Nov. 15, 2010 at 4:46 PM ET
Sometimes we play games to escape from the harsh realities of, well, reality. But sometimes video games do a pretty good job of reminding of just how harsh reality can be.
Consider a new quest in that behemoth of a game "World of Warcraft." It's a quest that seems to suggest the makers of "WoW" have something to say about the invasive new TSA-mandated airport scans and body searches that have so many folks in the real world all fired up.
According to the "WoW" geeks at Geekosystem.com, as the new "World of Warcraft" expansion known as "Cataclysm" nears, Blizzard has launched a quest that requires players to conduct TSA-like pat-downs of citizens in an attempt to stop a terrorist-like doomsday cult. As you force citizens to let you search them, the goal is to find cultist propaganda.
Players are asked in the first task of the quest line to travel to the gates of the city and search five citizens themselves. Citizen NPCs wait en masse outside the gates, prevented from entering by a line of armored guards. They periodically complain about the delay as the soldiers periodically ask them to calm down. When interacting with them, your character simply says “I’m going to search you, citizen,” and then does. Some of them protest. Some of them are given the all clear and enter the city. Others are arrested immediately for the possession of “cultist literature” or cultist clothing.
Of course, "WoW" players have hit the Blizzard discussion boards to express their thoughts and concerns about the new quest.
"Yeah I saw it and it really pissed me off. No politics in my WoW please," writes a player going by the name Kaleesh.
"I was alarmed by the totalitarian behavior of the quest when I did it last night in Org. It felt wrong to search the people at the gates and then send them off to certain doom," writes a player going by the name Yosaffbridg.
"I think Blizz has gone a little to far," writes one player by the name Kahoki.
But not everyone is ready to read a political subtext into this quest. A player by the name Nth responded to the complaints with, "*facepalm* you people are reading WAAAAAAY too much into things."
And player Farora agreed, "This is WoW not RL, people in RL can't summon giant fiery elementals/demons/dragons etc."
So is the new quest referencing current events? Or is it just a coincidence? I left a message the folks at Blizzard to get the skinny on things but they have not yet returned my call.
In the meantime, Geekosystem points out that this is not the first time that "WoW" has dabbled in controversial content that seems motivated by current events.
When 'Wrath of the Lich King' launched, many players were upset to find that there was a relatively vital (but not mandatory) quest where in order to proceed you were required to torture a man with a cattle prod. The quest giver tells you that as a member of his organization he is restrained from such “extreme” actions, but he feels free to look the other way as you, an independent adventurer, do the dirty work for them.
Abu Ghraib anyone?
Personally, I like it when games make us stop and think for a moment. Yes, sometimes thinking about things like torture and the right to privacy can make us uncomfortable. But that doesn't necessarily make a game any less fun to play.