Before I start today's post, I just want to say hi to the recent influx of visitors from Team Sportscoat. I don't know what I did to catch your attention, but I definitely appreciate it. :-)
I know I've said it before, but the one thing that keeps me coming back to WoW above all others is the Lore. The story. This universe that Chris Metzen has created is beyond amazing. And the help and support he's gotten in bringing it to life leaves me slack-jawed.
I finished reading The Shattering on Tuesday night. It was a good read. Quick, clean, but still captivating. One of the things it showed me, though, is how dreadfully out of touch I am with the lore of WoW as it is right now.
I could go on and on about the War of the Ancients, the War of the Shifting Sands, Arthas' history, Illidan's history (and most of the lore surrounding the major players of Burning Crusade), etc. But I never really took the time to read up on the current players.
For the purposes of this post, I'm specifically referring to Varian Wrynn and Garrosh Hellscream. Two very important and very controversial figures in the current happenings of WoW.
Opposition to these two being in power is pretty unanimous. Both are hot-headed, impulsive, and violent. They have a hatred of the opposite faction so powerful that it's blinding them to (what we as players see as) any type of reason. This is especially true when we stand them up against their more moderate counterparts Jaina and Thrall. (I could toss Fandral Staghelm into this discussion, too, as he's probably still the single most reviled lore figure to ever grace the game.)
But there's a couple factors here that we as players never seem to consider.
Good writing doesn't avoid tension. It creates it.
Think of every story you've ever read. Think of every movie you've ever seen. Think of every game you've ever played. Think, particularly, of the best of each of these.
How many times are you screaming in your head, "just kill the bad guy! He's. Right. There!" or, "would you two just admit you have it for each other and get it on?!" or, "he was my favorite character, why did he have to die?!" or, "why can't the Horde and Alliance just put aside their differences and realize there are bigger problems?!"
It's simple...because what makes a story compelling is when it does the things that we as readers (and even as writers) don't want it to. There has to be a conflict that we want to see resolved or we lose interest. And as frustrating or disheartening as it can be when it gets worse instead of better, that only shows how invested we've become in it.
Have you ever read a story by a novice writer (they proliferate now, thanks to the internet) where everything just kinda goes right and all the conflicts are resolved the way we'd want them to be before they can really cause strife? It's boring as hell. And worse, it's completely unbelievable. You walk away feeling like you wasted a part of your life for having read it.
That's why we have Garrosh. That's why we have Varian. We may not like them. But they certainly keep the story interesting. Plus, it's worth noting that we are not the people they rule.
We are not Azeroth's citizens. We are its champions.
When the extent of your NPC interaction is clicking on them to open the AH or having them ask you to "keel six snow moose," when it takes 30 seconds to run from Stormwind's Cathdral to its Keep, when you can mount up and run from Westfall to Redridge in minutes, it's easy to forget that the world we play in is only a representation of the "real" Azeroth.
While the players that make up the Horde's fighting force would probably continue to play regardless of whether Garrosh or a Basic Campfire were appointed leader, the people of the Horde certainly would not.
Thrall had a very difficult decision to make and he had a very, very short time in which he could make it. He didn't want to give control of the Horde to Garrosh. But he didn't have any better alternatives. Not if he wanted to keep the Horde unified. The citizens of the Horde would break apart under any other rule in Thrall's absence, and he knew it.
And his intention at the time was for it to be a temporary thing. Just while he was off in Nagrand learning what he could about why Azeroth's elements were in such turmoil and how he, as a Shaman, could help. He assumed that when he returned from Nagrand he would resume leading his people. But it didn't turn out that way. And he couldn't just waltz back into Orgrimmar at that point and say, "Well, I'm not coming back to lead the Horde. But I thought about it and I think I'm going to appoint _______ for the job instead of Garrosh."
Yeah...that would go over well.
Likewise, on the Alliance side, we may not like Varian, but he is the rightful King of Stormwind. And as long as the Humans are the center of the Alliance, he will be its leader. At the end of the day, he's probably a good King. He's just a dick of a person. But there's a reason for that...
The game doesn't do a great job of telling the whole story.
When we see Varian in game, all we see is a giant, pushy, unreasonable jerk with an irrational hunger for Horde blood. But we usually don't think to stop and wonder why.
Through Warth, I knew a little bit about Varian. I knew that after he was kidnapped by the Defias he somehow got free, but was found washed up on shore with no real memory. I knew he was captured by the Orcs and forced to fight in their arenas until he eventually regained his senses and fought his way back to his rightful place in the world. So I could understand why he had a little bit of a distaste for the Horde, Orcs specifically.
You know what I didn't know until I read The Shattering? Varian was actually split into two people during that time. Literally.
There was Varian, the good, reasonable side of his personality. And there was Lo'gosh, his angry, violent side. It was Lo'gosh who was forced to fight in the arenas of the Horde while Varian tried to figure out what was really going on. And when the two halves were rejoined...it didn't go quite right. Instead of meshing back together into a whole man with each side of his personality acting as a balance for the other, he's still fractured. He's still two parts that wrestle for control. And Lo'gosh, being more naturally dominant, is often the side that gains the upper hand.
Now I understand why he's so unreasonable at times (during the siege of Undercity, for instance) and then does a complete 180 at others (telling Muradin to stand down so Saurfang can collect the body of his son, and telling Saurfang that his son was an honorable orc). (For those of you who only play Horde, this plays out when an Alliance group defeats Deathbringer Saurfang in ICC.)
Similarly I was able to learn why Garrosh is so battle-hungry and that he's not completely without a brain, or honor.
Metzen didn't make these characters jerks just for the sake of them being jerks, or just for the sake of keeping the story interesting. There's actual reasons for their personalities to have developed that way. (Again here, I would point out Staghelm. He, too, has reasons to being such a jerk.) But if you only look for readily-presented, in-game answers as to why, you'll never find them.
The game isn't about them. It's about us.
Here we come to the flip side of the citizen/champion coin. While we are not representative of the people of Azeroth as a whole, as long as we're logged into World of Warcraft, the game is still about us.
While it would be great at times if the game would do more to show us the stories of NPCs like Varian and Garrosh, they're secondary to us as heroes. We are not there to find out about Varian's past, or to counsel Garrosh. That's not our story. Our story is fighting to banish Ragnaros. It's stopping Onyxia and Nefarion from continuing their father's work. It's defeating Illidan once and for all. It's ending the Lich King's reign. It's slaying Deathwing before he can destroy the world.
Blizzard only has so many resources at its disposal to tell us stories (I have a whole other post about that for sometime in the future). While it's good for us to know what and who we're fighting for, at the end of the day, our story is the fight. And that's the story the game has to focus on telling. Blizzard realizes this, and that's why there's a plethora of other avenues for us to learn about all of Azeroth's history and the histories of all those who are a part of it. It's left to our discretion to go out of our way to find it and consume it.
And I highly recommend you do so. I've finally started to and it's made the game all that much better.
View From the Horde side
2 weeks ago