to have as much adrenaline, endurance, strength, and the capacity to get angry, though they can get angry.

What will be fun about the humans in this world is they live in an enviroment where theycan be angry and violent, but violent under certain rules of honor and theycan't go killing people like crazy, certain rules are involved, and the those who die well are honored.

Sorry for the ramblings, btw nice I like the OP

90.

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