Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Does Azeroth even know what a Pilgrim is?

I once read a blog post by SFF writer and former SFWA president John Scalzi* in which he defined the straight white male to be the lowest difficulty setting there is.  By using the video game analogy --and WoW in particular-- he helped to explain the privilege that the straight white male has in the Western world.**

Today, on the eve of the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, I was reminded again of how U.S.-centric WoW is when I logged in and discovered that Pilgrim's Bounty had started.

If you live in the U.S., you probably never gave it a second thought.  Just like if you live in Germany or you live in a place with a lot of German immigrants (like the U.S.), of course there's a Brewfest holiday!  Or that the mid-Summer/mid-Winter holidays line up with someone living in the northern hemisphere.

Sure, there's the nod to the Chinese New Year, but two things about that festival:  out of all the international non-Western festivals, Blizz chose only that one; and the Chinese New Year festival is celebrated in the U.S. too, mainly in areas with a sizable Chinatown (such as San Francisco and New York City).

To be fair, WoW isn't the only MMO with a sizable chunk of Western themed festivals --there's LOTRO, for starters-- but WoW has a much bigger non-Western and non-U.S. subscriber presence.


I've occasionally wondered what it must be like to play a game that has so many nods to a culture not my own.  I'm not into anime/manga, and I grew up just before the original Nintendo console swept the world, so I have no insights into JRPGs or Japanese video games in general.***  I can see the differences in games such as Aion and to a much lesser extent Guild Wars 2, but that's more a matter of graphics and quest text. The immersion found within is still Western in emphasis, such as light and dark angels in Aion.

Mists of Pandaria was an attempt by Blizzard to create an Asian-themed culture, but it was more a mashup of existing Asian cultures than anything else.  I liken it to Hasbro's attempt to appeal to Football/Soccer fans by creating Manchester United Monopoly.  If Hasbro expected Arsenal or Norwich City fans to pick up a copy of Man U Monopoly, they were sadly mistaken.****

Since I'm in the default setting for our current batch of MMOs, I don't know what it's like to play an MMO from another culture or country.  I don't know what small things might be present that I just simply assume to be correct and never realize that's unique to the U.S.  (Dear Lord, I hope that Paris Hilton isn't that well known internationally.  PLEASE.)

Then again, maybe this is just so much navel gazing, since obviously people don't care enough to unsubscribe from WoW or other MMOs about it.

*And he lives in my state, so I claim him as local.  One of these days I'd like to actually get a chance to meet him when he comes to visit our local bookstore, but work always seems to intervene.

**I'm not sure how it translates to non-Western countries, but given the cultural dominance the West has, it's probably still accurate.

***Outside of Donkey Kong and other 80's arcade games.  And the numerous Zero Wing "All your base are belong to us" memes, of course.  I did watch Star Blazers (known to anime fans as Space Battleship Yamato, complete with the sea shanty theme song) and Speed Racer, but that's it.

****Maybe they were counting on other English Premier League fans burning copies of Man U before matches.  I could see THAT happening.


  1. I'm afraid with the arrival of the internet ALL our dirty linens are out there for everyone to see. I didn't know what a Honey Boo Boo was, one of my English friends had to explain it to me. Dear Lord. I'm guessing they know about Paris too. The cat's out of the bag.

    1. I think that having an English friend explain Honey Boo-Boo makes it infinitely worse.

  2. One thing that has disappointed me about MoP is that there were no new festivals & that they celebrated current festivals in exactly the same way - makes no sense

    1. You know, you're right. The main festivals are exactly the same format (with slight revisions) from their Wrath incarnations. I suspect that the festivals are a matter of "they work so don't bother changing them" with Blizzard. A shame, really, because they could have implemented different festivals every couple of years to keep things fresh.