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MMORPG | Genre:Fantasy | Status:Final  (rel 11/23/04)  | Pub:Blizzard Entertainment
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World of Warcraft: (Traumatize) Children's Week

MMORPG.com World of Warcraft Correspondent Deborah Diterich sounds off on Blizzard for the events in this year's incarnation of the popular event, "Children's Week", that sees players rewarded for being unusually mean and cruel to their young charges.

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What has happened to Children’s Week? This used to be one of the most heartwarming events in Azeroth. To quote Blizzard: “ Children’s Week is celebrated by both the Horde and the Alliance…. At the beginning of May and lasting for a week, it is a time for the heroes of both sides to give back to the innocents of war…The orphans!

How that has changed. With the initiation of the achievement system, Children’s Week has metamorphosed into Traumatize an Orphan Week. Rather than giving back to “the innocents of war,” players are required to behave in a manner likely to traumatize their orphans. They are directed to take children already wounded by the tragic loss of their family and expose them to the mayhem of battle. Having lost their parents to the horrors of war, players are now required to take these fragile children into active battlegrounds where they are certain to see both friend and foe slaughtered in front of their eyes. What is Blizzard thinking? I guess this puts the final nail in the coffin that there is any support for roleplaying in this game.

In the past players would pick up an orphan in Orgrimmar or Stormwind and perform a series of quests to brighten the days of these unfortunates. They would buy ice cream for their orphan, escort him to see far flung sights and even get them the autograph of their favorite hero, Jaina Proudmoore for Alliance orphans and Cairne Bloodhoof for orphans of the Horde.

With the Burning Crusade, players were asked to buy their orphan a toy. They would escort the little tyke to see sights in the Outlands and visit various personages there. Horde orphans even got to see their favorite rock stars, the Elite Tauren Chieftains.

With Wrath of the Lich King, those kinder, gentler days are behind us. Now we are asked to abuse our orphans. If you look through the achievements for Children’s Week, rather than buying a Tigule and Foror strawberry ice cream for our ward, we are now required to eat a variety of treats in front of him or her. In the “Home Alone” achievement, we must use our hearthstone and leave our orphan lost and frightened. Shades of Macaulay Culkin! While these achievements are mean-spirited, it gets much, much worse.

In “Hail to the King, Baby,” one is asked to take an innocent child into a dungeon and slay King Yoniron in front of their eyes. But this is only the beginning. The “School of Hard Knocks” achievement involves taking an orphan into a battleground and doing different activities with one’s orphan present: capture a flag in Eye of the Storm, assault a tower in Alterac Valley, assault a flag in Arathi Baisin and return a fallen flag in War Song Gulph. This meets every definition of abuse. You shelter children from the horrors of war. No sane person would purposefully expose a child to this kind of slaughter. These children are already graduates of the School of Hard Knocks. They’ve lost their parents. Now we’re compelled to add to these children’s misery.

Who wrote these achievements? What kind of person writes an achievement that requires one take a psychologically fragile child into an active battleground, full of mayhem and death? At least Blizzard has backed off on the most offensive of the Children’s Week achievements. One is no longer required to slaughter enemy combatants in front of their orphans as well as one’s own. That is a step in the right direction. Now it is time for Blizzard to go the rest of the way.

It is a long way till May. While Children’s Week is generally at the beginning of May, in some years it has occurred closer to the end of the month. I hope Blizzard will start writing some new achievements now, one’s that treat these orphans with the kindness and care they deserve.

I can just imagine what a heyday the main-stream media could have with this new Children’s Week. Let’s face it; the news media is selling fear, which leads to very negative articles on video games and gaming. Yes, World of Warcraft is cartoon-like violence, but children are children. Even cartoon children seem deserving of care. Requiring players act in an abusive manner towards children to obtain a highly desirable meta-achievement like “What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been” is not the way to enhance the image of video gaming in the media.

To change a heart-warming event like Children’s Week into Blizz’s version of Grand Theft Auto just seems an odd direction to take. At least when you buy Grand Theft Auto, you know you’re getting a game designed to be morally ambiguous. On the whole Blizzard has gone out of its way to allow its players to feel like heroes. Quests tend to have an acceptable reason for the slaughter; the nagas are destroying the environment and must be stopped. We kidnap the Wolvar pups to save the species from extinction. What is the justification for taking children into an active war zone? Seeing the slaughter will toughen them up? Is this how the “heroes of both sides give back to the innocents of war?”

Instead of having your orphan watch you slay King Ymiron, why not have a quest to rescue kidnapped friends of your orphan? Rather than take children onto an active battlefield, why not a tour of Wintergarde Keep after a factional victory? Maybe we can even buy them a treat there. Rewrite the “Bad Example” achievement so the player is sharing these treats with their orphan, rather than eating treats in front of them. This could even result in a comic stomachache and lesson learned about overindulgence.

There is plenty of new landscape to which we can escort the little tykes. Surely the able folks at Blizzard can come up with some achievements that are better suited to help the heroes of Azeroth give back to the innocent orphans. Don’t turn the heart-warming holiday known as Children’s Week into Abuse a Child Week. It’s a fantasy game and my fantasy is to be a hero, not a villain. Thrall was an abused orphan, but at least he was not abused by this own kind.

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