There’s been a fair few posts around here recently about What It Means To Be Horde and What It Means To Be Alliance. I’ve been thinking about it myself, recently, having for the first time in my WoW playing life, jumped to the other side of the fence, although I’ve been thinking about it in a slightly different context.
There are, of course, stereotypes about the sort of people who play Alliance and the sort of people who play Horde (which reminds me, I must level Genericus, Male, Human, Warrior!). The Horde apparently attracts people who like to root for the underdog and, it has been argued, more “mature” players. I do find myself wondering what this means – the sort of people who get a kick out of being evil are often not renowned for their, err maturity. I’m not saying it’s not a whole lot of fun to occasionally play the Machievel, especially in safe spaces like virtual worlds and computer games. But, ultimately, in the sweet bosom of Prentendlandia, wanting to be the hero or wanting to be the villain are both, I would argue, neutral propositions, there’s nothing more inherently sophisticated in wanting to be either. And I often suspect people who make a deal out of their attraction for the darker end of the spectrum have a tendency to believe that doing so makes them somehow cooler and deeper than their shiny shield sporting cousins.
One of the things I like about Azeroth is the fact that most of the races are, to an extent, morally ambiguous – the Night Elves fucked up the entire world, for God’s sake. The humans enslaved the orcs. The orcs are psychotic warmongers. And there wouldn’t be the Forsaken if it wasn’t for Arthas. Sometimes, when you play a game, you just want to feel like a hero. And, sometimes, you just want to be pretty. And sometimes you just want to be green (even though it isn’t easy, spending each day the colour of the leaves). It’s more than a little foolish to make assumptions about players based on the caprice of their inclinations.
But what I’m wondering at the moment is this: is there really an Alliance/Horde divide? Is it primarily social? Are there are different expectations of Alliance players, than Horde? Does the fact that the Alliance are nominally “the good guys” mean Alliance players are nicer to each other than Horde ones. Or is this entirely spurious?
Having only played Horde previously, I am genuinely finding the Alliance side of things a bit of a culture shock. On Emerald Dream, Alliance outnumbers the Horde 3:1. I used to think Org on a Saturday afternoon was carnage but it’s nothing compared to Iron Forge on a regular weekday evening. The first thing I saw when my tiny level 8 dorf staggered through the enormous gates was a six mammoth gangbang outside the bank. Okay, maybe it wasn’t a gangbang. Maybe they were just playing Twister. But it was still a sight to be seen. The thing is, I still stare a bit, Horde side, when I see ONE mammoth lumbering past, let alone SIX of the things.
But it’s not just the sheer volume, it goes deeper than that. In a bizarre way, it reminds me of the differences between Northern and Southern England. Stick with me here. This point is going somewhere.
Y’see, I hail from a pretty depressed area up in the far Northeast. I’m so working class that there’s still a part of me that believes Vienetta is the height of gastronomic sophistication. Before I came to university, the furthest South I’d ever been was York, and that was only on a school visit to the Viking Centre. I got off the train with the going-to-university-equivalent of all my worldly possessions stuffed into a red spotted handkerchief knotted on the end of a stick. I had a broad Northern accent that occasionally, helplessly, slipped into dialect. I thought ‘epitome’ was pronounced epee + tome, and that façade had a hard ‘c’. Don’t even ask what I did to Foucault and Nietzsche.
The worst of it was, I wasn’t entirely sure I was in Kansas any more, Toto. There was something subtly different here, and it had to do with the people. They didn’t talk to each other. They didn’t smile. They didn’t share newspapers or help each other with crosswords on public transport. If you held open a door for them, they eyed you suspiciously as they went through, tense and scowling as if they expected you were going to slam it in their face and laugh. Even the way friends interacted was different. Definitely no touching. No sharing of food. Up in the North, if you’re eating, or drinking, something good, the thing to do is load up your fork with a hefty sample and stick it in your companion’s mouth. Offer somebody a morsel from your plate in the south and they’ll leap away from you like you’ve offered them a dead rat on a stick. A dead rat on a stick with cooties.
I’ve been an honorary southern prick for over 8 years now. My accent is all but gone, except for my ‘a’s and, if I can think about it in time, I can paaaaarrrth and baaaaaaarth with the best of them. I know how to pronounce, and deploy, all manner of poncy polysyllable words (would you like fries with your weltanschauung?). I’m glad to report, though, that there’s been an element of cross-fertilization the other way though. M’friendship circle is a huggy bunch. And when we go out to dinner it’s a veritable forest of waving forks. I talk with strangers far more than the average southerner, and I’m much much nicer to American tourists. On the other hand, I was surprised at how deep the changes had gone.
The last time I went back North, which was a while ago because I am basically Pip from Great Expectations, I was, standing at the bus stop and the old-woman-in-a-headscarf (this is very North-eastern, the fashions for southern old women seem to have bypassed the trusty headscarf) next to me, nodded, smiled and said: “Afternoon pet.” I nearly jumped under the wheels of a passing motor vehicle, I was so shocked. This stranger. Was talking to me. Me! What did she want? Was this some kind of trick to get me lower to my guard? WHAT WAS WRONG WITH HER?
And then I remembered: in a small town in North-eastern England, it was perfectly normal, indeed expected, behaviour. I was the antisocial weirdo here, not her.
Horde-side Emerald Dream is the south. People who don’t know each other are generally suspicious. They rarely talk unless they have to. Mainly they’re getting on with their own business, and think you should mind your own. Nobody will go out of their way to screw you over and if you were in terrible trouble somebody might help you but mainly we’re playing WoW like we’re on the London Underground. Sitting in our seats not looking at anyone in case, ye gods and little fishies, a stranger should take into it his head to acknowledge the existence of the other human beings around him. AND THEN WHERE WOULD WE BE?! THE THIN END OF THE WEDGE I TELL YOU.
Alliance-side though. Talk talk talk talk talk. And not just on the channels. People in the actual world have spoken to me. What is this madness? This strange white text floating above your head? The other day a gnome, called Deathbygnome which I thought was cute, scampered by.
“Hi :),” he said.
“Uh.” I said, “Hello.”
“How are you?” he asked.
“Fine,” I said, trying to repress my inner Southerner who was practically in tears of terror. “Good. How are you?”
“Great,” thrilled Deathbygnome, bouncing up and down happily. And then he buffed me, and was gone.
Not long after, three of the members of the Dwarvish Gentlmen’s Club ran into a pretty girl dwarf hunter on the path to Iron Forge. Needless to say they were thrilled. A filly! What what! So we danced at each other. For ages. It actually got kind of socially embarrassing after a bit. I mean how long can four dwarves keep dancing? Finally admitted she had to get on “wif stuff”, thanked us for dancing with her, waved and headed off.
Maybe I’ve been hanging out in the wrong places but that would never happen Horde-side.
It’s not just the talking, though. I’ve partied with randoms more in four days of being a dorf than I have in my entire life of wearing a sissy robe. All easy, low level quests, made easier by having two, or more, but perfectly simple to solo.
Horde-side, we only group if we absolutely have to in order to complete the quest. We’d rather wait for respawns or get in each other’s way than party. Horde players actually regularly quest-ninja other Hordies. Gah!
Alliance Barrens Chat the other night went something like this:
Random: I love WoW!!!
Next Random: me too!
Next Random: Me too!
Next Random: And me!
Next random: yay!
Nobody called anybody a noob, the response I’m pretty a pretty certain a similar spontaneous outpouring of enthusiasm would garner on a Horde-side channel.
Obviously these observations are only drawn from my experiences of the game (and not so many of those!); I’m not suggesting we draw conclusions about the The Way Things Are from them.
But … is it just me?
Or is it always like this?
Are Hordies basically a bunch of wankers?
I have to say though. I’m still a Northerner at heart, and this brave new Alliance world attracts me. Not enough to abandon my sissy robe, of course. Never that.
All the same … anybody fancy a Vienetta?