And why I don’t like the War.
So, I was doing some fairly inocuous Argent Tournament dailise this afternoon, and I involved myself in an action that gave me pause for thought.
I was throwing shield-breakers at some gargoyles when a rather helpless player came dashing past, his charger almost dead, and being pursued by a full-health Lieutenant and Commander (if you’ve done Argent Tournament quests enough, you understand what I’m on about). Without thinking, I drew the ire of the Commander, broke down its shields and kept its attention while the other player got onto a new charger. Common niceness, yes, because if I’d done nothing that player would have been trampled by an elite mob probably unsoloable by most players, even at 85.
But I didn’t know and wasn’t able to find out whether that player was Horde or Alliance. I simply did it because it’s nice to help out another player and stop three minutes of their time being ruined. But coming into MoP, with the official start of the Fourth War and the burning of Theramore, I worry that a lot of the playerbase risks taking strictly in-universe hostilies between factions out of game, to other players.
It’s a thing you already see. In any raid where you’re standing around in Orgrimmar and Garrosh is getting beaten on, there’s mixed reactions.
“Let Garrosh die, he’s a crap Warchief.”
“GUYS DEFEND GARROSH OMG.”
“quick start a counter-raid”
“Abesik Kampfire for Warchief.”
Opinions on Garrosh are divided, and this blog post is quickly becoming tangential. Maybe a better example is in order. Spoilers ahead.
When the Pandaren playable characters first enter Orgrimmar (if they chose Horde), they and Ji Firepaw, the leader of the Huojin Pandaren, are spoken to by Garrosh. This is an excerpt:
Garrosh Hellscream says: Moving on. I know that you are not the only pandaren to escape from that island.
Garrosh Hellscream says: Some of your kind chose to join the Alliance. PAH!
Garrosh Hellscream says: They are now your enemies.
Garrosh Hellscream says: You may have had friends and kin who chose to cast their lot with the enemies of the Horde. They are no longer your friends… no longer your family.
Garrosh Hellscream says: The minute they put on that Alliance tabard, they died. I will NOT tolerate any lingering ties across enemy lines.
Garrosh Hellscream yells: TRAITORS TO THE HORDE WILL DIE A TRAITOR’S DEATH!
Garrosh Hellscream says: Do I make myself clear?
Ji Firepaw says: I… I believe so. Yes.
Garrosh Hellscream says: Good.
Ji’s reluctance and apprehension at that moment is well-justified, because Garrosh is literally asking him to consider all the friends and family he had on Shen-Zin Su, including Aysa, who a romantic involvement was hinted at, dead. And he has to face the knowledge that he may meet those he considered his greatest allies on a battlefield, and be forced to kill them.
Players don’t form perhaps such emotional attachments to their factions, and certainly not to the other side, but the same message is clear. Half the playerbase (as a player who plays both the Alliance and Horde -something that ties into the message I’m trying to establish with this post – I use this term sparingly, because it is obviously not all players) has been split via in-game lines from the other faction, and although there are Battletags and Real ID and out-of-game communication and you aren’t limited to a single faction on any server anymore, those lines still stand, especially when you are questing, and levelling, and doing PvE, RP and PvP. An arbitrary line cuts off one half of the playerbase from the other half, and it is this restriction on communication between players that can allow faction hostility to fester into hatred against another group of players, who were only divided from you by the push of a single button.
Now, another example from a similar situation is the words Varian says to joining Alliance Pandaren (More Spoilers):
King Varian Wrynn says: You are expected to provide aid to Alliance members in need, whether they be human, gnome, draenei… or a pandaren like yourself.
King Varian Wrynn says: It is a simple guideline, but a meaningful one. Do you understand?
Aysa Cloudsinger says: Certainly.
King Varian Wrynn says: Good. Because that brings me to my second point.
King Varian Wrynn says: Not all pandaren have chosen the same path as you three.
King Varian Wrynn says: Some have sided with the Horde.
King Varian Wrynn says: They, along with the other barbarian clans of the Horde, are your new enemies.
King Varian Wrynn says: Those whom you once considered friends, or even those you might have loved, are now your sworn adversaries.
King Varian Wrynn says: I am deeply sorry, but the battle lines have been drawn. I will NOT tolerate any fraternizing with the enemy as you could expose our Alliance to danger.
King Varian Wrynn says: Do I make myself clear?
Aysa Cloudsinger says: Yes… of course.
King Varian Wrynn says: Very well. We are nearly finished, <name>.
This shows the same pattern, except with the obvious difference in the personality and leadership styles of Varian and Garrosh.
Coming into Mists of Pandaria, if you’re in either faction you’re facing a situation where you have to not only be at war with the other faction, but you have to know that their deaths, regardless of how important they are to you personally, are essential to not just your survival, but the survival of your faction as a whole. And such a deep involvement can easily spiral into direct opposition of the players behind your enemies. Even though we’re all together – and by this expansion’s end, we might be closer than ever before.
The risk here is that Blizzard might unwittingly create divisions too deep for its playerbase to overcome, when what we will be faced with doing is exactly overcoming them.