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…