Armageddon in Azeroth

Armageddon in Azeroth November 13, 2010

After a few weeks away from World of Warcraft I finally got my tech issues fixed and spent all last night downloading the Cataclysm expansion and patches. I was ready and raring this morning to play my “space-goat” death knight and get new gear for my lovably dorky paladin. I didn’t want to think about religion, or Pagans, or eschatology. I wanted to get cool new gear and leveling my mining skills. I wanted to get my game on!

Yet as I began to wander around the quaint, old-world style Stormwind City, religion found me. In this comforting virtual city of thick stone walls and peaceful canals, with it’s sweeping dramatic harbor, I found spiritual unrest. First I found Doomsday prophets speaking of the end of the world and promising ascendance to the Light in the hereafter. Then the earth would randomly begin to shake. Then I saw the guards at the gates were not allowing citizens in. People were scared. A cult had sprung up offering hope to the scared citizens and the King of Stormwind is determined to crush it. There is physical, political and spiritual unrest in what has been one of the most tranquil and idyllic areas of the game.

All of this is merely lead up to the new expansion of the game: Cataclysm.  Those who have played WoW for any length of time are eager to see the changes after the world is rent and changed forever by a dragon deep beneath the sea floor. Like the new expansion to any game there are new levels, new goodies, new worlds. What makes this expansion different is that they are changing the entire world. This cataclysmic event will supposedly change the cities, the lower level areas and all the places that have become so familiar and “old hat”.

Although religion plays some role in any fantasy world, I don’t recall religion ever playing such an important part in WoW before. It’s quite unnerving to go on a quest where your mission is to ask cultists to return to their worried families, or to help the guards infiltrate and destroy a religious organization that they feel spreads discord. WoW has always been an activity free of moral dilemma for me. Even in the most nuanced story I always felt firmly grounded in a black-and-white world where my character is just, the bad guys deserve what they get and only the hit points matter. Now, for the very first time I have moral doubts about my quests. I am disturbed, fascinated and touched by the storyline.

My excitement over Cataclysm was about new goodies and big dragons. Now I’m excited to watch as Armageddon, Ragnarok, the End unfolds before my very eyes…

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  • LOL, I am a WoW widow and I’ve been hearing the complaints from my husband about the new changes to the game and how he’s having to re-learn his ‘toons. Gods help me when I buy him the new expansion.

  • Cora, I am having to learn how to play my paladin all over again. It’s like the rug was yanked out from beneath her.

  • The religious implications have always been in WoW if one looked. I mean, looking at the Battle of Mount Hyjal: where was the Light? The avatars of Nature were there, in the flesh, but the Light was not personified in defending the world.

    The Light is this kind of amorphous, nonsexed Thing or Being, but even magic in-game has parts of it that have spawned living creatures within the game, i.e. the Blue Dragonflight. The most one could say the Light has perhaps the Sha’ttar as one of its few avatars, and they are androgonous and have no human features.

    I think you’re right though; these were all background features, and they weren’t really part of direct gameplay, for the most part. Sure, there were ‘kill the Twilight Cultist’ quests prior to Cataclysm, but those were much more optional. The newer content directly thrusts the implications of the spiritual dimensions of the game at players. Now religion is firmly pushed into the plot of the endgame/new game content.