Community Spotlight: Does WoW Teach a Kind of Racism?
By: Laura Genender
Editor's Note: This is an edition of a weekly column by Community Manager Laura Genender. Each week, Genender takes to our message boards and examines a specific topic raised by our community. The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of MMORPG.com, its staff or management.
This week on the forums, poster Vinzent posed an interesting question to the MMORPG.com audience: Does WoW teach children racism? "If you look at the gameplay mechanics, there is definitely racism there. Orcs, Trolls, Undead, and Tauren are evil if you’re with the Alliance. Humans, Dwarves, Elves, and Gnomes are evil if you’re with the Hoarde. Good and evil is being determined by race, not by values. You have to admit that’s pretty racist."
"I don’t think that they see each other as ‘evil’" Novaseeker points out. "It’s more of a political dispute between the two sides." As Tithrielle pointed out later in the thread, Blood Elves used to be Alliance and are now hoarde – and are related to the Alliance’s Night Elves.
But then – why is your allegiance chosen by race? Even if Blizzard wanted to ensure that most Orcs followed the same path, couldn’t they add appropriately difficult and time consuming tasks that let the rebel RPer – the Orc raised by Halflings, the Dwarf turned evil – change their side? Novaseeker posts, "I actually think this would be a neat feature to add if it were done like EQ2 did it: let people "defect" if they want to, but make it hard on them to prevent *too* many from doing it and creating imbalances as a result."
Novaseeker points out that the stubborn RPer can find ways to overcome the game mechanics. "I’ve been on RP ‘Peace Walks’ through Ashenvale Forest with characters from all races who felt like RPing as Peaceniks. The game is what you make of it."
Rikimaru _X brings up a good point: that it isn’t just WoW with the racial warfare. "I have been concerned about this for a LONG time in videogames. Race always has a factor in good and evil…[yet] I can’t say WoW is the only game out there doing this."
Zevian doesn’t think it’s an issue. "Is the OP (Original Poster) also concerned about the death of humanoids in games causing people to become serial killers? Or the senseless violence against our woodland creatures?" But poster Wormywyrm thinks that, in WoW in particular, this topic is an issue. "At first glance I always figured that it’s no big deal the way they turn players against each other, but if you have ever played WoW, it’s just ridiculous. People ACTUALLY THINK that the enemy faction are all foolish, that something is actually wrong with them, that they are actually less mature or less able than their own faction."
But we’ve all strayed from the original question: not whether there is racism in WoW, or any racial conflict game, but whether it causes racism in the playerbase. Myself, I’d like to say no. I have never bought into the “video games turn our children violent” debate; we know the difference between hitting spacebar to shoot your pistol at a pixilated man who will respawn in 5…4…3.
But this debate seems to be a little different; the suggested learned behavior is conceptual, rather than action-based. One can perform racist actions, but they are based on beliefs. In the day in, day out course of slaying the evil Orcs or Elves, how effected are us gamers by our actions and allegiances?