World of Warcraft Wisdom: The Politics of Azeroth

World of Warcraft Wisdom

With the political season fully upon us and with the Republican primaries getting under way here in a few weeks with the Iowa caucuses, it is time to take a look at the politics of Azeroth.

One thing I know for sure is that there are a great many people in Azeroth who do not pay close attention to the happenings outside of Azeroth and simply repeat what they hear at the dinner table. Comments abound that are full of selected ignorance. I say selected because many of these people have no real clue as to what they are saying.

But, let's take a walk and examine the political ideologies of our inhabitants. To do so, we need to look at economic, gender, work, race, among other issues. In doing so, we must consider two items: the first is the established ideological structures of Azeroth, and the other is the ideology of the player.

First, we look at the economic and employment structures in Azeroth. As I noted in a post here and here, Azeroth has a strong free market capitalist system. All players have a fair and equal shot at a slice of the economic pie. As well, the players are subject to the ebbs and flows of the economy. When the economy drops, we all feel it through higher prices, harder to obtain items, and the like. However, there are many socialistic ideals that exist in Azeroth. There are strict price controls from vendors, in that, regardless of what the item is, it is sold for the same price. Food, drink, and other necessary items from vendors are equal. Of course, players with a high level cooking skill can sell enhanced food for prices determined by the market.

Moreover, economically speaking, pay is the same and often shared. When running in a dungeon, when one player collects money, it is split equally among all in the group. Also, when completing quests, pay is the same across the board. Of course, the higher the level, the higher the pay. The only way to amass wealth in Azeroth, in parallel with reality, is through hard work and determination (unless you're a trust fund baby, in which case, like Arthas, you have wealth and power which you might squander in taking over the known world). Of course, it is up to the player to do so. And this, in many ways is what makes a capitalist system work, but it is only truly effective if all members in that society have the same shot. When too much wealth is centered in too few hands, the system fails to work for all.

What strikes me about Azeroth is the reliance on stereotypes and its affect in political discourse. Look at the Orcs, for example. They are brutes. They have little intellect. They are muscle bound. Along with that, they are the strong arm of Azeroth (of course, Thrall is a Shaman, and a tough one at that). The implication is simple: color is brutish. Any creature of color equates to ignorance. Yes, there are orcs with magical abilities; however, their capacity for magic is reduced. Similar, look at the Blood Elf, especially the male. The male is depicted with a number of, arguably, stereotypes often associated with homosexuality. As such, while he makes a strong tank, he is more suited to be in the back ground with lowered strength and increased stats that remove him from the frontline combat.

World of Warcraft: Dumb Orc

Furthermore, with the stats the same (in that 280 STR is the same regardless of race or gender), it seems that people have little faith in the little people that inhabit Azeroth. Let's face it, how many Goblin and Gnome tanks are out there? Sure, there are a few (I have one), but it seems that our prejudices regarding us short folks in reality follow us in Azeroth. How can a little guy be a tank? Even with the same stats, we just have a hard time imagining it.

Then, there is the gender issue. When I wrote about gender, I had no idea what a can of worms I had opened with regard to Azeroth and the people who inhabit it. As I noted in that post, our gender biases follow us into virtual reality. We still hear the "Girls don't play WoW" nonsense in the trade chat. I also still have players who have a hard time accepting the idea that a female character can tank. Again, even though the stats are identical between male and female characters. Even though my guild leader is a female in both real life and virtual.

Our view of women in reality is changing, though it remains a bit stagnate in Azeroth. Look at the strides Hillary Clinton made in 2008. Look at what Michelle Bachman is accomplishing in the Republican party; the party which tends to mold itself on traditional values and beliefs has had two powerhouse women shake the ranks a bit. But, in Azeroth, it seems women still don't get a fair shake. Like Goblins and Gnomes, they are not taken nearly as seriously as tanks. Again, as noted in my previous post, there is a strong disrespect toward females in the game, even if it is a male behind the screen.

All of this leads me to question the races and their perspective factions and political ideologies. The Alliance are made of the more humanoid races. As a result, they are the "good guys" in Azeroth, even though looking at the lore, many of the problems are a direct result of their actions. I guess a certain amount of arrogance comes from being beautiful and part of the "in-crowd." We on the Horde side, except for the Blood Elves, accept the monstrous, marginalized populations. We have bi-pedal, talking cows, whom without opposable thumbs can somehow handle a weapon. But, we also have Trolls, Goblins, Orcs, and Undead. The Alliance have the Worgen and Draenei (yes, a cross between and alien and a walking squid, but noble in talk and action). Otherwise, all humanoid in their general DNA.

In the end, I would say that Azeroth is politically split in the model of reality. As a whole, Azeroth is fairly right of center. While the hegemony keeps some strict control of pay and prices, there are opportunities for individual growth regarding wealth and the acquisition of goods. As it comes to factions, in terms of game ideology, the Alliance is going to lean more toward the conservative side of the aisle and the Horde on the more liberal side (feel free to disagree).

World of Warcraft: Garrosh and Varian

The current leaders of the factions have their own power drives in place. When Thrall passed the mantle of leadership to Garrosh Hellscream after the cataclysm, the faction began to split apart with leaders from the various races not trusting him or sharing in his desire for war. Meanwhile, King Varian Wrynn holds on to power and follows the path as his predecessors have for some time from Stormwind.

As we look at the parallels between the factions and reality's current political landscape, we see that the ideas are represented in the ideologies of the factions in Azeroth.

The Republicans do their best to hold on to traditional values and carry themselves with a bit more exceptionalism than do the Horde. Listen to the political rhetoric coming from the primaries and the debates and you will see what I mean. Like the Alliance, the modern day Republicans assert that they are here to save the day from the opposing faction.

The Horde, conversely, are made up of the outcasts. The Horde seeks to treat all outcasts as equals. Listen to the social positions from the Democrats and you will see what I mean. When it comes to a live and let live sort of mentality, both the Horde and the Democratic side of things fully support this and lead the charge that all should have an equal say in what goes on. And all people should be afforded the same opportunities.

What about you? Do you think the the political and social ideologies of both factions and of Azeroth in general are mirrored from reality? Who do you think would make a better president of the United States: Garrosh Hellscream or King Varian Wrynn?

Follow me on Twitter @wow_wisdom.

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