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Dec 24, 2005



Ted has clearly staked his claim in the moral absolutist camp (along with his male white-haired god). Let's play absolutist then.

The Alliance broke a truce with their allies immediately after the defeat of the Burning Legion and "ganked" orc women and children, starting the new war. Let's not forget to give the alliance their rightly earned swastika's -- have you visited the Alliance-controlled concentration camps near Dalaran? "Oh, but our concentration camps aren't evil... our white-beared Church of Light god says so."

If the Horde isn't evil, then the people who play the Horde must be evil, right? My primary is Alliance, on Argent Dawn, one of the busiest RP servers. I've heard countless hours of racist Alliance RPing in Goldshire screaming for ethnic cleansing. And I'd be as rich as a farmer if I had a gold for every time I've heard reference to naked gnome girls and pedophilia in Ironforge.

But of course Ted, who would possibly infer from this comment that all Alliance players are Nazi pedophiles? That would be a improperly deployed argument-to-the-absurd, like the panda fucking Horde that scares a three-year old, no?


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Orcs are not evil.



You dick. Why are you exposing your three year old to evil characters? Why are you wasting time playing WoW when you have a three year old kid to read to, to take for walks, to feed the ducks with, to go grocery shopping with, to laugh and giggle with.

This angst is way misplaced.


There are two fundamental problems which should be addressed.

The first is your lack of understanding about the Horde races, and likely about the Alliance races as a whole. The belief that Horde characters are are evil is common when people first play Horde characters but they quickly learn that it is woefully inaccurate. There is a good deal of information about them available both in game, on the community website, and through countless other sources. Your lack of knowledge about the races likely seems to be the major contributing factor to your labeling them as evil. For instance, the Undead. The undead are not raised willingly, nor do the circumstances of their deaths play a role in their ressurection as undead. They are humans who were infected by the plague, died and were then reborn. There was no tale of failed goals or unfullfilled redemption to cause their undeath. In addition, the evil worked by the alliance races is obvious once you investigate their history. As for the Horde side, I fail to see how you can find the peace-loving harmony-living Tauren as evil in any interpretation of the word. Were I you, I would play the game from both sides, from multiple races, Ogrimmar and Thunder Bluff are not scary or frightening, they are as wonderous as Stormwind or Ironforge. Learn more about what the races mean and stand for.

The second problem is a conflict of values. There were certain values that you held one had to have to be considered good. I believe they included the following, "they would have to value love over war, would have to see little nobility in bloodshed, would have to reject alliance with undead beings, would have to be charitable."

If these are the values you hold are essential to being considered good. Then yes, the Horde are evil, then again so would the Alliance, since many of their races have some of those traits. Regardless I don't believe that any of those values are necessary to be considered good. Nor do I believe that the majority of people would agree with you that such strict values define "good." This however, is a contridiction in personal values and beliefs, and therefore is not something which is easily debated. At this point it's better to simply acknowledge that our belief patterns difer, recognize it, and move on.


Though this thread is spending a lot of time on Ted's first claim, that the horde is evil, I hope we can get away from that question and ask what I hope is a more interesting question: is the decision to play one culture over another in a social game significant, morally or otherwise?

I research ethics in role playing because I believe role playing offers the opportunity to explore other cultures, providing at least a hint of how they work from the inside. In WoW, we are offered the opportunity to join one of eight cultures, and the choice affects our game play. The characters I have played past level 20 in WoW include a human, a gnome, a troll and one of the undead. Most of my interest in playing alts was spurred by a desire to see the cultural differences, and in my experience the differences are significant. Some of the significance comes from the storyline presented by the game – how the game is written. Some of it comes from how others of that race and faction treat me, though that obviously depends in part on the server. Some of it comes from how those from the opposing faction treated me, again server dependant.

Just looking at how the game was written for the moment, several of the resondants have pointed out how the storyline of the game works to challenge traditional roles of who the good and bad side may be. Some of the horde appear to be engaging in some pretty unsavory activity, and certainly the undead are pretty twisted by most standards, but as a counter-point, the Tauren are perhaps the most gentle and peaceful culture in the game. If Ted wants to play a virtuous hordling, he should look into playing a Tauren. The alliance includes amazingly benevolent and well meaning people, but they are balanced by the arrogant, the self-absorbed and the power-hungry. The designers have not gone so far that traditional prejudices are simply reversed. The Alliance is not evil and the horde good. Rather, they have at least made an attempt to create eight cultures that have reasons for existing, that differ from each other and that have a mix of attractive and challenging elements.

Even if we are all paying attention to and trying to remain in keeping with all of the backstory about the world, we are likely to be attracted to different cultures for different reasons. For some, the decision will simply be based on who that person wants to look at. Since I see WoW as at least potentially a role playing game, I at least hope that even those people will think about what it means to be whatever they were attracted to, to inhabit that perspective a bit and learn something from it. Those with more interest in the storyline, or in role playing in general, may choose a faction whose perspective they want to take, or if they knew nothing about the factions in the beginning, they may take on their character's cultural perspective as they become familiar with it.

As we think about our character's perspectives on the world, we can start a conversation about how our character's perspective affects our character's identities and values. I imagine the people who play moderate to high level undead will have a variety of responses to who their character is, even though within WoW they will have gone through roughly the same upbringing and apprenticeship into the world, encountered most of the same NPCs, completed most of the same quests and, if they are on the same server, encountered many of the same other players. Even when we have the same experiences, our interpretations will vary.

I think taking on alternate perspectives, even ones radically different from one's own, is important because often before we can resolve disagreements with another person, we need to understand their perspective. Good negotiations require learning about each other's interests, to find how they can be mutually satisfied. Treating someone like you want to be treated is a good start, but isn't it better to treat them as they wish to be treated? And, when there is legitimate disagreement, it rarely convincing to tell someone "I believe killing is always evil and therefore you should not kill". Isn't it more powerful to show someone how murder is inconsistent with their own beliefs? To do so, one would need to learn their beliefs, and understand how they work together.

So, rather than saying one might play horde to understand evil, I would rather say that one could play horde to understand difference. For that matter, I don't condone solving problems through violence, but in WoW all of my characters do a lot of violence to others for all sorts of reasons. No matter what faction I play, my characters engage in what I take to be morally questionable acts, and regardless of my faction, I take on perspectives different from my own. I don't mind, in fact I relish the opportunity. Regardless of what I play, my base role playing goals are usually to take part in actions I wouldn’t or couldn’t do otherwise, to explore and gain understanding of perspectives other than my own, and to face challenges - ethical, social, physical and intellectual - within a play environment. I also love to see what decisions other people will make as they take on the role of their character. The more interesting and complex the intertwining of interests, the more interesting it is to watch or participate socially in trying to work it out.


First, I'd like to respond to Richard and lamely say that you have good points, a good case, and I really need to spend more time on Campbell before I answer, because my surety is somewhere near its limit. =) I'm not a strong enough student, and your interpretation is plausible enough that I can't disagree enough to count.

Second, I'd like to respond to Ted. And first of that, well... damn, he's right. There ain't no way that will close the thread. *grins*

For some people, this is vindication. I have an issue with that, but it's pointless to actually go there, since they generally aren't listening either. So I'll just respond to Ted. You want your generalities to be met with generalities? Here, catch.

I'm sure you've heard the gamut of basic spiels on moral absolutism, but I'll sketch a quick overview of my take. I consider myself an absolutist, but I am not a moral absolutist. The reason for this is simple: I don't know what it means. To be moral is a concept I simply do not grasp: can you deliver absolute examples of morality versus immorality?

Further, it is even more difficult when you abandon generics and delve into specifics. While a theoretical line between morality and immorality may be drawn, you then must consider the case of the individual in its trillions of incarnations. Worse, there enters the factor of time, where you have to consider whether or not morality may begin, end, or change over time. Let us assume that anyone whose action resulted in the death of a real human being--and that this action was known to be lethal and was intended to be such (i.e., no grace by ignorance)--is immoral. Let us further say that the act of preventing such an action is moral. I think that you can generally agree with such statements; the principle objections typically revolve around the nature of the affected individual, but that's a complication that would probably take a couple books to cover without definitions.

So we take the classic case of a soldier. She kills the enemy, and defends her comrades, whether by removing the threat or by providing cover or anything else. She is therefore both moral and immoral, by the definitions given above. So you are left with three choices: (1) morality and immorality are reconciliable and not the opposing terms their morphological construction suggests, (2) the concepts of morality given are incorrect (which we assume they are not, but I allow the possibility), or (3) the concept of morality is erroneous by nature.

Traditionally, moral and immoral have been mutually exclusive, and the additional concept of amorality was introduced as a third mutually exclusive category. However, given the situation above, you find that unless you invalidate the situation (by redefining morality, as per #2), this traditional conception is wrong one way or the other. (Feel free to butcher this. I wouldn't count myself a masterful debater or logician; I actually suck at both. But I can't find any holes, so I'm going to leave it.)

So the final piece is precisely your articles of faith, and what I stated was the entire trouble of moral absolutism: articulating the absolutes. To claim their knowledge without stating the boundaries is nigh tyrannical, which is the fundamental flaw of religion.

I also believe in God. But unlike others, I do not assume I know everything or even anything about God. I don't assume, case in point, that God is a dictator who declares certain images to be evil and all other images to be benign and perhaps some particular images to be good. I don't even assume that God retains these human-analogous traits commonly assigned, such as a Santa Clause-esque benevolence or thunderbolt-wielding Zeus of wrath.

My belief is simple: there is a grain of truth in everything, and in the religion I was raised in, I think that God exists. Beyond that, I make no assumption. I don't see what gives others the right to do so.

Three of the commentators here have been discussing the nature of myth and its role. I thought that discussion was, at its very essence, enlightening. In terms of Richard's interpretation and understanding, if absolutely nothing else (which there was). Perhaps it would be proper, therefore, to share with you the past of Joseph Campbell: he was Catholic. There is a book called "The Hero's Journey", which is an account of his life, and you might consider reading it. Alternatively, you could attempt his dry writing style for yourself and read something he wrote himself, like "Occidental Mythology". The conclusions you draw are your own.

I would make two notes:

(1) I notice that your ability to capitalize vanishes when you start talking about your beliefs. This strikes me as significant, but it's a cautionary note that I make it a point to be syntactically correct even in AIM, so maybe it's just a personal prejudice.

(2) For all your love of the magic circle, you turned your back on it when you wrote that backstory for your character. You made it very clear (at least to me) that the backstory was the story of a ghost, the likes of which have been seen in classics like Shakespeare and Dickens, who was sent to Hell and now march with other evil beings to destroy the earth.

Yet this is not the story of Warcraft, as presented by Blizzard. This means that, while you stand against the breach of the magic circle by the machine of profit, you have no qualms about breaching its most powerful potential by imposing your own fiction upon it that you might be satisfied with the presentation it makes.

Worse, you rule out a completely different interpretation of the Warcraft landscape through this apparently Christian (well, I couldn't avoid it the entire post) lens:

Let us make Humans, Elves, Tauren, Orcs, Trolls, Gnomes, Dwarves analogous to different human races. Let us assume that the Church of the Holy Light is that of God, firmly placing the Alliance in the providence of Good (except those who stray, naturally).

Now let us consider Warcraft's creation story, and if we were to take the Titans as God's angels, then we see an extremely marked parallel between Warcraft and Tolkien's (who was definitely influenced by Christianity) creation story, the Ainulindalë.

First there were the Ainur, or the Titans. The Ainur sang notes, and the Titans crafted worlds. But one, Melkor, strayed far and looked deeply into the void, as the staunch and powerful Sargeras was placed as a sentinel against the demonic race of the Eredar, who were adept deceivers. And Melkor fell, corrupted by the void. As Sargeras fell, corrupted by the Eredar. As Lucifer fell, corrupted by pride.

That's not the end of it.

The Titans shaped Azeroth and created the Elves, as the Valar entered Middle Earth and created the Elves. When the Burning Legion sought to invade Azeroth through the Well of Eternity, the Elves fought back. When Melkor was deep within Mordor, the Elves assaulted his fortress. The result was comparable to mutual destruction. A contingent of the elves became outcasts to their own brethren, and left.

And sometime during this, the humans appeared. Mysteriously. Both in Azeroth, and on Middle-Earth. And before all this, the dwarves appeared. Both in Azeroth, and on Middle-Earth. (For all those who think I'm being vague, you can read The Silmarillion for yourself. And the Warcraft lore. I'm not exactly dripping with spoilers.)

Here is where Tolkien and Warcraft diverge, and where your generalities might apply. Well, perhaps not yet. Tolkien characterizes orcs as elves who were captured by deception and corrupted into bestial creatures. Warcraft characterizes orcs as a gentle, but rough, shamanistic people who were captured by deception and corrupted into bestial creatures.

Let's engage Tolkien one last time. Why did the humans kill the orcs mercilessly in Tolkien? Because they had no choice. The orcs clearly intended to kill them and in the question of survival, there was no time for metaphysical questions of evil: you either killed or were killed. Why did the humans kill the orcs mercilessly in Warcraft? Because they had no choice. The orcs clearly intended to kill them and in the question of survival, there was no time for metaphysical questions of evil: you either killed or were killed.

The Silmarillion ends with a few unsatisfatctory paragraphs thoroughly summarizing the Lord of the Rings in a way that makes you wonder if that three-volume epic was actually significant. Warcraft 3's expansion, Frozen Throne, posits the question of what would have happened in the Fourth Age to all those orcs?

Blizzard answered thusly: America was threatened militarily by Japan. What'd we do? Put the Japanese Americans into internment camps. Where we could watch them. Make sure they don't harm us. Even if it's debilitating.

Wikipedia describes orc culture thus: "Although they are perceived by the humans as savages, orcs have a proud and noble society that revolves around the concept of honor. Personal and clan honor are valued above material wealth and even an orc's own life, and the quickest way to provoke an orc's wrath is to insult his or her honor."

Similar, I would say, to the Japanese, both in the American perception and the actual nature of their culture.

Perhaps there is another problem with your original argument, "No one, not even mighty Blizzard, can un-do the meaning of a word in a matter of a few years."

Perhaps they didn't. Perhaps they're not undoing anything. Perhaps it's just the next chapter of a story we haven't actually finished yet, much as we'd like to think we know all the answers.


w00t. Hooray for shortsightedness. I completely forgot to finish off the original point I was making.

Who are the Undead, after all this is said and done? Well, we can safely assume that the demons are, eh.., the demons. The Scourge was a plague manufactured by the demons to unleash upon the world, much the same way Mannorath's blood corruption took the orcs, so the Scourge and its accompanying plague took the humans and elves.

But the Undead you play are the Forsaken. Who are they? The Forsaken, as their name implies, are the bereaved. Sins or not, they are not manifestations of evil intent. The Forsaken are evil in the same way the Germans were evil, as they slew Jews; they are evil in the same way the Japanese were evil, as they massacred Nanking.

Iris Chang describes the Japanese soldiers who raped, plundered, used infants as target practice, and mercilessly rampaged their sphere of influence as men regarded as upstanding citizens in their communities. Good people. Fine, honorable men of distinction. So, too, were the Germans who committed acts of atrocity. So, too, were the Aztec and Mayan priests who sacrificed fellow human beings to prevent the end of the world.

The Undead are not remnants of the Twisting Nether, which I think is the Warcraft equivalent of the Christian Hell (or perhaps maybe a metaphysical non-Earth), but rather souls trapped with a touch of demonic energy, which twists their desires from what they were when alive to the darkness that exemplifies their desire to wipe out all who do not tolerate them.

Are the Forsaken evil? Probably. The Forsaken were drawn directly from the ranks of the demon-spawned Scourge, and still retain some characteristics. Am I certain?

Not without more data, because Blizzard intentionally leaves many questions unanswered. And of course, this is through a different lens, but one that I think is far more accountable to the presented fiction, and to your worldview.



I appreciate the effort you put into this post, but... really... go spend your time on something worthwhile. It's a GAME. Don't take it so bloody seriously. No one's talking about white supremacy or exterminating Jews or using mustard gas on Kurds. It's a bunch of fictional, cartoony people with funny names prancing around in a really well written fictional world.

I have both Horde and Alliance characters.

Before this, I played Star Wars Galaxies. I had both Rebel and Empire characters (though, admittedly, it's much easier to draw a parallel to real life with the Star Wars universe, so playing the Empire for me was a little difficult... I just wanted to see Darth Vader mostly).

Before that, I played Dark Age of Camelot (hi, Scott!). I quit when they promised that player housing would be affordable, and when it came out, it wasn't. I miss my friar. I was also annoyed that they made Morgan LeFay evil, but what can you do? I played a friar and a necromancer (among other classes).

Before that... ah, who cares? The point is, I play both sides of the spectrum regularly, and it's for no other reason than the mechanics of the class look neat, or the storyline and background for this culture/race looks really interesting. Trying to blow it up into some sort of commentary on real-life society is really silly and a waste of time. I wasn't "exploring" anything. I was just playing a freaking game based upon fictitious elements.

That's it.

Nothing more.

Move along.


The moment of farce has arrived.

In private emails, Tim Burke has persuaded me to yield much of my original position. He also laid out a more persuasive view of WoW Orcs with the same practical implications (that it's kind of wierd to play them as such.)

As for the bigger issues, the absolutism, the evol psych, the deep thrumbs of mystical whatevers that echo a now-distant God - I have no idea what I think any more. How absurd. Thanks for your thoughts, anyway. I am going to go play games.


So you never did get it. Three is when that child wants and needs you most. There are plenty of available hours when he is six, eight, seventeen. Where is the evil in the game? You don't have to look too deep.


[[In Blizzard v. white-haired god guy, blizzard loses; orc remains evil. that thought, which is a faith, not an argument, runs around in the background of my post. it's also a concept that sensible 21st century people largely reject, the moreso the more educated they are. and the product of that rejection runs through the thread - the point repeatedly made that blizzard's lore makes orcs OK. I can see that, sure. Except I am not sure god wants it that way, and i doubt orcs will ever be seen as noble creatures.]]

God didn't make orcs, people's imaginations did. I'm sorry your God has so little to do that he feels the need to pass absolute moral judgement on fantasy creatures.


I'm rather disappointed to find, as I come back from a busy period, that Dr. Castronova has changed his views. I was working on a massive post laying out the entire counter-argement in nearly irrefutable terms; I feel like a general who has planned for a great battle only to find out the opponent quietly slipped away home. One thing does remain, though, that I want to address -- not just for the sake of this discussion, but for any discussions of this nature.

I think one of the reasons so many people seemed to be talking past each other is a matter of differing contexts. In any game, especially one with as wide an appeal as WoW, you have a spectrum of players from the pure roleplayers to the pure powergamers, and every possible shade in between. From my experience in WoW -- admittedly, not on a mandatory RP server -- most of the people I have met are primarily powergamers. Trying to evaluate their actions from a roleplayer's perspective is no more viable than trying to understand a roleplayer's choices from a powergamer's perspective: "So what if it's called Armor of Light? The stats on it suck!"

This is significant because those two groups are making two totally different evaluations and choices when they choose a character. The roleplayers are seeking an avatar for themselves with which to experience the game world as a fictional reality and create their own story within it. The powergamers are seeking a playing piece for a game in which they compete with other players to amass the highest score, the "points" being levels, wealth, PvP rank, etc. A roleplayer chooses to play a paladin because he wants to take on the role of a holy knight (or a concentration camp guard) -- a powergamer chooses to play a paladin because that invulnerability business is damned useful.

Someone, I'm sure, is going to say that paladins and undead and gnomes (who must die) are what they are, and you have to see any choice in light of those pre-existing (or God-given) images no matter what the chooser believes. But again, this is only looking at it from one context. Dr. Castronova is mistaking his context for the context.

What we actually do in World of Warcraft, at its most concrete level, is push buttons and cause numbers to change on a server somewhere and pixels to glow different colors on our monitors. Everything beyond that is based on what meaning we assign to those actions and responses -- what it symbolizes to us -- at various levels of abstraction. We aren't wielding sword and shield, we aren't casting spells, and we aren't stealing kobolds' candles nor buying strawberry ice cream for orphaned orc children. Different players assign different symbolism. To one, they made a little orc boy happy by buying him some ice cream; to another, they scored 650 experience points. The orc child isn't real and the experience points are ephemeral -- RIP AC2. What any of it means is entirely within the player's mind, centered on how they view the game they are playing, or for that matter if they even view it as a game at all.

Different people assign different meanings to those elements of the game. Take one of the first Forsaken quests, where you destroy a number of skeletons and zombies. A roleplayer would focus on the storyline aspect, cleansing part of the Scourge from the world. A powergamer would be concerned with getting his quest rewards by pushing the right buttons in response to the colored lights on the screen; what those lights make pictures of is irrelevant. It would matter to the roleplayer if the enemies are evil skeletons or glowing cubes labelled "hit here for 150 exp"; it would not matter to the powergamer.

And that's where this whole discussion seems to break down.

Yes, to a roleplayer, if they accept the position that the Horde is evil, then choosing to play a Horde character, to voluntarily take on an evil role, can potentially be seen as a "wicked" act. But that's only one group -- roleplayers who see the Horde as evil. There are also roleplayers who accept Blizzard's game lore and background and see both Alliance and Horde as ambiguous, a blank page to be written on by players' choices. And there are the non-roleplayers, the powergamers and casual gamers, who see the Horde as merely a different set of playing pieces than the Alliance playing pieces, with no more intrinsic good nor evil than a set of chessmen. Trying to frame the entire discussion in the first context, and assuming the motives of the first category of players, is flawed from the start because it necessarily requires the other two categories -- the Horde-is-not-evil roleplayers and the non-roleplayers -- to be evaluating their choices from the same point of view as the Horde-is-evil roleplayers, but the difference in that point of view is precisely what distinguishes the groups in the first place.


Personally, I enjoyed playing horde races in WoW specifically because they were evil and offered an escape from reality and most other MMOs in which you have to be the good guy. It was different and refreshing. If anything I was put off by the backstories which portrayed the horde as just misunderstood or persecuted or protectors of nature against the plundering done by mankind. I just wanted to be nasty for a change.


Dr. Castronova-

With respect to Joseph Campbell, I would like to recommend an essay that I feel is more relevant to the question of morality and culture in WoW. I highly suggest you read On Faerie Stories by J.R.R. Tolkien. Tolkien offers a full and powerful perspective on symbols and deeper meanings in literary "sub-creation," which can easily be extended to games and virtual worlds. You may find this helpful in clarifying your belief that these worlds, like everything else, matter at a divine level.

Personally, I see the tension of playing Orcs or Undead in these terms: as far as the sub-creation of WoW goes, both the morals and the beings are created by Blizzard, and the Horde is not evil within this world. On the other hand, an audience of non-WoW gamers hears the labels "orc" or "undead" and thinks of evil; as with any presentation, the audience's preconceptions must be considered when trying to communicate about WoW.


Hi, very interesting discussion (and web site in general)…I’ll jump in with my first post here and suggest that there are actually three distinct issues being collapsed:
1. A semantic and/or accuracy question about whether the Horde is inherently ‘evil’?

2. The relationship between social play, cultural symbols, and individual meaning making.

3. What it means to be a player who willingly seeks out an evil avatar.
1. I won’t reiterate what many others have said beyond agreeing that it is simplistic to view the Horde as “evil” when the game lays out a very complex system of morality on both sides.

2. The much more interesting question to me is about the relationship between existing cultural meanings and how those meanings might be altered in the context of new forms of social interaction. Yes, Orcs and Trolls have historical cultural meanings but do those determine exactly how WoW players interpret them in the game? I would suggest not.

This taps directly into an argument ongoing within anthropology for the last 30 years. What do cultural symbols mean? To what extent do cultural symbols used in daily life have a deeper meaning and to what extent are those meanings determined? Can and do individuals reinterpret existing symbols within the context of their own experiences and memories? To me the clear answer is, yes – people can and do take existing symbols and make them their own depending on a wide variety of influences. Ultimately those interpretations might be constrained or directed by existing meanings but certainly they are not determined.

The level of cultural constraint versus agentive interpretive freedom in relation to particular symbols is clearly up for debate. That said, any claim that a certain symbol automatically carries a “particular moral or ethical baggage” vastly over simplifies the way culture and symbols work. I will agree with Dmitri Williams and argue that, like all symbols with some cultural salience, the meaning of “Orcs” and “Trolls” are up for interpretation and ultimately reside only in the mind of the individual doing the interpretation.

3.This seems like a much more difficult issue to address with a million different related questions about the nature of good versus evil, the ability of people to explore evil themes and behaviors without becoming evil, issues of role-playing, self-identification and self-representation, the role of “play” in culture (al la Geertz’s Balinese cock fight research), etc. I will leave these types of questions to the theologians and philosophers.

Related to this issue however, Gary Rogers and Timothy Burke’s comments suggest to me a much more interesting question. (Full disclosure: my real life academic interest focuses on the anthropology of conflict so I’m biased.) I would like to know more about the possible insight that WoW might provide into the ways in which human psychology works in both simulated and real war situations. I find that these types of game provide very interesting information about the nature of “us versus them” social constructions. Does my visceral dislike of the Alliance reflect a very simple version of the type of sentiments people develop during wars?

The fact that WoW requires that we enact actual behavior reminiscent of a war (validation of our side as “good”, dehumanization of “the other”, desensitization to the suffering of “the other”, etc) makes this a very interesting arena in which to examine these kinds of seemingly natural human responses. Perhaps I’ve just determined my next research project…


Ted wrote:
All I can say is, I hope I'm never trapped in a lifeboat with a group of moral relativists.

Matt replied:
> All I can say is that I hope I'm never trapped
> in a lifeboat with a group of moral
> objectivists who might believe,
> unquestioningly, things like [extreme and idiotic examples chosen and snipped]

How about hoping you were trapped in a lifeboast by moral objectivists who believe that it's wrong to kill and eat your shipmates for food? I don't want to indulge in relativistic arguments for my sunbaked life with those who don't believe in some basic, natural laws about me and ketchup.



Lordy this thread has had an unnaturally extended lifespan. Still as a Forsaken Warlock that suits me fine.

Following Dr Castronovas admission that his equation of the horde = evil derives from his christian moral background, and with relation to the moral relativism vs absolutism part of the thread, my opinion is that there is not really any such thing as absolute good or evil.

No-one actually considers themself to be evil. Not Saddam Hussain, not Pol Pot, not Josef Stalin, and definitely not the griefer thats just res-killed you 20 times in a row. People consider themselves misunderstood, unlucky, morally justified, or think that they are working for the greater good, or perhaps that the ends justify the means. Evil is always what other people are. To the horde the alliance is evil, and vice versa.

Incidentally, WoW also actively encourages players to grief the opposition, because (generally) the opposing sides do not speak each others language, so players must communicate via emotes. It's much easier to regard a fellow human as a thing when you don't speak their language.


"All I can say is that I hope I'm never trapped in a lifeboat with a group of moral objectivists who might believe, unquestioningly, things like, "Black people are evil" or "Jews must be slaughtered to a man" or "Gay people will burn in hell.""

If, as a moral relativist, you feel comfortable saying "Nazi concentration camps are wrong to me, but they are perfectly fine for the Nazis" then what is the basis for opposing Nazi concentration camps?


Not all worlds have a split into major good and evil forces. Consider Eastern creations, such as the popular cartoon "Princess Mononoke". Who is evil there? Some individual characters in the story of WoW do very ugly things. Are there more of these on the Horde side? I don't think so. There are more "inhumane" undead quests and rogue quests than there are, say, tauren and paladin quests. Still, paladins get their share of "clear the village of its inhabitant" missions and warlocks get to save damsels in distress. Talking about good or evil SIDES in WoW is, in my opinion, to impose a framework that is not supported by the story of the game OR by the social dynamics within the game. This framework came from other worlds and does not intrinsically belong in the World of Warcraft. I have seen very, very few players approaching the game from good vs. evil positions. You can choose to do so, but... Just read "Shakespeare in the bush" if you have not yet: http://www.cc.gatech.edu/people/home/idris/Essays/Shakes_in_Bush.htm


I think your arguments do too little to address the fact that WoW is a fantasy game, and as such the entire endeavor seeks to appeal to our shadow sides. I play an undead warlock - probably the "evillest" class in WoW - precisely because I try to be a conscientious person in my real, everyday life. By playing an "evil" class, I vent the dark, murderous side of myself that otherwise never sees the light of day. It's not a moral exercise, after all. It's an escape.


just some ones Opinion, so that does not make them right if he wants to think that way let him, dont judge him, i think horde was Corrupted by a great force, they could not think for them selfs, just like undead now they are set free, so they want to be back to them selfs, and be free and just fit in for who they are..


Why is this any different from an actor who is interested in playing an evil/scary role in a play (Iago, say)? Would you really say there is something morally wrong with such a choice?


I'd just like to say this is the most retarded thing I've ever read relating to MMO's, and that's saying a lot. Kudos, really. This was my favorite part: "Another is the role of designer as god: if Blizzard says orcs are noble, then they are noble. I'm saying Blizzard does not have that power, that there are fundamental forces at work that prevent anyone from creating a thing, calling it 'orc', and then assigning to it a broad social goodness."

You are braindead. Maybe it was too much level grinding and the incessant treadmill of WOW that actually made you beleive it had any relevance outside of database arrays and processor loads at their server farms? Loon.


Such comments are totally out of order and unnecessary.

Have you written any academic papers on the economics of virtual worlds lately Peter? No? Okay. Perhaps you could tone it down.

Regarding the "reversal" aspect of MMO worlds as mentioned by several above posters:

Totally agreed. Assuming one considers Orcs or undead collectively evil right-now-this-instant. Else essentially one is simply assigning a subjective role to these collective abstractions in order to play through. Fantasy, totally and simply, with no outside connotation, much like imaginings of the ordered mind.


No, I haven't written any "academic papers" on the "economics of virtual worlds", and quite frankly I'm glad I haven't. If you think that means my opinion is less valuable, have fun surrounding yourself with other like-minded individuals who consider these mental excercises a) rational and b)productive.


Edward Castronova you really need a real life.


I stumbled upon this thread, and I find it to be completely innane. I play all horde characters on Gilneas server, my 5 year old son is not afraid of my undead rogue, nor the undercity.
I have found that it is the ALLY who are evil. Running around with thier 'good' avatars or what have you. Stealing the throium vien IM ALREADY MINING. Jumping up and down on my target in hopes of making me go PVP. I think its the alliance who are evil. They see an orc, or an undead and kill, or harrass, hassle.
they think becuase of the stories growing up of zombies and orcs that its okay to treat us horde like shoe scrapings. It makes it impossible for the 'pure' and 'good' avatars to forget that there is a HUMAN BEING on the other side of it. Its always the horde who is saving the one Alliance noob who stumbled into the dragons in the badalands, never visa versa.
Where as the HORDE side players are always honorable. I can give a horde alchemist 5g, a arcanite crystal, and a thorium bar, git disconnected for an hour, and return to find my arcanite bar in my mailbox.
We are smaller in numbers becuase of the lack of 'prettyness' in our avatars, so we make up for it in our behavior toward one another, we are a clan, a team, mindfull and resdpectfull of others (The majority of us are anyway)
Now with the 1.9, ALLy players are running horde characters becuase the ally side turn ins are completed. So we are getting alot of people on horde side who are ugly inside. You people who are so concerned with outer apearances are foolish, git to the inner beuty.
Shrek is an ORGE in a KIDS movie and the GOOD guy. Brothers grimm old shool good and evil just aint happenen man. Al you stinkin ally pallys need to find GOD, cos you are all EVIL
-Ian Troy (this stoopid threat isnt worth a spell check get over it)


First, I'd like to say, before you go posting your ignorance for all the world to see, you might want to read a little of the history of the races from your game manual. The Orcs were brought here as slaves by the lich king to fight the humans. They were a pieceful, shamanistic society prior to their enslavement. The Taurens were on the verge of being wiped out by centaurs when Thrall and the Horde came to their aid. Undead - "Led by the banshee Sylvanas Windrunner, one group of undead broke away from the scourge and freed themselves of the lich king's domination. These renegades call themselves the Forsaken. They fight a constant battle not only to retain their freedom from the scourge, but also to exterminate those who would hunt them as monsters." - Meaning that the undead that are played by people didn't ask to be reanimated, but they choose not to be a part of the evil which had created them and are now doing their best to make it in the world despite the fact that the "good" alliance sees them as monsters who need to be exterminated. As for the Trolls, they are described as a vicious race which once held all of stranglethorn vale. At some point they broke up into sevral tribes who were constantly at war with each other. The Darkspear Trolls were an honorable tribe who were appauled by what they're fellow trolls had become and were on the verge of extinction because of that. They too contacted Thrall who came to their aid and allowed them to join the alliance of races known as The Horde and gave them the Echo Islands to build their home. That covers the history of the horde races. As for your idea that Blizzard can't write a history to "change the meaning" of such words as "Orc" "Troll", and "Undead", well, considering that all of those are ***FICTIONAL RACES***, the ideology of their allignment to "good" and "evil" is entirely up to the people who write their history. In this case, Blizzard. You also stated that humans are the only race with childeren. Your ignorance is showing again. In the back of Orgrimmar is an orphanage - full of ORC childeren. During childerens week in may, the horde also gets quests to take little Jimmy or Sarah off to see the wonders of the world in which they live. As far as "charitable giving", there is no such thing in this game. All giving results in some kind of reward, be it XP, Rep, or cash, it's always there. But Horde races all have the same "charitable" quests that the Alliance races have.
Now let's take a look at something you failed to address - classes. You mentioned that your 3yr old is affraid of your Undead Warlock, so let's start with Warlocks. Warlocks deal with demons as a constant to their class. They summon, enslave, and control demons. That sounds pretty "evil" to me. How about priests? Oh, priests have to be good...they're priests. Wrong. What about priest who spec to shadow? Shadow priests, or dark priests are the opposite of a holy priest, thus, if you believe "holy" to be "good", then shadow priests must be "evil". Since you used 9th century definitions for "orcs" and "trolls", I'm going to stick with the 9th century ideals for "good" and "evil". Anyone who could conjur any kind of magic (mages, shamans, warlocks, priests, paladins, druids) or bring the dead back to life (priests, paladins, druids, shamans, hunters(pet)) would have been seen as "evil" witches and burned at the stake or stoned. Rogues are master thieves, which is a lesser "evil" but still viewed as "evil" by society. And considering that a lust for war is also "evil", that means Warriors are also evil and that there are no "good" classes in this game - NONE! All of the classes except Shamans can be played by "good" humans.
I too am a father. My 6 year old daughter plays this game and I let her pick and choose her own characters. She has 1 server full of characters (10), included in these 10 characters are an Undead, 2 Trolls, a Night Elf, a Human, a Tauren, 2 Gnomes, an Orc, and a Dwarf. She is not frightened of the Undead or the Undercity, because I have taught her that the things she sees in computer games (as well as in movies and on TV) are not real, that they are just creations of an active imagination, and that there's nothing to fear in them because they do not exsist.
Ok, so now I'll focus on the personallities of the people who play Horde and Alliance. I'm wise enough to know that stereotyping people based on one aspect of that persons life is both an inaccurate and ignorant assumption, so I'm not going to say "All alliance are jerks and all horde are cool". I'm smarter than that. What I can say is that I've lost count of the number of people who ask a question in general chat and get the answer they're looking for, then follow up with a "thank you" and a "wow, you horde guys are way nicer than the alliance people. No one on alliance helps anyone." That being said, shit comes in all hues - meaning that there are jerks, morons, and assholes on both sides. There are also a pretty fair number of teenagers (on both sides) who feel like they have some power because they can be rude or mean to someone else with few to no consiquenses.
I believe that a large part of your problem with the Horde races is due to appearance. All of the Alliance races are very simular to humans. Humans are humans (duh), Gnomes and Dwarves are just short humans, and Night Elves, being the farthest from human among Alliance races, are still apealing to look at. Where as all the races that comprise the Horde are ugly, and alien to us as humans. This is a fantasy game. People play fantasy games to escape reality. Playing a Human in my oppinion is the least creative and original method of playing fantasy. If you're teaching your 3yr old these values of pretty = good / ugly = evil, then I have to say that you are a lousy father and I feel sorry for your son, having to grow up with those beliefs. The simple fact is you are judging a book by its cover, which an open-minded person knows is a 99% inacurate judgement.
All that being said, let's go another route for a minute and say that NONE of the factions/races/classes in this game have any personallity at all, until a real life person sits down and controls them. At which point that persons personality is the only controling aspect of that character. Morally "evil" people can just as easily play a human holy speced priest, as they could an undead warlock. Behavior on a social video game such as this one is up to the person playing. Personally, I treat people in game the same as I would in real life. Which is to say that I give people respect and courtasy until such a time that they show me that they don't deserve my respect, at which point I stop associating with them all together.
I guess what I'm really trying to say is the only "good" or "evil" in the game of World of Warcraft is within the players themselves and has absolutly nothing to do with the avitars they choose.
I just have one last point to make:



How can you have such a small understanding of the game and say so much? How much time do you have on your hands to write that? You end up saying very little no matter how much you type.

I don't consider myself evil. In fact, I consider myself to be nice to anyone I meet, while trying to be modest. But there is one other fact about me: I am an undead warrior. O yes, be afraid, I capture, tourture and kill!

Come on man, this is a game. Have fun or don't, but the people playing this game are as mixed as the real world. There are bad people on the alliance, and some of the nicest people I know are on the horde. You obviously don't understand the story of WOW.

I help people, I am in a guild based on teamwork and assistance for one another. I help the noobs and show them the ropes to the game, and even though I am PVP, I have my own story I keep to myself. In this game we can be the other person we have always wanted to be, and I am not evil in my half role as an undead warrior. The game is not based on good versus evil. It's a game based on red versus blue. Just two groups that despise each other, and from that evil can come on either faction.

You are the kind of person who would look sour faced at a bum asking for change, believing him to be "evil".

I'm done, do I scare your 3 year old?

Extra note: When I was 3 all kinds of average teen rated video games firightened me. What kind of person actually draws conclusions from a 3 year old?


As a WoW player, I picked Tauren. As I understand from the game's story, the Tauren are a "good" race as they commune with nature, they share the Moonglade with the Night Elves and invited the Orcs to their land.

That said, there is a lot of grey. As I remember, for what I played of Warcraft 3, there was a human who went insane and was the evil for the segment I played where as in the intro, the Orcs seemed to be the good race.

To say that Orcs, Trolls and Undead have to be bad is to insist all stereotypes cannot be undone. In television, we had the noble vampire with a soul in Buffy. In The Monster Squad, Frankenstein's monster is "good." Turning stereotypes on their heads adds dramatic effect in storytelling.

Resisting and/or destroying stereotypes, particularly in games played with real people, is an important step in bringing forward a complete race-free attitude in the real world.


Have you even played Warcraft 1, 2 and 3...

If you have then you know the story.

If you don't then you don't have the credibility to comment on the issue. You see to be ignorant on the rich lore of WoW. I can't stand these people who just waltz in from EQ or AC or what have you, and treat WoW as if it's just another MMO such as those without 10 years of not only game lore, but books inbetween.

The Orcs are not evil. As far as the Alliance with the Undead, it is much like the Allies Alliance with the USSR WW2. The Horde would've been fools not to ally with the Undead, as otherwise the Undead would have treated them as enemies as well, and in addition the Alliance would have the advantage...

The Orcs do have children, btw. Why the hell wouldn't the Orcs or any other race have children. Where do they come from then? Do you know anything about Thralls story? Thrall was captured as a baby Orc by a Human and raised as a gladitorial slave, he broke free and later freed his people from Alliance INTERNMENT CAMPS.


Not to mention the Orcs faught alongside the Alliance and Nightelves to defeat the Demons. The Demons could not have been defeated without the Orcs... again, have you played Warcraft 3? Seen all of the cut scenes? The cinematics?

Of course your son is scared, he is young without a fully developed mind. The Undead were once part of the Scourge, who are truly evil and much like the 'Borg,', they have broken free and now call themselves the 'Forsaken.' They have minds of their own now, but the Humans will not hear of it and are intent on whiping them out, Forsaken or Scourge, it's all the same to Humans, as both are Undead; nevermind that the Forsaken fight the Scourge, who enslaved them.

Sure, the Forsaken are very misguided and perhaps twisted.. but the Humans are intent on whiping them out, so why should they be looked down upon for trying to do to the Humans what the Humans are trying to do to them? Both are aiming for genocide. The Undead Forsaken were once Humans who were forcibly turned into what they are now. If the Humans are so enlightened, then why do they not have compassion for their fallen comrades who Humans who were turned Undead against their will?

Read any Warcraft books?

Where you aware that it was a possessed, malevolent human sorceror that opened the Dark Portal and brought the Orcs to Azeroth in the first place? Aware that it was then an Orc who struggled against the Demonic influences who afflicted that Human sorceror, as well as his own race? He was exiled? His name is Durotar, Thralls father? Then another Orc, Orgrim, rose up later and tried again to eliminate the Demonic influence that had plagued both Humans and Orcs alike.

You know, the Orcs in WoW are not LOTR Orcs. And Blizzard is not the only game to use the concept of the Orc in its own way seperate of LOTR. The Orc is a tolkien concept, the fictional race can be, and be used in any context the story writer chooses.

It can be broken down to this: The Orcs are like Vikings, and the Humans are the religous zealots from the dark ages who went around torturing and murdering to impose Christianity upon 'savage' people. Sure, they had charity whereas the 'pagans' did not, really. But, they were also murderous, narrow minded, mad-zealots. Neither Pagan nor Christian were 'right' in that ancient conflict. They just 'were'.


Base you judgement on the actual story:



I play WoW for a year and started off as a paladin, the thought of a holy crusader was cool (so I thought). In a certain way let's say that you are correct, but I didn't know the game story, the mechanics, the ambiance that surrounded this virtual world. Now I play a Tauren and an undead. Does this means that I'm a bad person now? I don't think so... What I've realized (and most people who played WC3 knew) was that there was no bad or evil in this "new" universe, an undead, orc, tauren, human, elf are at the same morality level.
p.s. You should try to visit Stormwind Cathedral's Catacombs where you can find a human inquisitor, that freaked me out. :o)


To the idiot who says orcs don't have children, reroll Horde and look around Org. There is a ORPHANAGE! Seriously, get your facts right. And if you would've played some more you would ahve figured out that most of the other races don't like the undead. Learn your facts before you start ranting!


To say that Fable is a single player game and thus going 'evil' in it is not a moral choice but a gameplay and personal narrative choice, is to invalidate all 'evil' aspects of WoW that make up a part of the gameplay.

The eating of human flesh, torture, your 'scariness'- these are all aspects of gameplay, hard-coded into the system and into its narrative just as in Fable. They have nothing to do with your interactions with other (except perhaps the concious descision to present yourself as 'scary', although the same can be said of the Goth subculture and they are usually extreme pacifists and rather mild mannered).

You say that Blizzard is not the arbiter for what race is 'good' or 'evil', that these are socially constructed views of what these races should be. I would take this one step further, and say that people who choose to play orcs are conciously or unconciously challenging the commonly held idea that orcs are all 'evil' (The idea that any sentient species is 'evil' is rather racist, if we examine it), trying to actively reverse this trend by portraying a character who is negatively stereotyped in a positive light. It is therefore a challenge to our assumptions, and is more of a morally challenging statement than just chosing a traditionally 'good' race.

Second time ive told this story on this site- I was killing undead for gold and magical items in an MMO one day when my mother asked what i was doing. When i told her, and she watched it, she said 'Oh, so you are coming into their homes, murdering them and stealing their belongings'. Even more reprehensible when you consider that the only reason i do it is not due to an abstracted idea that 'they as a species, are evil and deserve to die' (Which is inherently racist as i have said) but rather just because i am greedy and want what they have.

Morally, i think the entire concept of CRPG's (Kill things for personal gain) is more repugnant than any choice of avatar could be.


A couple of points:
1) As has already been mentioned I think that your facts are somewhat off as regards the horde. This has been covered above and I don't want to seem a superfan.
2) Character's actions in the game are quite seperate from the lore that Blizzard has provided. In general, every players goal in the game is the same: ceaseless acquisition of more power and better items. This is either admirable self-improvement or sad, soulless meglomanical behavior. Someone else can decide.
3) Morality is relative. There have been quite a few posts here about cannibalism, many assuming that it is inherently wrong. We all might be able to agree that being killed is a bad thing, but what happens afterward is really up for debate. Depending on our culture we might prefer to be ritualistically buried, burned on pyre, or eaten by our family members. It is not our place as Westerners to decide what is morally right, we can only decide what we prefer.
4) I do not think that the conflict between Alliance and Horde really compares well to DND books, Tolkien, or Eddings. In all these books the conflict is generally between good and evil, where they are both defined as fundemental traits, as absolutes. I think a better comparison might be a work like "Shogun" or the books of George R. Martin beginning with "A Game of Thrones". In "Thrones" for example, there is a great conflict, but it is not of good and evil, merely different factions of people. Those people do not act because they are compelled by moral truths, but more because they are commanded to, because they wish to gain power for themselves, because they desire safety, because they don't know of any alternative. In short, they act like real people, and it is admirable that Blizzard has created a story setting like this, much better than something along the lines of "We kill orcs because we have always killed orcs, and also they are green."


Ok, i agree that chosing a character is an important decision, it reflects different parts of your personality.

Forgive me for saying what i do not agree and that has im sorry to say, really irritated me is that the horde is evil.

World of Warcraft raises some very interesting philosophy and physchology questions, whether the developers meant to or not. What *is* evil? The alliance do not want peace, let us get that straight. They want to kill all the horde, more than the horde want to kill them. The Orcs.. "fight for honour." Who mentioned death? Nature is paraded around alot within the alliance, as are the holy crusader types. Since when is killing in the name of religion a good thing? And arguably the undead are the nicest to nature of all, they need no resources, not to eat or drink or even use anything to build. They can live entirely seperate from nature, therefore not harming it at all.

Too me it represents something in real life that really irritates me too (hehe, happens alot.) Why do we assume that our so called "civilised" way of life is better than others. Tribalilism is frowned upon. Are we really doing any better, are we any happier? And to be really cliche.. what is evil? I think the general opinion in the world on what is good and bad is wrong. Or at least, it should be considered, not assumed, and we should all know that really, evil is an opinion.

Well written article.


Just like to add another thing, all horde races bar undead pro-create, they have children.

The alliance kill, and come up with reasons for doing so. "excuses?" to brutally murder and torture something, because it was the right thing to do. The horde kill for survival, and not so.. systematically. The trolls sometimes enjoy killing, but not so much the taking of a life, more the battle and the passion etc. Why is that worse?


I agree with the part about your character choice being a method of expression. That's why I favor horde.

Other than the undead, I don't believe the horde are evil. If you pay attention to the story (as others have pointed out) you see can see this. They fight to survive, while the alliance are the ones causing them the need to in the first place. They have the more disadvantaged position, so much so that they had to ally up with even the undead (the only race that doesn't start out "friendly" but instead "neutral" with the rest of their side). The undead are most definitely evil, and the tie there is pretty clearly a temporary one. The horde would be fighting against them in other circumstances.

If you talk to Thrall (leader of the horde and a shaman), he says some pretty cool stuff that would further make my point there. You might also read a bit about him:

I think alliance are more good on the surface than deeper down. They favor law and order more than actual good.

So people have been trained to see a particular thing as evil for a long time - all the more reason to look into it further instead of blindly and ignorantly demonizing it.

So I play orc shaman, though it would be NE druid if either the night elves weren't alliance or druids leveled more quickly.

I never played DND but I understand the alignment system from other games. I think "lawful evil" can be worse than "chaotic evil".


The entire argument relies on the notion that we are creating or choosing "avatars". In WoW, I am not creating anything. Blizzard did that for me, and I had no say in the matter. And I am NOT choosing an avatar. (Look up the word avatar in the dictionary.) When I play Super Mario Bros, I am not playing as myself, Nor does Mario represent me in any way. I am not interested in jumping on mushrooms and diving in flower pots. For me, the choice between Horde or Alliance was the same as the choise between Mario and Luigi. Blizzard's intention was NOT to force it's customers to choose avatars, but to simply choose a character and interact with the story. I play an undead warrior, not because he is my avatar, but because they looked cooler (to me). No need to psycho analyze the situation here. Remember, a virtual character (evil or good) is still VIRTUAL.


If Horde is not evil, and Alliance is not good, then why are they fighting? It's just another tragic, stupid war. Bleh.


Dear god, people think too much about these things.
Horde is not evil, and Alliance is not good. They are fighting each other for survival. Orcs were pulled from there homeworlds by humans, undead are merely dead humans. Tauren are pacifists, trolls tend to stay out of history.
The horde and alliance fight because they hate each other; there is no black and white deffinition.
Or are you just on a server were the horde love to gank you?
Anyways. I went horde cause I like the horde people better. All four alliance guys scare me, and the Gnome and Dwarf girls scare me. I say this because there ugly, to me. Bliz screwed up the arms on them.
You could say horde is ugly. It's a matter of preferance.
... I lost my train of thought, what was I saying?
Oh, anyways. If I decided to roll an undead, am I a psycotic? If I decide to roll an orc, am I brutal? If I decide to roll troll, am I black hearted? If I decide to roll horde, am I one of the people that snaps and kills people? No. *Cough*. Alliance and horde are the exact same, ecept a little different cosmetics, and different attributes.
Did you know Orcs, humans and night elves where allies? And what do you think of taurens? Did you know it was the humans that attacked the orcs first?
... Can't think of any more to say.
//Dakita, seize fille. Lille.


The history of azeroth is extensive and complex. a full version can be found on the official world of warcraft site. Having playe the game from its very beginnings as Warcraft 1, I have watched the evolution of both sides and the miriad of wars, alliances and events unfold. Blizzard has created a rich history for this make believe world of azeroth and I believe if u knew the whole picture, you would not judge the horde to be eveil
1_ orcs: once a sharmanistic race residing in their own world of drenei. brought to azeroth by demonic forces and twisted to be used as soldiers and puppets for the great destroyer Sargares in his attempt to consume the human world. In warcraft 3 broke free of their demon captors with the leadership of a yound human raised orc named thrall. Now attempting to create a society based on honor and equal opportunity.
2_ trolls: long history of being the "bad guys" however the trolls played by players in WoW are darkspear tribe who swore loyalty to the Horde when they were saved from annihilation.
3_ Tauren: nature loving druidic society with very little lust for power or destruction.
4_ the undead played in Wow are not the undead scourge (who was Sargaras's second attempt to destroy humanity after the orcs failed and freed themselves from demonic rule). They are the Forsaken who were once human and now have regained wtheir freedom from the control of the scourge. I would compare them to polish soldiers who were conscripted into the nazi armies in WW2. When the war ended, they regained their freedom, however, were burdened with being labeled nazis. The Forsaken fight a battle for their independence although they do show certain "evil" features in their experimentation with biological agents on captives.
In conclusion, the game was designed for long term warcraft fans, and those who do not know the history may easily believe that the horde are "evil" but a closer examination of the cultures and origins of these races will lead to a more balanced outlook.


"Orcs are ancient representatives of a bad, bad thing, and one cannot undo the power of that association in the course of a single videogame, even one played by millions for a year."

Aaaaand here's the problem. The author hasn't actually played the other Warcraft games. For shaaame.

Yes, it took more than one game to turn orcs good. It took three. Plus an expansion or two. And honestly, the humans creep me out to a much larger degree in recent Warcraft games than orcs will ever be able to. Anybody who seriously says that the Horde is evil now hasn't played enough of the other games.


If by playing "evil", I harbor evil in my heart, I must be a closet lesbian since I play a female and have a girlfriend.

That, or I just don't want to stare at a guy all day.


First, Horde is definitely evil. Don't believe the Blizzard's attempt at revisionist history.


"My assertion is that this is a genuine and significant moral issue that everyone who chooses an avatar needs to think about. Morally compulsory."

Sorry to be so blunt, but that's just plain stupid. It's weird that your choice of avatar would lead you to a moral quandry but the fact that you run around spending most of your time slaughtering other beings, many of whom are only marginally evil even from the Alliance POV, is a bit odd.

WoW, like other forms of entertainment, is a completely artificial construct that entertains us by allowing us to explore things that we really can't in the real world (at least not in ways that would be entertaining). I know more worry about the avatar I play than I worry that I find Michael Corleone a somewhat tragic figure and I love the scene where they kill off James Caan's character.


wow, if this is what Dr. Castronova (and that, by the way, is a FANTASTIC name for a supervillain) gets out of WoW, i really want to know what he makes of the three "races" in Autoassault...


I disagree with this article.

For starters, pretty doesn't equal good. Just because the orcs look more save and the taurens are hairy doesnt' make them evil.

Second, the actions the Horde have taken can be found in history. And being done by the "good" side as well. Look at the Indians.

Another point is the night elves dance like Michael Jackson... and they're home city is an abomination. Darnassus is something created by the night evles and it shouldn't have. Even though it was for the good of their people.

Both sides have traits that make them seem evil but that's stereotyping and as we know thats not good. Just look at race, sexuality and gender stereotypes. Not a one of them are good... or not that I can think of.

And since when does a 3 year old dictate what's good and evil. Especially off of looks. People always say "don't judge a book by it's cover" and "look for the inner beauty".

All in all I think this article is a giant load of crap. I have played to end game on both factions and they are equally good and evil.


Little kids are either easily scared, or hardly scared at all. Plus, that's just ONE child, not a whole survey of children.

Now that that's out of the way...

Humans always describe the unknown as 'evil' or 'scary'. It's always been like that. If you actually read the history, you would know that humans never treated them nicely because they look 'hideous' and 'unhuman'. Plus, Orcs and Trolls were corrupted by the burning legion, they haven't had a generation that's known peace. How can they know peace if others just attack them? The undead were created through the powers of the Lich King. They didn't choose to be undead, they were forced to.

Orcs do have children. The children just don't run around in areas where they can be killed, like the humans. Human children are on farms, orc children live in the city, where it's safer for them.

Good and Evil all depends on point of view. Each person has a different point of view, therefore, how can 'Good' and 'Evil' exist?

The humans and orcs had an alliance one time. When the leader, or father of leader, came back, he broke that alliance and attacked the orcs!

I play on a PvP server, Alliance kill the crap out of me. I also see Horde do the same thing to them. It's PvP for a reason. We 'kill' each other, because we cannot accept the differences of the other! Well, for Horde, it's more like, "I hate you because you can't accept my differences!" Plus, we treat each other the same.

Oh, and, Alliance's feelings do hurt easily. Beat them once in Warsong Gulch, and quite badly too, they don't sign up and make us cranky.

Also, whenever a person says they're from the other faction, people on the Horde act much nicer than Alliance. It may not be polite... but it's a much better reaction than Alliance.


this is the only point i have to say that has not been said: this hole topic should be thrown out and dissmissed because this is a game set in another world and not on earth.

so for someone to say an orc is evil in this game because they are conected to things ppl consider evil in our own world makes no sense. they may be completely different in blizz. they may be totaly different in blizz. version of how orcs and humans are and act, it's all up to blizz and what they have to say...cause really what they say goes in the world that they created.


This topic just won't die!

While I disagree fundamentally with Edward's original post the fact that Blizzard has locked the players into a world that cannot be changed by the players means that we have to buy into Bliz's lore. If Bliz say that the Orcs are all the lost children of Santa Claus and Jean Batten then so be it. Nothing we do in game will change that, even if we each spend 40 hours a week playing.

What I would like to see is a gameplay experience that can be altered by the players, on some level at least. Its getting a little old that players have no influence at all on the course of events. If there is 75% Alliance to Horde on a server all that means for the players is that Horde players will be able to play battlegrounds on demand, whereas Alliance will queue for hours. It makes no difference as to the politics, events or anything (unless you play on PVP). At the moment we are all disengaged politically and morally, our actions have no consequences.


I completely disagree with this article. By stating that the Horde is evil is completely ignoring the lore within the game itself. Has the author actually read any of the quest text, or is he too busy punishing himself for playing an icky scary Undead?

And what about Tauren? Are cows, bulls, and therefore bovine humanoids inherently evil?

I am simply unimpressed with his arguments and conclusion. It must be nice to live in such a black and white world where "good" and "evil" are clearly defined. Wish I lived there.


LOL. "Evil is as Evil does!", as Forrest Gump might say. Edward's article suggests that 'evil' is a state of being rather than a moral measure of actual behaviour. Edward's piece further implies that this evil state of being is culturally determined rather than individually chosen. I think he misses the point that people's actions, interactions and transactions within the game are the only real measure of whether their character's behaviour (and I agree with Edward's position that this is an expression of the player's own self) is 'good' or 'evil'.


I have to disagree on the Horde being evil lorewise.
- Orcs were evil demon-corrupted beings in Warcraft 1 and 2 but they freed themselves of their demon master in Warcraft 3 (the armor and skull of that vanquished demon is displayed in the Valley of Wisdom in Orgrimmar).
The point that was made about Orcs not having children...They DO have children (several small farms in the Barrens have lots of scripted dialogues between orc parents and their children, clearly showing they care about their children quite a lot). Recently there was the children's week event where you could do things for an orphan of the war. Anyway, onto the next race:

-Trolls: "Trolls carry a seething hatred for all other races" can be heard during the intro cinematic when selecting the Troll race. That's as far as evil goes with these guys. The playable Troll race belong to a certain tribe, the Darkspears. They didn't agree with the other jungle trolls who worshipped a god that demanded daily troll sacrifices (Hakkar for the insiders), so they were exiled. They were almost driven to extinction by sea creatures until the orcs landed on their isles and saved them, they allied themselves to the orcs, who taught them about honor and basically steered them away from the dark mysticism. So are they evil? Lorewise not anymore.

-Tauren: They don't have a player class that would even hint to corruption or darkness, only classes that can heal, bond with animals and the regular fighting class. Enough said.

-Undead: Now this is the hardest one.
They weren't born as an undead. They were forced into undeath. This explains the bitterness of a lot of Forsaken NPCS. They do have an inherent evilness because of their lust for revenge (they plan to use an even stronger plague of undeath to make everyone feel what they've gone through, including their current allies). Now one might wonder, why would the orcs,trolls and tauren even accept them into the ranks of the Horde? Several reasons:
-They remind the orc warchief of his own people because of their corruption.
-The Tauren shaman believe they can be cured, or at least make their existance more bearable.
-The Horde needed an ally on the Eastern Kingdoms (which would otherwise be completely Alliance controlled).

So there you have it, the only "evil" ones are the Forsaken (Undead). And even then...
It's a game. People play how they like. I play an Undead priest, does this make me evil? Even in game? I heal people or make them stronger. Doesn't sound that evil to me.


I'll keep it brief and to the point:

Way to let your pre-conceived ideals rule your rational mind. I'd expect it from a 3-year-old, just not from an adult. Have you even read the lore? Did you not understand it? People like you become Jack Thompson.


Sensationalist and thoroughly unresearched, truly an expert article - is the rest of your writing as precise?

If, instead of ASSuming Blizzard has maintained a roughshod hatchet job of Tolkien, you maybe played any one of their two recent Warcraft games more than five minutes, you'd be aware that the Orc race is not only not evil, but if anything, the heroes of World of Warcraft.

There are wheels within wheels of plot macinations destroying the humans, selfish leader after selfish leader leading to but one (barely) standing, highly prejudgiced human kingdom (from seven, historically). Their agendas of territorial expansionism, genocide, and naked capitalism certainly don't paint them as good guys in MY book. Maybe you're teaching your son different values than I would my nephew?

Dwarves and gnomes are essentially neutral - both too consumed in their stereotypes of craftsmanship - to truly be considered good or evil.

The night elves? Read the trilogy of books that compose "The War of The Ancients." A more evil species is difficult to imagine - their leadership makes the current human quagmire seem tolerant in comparison. I'll summarize it, though - their leadership moves forward on a plan to reduce the rest of a planet to a cinder.

Orcs, on the other hand, through the corruption of one key figure, were Fausted their way into centuries of blood, and have worked to overcome racism in spite of having their peaceful overtures spat on (see the War3 storyline involving Jaina, and the global story arch's climax). Their shamanistic traditions send their warriors off to confront the evils of the Black Dragonflight (whereas it's a political move for the Alliance). A disruption in the natural order of creation? Let's send some heroes of the clan to the Molten Core (Alliance? One of our traitors revealed his overlord is down there, let's finish the clean up job). There's an evil Old God sleeping in Ahn'Qiraj, trying to escape its prison? Let's pal up with the Bronze Dragonflight and send in .. oh yeah, some heroes of the clan (Alliance? HAY GUYS THE ANCIENT SEKRETS OF GREAT ARMOR AND WEAPONS ARE DOWN THERE. GOGOGO.)

Trolls, in my opinion, are too primative a species to apply notions like good and evil to, but the backstory is that there is a tribe or two that's good, and many evil tribes. But hey, they don't look human, so they must be evil. Do you extend such an attitude towards even more slight differences in appearance to yourself?

A more interesting article would be dissecting why racism is so prevalent in our species that anything that doesn't look like us is immediately rejected by 80% of us (can you say Horde:Alliance population imbalance?) and why game designers are so dumb as to continue including a human race in games.


Actually the Horde just had orphan week, and as an undead warlock I took a little Orc orphan (child) around Azeroth sightseeing. Now as an undead I understand the views of my race, but to say we think of ourselves as evil is false. Wouldn't relative perspectives apply?


Sadly, X, if you took the time to read the article, Ed clearly acknowledges the "savage nobility" of the orcs, and most of these guys are long-term WoW players.

His point was that most of these creations aren't unique to WoW and are generally used to symbolize EVIL. Their imagery and words are still closely tied with the monsters of evil- and not just Orcs. Death and decay have always been a frightening aspect, and the undead are the embodiment of such fears.

Now, the argument was you can try to rewrite the backstory all you want here- you can make the orcs more the noble victim, show the traditional heroic folk as embodying elements of prejudice and hate, and try to break those stereotypes... challenge the assumptions of others.

The broader social definition and portrayal of "orc" or "undead" permeates even the game, the values associated with these folk are too well defined for a game author to simply write away.

Now, I'm a big fan of putting a "twist" on things like this. By attributing something evil... something ugly... to a race we'd normally consider good and proper... it helps bring attention to that evil. It's a glaring inconsistency. I'd normally disagree with Ed's assertion...

BUT I've seen plenty of instances where people try to loosely wrap a few weak "good" characteristics on an otherwise really evil "hero" and try to play off the rest as moral relativism or the "flawed hero" concept. It's been poorly done so many times, blurring the lines between what we perceive as promotable "good" behavior that it becomes a bit disheartening.


I play on the side of the horde. I chose this side because it was the side that people I knew were already playing on. However, I was happy with the choice. I am proud to be a memeber of the horde and not the alliance and am glad my friends were not part of the alliance. I see being a member of the horde as a regection of some of the values of modern western culture that also appear in the alliance.


I completely disagree with the premise that Horde are evil.

Mainly because I feel Blizzard has fabricated this race war in WoW, and that's exactly what it is. Alliance and Horde don't fight because they'll win territory, resources or political power; they fight because they have a long history of hating each other and no one bothers to try and remember WHY they're fighting.

In reality it comes down to your point of view. This is where Blizzard's genius of gameplay shines. It's as old and as simple as chess or any other head to head competition: white or black, red tank or blue tank. That's all it boils down to. When I play Alliance, I choose to ignore the racial war against other players. If I enter Horde territory and NPCs attack me, however, I will defend myself which in turn may trigger Horde players to defend against me. When I play Horde, I'm simply seeing the game from the other side of the mirror. The world is there for me to enjoy and interact with. I choose not to engage in the PvP aspect which Blizzard encourages to fulfill the story.

It comes down to how the players choose to play it. I grow so tired of hearing players gather groups to raid the Crossroads or yell out "Horde in the tram" and see people go off to kill them for no justified reason. We really can all get along, but it takes more effort than players are willing to make.


SO many People have commented on this topic, not just here but on \. too. As so many people have said, i don't agree with Edwards post. Now i believe my self to be a pretty moral and decent person (in-fact my roommate has said from time to time i tend to be "too nice") but that has never stopped me from choosing an evil race (the Zerg from Starcraft come to mind). The Orkish horde is perhaps one of my favorite races to play. Dose this make me an evil person? I don't think so, Like Ish, i think they look cool. The Human Knight in shining armor BS is over done. Its old ever before you start playing with history of the middle ages Being pummeled in to your heads at school. The hordes are different and refreshing (granted, an old concept in games and lore). then blizzard dose something really cool and gives them a chance to redeem them selfs. I think as a people they are a unique culture and worthy of a play or two. and i would never let my 3 year old ever see or play a game that could potentially scar him/her. While perhaps there is an unconscious desire to play evil cause i really want to be evil, i don't think my religion, personality or years of upbringing would ever allow that. oh well i guess ill just have to live with playing cool looking characters. Now if only Blizzard would give us Starcraft 2...
PS: I also like the terrains from starcraft. the Humans in Warcraft really are just boring.


while this article is very insteresting. i find it rather nonpoint. this is for the simple fact that not everyone is the same. while some of these arguments maybe true for some they are not true for others. also, some of these comments are irrelevant for the simple fact that it is much like saying if you play video games you are going to kill people. i find it hard to believe that the 6 million bilzz customers are killing each other IRL, unlike those that are killing for ipods.


I think, that you appear to be very intelectual individuals to say the least and found your article thought provoking. But on another hand, I think you are putting way to much thought into this. It is a game, no more... no less. You could have better spent you time waxing intellectually about a number of different things but you chose to spend your time and apparently effort on this. I myself play as an undead warrior and as an undead mage. Why I’m sure you wanting to ask. Who Cares!!! It was a choice, that was it, it was based on initial looks...nothing more. I didn't pine over this for weeks and give myself an ulcer, no. I uploaded the game to my PC, looked at all of the character options, then went with undead cause they looked cooler than the rest. I didn't take them to fill some deep seeded hate I have for man or the world, or because I think the world should be ruled by darkness, I merely thought they looked cool. I can say that the time and thought you put into this could have been better spent hitting that glorious LVL 60 and not going into near triple bi-pass over the mere choice of a toon. It is things like this that make me wonder what an aneurism feels like!!! Good day to you sir and long live the horde!!!


The fact that you are wasting your time analyzing a video game astounds me. And Also the fact that you consider half-truths as complete truth.

You used warlock as an evil class, without pointing out that fact that many alliance races are ALSO warlocks.

You completely ignored the Tauren, my chosen race. The Tauren are probably THE MOST nobel race in WoW. Down to Earth, Humble yet mighty. The Tauren respect the earth and life greatly. I used to wonder why they were hanging around with the Horde types untill I learned of their blood debt. Why do I say they are The Most nobel race, because they are not as morally corrupt as humans. Yes, they may have bloodlust, but so do humans and all races for the matter.

Also... you seem to forget that the vast majority player doesn't give any heed to who or what their character is, or the backgroudn tot ehm are. They like stats, they like leveling, they like playing a game. Whther their character is the incarnate of evil themselves or some holy avenger from the heavens doens't matter at all, its a game and they want to perform well in it.

About your son. I'm sorry your son was afraid of your undead character, but thats jsut the way it is. He is (or was) three years old... its expected someone so young would be afraidof zombies. Not to mention your example is poor on two points. 1. The Player cannot "feast" on the flesh of their enemies, ever. 2. Not all little children fear zombies, I've had one cousin laugh at the movie Poltergeist, and another who absolutely loves zombie movies. Are these children evil in your mind?

You also don't take into account that for those who do take into consideration what their character is like how many people WANT to play extension of themselves. Commonly people paly a character wholly unlike themselves to "get away" from their actual self for a bit, if not just to have fun, then to try something new and a completely harmless environment. Sometimes is boring being an ordinary person, in a world like WoW you can play as all types of creatures doing the impossible. Why limit yourself to... yourself?

And finally, why must all Orc and Trolls and all other "evil" races be shoved under that category at all instances of their existence. WoW is not some work by Tolkien or other fantasy writer, it was made by Blizzard, to be defined by Blizzard and played by the players. Yes, the Horde is more "evil" than the Alliance, but that doens't make the people who play them evil, or those who aren't feel ashamed.

All in all, it boils down to one fact. World of Warcraft is a GAME, and thats all. To draw it beyond that and into a person's innermost personality is going too far.


I suppose this is awfully late to be adding more comments, but still: I agree. Not because I believe "orc" is an intrinsic evil idea, nor because I believe in gods, but because I don't believe the protestations that horde in this game are meant to be non-evil. I categorize this in with a whole genre of stuff, from "grand theft auto" through thug movies to "trainspotting" and "Jerry Springer", that basically revel in quite evident moral bad. Some people seem to like this or take it flippantly, but I've never been able to - my reaction to a thug movie is to fervently wish the whole cast arrested, and slasher movies horrify me.

If anything, I think it's a weirdly old-fashioned idea to treat a virtual extension of yourself (or a chosen identification with a protagonist) as less valid than face-to-face. I see my body and my senses as tools through which I act, and a game character likewise. The virtual setting is identically real, though limited and bounded, as the physical world. My actions in either have moral weight, and express my own nature.

It's not a matter of "confusing fantasy with reality". It's a matter of extending my morals without hypocrisy to every context in which I act. Fantasy is an action taken in reality.


this article is just devils advocate, right? surely he can't believe this...

to say calling something an 'orc' inherently makes it evil is just blatant prejudice. it's like saying germans are evil (i didn't mention hitler!). of course people have preconceptions and reflexive responses to certain terms but to think that they can't get past those responses when faced with contradictory evidence is ludicrous. you're assuming everyone in the world is racist.

in my experience in WoW most Horde players consider themselves the good guys. they are usually outnumbered and have a view of Alliance as immature and dishonourable (no teamwork, lots of griefing).

the idea that 'savage' = 'evil' is a complicated issue and it's incredibly simplistic to use it as a key point in this argument.

also, there is so much pretentious over-intellectualising in this thread it's given me a headache...


also, the people who say 'its just a game, you're wasting your time' have missed the point.


Here's a thought...

The Horde and the Alliance are both good. All races, all creatures. All they want to do is find a way to live in peace, get along, raise kids, do arts & crafts, farm, mine, fish, dance, hunt, etc.


They have been thrust into an insane world where their bodies have been taken over by strange minds from another dimension. They are conrolled... ridden... by demonic beings from a parallel universe who cause them to kill and be killed... not just once, but over and over and over.

And not for some glorious cause... not for some righteous war of faith or to find some higher truth or to learn about good and evil or to feed their young. But for entertainment's sake. To while away the hours. To compete on a mental playing field, to "level," to make money for the company who created the extradimensional rift and to have some fun.

The Horde is good. The Alliance is good. But they are driven to perform unspeakable acts of murder and evil by their Earthly overlords... "The Players."

* * * * *

The Avatar's Prayer...

Now I lay me down to sleep,
Pray my player my account to keep.
If I am ganked before I wake,
Pray to a rez point do me take.

* * * * *


To say a scholar has an alignment is bs.
Just because someone is taught the virtue of universal truths and ethics doesn't mean they prescribe to it.

Often learned people remove good and evil from the entire equation. Also people start to practice relativity. IE what is right and wrong is only right and wrong from a certain reference point.

I've heard this horde arguement. And I know the horde is suppose to be evil. You don't even have to go back to the history of orcs and undead. All you have to do is remember the RTS the game is built on. There was definitely no effort to preserve nuetrality on the evil side in warcraft I, II or III. It was always clear cut in the RTS games.

I think what is really more realistic is that because of the huge amount of imbalance which exsist on most servers in favor of alliance, horde have a hard time really being evil. It's kinda hard to be evil when you are outnumbered and outgunned. What I see the horde doing is trying to compensate by this bullshit arguement that hey we are not really evil anyway.
LOL ridiculous..

I think if you ask any horde you will find one trait:
They do not organize or cooperate as much as the alliance. The alliance just seems to be much more organized. Here would be my alignment judgment about how horde actually behave. They are chaotic nuetral.
And Alliance actually behave dead on Lawful Evil.

The sad reality is that alliance just end up being way more evil and daunting and tough than horde on most servers.

Horde never help each other out, they solo much more, they hardly ever have as many epics as Allies in BGs.


PS we aren't suppose to get along.
That's the whole point!

HORDE Vs. Alliance..
If you don't like PVP don't play on PVP servers.


It was always clear cut in the RTS games.

No it wasn't.

Andy Havens' post

That's awesome.

Everyone else who's still commenting after months and months of this thread's termination.

Please click here:


@ Michael:

Thanks. I just kept seeing the additional comments on this post and had to come see what the heck was goin' on. It inspired me.

But... Just because the original thread is terminated, doesn't mean everyone else is done arguin' ; )

Let 'em have their fun/not-fun.


I have read all these posts with much interest. Some of you may roll your eyes, and may re-open this can of worms. I have recently started playing WOW, a number of my friends insisted I try the game out, said it would be good therapy for me. (I have recently been diagnosed with cancer and am undergoing chemo.) So in this state of mind, I rolled an Undead Rogue after reading the manual. Why did I choose this character? Am I an evil person? I don't think so - I actually dislike and avoid killing anything whenever possible, and try to do "the right thing" as defined by my own moral conscience.

Why did I roll the avatar? I chose it because a) I tend to gravitate to underdogs b) The very fact it is an undead character - a resurrected being. Coming out of chemo sessions always make me feel like I'm rejoining the living. c) I really enjoy the skill set - class talents that this pairing created. My character looks and skills are a complete opposite of the way I am in RL. d) I find that putting a RL face or situation to a mob I'm killing is quite cathartic.

I have another avatar that is a Tauren Druid - I play this one completely passively. I might add that I am still a very low level after months of playing this character. It is very hard to level or even to gather when you don't want to kill anything.

Still a third character is a Human Paladin. Again, very low level - I can't seem to connect with this one, I left this avatar drunk in a bar.

Amateur psychologists - am I evil because I play an Undead Rogue? Am I good because I play a non-violent Tauren Druid? Do I have an innate dislike of humans and their failings to play the Human Paladin as a victim to RL shortcomings? Am I bipolar? Is taking your RL problems and desires and reinventing them in a game a good or bad (evil) exercise? I remember from some source (maybe the original Dr. Seuss, not the author) that the third identification you make of yourself is the most accurate. Certainly if this is so, then the drunken Paladin left in a bar would imitate my RL self and nothing could be further from the truth, however it is also one of my greatest fears.

So even though I want to say it's just a game, it is IMO that I see conscious thought and subconscious actions that have governed my avatars development. I just wish I could stealth like that in RL!


I have not read the books or the lore behind the World of Warcraft, but I can say that the case made by the author of the original post is defeated by the game's own content, prima facie.

"Orcs are still evil, even though Blizzard says they are not. If Blizzard wanted to make orcs un-evil, then they would have had to associate their culture more closely with commonly-accepted notions of what a good society is: orcs would have to have children, they would have to value love over war, would have to see little nobility in bloodshed, would have to reject alliance with undead beings, would have to be charitable."

The author essentially is offering the following proposition: Blizzard could make the orcs un-evil if they met several conditions (albeit, arbitrary ones).

1. Orcs would have to have children. Interestingly enough, orcs do have children! Have you not seen the orc boy running around the Darkmoon Faire selling leather balls and frogs? Or played an Orc character and visited various farms and houses with young orc children inside of them? What of the orphanage in Orgrimmar? If these are not children, I'm not sure what to say to the author of this post.

2. Orcs would have to value love over war. I once remember doing a quest to find the fallen wife of Mankrik, available in the Crossroads. This mob is crestfallen over the loss of his wife who fell in a struggle to resist some marauding centaurs. Is this value for love? Surely it cannot be any other. How do we arrive at a judgment that they value war more than love? I haven't seen even a scintilla of evidence in the game to indicate to me that any faction shows a balance in these two values.

3. Orcs would have to see little nobility in bloodshed. Again, I cannot see the Orcs as having any more value for bloodshed than humans, beyond the irrational biases of the author based on external elements. Remember, this is a caveat you have offered by which Blizzard could make orcs un-evil. If you continue to hang on to old external notions, this is essentially a void and disingenuous proposition.

4. Orcs would have to reject alliance with undead beings. Undead is a state of being, not a race of them. Their races are in fact human and elven. Undead beings are part of not only the Darkmoon Faire faction but also the Argent Dawn faction, bringing them into alliance with dwarves, gnomes, elves, and humans - all four of the Alliance races. Your argument here necessitates the condition that the Argent Dawn, by accepting Undead members, is now an evil faction in the game. To not be consider evil, any given faction would have to outright reject cooperation with the undead (even their former friends and family, as the humans and elves in their goodness have done), and kill them. Sound a bit like genocide to you? The Orcs, unlike the Alliance races, accepted those who were outcast by all others, although a bit hesistantly. This shows a bit more kindness, in my view, than the Alliance's treatment of them.

Furthermore, in an even more former arrangement, the Alliance allied itself with the Horde to defeat the threat in Silithus. This, of course, formally brought the Alliance races into a loose pact with the Undead. So now, the author's rationale leaves every single race in the game and two factions to boot, as evil.

5. Orcs would have to be charitable. Is their orphanage not charity? If not, I'm not sure what is nor am I sure of what you consider charitable acts.

On a final point, as an academic isn't it a bit odd to argue that the Horde is evil, but focus on 1/4 of their factions, to the exclusion of all others?


I'll play along with this, despite the fact that this is a game. The fact that Blizzard simply needed 4 races (based on their lore) for players to choose from seems to have eluded the majority of you.

Evil? Well, you can look at it any way you want to.

Orcs? Despite the fact that Orcs are evil in all other fairytales, the way I see it, Orcs aren't innately evil. They are of course evil the way I personally perceive the lore. This, in most cases wasn't by their own decision, as they were manipulated by Ner'zul and Gul'dan's working with the Burning Legion (BTW the Burning Legion is what is actually evil in the WoW lore). They DID invade Azeroth and completely laid waste to Stormwind. That sounds a bit evil to me. Of course, they were being manipulated, soooo ...

Trolls? Well, their lore says that Trolls possess a burning hate for ALL other races. Umm... that doesn't sound too cool. Evil? I dunno, but it sounds more a NAZI like than a Jamaican (their stereotypical race) to me. I don't think the average dude thinks Nazis are cool.

Undead? They apparently don't even like the other races of the Horde. That's what they told me when I started my first Undead guy. "Alliance of convenience." Sounds like another Nazi reference (their USSR "alliance"). They also do biological experimentation on other races (so far, only Alliance, but they don't really like any other races either). All in all, yeah, the undead are evil.

Tauren? To me they seem more like the guys that everybody's been picking on for the last milennia, and need some desperate help. They've been stereotyped with Native Americans, which is understandable. Personally, I understand their druidism more than I understand the Night Elves. They are a much more spiritual race, and I the only reason I understand them not being part of the "good guy" stereotype, is because they look like the Minotaur.

Alliance good? Well, this is again the way you perceive it. They are painted as good guys, with their shiny armor and pretty faces.

Humans? Well, the lore pretty much gives me the idea that Azeroth is meant for Humans. That's just my own perception. There are both good and evil humans. The Syndicate is evil along with the Defias, while Stormwind and their allies are good. Of course, there are bad guys here too, like Aedalas Blackmoore, who basically tortured Thrall for little or no reason. Since Humans have a lot more opposing sides internal to their race, they're a lot easier to call either good or evil. I'm gonna say good, because you play as Stormwind and not Alterac.

Dwarves? Okay, I'm not too big on my Dwarf lore, but I basically see them as good. Mainly because they're opposed to the Dark Iron Dwarves (not necessarily because they hate Orcs). The Dark iron Dwarves are another group that's innately evil. Clearly, like humans, they have factions that are obviously evil, but they also have good guys.

Gnomes? I know next o nothing about Gnomes. Basically they seem like happy go lucky inventors in this game. I'm gonna call them good, because I really can't equate them with anything evil here. This goes the same for Goblins, who basically seem like Ferengi ... again not really evil but not really good.

Elves? Well, this is set to be the only race you can play 2 factions. Blood Elves are the "evil" faction ... i guess. Umm... their factions seem to be based on vendettas more than any real innately good/evil alignment. The Blood Elves alliance to the Horde seems like another alliance of convenience, while the Night Elf alliance to the ... Alliance (sounds a little redundant) seems to be based on the same reasons of past warfare that Stormwind has.

Basically, the only races I can perceive as innately evil are trolls and undead (yeah, I agree with the undead not really being a race, rather than a state of being). Their affiliation is merely convenience, imo.

The rest are just old vendettas and rivalries that remind me of France and Germany, Russia and Germany, Poland and ... Germany. In this case, I would like to point out that Germany is not always liked, but nevertheless are not innately evil.


this is my view:


-humans-the people that favor tht "light"...the light-a symbol of good....but one of the really evil people are the members of the Scarlet Crusade-lunatics that favor the light more than any human;besides the human race represents us-both evil and good comes from us....i think the humans are pretty "evil"

-night elfs-the arrogant race that see themselves as the "master race"....if u dident know the elfs unleashed the Scourge on Azeroth....

-dwarf-the simple people....i see dwarves as half good hlaf evil people...(the only "good" race in the alliance)

-gnomes-just look at it.....a gnome...somehow i always feel that i will be betrayed by a gnome....a very VERy suspicious race...bt the way most of them are pure evil over there in gnomergan....

overview of the allinace:
70% of the players are children....the alliance is much more aggresive than the horde palyers...


-the orcs-the biggest victims of all the races....possesed demons...enslaved by the alliance.....but any way it feels like they are true honor favoring friends...( i would rather have an orc as a friend rather than a Nelf)

-Tauren-the only race that never wanted war..the only race that i see as the most "non evil"...the only race that dident screw up something ^^

-troll-very strange and misterious race..similar to the dwarves in the point of good and evil...

-the forsaken-they want to be respected as any living being...but i feel that they will betray the horde in the end,and go for the "all undead" azeroth kingdom

sooooo i think the alliance is much much more evil like than the horde.... ok cya all gotta go lvl my shammy tauren ^^


uuum ...sorry for the bad typing....

searching for pure good leads to great evil.

Ted ...u sound like a alliance player that is getting ganked by the horde every 5 min....


Warlock:Shattered Hand ..... the guy above...


on what server do u play man!?

do u play WoW!?

the horde players not helping other horde players !?

i expirienced just the oposite....in the alliance they will always tell you that you are a noob if u dont know something...on the horde dough he will help u with anything...u can find people to clear a instance for u and let u free-for all loot everything (on the horde side)

as i said on the alliance side are little arrogant aggresive children too afraid to play a race that is a bid diferent and alien to a young person..
(i think there are people that dont wanna play the undeads because they feal like they will see the rotten face as a mirror to their own soul..so that is why they play on the pretty alliance side)

and on the horde side are mature people ( and mature teenagers like myself :P) that will help u cause they play this as a normal game cause they have there real life problems and really dont worry about their stance in a game....on the alliance the kids play WoW 24h a day and they would practicaly kill to get a purple(epic) item or something...


i play on: Dunemaul EU


Obviously Ed is grandstanding a bit here. A lot of his arguements stand on the idea that because you participate in something that is fictionally evil, even if you are doing to actual harm to anyone, you are are still morally questionable.

I'd ask him though, does that make a writer who writes fiction involving morally repugnant acts evil? Even if the character of the book might be uplifting, does that make one evil? I'd say no. Simply indulging in fictious evil does not make one evil, nor does it imply anything about the persons moral integrity. In fact, I would say that much evil has been done by people attempting to be 'thought police' and correct others 'evil' thinking.

Does it make someone evil simply because the race they associate themselves with are considered evil for, to paraphrase, 1100 years, in the case of orcs. One might point out how long Judaic people were considered wicked or evil.

Does participating in an act that would scare a 3 year old make one evil? Does sky diving make one evil then? That scares many 30 year olds. I'd say that the answer is no, judging by a 3 year olds reaction is not a sufficient definition of evil.

I think the whole basis of these arguements - that something is evil because popular culture defines it as evil and any association with that is therefore evil, is repugnant. I'd think that a modern scholar would be able to look at the history of man and see how much actual evil THAT sort of thinking has produced.

Frankly, I think I could make as good an arguement that posting a fractious and insensing post on a well read forum, simply for the sake of pulicity or recognition, is evil. It harms people who waste their time reading it.


Hmmm... I have a 2½ year old, she likes to sit in my lap and watch as I play. "look he's flying" is some of the happy things she says.

I think you need to cool down a ton. EVERYTHING is evil if you just put your mind to it.

Yes, so you can compare the Orcs and the Trolls with native americans or Jamaicans or whatever.
It also says that The Alliance "came" to that world from another world, and the Orcs had lived there before. So the Orcs for instance, they had wars and die in battle like some kind of glorious thing. Well. They are not evil for that. We all had wars if we just go back in time... Atleast they don't kill old people and children. There is only ONE race in WoW that are "evil" as u kall it, and that's the undead. Yes, they are evil, but because of a bigger threat they all had to work together, and noone of the other races truely trusts the undead.

But I agree to Pauls last note. But more, I think you are evil, people like you try to inprison everyone else in your view of the perfekt world. I think it is people like you that could argue that "jews" are evil. Or any othe religion, skincolor or eyecolor.

Get a life... Stop searching it thru fame on the IT



The thread that will not die...

For some reason I am reminded of a line in the Tom Lehrer song, "Smut:"

When correctly viewed
Everything is lewd
I could tell you things about Peter Pan
And the Wizard of Oz, there's a dirty old man

As a young child, I was terrified by the Wizard of Oz. Because of that, I still find it creepy. The first "scary" movie I saw, at about 15 or 16, was "The Shining." Because of that context, it still scares the boojum out of me. Now I see films that are way, way scarier than either Oz or Shining... and they bother me much less.

But I only keep coming back to this thread because it's like a comfortable blanket at this point. Same points made over and over. "Ah, the 'Horde is Evil' thread." On a Friday, it's like a comfortable old bathrobe.



Catching up on some backlog RSS feeds and this jumped at me.

I chose Horde when I first started wow. Why? They are the under dogs. Everyone wants to play the 'good guys', which is alliance. I didn't necassarily view the horde as evil, but rather as more of a challenge (no, i'm not talking about end game stuff here either). It's a challenge, especially on a pvp realm, to play horde. Nearly all the pvp realms are inbalanced in favor of the alliance, some drastically. Once you get into contested territories, you spend a lot of time running, fighting, or on corpse retrieval. Just the natre of the game i guess.

But to say horde is evil...well, I don't know. I play horde, and I've taken time to run noobies through Scarlet Monastary, given low level characters gold, help save alliance players when a create of much higher level is about to kill them, etc. I consider many of these things to be very good in nature.

On the flip side, I've come across alliance players camping low level quest areas and killing low level horde players trying to quest (griefing), alliance players sneaking into horde towns and killing low level players, and camping outside raid zones to block any horde from entering. In my eyes, this is evil.

I suppose my first WoW character decision was made based on good vs. evil to some degree...but it wasn't much of a factor. Most character decisions since then have been based on completely other factors like:
- easiest starting zone - undead
- best racial for a certain class (mage:gnome, priest:dwarf, etc)
- what my friends are playing


If I may, quote a box from the World of Warcraft RPG by Sword and Sorcery Studios and Blizzard, page 163 of the core rulebook:

"If the Horde Attacks, It Must Be Evil.

One of the best qualities about the World of Warcraft RPG is that there are many layers of good and evil, right and wrong. The animosity between the races of the Alliance and Horde can put lawful good characters at each others' throats. An orc can be raised within the shamanistic heritage of her people, learn to channel positive energy and become a healer, follow Thrall and her religion's rules to the letter, and still have no compunctions against killing a lawful good paladin who is following his lord's orders to rid the world of the orcs who killed his parents.
It is easy for good characters to be at the wrong ends of swords, and it is just as easy for evil characters to band together to fight the greater good."

The way I see it (and I believe what is written there backs it up), none of the WoW races are inherently good or evil. They are, just as the real-life human species is, a mixture of individuals with individual goals. Jaina Proudmoore and Thrall are examples of a good human and a good orc. The humans in the Defias Brotherhood and the orcs in the Burning Blade, however, are what you would call evil.

If what I just posted violates copyright rules, please remove it. I think that since I contributed a source and did not post any game-specific rules, it should be ok.


I'd say that's fair use. :-)


its a game, your sons will be a wussy all his life. your a wussy. go slit your wrist somewhere


This is very late in coming. But what the hell.
Let me just take a note from Freire and Zinn and say that oppression happens all the time between those with power and those without. When the oppressed are no longer oppressed they may become the oppressors. In other words, its all very socially situated, isn't it?

I echo the views stated above that in Blizzard's world, the orcs are actually the most oppressed. The oppressors? Humans (and demons before them).

The reason why I post now is I did a little exercise with Ted's original article this morning (I have no idea why I was thinking about it when I woke up after such a long time...). What I did was replace the word "orc" with the word "black." Try it and see how prejudiced it is. You could likewise replace "horde" with "dominant white culture."


er.. that is "alliance" with "dominant white culture" :)


shut your fuck face the horde rulezz


Wow, it's incredibly disappointing that this literate and interesting discussion disintegrated into 733t5p33k and stupid insults... I suppose it had to happen eventually.


This is still an interesting thread and I come back to it often. I agree with CN that it is disappointing to see crude and irrevelant remarks made, but I am cheered to remember this is still a "free" internet. (At least for a while)


By the way, I have also discovered that with each character I "roll" - each one takes on their own personality, even when they are the same build. Is this what fiction writers often describe when they say their fictional characters take on a mind of their own?


The Holocaust was evil.
Sci-Fi Network s making me wait a few months for the conclusion to Battlestar Galactica's Pegasus was evil(forex).
I am fairly certain Ron Moore is not roughly equivalent to Heinrich Himmler.
There are degrees here, folks...


i dont understand why someone would waste time and energy over such a trivial manner. a game is simply a game and being an experienced player i can say truthfully that most people either pick a race due to their racial abilities or the way they look. just because someone picks undead does not mean they are evil, but just trying to use the racial abilities to his advantage. or maybe he just thinks the undead look cool. but i find it hard to believe that the alliance is "good" and the horde is "evil" when really it is only team one vs team two.


Discovered this thread just recently, so I thought I'd toss in my few cents. As has been pointed out previously, just because certain groups have historically been painted as evil does not mean that any and all associations with them are inherently evil. That's the thing about symbols. For instance, the swastika symbol originally meant healing and peace. However, after its adoption as the symbol of the Nazi party, it took on a new meaning. What Blizzard has done is take the old symbols and assigned them a new meaning. This has been made possible by the manner in which they have constructed their in-game universe. All of the races have examples of heroism and villainy, so to paint either side with too broad a brush is to do disservice to all the players associated with either side. As to all the horde/alliance-haters out there, grow up. I play a human 'lock, and have had horde grief me, camp me, block my entrance into instances left and right, and make my life a living hell. But guess what? Alliance has probably done the exact same to them, too. So do I get angry about it? No, it's just what happens. Do I hate the horde? No, because it's not like there are many opportunities for them to be anything other than antagonists for me. Does that stop me from killing even- or higher-level horde that I see running around the same zone as me? No, because PvP is really a game of who can get the jump on whom, and they will do the same to me given half the chance. They are really just fellow competitors in the same game as far as I'm concerned.


I played alliance, drawn to the goodness. Reluctantly I rolled a horde character with some friends. From my experience there is much more immaturity and idiocy on the alliance side.


Good and evil is based on the choices of each individual and not their race. Thrall is definetly a good guy, I don't think anyone can argue with that, but many orcs still hate humans just for being human. If you argue this is justified because they were persecuted, the humans were being slaughtered in WarcraftI and II. I have great respect for orc culture (even though its a fantasy world) but I don't think the alliance was bad for enslaving the. My logic for that is the orcs were commeting mass genocide and all the humans knew about the orcs was their dark side. Putting orcs into internment camps was merely a means to keep orcs massecuring humans again. I admit the humans were cruel to the orcs, but its a fact 30 (or however long it was) years of total all out spare no woman and children slaughter from the orcs can make a person pretty cold hearted toward them. The orcs didn't deserve what happened to them but it is understandable the alliance, with the memories of the wars still fresh, were wary of orcs running free. Not all orcs had an excuse for their atrocities in the first wars either. It was the shadow council lead by Gul'dan that made the deal with the burnning legion. Many orcs were innocent bystanders of the demon's corruption, but the corruption happened because a few power crazy orcs made a deal corrupting the whole race.
My point in all this rambling is that the horde are just as much bad guys as the alliance. Its been stated that the tauren are the only true noble race, but in fact many of them do nasty things. A boss in the dead mines instance is a tauren who isn't very nice at all. Some cults have tauren, as will as all the other races, in their ranks. People that say darkspear trolls are evil I don't know what facts thats backed up by. They provide powerful voodoo magic stuff for the horde, they have head hunters that fight for the horde, if they are fighting for their allies how can they be evil as long as its not against an innocent defenseless enemy. The fact murlocs kill everyone else is they don't know anything other than killing others. I believe a murloc could be a noble palidin if he got a chance to see more than just killing everything. I don't think there will ever be a murloc palidin, but if he was exposed to the human culture why not? As for the forsaken I have to say what most of them are doing is horrible, but others are trying to wipe the forsaken out too. It is arguable whither the forsaken are justified, they do have a right to defend themselves but they are probobly going way too far. But not all forsaken are genocidal, like the ones who are with the argent dawn mentioned earlier. If one individual from a race, or state of undeath, is honorable then it can't be said that whole race is evil. The very same things goes with the player in the game, even if the horde is evil if the player says his charactor is a good guy and dosn't want to be associated with stabbing babies then his charactor is good. The important thing is how you play and not really even role playing. If you are a jackass while playing I don't care if you are a holy palidin, I'd rather play with a friendly forsaken person. If he is "evil" because he is undead then I'll enjoy the company of an evil person.


Decided to make another comment-I was just thinking about how Romans valued warfare and power. They were extremely power mongering just look at Julius Ceaser. I was about to say so do you think the Romans are evil? But then I thought, ya the Romans were pretty dam evil, I'm sure any gaul durring the 1st century B.C. would say that. Babylonian's would line roads with the corpses of their enemies. I can't really think of any civilizations that don't take some pleasure in killing a few rebels, or kill some oppressers depending on your situation. Seeing as Thrall has never condoned raping or crusifying, if you insist the orcs are evil you have to admit the orcs are at least a very minute evil compared to alot of our most influential civilization, and the forsaken would be about equal in evilness to Romans. The forsaken after all are just forcing people to conform to their state of undeath! I really want to hear the author's opinions on these points, I want to do some more debating. I admit I am really really overanylizing things about a silly game, but its fun. BTW delete your human charactors because they reflect evilness as they value war and power


"i could see this as the basis for an evil undead character. for my sins (and i have my share of course), i have been sent to hell. the Undercity is a portal through which we ghosts walk. We come to the earth and do evil not because we want to, but because we have to; it is our punishment that we can no longer do good. orcs and trolls (essentially, devils) are fitting as our companions in this horrifying journey. The Tauren are corrupted beasts in this reading; vendo"

I remember in the warcraft books and in warcraft III orcs some orcs have made comments abou humans being ugly and monsterous (monsterous as in having no honor, the orhish equivilent of being immoral) Thrall dosn't see all humans as evil, but some orcs believe an only good human is a dead human essentially.
I really shouldn't insult your beliefs, you do have the right to believe what you want, but God didn't make orcs story tellers did. My interpretation of Christianity and most religions is everyone has the chance to redeem themselves if they choose to. I'm sure their is an orc in Orgrimaar making similar arguments as you about humans being devils.
Some orc: "God made humans as evil and nothing can be done to change that"!
Plus the forsaken didn't get what they got because of their sins, they were cursed with what they got by the lich king. Its really funney, they were punished by something that was no fault of their own, and now they are sinning. Perhaps the curse of undeath was cridet that can be put toward future sins lol. I don't believe there is any reason for any moral justification at all for playing horde, except mabye playing the forsaken, but even this who cares. One more point I've seen really bad stuff done on alliance and horde sides, mabye its pvpers in general that are "bad". I never played on rpg server.

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