One of my regular readers, @Alunaria, brought to my attention this morning a recent PCMagazine interview with Mr. Game Director Hazzikostas and production director John Hight. Most of the interview was about Blizz’s motivation for the BFA pre-patch story line that has elicited such an emotional response from players, and I invite you to spend a few minutes reading it if you are so inclined.
Alunaria suggested I might want to write about the interview in today’s post. My first reaction was that, honestly, I have already written about the whole pre-patch story line a couple of times and probably it is time for me to move on. But as I began to write my reply to the comment, I realized that I myself have not yet moved on from the gut blow it dealt me.
So, if you will indulge me, here is the reply I started to craft and then decided to post instead of put into a comment. If you are sick of this subject, I completely understand and would not blame you if you stopped reading at this point. And I promise, it really will be my last words on the subject.
Hehe, I suspect my readers would think the cheese had definitely slipped off my cracker if I wrote yet another post on this topic — there is a fine line between concern and obsession. Still, I did find the interview illuminating, so thanks for bringing it to my attention.
Although it was a long and thought-provoking interview, I found Ion’s and John’s story explanations unsatisfactory at best and insulting at worst. Basically what they said was, “Well, yeah, Sylvanas acted badly, but everything’s good now because Saurfang is conflicted about it. And there are secret events yet to unfold.”
Sorry, that doesn’t cut it. It’s as if, after 9/11, there was a revelation that a friend of one of the hijackers had had some regrets about the attack. There simply is no moral equivalency.
If Blizz had given the story even a small amount of thought, they would at least have had Saurfang or one of Sylvanas’s commanders argue with her. Maybe refuse to carry out the order, or at a minimum provide the Night Elves with a warning to evacuate the Tree. But no, she ordered what in almost any army in the world would be considered a war crime, and she was obeyed immediately and without question.
Maybe all this proves is that no one at Blizz has even the faintest notion of what it means to be part of an organized military force. And now that I think about it, that may be why I had such a visceral reaction to the story, because normally I don’t care at all about this game’s story line. I spent a good part of my life as a soldier, and one thing that is drummed into you from your very first day is that you have a DUTY to refuse an illegal order, and it doesn’t matter if you are the highest general or the lowliest private. If you carry out such an order, you are as culpable as the officer who issued it.
(This is why, for example, the My Lai Massacre during Vietnam was such an American sin and why it left such an indelible stain on our military. Beyond the criminal aspect, it was a clear failure of training and was evidence of a moral decline in our military ethos. One could argue that it contributed both to our defeat there and to the domestic demand to leave, because it showed we were losing our soul over the conflict. An army without a soul is nothing more than a rabble.)
Of course, WoW is just a stupid computer game, and it is — and should — be driven by fantasy and by corporate profit, not by the physical or moral rules of the real world. I get that. But for it to descend into gratuitous butchery merely to generate discussion and interest in a new patch seems over the line to me.
Wow is not Grand Theft Auto. It has always upheld a strong moral distinction between Good and Evil. There have been nuances with the Horde, it is true, but here’s the thing:
True evil in World of Warcraft has almost always been from external threats, not from either Alliance or Horde players. The Alliance may view the Horde as a bunch of uncivilized barbarians, and the Horde may consider the Alliance a bunch of goody-two-shoes hypocrites, but historically conflict between the factions — though bloody — has had some kind of moral basis for each side. What Blizz has done with the BFA story line is to force Horde players into being complicit in a heinous criminal act with absolutely no moral underpinning. No amount of angst from Saurfang can change that. As horrified as Alliance players are over the actual act of burning Teldrassil, Horde players should be even more horrified at the position Blizz has put them in.
I suspect that eventually some kind of story line will emerge that Sylvanas is not true Horde, she has been possessed by some outside force or something, and probably Saurfang will help his coalition regain some honor. But that will not change the fact that Blizz portrayed the Horde as willing to set fire to non-combatants including children — not as an act of revenge or moral outrage, but as an act of pure terror based on ego and pettiness — and they raised not one significant objection to doing it. Battle for Azeroth will be seen as the point at which the Horde lost its innocence, and I am sorry for that.
Blizz really did cross a moral Rubicon this time.
For better or for worse, this is my last post before Battle for Azeroth goes live. Most likely I will not post next week, unless we have a lot of down time because of server problems. I’ll be spending my time leveling and doing some initial gearing on my main BM hunter. In spite of all my crabbing about this and that, I really am looking forward to the new expansion and am finally beginning to feel some excitement and anticipation for it. Let’s hope we all have a lot of fun on launch day.
And now to start my weekend. See you all around August 20.